Systematic Theology On Christian Death

Being, as it is, a penalty for sin, death in its varied forms is foreign to the original creation as it came from the hand of God. Being a penalty, such portion of it as may be removed will be dismissed forever; other portions of it, being eternal, cannot be removed. The entire theme may be divided into three aspects of death—the physical, the spiritual, and "the second." Physical death is separation of soul and spirit from the body, spiritual death is the separation of soul and spirit from God, and second death is the final and permanent form of spiritual death if the individual has not been saved from that. To Adam God had said as a threatened penalty for the sin of disobedience, Dying thou shalt die (Gen. 2:17, Hebrew). This judgment, which later fell upon Adam, would have included all the forms of death, even second death—had he not been saved from it by divine grace. As God had warned, Adam died spiritually the day that he partook of the forbidden fruit, and thus became subject to the second death. On that day, also, he began to die physically, and, though many hundreds of years may have intervened, he finally perished physically.

While this is true of Adam personally, it must be observed that Adam's position as a natural head of the race was such that the whole human family are directly affected by his sin, and thus "death passed upon all men" (Rom. 5:12). The initial, single sin of Adam is the cause, or occasion, for the penalty of death in all its forms falling universally upon all the members of the human race. The fact that death in its varied forms descends upon the race calls for a separate consideration of the relation each form of death sustains to mankind as originating in Adam's one initial sin.

1. Physical. That great feature of human experience—physical death—is described in respect to its cause in Romans 5:12-14: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (for until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come." In this passage it will be seen that sin did not originate with Adam in Eden, but as a tragic thing which had already become the occasion for the fall of Satan and many angels it found entrance into the world through the one man, Adam, and from Adam to the race in his loins. In the instance of physical death all men partake of the penalty, because of the fact that in the divine reckoning all men shared as participants in Adam's first sin by being, as they were, represented in his natural headship. The phrase, for that all have sinned, has too often been supposed to refer to the personal sins of all men within their lifetime. In the passage quoted above, however, it may be seen that the Apostle makes special effort to resist the idea that this form of death is due to personal sins. Physical death, he points out, is not due to the breaking of the law, for men died before the law was given; nor is it due to willful disobedience such as characterized Adam's sin, since those—infants and unaccountable persons—die who do not sin willfully as Adam did. It only remains, therefore, that physical death is due to participation in Adam's sin. The truth respecting seminal headship being so little understood, it is not easily considered or accepted by uninstructed minds. As a limitless forest of oak trees may be embraced in one acorn, so a race was contained in Adam. The Biblical principle which proceeds on the basis that unborn generations do act in their fathers, or share in that responsibility which their fathers bear, is declared in Hebrews 7:9-10. Here

Levi, who lived by tithes being paid to him and who was a great grandson of Abraham, paid tithes, although being then only in the loins of his great grandfather, Abraham. The passage reads: "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes in Abraham. For he was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him." So far as Scripture reveals, there can be but one cause of physical death; it is due to the individual's personal participation in Adam's one initial sin. The participation was universal, hence the penalty—physical death—is universal. It is physical death which will later be destroyed (cf. 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4). This "the last enemy" will be cancelled by a reversing of it; that is, all that have died will be raised to die no more (cf. John 5:25-28; 1 Cor. 15:22). The divine cure for physical death is resurrection.

2. Spiritual. Though spiritual death began with the same initial sin of Adam, it becomes effective on humanity in a different manner than does physical death. The first sin of Adam caused him to be transformed downward into a different kind of being from that which God had created. He, furthermore, could propagate only after his kind, and thus the race was born in spiritual death received by heredity from the first man, Adam. Each person of the race is born spiritually dead—separated from God—and receives that fallen kind of nature directly from one's parents. Thus spiritual death comes mediately through an unbroken line of posterity. Over against this, physical death is received from Adam immediately, as each person dies in body because of his own personal share in Adam's first sin. The cure for spiritual death is regeneration or the passing from inward death unto life.

3. Second. As there is no cessation of consciousness in either physical or spiritual perishing, there can evidently be no cessation of consciousness in the second death. It rather is the eternal perpetuation of spiritual death—unending separation of soul and spirit from God. The Apostle John writes of the second death and asserts that it is linked with "the lake of fire." The meaning seems to be that those who enter the second death also enter "the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:12-15). A most important feature of this depressing doctrine is the teaching of Revelation 20:6 which states: "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."

On the general theme of this second death Dr. C. I. Scofield makes the following comment: "'The second death" and the 'lake of fire' are identical terms (Rev. 20:14) and are used of the eternal state of the wicked. It is 'second' relatively to the preceding physical death of the wicked in unbelief and rejection of God; their eternal state is one of eternal 'death' (i.e. separation from God) in sins (John 8:21, 24). That the second death is not annihilation is shown by a comparison of Rev. 19:20 with Rev. 20:10. After one thousand years in the lake of fire the Beast and False Prophet are still there, undestroyed. The words 'forever and forever' ('to the ages of the ages') are used in Heb. 1:8 for the duration of the throne of God, eternal in the sense of unending" (ScofieldReference Bible, pp. 1351-52).

The death of Christ becomes an exception to all aspects of human death. While He died physically, it was not, as with others, a penalty for a share that He ever had in Adam's sin; for with that He, being unfallen in His humanity, had had no part. In respect to spiritual death, there is no clear declaration of how far Christ entered that realm. He of course did say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46). Where God is silent the devout mind should hesitate to intrude.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment