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Al Cruise • 8 years ago

Here are some observations from 40 years of street ministry. A fairly common thing that occurs in street ministry over time, is you inevitably end up being with people who are dying and being with them in their last moments of life. Often it can be because they are homeless and have no one, or estranged from family. In our group of outreach workers there is one lady, Marie, who is a professional nurse and trained in hospice care. Over the years she has been with 200+ people at their final moments of life. People tend to fall into three categories. 1. Quiet and silent, 2. In varying degrees of euphoria, seeing loved ones, and/or figures of light. 3. horrific agony. The following things did not seem to play a roll in what category people fell into. They are. What doctrine about God and the afterlife they believed in, being atheist and sexual orientation. I am not suggesting that I know what really happens after death , I do not, and I do not believe anyone else knows either. Marie shared a recent case where an individual who was a professed believer and Church elder [ evangelical Christian fundamentalism], dying in horrific agony. His last moments were screaming in terror and about seeing demons and fire coming through the windows, with his family fleeing the room. Many hospice care workers will share similar stories. I am not suggesting anything definitive about these experiences, I merely want to share observations and let you draw your own conclusions.

Chris Date • 8 years ago

Consider Grudem's explanation of the substitutionary atonement:

"His death was also a 'substitution' in that he was a substitute for us when he died. This has been the orthodox understanding of the atonement held by evangelical theologians, in contrast to other views that attempt to explain the atonement apart from the idea of the wrath of God or payment of the penalty for sin (see below).

This view of the atonement is sometimes called the theory of vicarious atonement. A 'vicar' is someone who stands in the place of another or who represents another. Christ’s death was therefore 'vicarious' because he stood in our place and represented us. As our representative, he took the penalty that we deserve."

But if in taking our punishment on himself Jesus died, then how can those who must bear their own punishment live forever?

What Glenn said about some traditionalists is true: It is, indeed, alarming what some traditionalists turn to in order to escape this conundrum. Shedd, for example, writes, "Vicariousness implies substitution. A vicar is a person deputized to perform the function of another. In the case under consideration, the particular function to be performed is that of atoning for sin by suffering." What Jesus did in our place, Shedd says, is suffer, not die. And yet, the Bible is very clear that the atoning work of Christ consisted primarily in dying. "The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many" (Matt. 20:28). "this is my body which is given for you" (Mark 10:45). Even when it speaks of his suffering, it's in the context of his death: "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh" (1 Peter 3:18).

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

Yes to all this. Paul, in Col 1:24, even claims to be suffering in order to complete what Jesus didn't (apparently vicariously suffering for Christ!) -- and this is precisely because, according to Paul in Col 1:22, Christ's physical death reconciled us.

SC • 8 years ago

The debate continues. Is it eternal in consequence or duration? Is it eternal punishment but not eternal punishing -- a never-ending reality or a result? The arguments remain familiar. I offer a response to the five main arguments that gained prominence in Evangelical Essentials, by David Edwards and The Image Restored, by Philipp Hughes.

I also post a helpful a six-point answer to the question of where people go after death from Millard Erickson.

Don Bryant • 8 years ago

Not much of a debate continues. It is not mired down in theological quicksand nor obscured by hundreds of years of Latin. The church has essentially spoken. Let's all be sure that we are deciding de novo. The number of times this topic shows up at some blog sites would communicate the opposite, with all respect to Jesus Creed. Yes, Origen said.... And .... said.... The theological and moral center of this issue has been identified and adopted. While every generation has to adopt anew and certainly integrate the received tradition, one would think that this issue is being rethought. It isn't.

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

It is precisely obscured by Latin, though. The Greek fathers said almost nothing like what Tertullian and Augustine (among the first Latin fathers) said; I admit they're not the first fathers to propose eternal conscious torment, but before them you could see the three positions coexisting, and after them all but ECT submerge, with the only evidence an occasional writer or the fact that none of the views were ecumenically condemned.

Phil Miller • 8 years ago

Just because "the church has spoken", as you say, doesn't mean people agree with what it says. In my experience, the issue of hell as it's traditionally is one that a lot of people have problems with. The thing is, though, that many of them really don't have the language or freedom to deal with it in a meaningful way. So they kind of push it to the back of their mind. But I think if you really pushed people in churches for an answer, a lot of them would have a hard time imaging God allowing a person to suffer for all eternity. Actually, this issue in particular is one reason that friends I have who've converted to Eastern Orthodoxy cite as pushing them away from evangelicalism. It's not something EO holds as dogma.

