Troublesome Topic: The Biblical View of Death

Lesson 5 of 14

The Bible portrays death as a separation, not a termination. The death of a loved one was often described with the words, “He slept with his fathers.” Death was not seen as a termination, but as a separation. Today we think of death as a termination, as an end. We use phrases like “the death of a dream.” In contrast the ancient Israelites believed that a loved one who had died had not ceased to exist altogether, but had been separated from the ones still living. “He is not with us, he is now with our ancestors.”

Physical death is a separation of the soul from the body; spiritual death is a separation from God.

If death is a separation, then there is sometimes hope for a future reunion.

Genesis 2:17 uses the clause, “In dying you shall die,” which can also be rendered, “in being separated, you will be truly and utterly separated.” The extent of our separation, gives testimony to the extent of God’s love, mercy, grace and forgiveness in doing everything possible to bring us back to Him. The ways we have offended God’s holiness are innumerable, but God’s forgiveness is sufficient to undo them all; our separation from God was immense, but God’s love is sufficient to remove that separation; the brokenness of our relationship was complete, but God’s acceptance is sufficient to heal that relationship.

It may seem that death did not come to Adam for 930 years. However, that perspective ignores some important facts. Spiritual death occurred immediately because they were separated from God. Physical death began immediately because the aging process, which would not have been part of life in the garden, began to take its toll immediately. Later physical death reached completion as the confirmation of what God had spoken.

Some would have us believe that death is “annihilation, or total destruction.” However, the phrase “a second death” used 4 times in Revelation, proves that death is not annihilation, for how could there be a “second death” if we had already been annihilated? (See Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 20:14; Revelation 21:8). On the other hand, a second death is possible because a second death is a second separation, i.e. a separation of another kind.

In Ephesians 2 Paul further clarified this idea. My abbreviated translation of Eph 2: 1, 2 and 5 reads as follows,

Ephesians 2:1


Now you, while being dead in your miss-steps

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and your ethical failures,

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Now then, even while you were a dead corpse, lacking life because

your wrong choices caused you to move away from God, and because your

moral failures made you no longer a part of [God’s chosen instruments] …

Ephesians 2:2


in which you once walked …


and though you used to live continually in those missteps and moral failures which characterized your actions …

Ephesians 2:5


were revived along with Christ …


you were brought to life again by the same power that brought Christ back to life …

Obviously, the idea of annihilation does not fit the biblical concept of death, for in Eph 2:1 & 2 they were still living, but doing so while separated from God, and such separation is called being “dead.”

We need to realize the seriousness of this separation. Saying that death means separation does not weaken death, it prolongs the suffering. Indeed, total annihilation would be much preferred to existing forever without the one for whom our soul longs. God’s answer to that separation was to bring us close by way of Christ.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they felt one of the effects immediately. They no longer felt comfortable in that place, instead they felt fear and shame. All of the consequences of sin have been passed down to us. Death, in the form of separation from God, became a reality for all humans. We have all inherited condemnation. Every human is born under the curse of sin which is death/separation.


Before I do something, do I ask myself if it will bring separation from God or closeness to God?

Do I see even small degrees of separation from God as a big deal?

Think about, (and discuss with your group, if you are with others) examples you have experienced, seen, or know about that demonstrate why the consequence of separation is something we should watch for in our lives.

The next lesson in all three series on Covenants is Were They Eating from the Tree that sustains Life?



“miss-steps” point to a “slip up, a side-slip, a miss-step, a false step, or a falling away.” Although it seems to be unintentional, the result is that it causes us to move further away from someone, after having been close to them. All this is wrapped up in one word–the action, the unintentional nature of the action and the resulting distance in the relationship. In the paraphrase I chose to relate the miss step as a wrong choice because it is about our will, not about our feet.


“ethical failures” means “to be at fault due to missing the mark, to fail ethically, and thus no longer be a part of, or belong to [something]” – what you are no longer a part of is not included in this word. In this case, what you no longer have a share in is not spelled out in the verse either. You are expected to assume correctly that it has to do with God. The consequence is the key part of this word because it comes from two words, one which means “not” and another which means “part of, or share.” Although a bit long, we could render this word as “you no longer have a share because you missed the mark with your ethical failures.”