What is the nature of death? The most common understanding is that death is when a person’s life ends. It is when their spirit leaves their body and what is left is a just an empty vessel of what was once a person. And the Bible does support this version of death, but it also contains a hidden and deeper understanding of what death really means. And it starts at the beginning of the book.
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”Genesis 3:4-5 NASB
If we examine this verse we can see a couple things. First, the serpent states that if Eve were to eat the apple she would in fact not die. And the serpent also states that when Eve does eat the apple, she would become like God knowing good and evil. Now we know that the serpent was lying, but where exactly in that statement was the lie? We can cross check with the words of God to see where the lie was.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—Genesis 3:22 NASB
So we know that the serpent wasn’t lying when it said that eating the fruit would open Eve’s eyes so that she would know good and evil. So we must look back at the other statement, where the serpent said that Eve would not die. But what does God say?
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”Genesis 2:16-17 NASB
So we know that God said that we would die if we ate from the tree and we know that God is true and the serpent is a liar. But that begs that question, if God wasn’t lying and the serpent was, how come Adam and Eve didn’t die when they ate from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. So we must look at it in a different light. What exactly happened in the garden. God created man and they dwelt together. Yet after they ate the fruit they died, but not in the way most people would think. There true death was separation from the Father. And that is the true death for all humanity as well, because we have been separated from our Father who made us. Jesus speaks to this as well.
But Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”Matthew 8:22 NASB
Jesus was alluding to the concept that those who were truly alive were those who knew the Father. And those who didn’t know God were already dead. Just as Adam and Eve were dead in the garden. But Jesus promies that we will be with the Father and we will again have a connection with Him. And that is truly how Christ never really died even in ‘death’, and how we can join Christ in life by following Him to the Father. We receive life now with the Holy Spirit and life in the resurrection when we live forever with our Father and our King.
To go in deeper about how separation from God means our death is to understand that relativity of reality. If all things are determined by God, such as the sky being blue and the grass being green, then to abondon God is to abandon the very structure and order of reality. And to find him in your life, is the ultimate support. This is why God and Jesus are our rock. Because they are literally the foundation to reality.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.Psalms 18:2 NASB
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