Don Bryant • 8 years ago

Yes, Phil, I do understand that. But that has always been the case, has it not? Nothing has changed in that regard. Of course, I do not mean that the church's speaking down through history cancels out further searching of Scripture today. I am a true Protestant in this regard. I only mean to say that this is a small skirmish and on the edges of the church. The stable core endures and constantly resurfacing these matters does not destabilize the church's testimony. It only gives evidence that a some do not receive its settled wisdom.

Phil Miller • 8 years ago

Well, I don't see as consistent a testimony as you're saying there is, especially if you consider the broader scope of church history. For one thing, in the RCC, there's the whole doctrine of purgatory. It just seems to me that it's an issue where there's a whole lot of intellectual dishonesty and cognitive dissonance. What people say they believe and how they act on those belief don't really line up.

scotmcknight • 8 years ago

I appreciate your concerns and thoughts. But..... it is contrary to civil protocol to draw people from one blog to yours, so if you have something to say, say it here: summarize your points and provide links after you have given your ideas. (Link removed.)

SC • 8 years ago

I was unaware of this "civil protocol" standard but i am sorry if I offended you in some way. I have benefitted many times from following such links from others and I have often promoted many blogs on my own and in comments. I certainly do not want to use the comment section for lengthy responses. But again, if you were offended, thank you for telling me and removing the link. Please just remove the comment since it didn't measure up to the "civil protocol" standard. I certainly don't want to be wrongly judged .

Peter Grice • 8 years ago

The importance of clarity about the relation between final punishment and the atoning work of Christ on the cross was driven home to me by reflecting on our best efforts to clearly communicate the gospel.

What do we actually, typically, tell people about this, who are not up to speed on Christian beliefs?

Here are some things they might pick up: "Jesus loves you." "Jesus died in your place." "Jesus took the penalty for sin." "Jesus willingly offered himself as a sacrifice, in your place (and mine)." "Jesus paid the punishment you (and I) deserve." "Seek forgiveness for your sins and trust in him, and you will receive eternal life." [Here I won't get into what "eternal life" might mean to everyday people, along with its negative corollary, which is another matter entirely!].

This should prompt the question, "What happens to me if I don't?", which in turn should prompt the very rational answer, "Well, then, you will have to pay the punishment for your own sins."

Up until this point, things may be going very well for our evangelist. But there may be some cognitive dissonance.

"I thought you said before that 'the wages of sin is death,' and that Jesus took this death penalty for me. Then you said that those whose debt is outstanding will stand before God, and be condemned to an eternity of suffering. I don't get it. Jesus didn't suffer for an eternity in my place!"

At this point the normal response is to explain divine calculus. Jesus is the God-man, so he can absorb all of that infinitude somehow, within the space of a few hours on the cross. He didn't do this in his humanity, though, but it still counts.

Except that this is still to locate the substitution in the conscious experience of Christ while still alive, and not in his atoning death as the Lamb of God, which ought not be sidelined! All sorts of tangents occur at this point. Wasn't "it" finished right before he died when he said as much? Didn't God turn his face away from Jesus in some mysterious cosmic drama which makes this all cohere? And aren't annihilationists clearly just heretics anyway, for violating the hypostatic union?

Well you can understand if the guy or gal on the street gives a polite decline of the gospel message, if it needs to become that esoteric before it begins to make sense...

Peter Grice • 8 years ago

Of course in an evangelical conditionalist scheme, final punishment may well include a component of suffering as the means by which a person is punished with death (seen as privation of eternal life).

This exactly follows the atoning work of Christ, which was a death incorporating a very painful, humiliating process of being put to death.

The conditionalist evangelist then is able to speak in plain language of a 1:1 correspondence.

Patrick • 8 years ago

Jesus didn't just die for all humanity, He died as all humanity. "Everyman" was on that cross and condemned and comprised in the 1 heavenly man.

IF God wills all humanity be saved and IF God will accomplish all His good pleasure, you're intellectually swimming upstream against a strong tide to imagine He failed at that.

Go on and be your bad self just because western Christians bought into Augustine's "God will even blowtorch infants born to non Christian parents" that die young view. How NOT Godly can you get in your imagination?

Jesus didn't say He came to seek and to save believers who were lost. He came to seek and to save that which was lost which was the universe.

The passages noted above as well as others indicate when Jesus screamed out "tetelestai", He meant it. He was entirely the victorious God over the forces arrayed against Him, not partially.

Peter Grice • 8 years ago

There's not a lot there I can interact with, sorry. The parts which don't take the form of assertion, I more or less agree with. And the middle paragraph is impolite and presumptive.

I will offer that a says-it-and-means-it hermeneutic is hamfisted, over all sorts of nuance, such as in this case a proleptic use of tetelestai (after all, he could hardly have pronounced anything after the moment of death). What you're saying amounts to a denial of a signifance to Christ's death, which orthodox Christianity, at least, won't countenance. To see why, one simply parses what the New Testament has to say about the centrality of Christ's death. This is still paramount, and our theology ought not relegate it to an afterthought.

