Print This Bible Study
the contents of this page may take a few seconds to load . . . thank you for your patience...

Biblical Death

(What You Need to Know Before You Die)

When a person is young he or she rarely ever considers the possibility of death. There may be exceptions to this as when a traumatic calamity befalls a young person that includes the loss of someone who is dear and close. But the norm for any young person who is facing an unraveling and stimulating world is to feel that he will live forever. The possibility of death is the farthest thing from his mind.

As years progress and the person routinely and sequentially experiences the deaths of others, both close and far all around, the reality of death progressively comes into focus. As he continues in maturation (becomes older) and experiences all the limitations both physical and mental that go along with this process, he begins to clearly understand that his life will indeed come to an end. He now realizes more fully than ever before that his life, no matter the years, is indeed brief and he will cease to exist. It is a truly awakening experience.

This awakening may affect a person in various ways. Although most fear its outcome, there are those who possess a foundation of faith in Christ who welcome it (Numbers 11:15; 1 Kings 19:4; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). In fact, within the Bible the death of the righteous is looked upon as a wonderful event (Psalm 23:4; 116:15; Proverbs 14:32; Luke 16:22; Romans 14:8; Philippians 1:21; Revelation 14:13).

What the reader needs to know firstly is that, regardless of his age, he most certainly will experience both forms of death. The statement “both forms of death” is used, because there are essentially two types of death, spiritual and physical, and the reader will experience both of them. Spiritual death is experienced as a product of human birth, and physical death will eventually come, maybe today, tomorrow or some later time; but he will surely die. This will be explained. It will also be explained how even though undergoing the experience of spiritual death, the reader has the ability to escape it and its ultimate consequence (the “second death”) forever and why this is possible.

Types of Death

The Bible reveals two types of death, physical and spiritual. The words used to express these concepts are the Hebrew word muwth (with variations) and the Greek word thanatos (with variations). The meaning of each is primarily the same, that of separation from a state of life. The concept of separation is the principal focus in either type of death, as follows:

  1. Physical death—the separation of the soul & spirit from the present physical body.

  2. Spiritual death—the separation of man from God, which may culminate in the second death (the term used to expressed the ultimate conclusion of spiritual death; although, in terms of separation from God, they are literally the same).

In the Bible the state of death is often euphemistically expressed as “sleep.” See the following scriptures: Deuteronomy 31:16; Job 7:21; Daniel 12:2; Mark 5:39; John 11:11; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:13.

Universality of Death

Although there appears to have been rare exceptions to the experience of physical death in the past (Enoch and Elijah), which may in fact be the lot of these individuals in the future coming Tribulation Period of this world, physical death is and will be the outcome for every human being (note: even at the Rapture the soul & spirit of man will separate from his present physical or “corrupted” body, as he takes on his new resurrected body), and every human being will experience spiritual death as a result of inheriting the sin nature at birth; although, depending on circumstances, it may not culminate into its final state, which is the second death. The only Person born of woman who never inherited the sin nature was Jesus Christ. See the following scriptures: Numbers 16:29; 2 Samuel 14:14; Job 30:23; Psalm 49:10; Ecclesiastes 8:8; Romans 5:12, 14, 17, 21; Hebrews 9:27; Isaiah 53:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 1:19; 2:22.

Commencement of Death

The fact and process of death, both physically and spiritually, had a beginning. Both were initiated by God upon man as a direct result of man’s rebellion toward God, otherwise known as “sin.” This occurred in the Garden of Eden when man purposely disobeyed God’s clear instructions regarding the eating of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) See also verse 3:3.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12) See also verse 8:6, and James 1:15.

The sin of Adam caused both physical death and spiritual death to be introduced to the human race. As God is pure holiness, He cannot have anything to do with sin. So when man sinned, God had to exact a penalty (separation from God) for it. The instant Adam sinned, he experienced spirit death and the process of his physical death was initiated in his body. This duality of death was then passed on from Adam through the bloodline of males to everyone born of woman and man to this day. Every person born of a human male from then until now is infected with the viruses of physical and spiritual death. Yet, God takes no pleasure in the death apportioned to man (Ezekiel 18:32). But it is a penalty that everyone must pay.

