Physical death is part of a normal process, not the result of sin

Recently I has an “Aha” experience when I heard a sermon from Romans 6:23, “ for the wages of sin is death … “. What kind of death Paul was referring to? Was it about physical death or piritual death or about eternal death in hell? As my mind was wandering and I listened to the sermon, suddenly a thought came to my mind. What if all the death that the scripture referring to is about “eternal death” unless it is obviously referred to physical death. As I think more and more about this, it seems to me that in the NT, physical death is seen as a natural process of living and has nothing to do with sin. NT writers even use “asleep” to refer to this physical death. When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden, the death that God was referring to was the eternal death in hell, not the physical death. From Adam, the human race was doomed to eternal death as the result of sin.
Then Jesus came as our Saviour and our King. The sermon I heard was on easter Sunday, so it is still about easter and the cross. What did Jesus do for us? He paid our sin in full with His life thru His suffering on the cross and His death. But wait, if our physical death is the result of sin and Jesus had paid for our sin in full, why are we still dying? What had Jesus done on the cross? Yes, He had bore our punishment on His body, but there is more. He had suffered thru the eternal death that we deserved. When Jesus redeemed us, He paid the price in full. He suffered for what we should have suffered, that is eternal death in hell. That might mean that When Jesus breathed His last on that Friday, He was sent to that eternal death in hell for us so that we who are redeemed are free from that condemnation. But even death or hell could not contain Jesus. Jesus overcome death and hell and raised again on Sunday. Jesus did not pay for our physical death because our physical death has nothing to do with the sin of Adam.

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Aye, death is the price we pay for being healthy, vigorous and fertile. Evolution front loads advantage.

Everything else is just metaphor.

1 Corinthians 15:35 But some one will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[b] also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

It is the spiritual body which is resurrected because it is the spiritual body which is dead. Part of the confusion is that the word “physical” has two different meanings. It is a physical/bodily resurrection to a spiritual body not a physical/natural body. But we know that Jesus speaks of two kinds of life and death: Luke 9:60 “Leave the dead to bury their own dead.” Obviously the physical dead cannot bury the physical dead, so He is speaking of the spiritually dead burying the physically dead.

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I would then struggle with God telling Adam and Eve that if they eat of the tree of knowledge, they will die forever. We might say a verse is about physical death or eternal or perhaps both. All verses only talking about the eternal doesn’t seem right to me.

A couple of questions come to mind. If Jesus “paid” for our sins who demanded the payment? And if the result or cost of sinning is eternal death how come Jesus is alive and well? Most of us would be quite willing to be dead for three days and then be resurrected to eternal life.
Payment or substitution type atonement theories are quite problematic.

I think there’s another option that makes more sense from a First Testament perspective. The Bible already uses death to speak of something else before the New Testament, but it’s not spiritual death or hell. It’s exile.

Many times exile is presented as death. This ties in with how the nation gets collapsed into one person: the man Jacob or Judah or the woman Jerusalem or Oholibah. The death of that personified figure means the exile of the nation. Further, the famous image in Ezekiel of dry bones coming back to life isn’t directly about resurrection of individuals but rather the resurrection of the nation through a return from exile. Death, for a group, is exile. Resurrection is exile undone.

With that in mind, the story of Adam and Eve looks different. God tells Adam that death will be the immediate result of disobedience: “in the day you eat of it you will surely die.” God doesn’t go back on this. The death happens, and not hundreds of years later. While a death sentence for a person means execution, for a population it means exile. Adam’s death is exile.

It’s one more way Genesis telegraphs that Adam is what the name means: Humanity. If Adam and Eve are only a man and a woman, it seems the serpent was right and God was bluffing about death. But if the Adam split into man and woman shows us our species, then for a collective entity we should expect death to look like exile. God’s warning was no bluster.

Moving back to the New Testament, the death language of Paul and others may be putting more flesh on what it means for us to be exiled, rather than creating a new category of spiritual death.


Jesus fulfilled the law of sin sacrifice that Israel requested. God basically said I will then require of you a pure hear, a law they could not keep, except the one who was sent.

It is not the sin.

Psalm 32.

  • 1 Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
  • 2 Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them, in whose spirit is no deceit.

Until we speak of being unable to save ourselves. Else there only punishment.

Here is His judgment. And ours.