Chris Date • 8 years ago

"Jesus didn't just die for all humanity, He died as all humanity."
"God wills all humanity be saved"

These are not statements with which all Christians agree. I don't. I believe Christ was entirely victorious as well, and accomplished precisely what he desired: the salvation of specific people.

Patrick • 8 years ago


I know this, but, I find your restrictive view of what God is about flawed. No sense debating it, if folks agree that God wants all humanity and has stated He will do all His good pleasure, then He has all humanity in some form or fashion.

KentonS • 8 years ago

And let me guess: you're one of the ones "on the inside", aren't you, Chris? And for those that God doesn't will to be saved... Well, it just sucks to be them. Am I right?

Peter Grice • 8 years ago

How relevant is the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement to the topic of the post? There are plenty of conditionalists on both sides of that view...

KentonS • 8 years ago

Uh... you're asking me??? :) I'm neither a Calvinist nor a conditionalist, so it's not relevant to me at all. It seems to me like you could read these two arguments through a non-calvinist lens easily enough and still be a conditionalist, so I don't think it has any relevance to the conversation. Chris obviously *is* reading this through Calvin's eyes, so might he be the one to direct your question to?

Peter Grice • 8 years ago

You just seemed to think it worth a "provoction," is all. It's not clear why you or Patrick thought this would be a good time to stir up a totally irrelevant debate. But it sounds like we agree that it's got nothing to do with the topic. :)

I can vouch for Chris agreeing with us as well. He even intimated as much.

KentonS • 8 years ago

Interestingly, I thought *I* was the one being provoked.

In my previous dealings with Calvinists the idea of limited atonement (maybe "limited election"?) has always been the crazy uncle that lived up in the attic: nobody really wanted to talk about it, and when they did there was a certain level of embarrassment about it. Perhaps no one ever really wants to believe it, but it comes with the territory and the power of the guild keeps it in play. The "salvation of specific people" comment, on the other hand, seems like there are no qualms about it whatsoever. It's just sounds so Pharisaic.

You're right, it has nothing to do with the topic.

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

You know, that's not actually an argument?

KentonS • 8 years ago

It's not meant to be an argument. It's more of a "brood of vipers" or "whitewashed tombs" kind of thing. Confrontation, provocation, accusation... take your pick, but you're right, definitely not argument.

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

I guess nobody warned anyone to flee from the wrath to come.

KentonS • 8 years ago


Glenn Peoples • 8 years ago

Hi Scot. Thanks so much for your interest in this project!

The second argument is not quite as stated here. The argument is that all the dominant views on the atonement - and certainly those that are taken seriously by Evangelicals - involve some type of substitution or exchange.

So Jesus stood in for others in some way (e.g. as a penal substitute, or a ransom in the stead of the captives). But in standing in for those who are saved through him, what did Jesus do?

The answer is that he died. That presents us with a vivid picture of what would come to all humanity were it not for the saving intervention of the one who stood in our place. Our lot would be death - like the death that Jesus suffered for us. The death of Christ makes best sense if the wages of sin is literally death. And so that is what will in fact finally come to those who are not saved through Christ.

I hope I don't fall afoul of a policy about links, but elsewhere I've zoomed in on this argument a bit more: http://www.afterlife.co.nz/...

scotmcknight • 8 years ago

Glenn, how is this conditionalism?

Glenn Peoples • 8 years ago

Scot, It's conditionalism in the sense that it posits the fate of sinners as death. So they don't receive life. If they reject the cross, then nobody has stood in their place, and so they will receive the death that sin brings about. However, those who embrace the cross have someone who stood in their place: Christ. He took our death upon himself, so that it is no longer our fate. As We say in the liturgical churches: Dying, you destroyed our death. Rising, you restored our life. Jesus' death shows us, to put it bluntly, what hell is like.

As it turns out, some traditionalists - especially those who believe in penal substitution - have realised this implication. They see that if Jesus took the place of sinners, and Jesus literally *died*, then annihilationism / conditionalism is helped, for it presents the fate of sinners as literal death. Those traditionalists respond, not by embracing conditionalism, but, alarmingly, but denying that Jesus' death atones for sin, claiming instead that Jesus endured the spiritual wrath of God on the cross prior to his death.

So receiving immortality is conditional on having Christ die for us (or, if that sounds too Calvinistic: it depends on having that death appropriated to us). Otherwise we would receive the death that he died.

Glenn Peoples • 8 years ago

All this argument about whether or not there exists such a thing called spiritual death is perhaps somewhat interesting, but in this case, rather moot. Jesus literally died.