What the reader needs to know secondly is that because he is in the state of spiritual death as a result of his birth into the human race, there are two possible outcomes that await him. He may by his own free-will choice (1) remain in the state of spiritual death, which will eventually culminate in the second death; or (2) escape his state of spiritual death and all its consequences forever. And this escape is only possible because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross approximately 2,000 years ago.

The Death’s of Jesus Christ

The penalty for sin has always been death, both physical and spiritual (Romans 6:23). Man has always sought to achieve the approbation (approval) of God and thereby avoid sin’s penalty by human good (self-effort), otherwise known as “good works.” This is the product of “religion.” Yet God’s Word explicitly declares that all human good is as filthy rags and can have no bearing on man’s salvation (Isaiah 64:6; Ephesians 2:8, 9). Still, the penalty-price for sin must be paid in order for man to escape spiritual death into eternal life.

As stated previously, a person may chose to pay the penalty-price for sin. If this is his choice he will eventually be subject to the second death, which comes at the end of the Great White Throne Judgment before Jesus Christ where, because his name is not written in the Book of Life, he will be found wanting in light of all his human good and be cast forever into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). This then becomes his final and permanent state of being—conscious existence apart from God throughout all eternity.

Fortunately, there is another way and what the reader needs to know thirdly is that because Jesus Christ paid the reader’s penalty-price in the reader’s place, he may be delivered from spiritual death and all its consequences forever. The Bible is a compilation of 66 separate books penned by some 40 different human authors under the direction of the Holy Spirit over several thousands of years, which contains but one integrated message. That message, from Genesis to Revelation, is about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on at Calvary in behalf of all mankind.

The whole purpose of the coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, which was foretold by the prophets of old, was to pay the price for man’s sin in order to relieve man from this responsibility, which would result in man’s eternal state of separation from God (Isaiah 25:8; 53:12; John 10:11; 12:23, 24; Romans 5:6; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Colossians 1:22; Hebrews 2:9; Revelation 5:9).

Although it is impossible for man to understand the intricacies of the cross, what and how Jesus Christ accomplished this payment for sin in man’s place, the following can be known:

  1. Jesus Christ became spiritually separated from God the Father for a 3-hour period of time (spiritual death). During this defined period of time, He somehow paid in full the penalty-price for all of mankind’s sin. During this period of time, from the 6th unto the 9th hour, the earth was shrouded in darkness (Matthew 27:45; Luke 23:44). During this period of time, Jesus Christ cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) Finally, Jesus declared, It is finished!” (John 19:30) The Greek words translated, “It is finished,” also may be translated when referring to a debt, “Paid in full!”

  2. Not only did Jesus Christ experience spiritual death, which in fact was the full payment for man’s sins, He also allowed Himself to die physically on that cross. No man took His life. He alone had the power to keep or give it up. He chose to give it up in order to enter the grave and then be resurrected after three days. This He did to verify to the world that He alone has the power over life and death, and He alone has the power to deliver man from spiritual death and insure man’s resurrection to eternal life. See the following scriptures: Matthew 9:25; Luke 7:14, 15; John 10:17, 18; 11:43, 44; 19:30; Romans 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:4; Revelation 1:18.

The result of Christ’s death on Calvary was the elimination of the sin-barrier between God and man, as typified by the tearing of the veil, from top to bottom, within the Temple (Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). Now the way was made clear for every person to come to God and have eternal life.

What the reader needs to know finally is that by faith alone in Christ alone he may personally escape spiritual death and all its consequences. It’s a matter of exercising one’s God-given free-will by making a genuine decision to trust exclusively in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for one’s personal salvation. Once a person understands that he is in a state of spiritual death and eventually after physical death, he will face the consequence of the second death of being apart from God eternally in the lake of fire, and that Jesus Christ by His sacrifice on Calvary’s cross paid in full his sin-debt, he needs then only accept God’s gift of eternal life (salvation) by trusting (placing full confidence in) Jesus Christ alone for his personal salvation. This is a decision of the will to turn (repent) from any one or any deed or anything else in the matter of one’s salvation, and to solely trust in Jesus and His work on Calvary.

The instant this decision is made is the instant a person is transformed from spiritual death unto spiritual life—conscious existence in union with God for all eternity. The person making this decision may then be assured that death is vanquished, which has been ultimately destroyed by Jesus Christ (Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26, 54; 2 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 21:4).