Blessed are the merciful as they also receive mercy. But only judgment, without mercy, is shown to those who are not merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Not all possible points of correspondence in a metaphor are activated. This is a normal part of human language processing. Arguments are buildings in that they have foundations, they are well-constructed, they can fall down. But arguments don’t have windows or roofs. That doesn’t mean the metaphor arguments are buildings doesn’t work, it just means that some elements of the two conceptual domains don’t have points of correspondence. There is no reason to throw out perfectly good atonement metaphors because you can come up with parts of the source conceptual domain that don’t map onto the target domain. What is “problematic” is people being obtuse about how metaphors work, not the metaphors themselves.

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Apart from when the metaphors map to metaphors. Stuff we make up to explain stuff we make up.

I think that would be called conceptual blending. Sure, to some extent cognitive linguistics is “made up” to explain stuff. But it’s also based on actual research with experimental frames and brain scans and whatnot, so not simply “made up” out of nothing.

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I don’t doubt the nobility of the endeavour to which you are party.

But as you know I’m a very simple minded man and can not engage in that, don’t have the ability to juggle the abstractions, spin all the plates, as with Lacanian analysis. Metaphysics is bad enough.

I can only do theology built on nature. Sin, its wages; living death, doom, hell, saviour, king, sermon, Easter Sunday, the cross etc, etc all the metaphors in Miekhie’s post, aren’t natural. None of them. ‘He paid … our sin … in full … with His life … thru His suffering … on the cross … and His death’. Lectio divina of that creates more and more meaning. And more is… less: ‘the eternal death that we deserved’, ‘He suffered for what we should have suffered, that is eternal death in hell’, ‘we who are redeemed are free from that condemnation’. Damnationist horror. It occludes… natural theology. The integration of nature and creed.

And yet … Here you are! Engaging! Even if it is just to show how disengaged you are.

I’m disengaged from the nightmares we dream up. I refuse to pervert, gaslight, debase, traduce Love.

I’m doing some work on a translation resource that looks at figurative language in the Psalms. We just finished the entry on plant imagery. One of the images for Israel is a transplanted vine. God created a protected space, a vineyard in the Promised land for this vine to flourish and bear fruit. Exile is pictured as God allowing the walls of the vineyard to be destroyed and his people to be uprooted, cast aside, left to wither. I wonder if the original audience made connections between the Israel as a walled vineyard image and the protected garden of Eden and between the uprooting of exile and the casting out of Adam and Eve from the Garden.


If I understand you correctly you are saying that atonement theorys are metaphorical. That would be an interesting interpretation of what actually happened at the cross. Not saying you are wrong but I think you would receive some serious argument (disagreement) from many theologians and denominations. Language is often bent to say what we want it to say, as evidenced by the existence of this website that contrasts the Biblical literalists and physical science.
By the way, I agree with you that a metaphorical understanding of atonement theories is much more helpful than rigidly stating one way and no other. I personally find the Moral Influence theory most satisfying because it makes God look good. But I’m also perfectly content to wait until I get to the other side and have God explain how this all works.

This is already discussed quite thoroughly in the other thread.

Metaphorical doesn’t mean not historical. (I am such a broken record on this, sorry people.)

Atonement theories all use metaphors to explain something extremely abstract and outside everyday human experience. The only way we could possibly grasp the atonement is through metaphorical reasoning. That’s all I am saying. No metaphor has perfect one to one correspondences. There are aspects of the ransom metaphor and the paid debt metaphor that are helpful to understanding the atonement.

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The death of God - posited as proved by His resurrection - is the ultimate propaganda of the deed. And the only evidence for God. There is nothing metaphoric about it. Metaphors for it aren’t it as history, as a posited reality. Unlike jewels on a black velvet blanket comporting with the reality of a clear, moonless sky at night. No atonement theory comports with God’s constrained act of excession.

When Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they did not die. But God said that they will die. So, what kind of death that God was refering to?

  • physical death - Adam and Eve lived for a long time.
    In 1 cor 15:50 … paul said “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,‘“. My argument is that since Adam and Eve was of flesh and blood (mortal), they need to somehow be transformed to the resurrected body of Christ even if they did not sin at Eden. The natural process of flesh and blood is to get old and thru the process of physical death, they would be transformed to the like of the resurrected body of Christ. So, I look at the physical death as the transformation process to the eternal.

  • how about spiritual death. Basically, bible never said anything about spiritual death. It is more of a theological construct.

  • How about eternal death? This is the only definition of death that matter because Jesus died to redeem us from this eternal death.

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Not sure why it is problematic. The only reason why Jesus is alive and well after paying for our sin is because He Is God. Even hell could not contain Him. All the more so, the only reason to prove that Jesus is God is because only He could conquer that eternal damnation. Only He can pay for the sin of multitudes.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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