Norman • 8 years ago


That sounds a lot like what Paul explains in Romans 6:5-11 and Eph 2:1-

Rom 6:5… 6 We know that our old self (old Adamic man) was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. … 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Eph 2:1 And you were dead (not physically yet) in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, … 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

I don’t think Paul is expounding entirely on physical death but spiritual "death" that brings separation from God and yes ultimately finality (separation from God/ loss of immortality) to our physical death if we don’t embrace dying to the "death" with Christ and embracing Life.

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

When we examine the meaning of a passage that mentions a concept that can't literally be true (i.e. "you were dead in trespasses and sins), the first thought should be to take it non-literally, i.e. metaphorically, rather than to invent a new doctrine not taught anywhere in the Scriptures, i.e. "spiritual death".

In Romans 6, to "die with Christ" is clearly and explicitly defined as being baptised. Later in the chapter "death" is used as a comparison to examine the operation of human law. There's absolutely no room to claim here that this refers to anuy imaginable doctrine of spiritual death as a _literal_ state of the actual human soul or spirit.

In Ephesians 2 the "were dead" _might_ refer to a real state of the spirit, but if so it's not clear what that means (and it's not explained anywhere else in the Bible). It would be more clear if it was being used as a metaphor connoting powerlessness: comparing the helplessness of a person who's dead to our inability to save ourselves from our own sins and the consequences thereof. Picture an ex-warrior being dragged about by vultures, as Jeremiah and John depicted the Day of the Lord.

Norman • 8 years ago


I’m not sure how you can substantiate what you have just presented.

You can call it what you prefer, but separation and alienation from God is called being "dead" in your sins. That is the foundational story from Adam to Christ. I’ll provide a few more verses that illustrate how being dead while alive is illustrated biblically.

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

1 Tim 5: 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives.

James 2:26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

1 Pet 4:6 6 For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

//You can call it what you prefer, but separation and alienation from God is called being "dead" in your sins.//

In Eph 2, WHILE we were dead in our sins God saved us. This means that God ended any possible separation while we were still called dead. For this reason, the death in Eph 2 cannot refer to separation.

//That is the foundational story from Adam to Christ.//

As I've shown, this agrees with the serpent in the one thing he said that disagreed with God. It suggests that ultimately, God wasn't serious when He said that blocking access to the tree would stop men from living forever.

//I’ll provide a few more verses that illustrate how being dead while alive is illustrated biblically.//

"Dead while alive" is not an uncommon reference. Viewing it as a metaphor rather than a direct contradiction of Genesis 3 leaves us with two major figures of speech: it could be prolepsis, where someone is called "dead" in the present because they are surely dead in the future; or it could be some other metaphor, where a _part_ of the meaning of death is applied to someone's condition in spite of them not being dead.

Colossians 2:13 is the same picture as Eph 2, and thus receives the same response. It is also metaphorical, and the part of death it refers to is most likely the same powerlessness. But note that the same passage uses death literally (1:22, that Christ reconciled us by dying in His flesh) and with a different metaphor (2:20, we died with Christ to the elemental spirits of the world, ... [so] you are [not] alive to this world...) that is probably legal/accounting. Worse for you, Paul stresses that Christ saved us from literal death by literally dying at the cost of us metaphorically dying, but not by His literal suffering (which he claims to be "filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions").

1 Tim 5:6 is simply ambiguous as to whether it's metaphorical or proleptic. The same short phrase could be used both ways; ultimately, it's disgusted dismissal to be shown by refusing to pay a widow's support to her. It doesn't define or explain any idea of "spiritual death".

James 2:26 does not talk about spiritual death at all, because it's talking by analogy to physical death. Elsewhere we see that physical dying is accompanied by the spirit leaving; here we seen that being dead is accompanied by the spirit being absent (unsurprisingly). James offers an obviously dead body as evidence, and claims that we _know_ the spirit is not there; he doesn't claim the spirit must be somewhere separate from it, but rather that faith (like the body) is dead without works. If death always meant separation from something, then this passage would actually teach that a dead faith is always separated from works that actually exist somewhere else and USED to be joined to the faith -- an absurdity and beside James' point.

1 Pet 4:6 is disputed and I don't plan to settle it -- RWP gives a brief overview of the different interpretations. I don't see any of them that claim "those who are dead" means people who are currently spiritually dead, though (particularly because the next verse says those people "may live in the spirit"), so I don't think this is actually a supporting text for your view.

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

You're correct that I did not give grounding, but I made a negative claim rather than a positive. All I _can_ give is interpretation to _suggest_ that an alternate interpretation is plausible and rather more to be preferred. I cannot give you grounding for that claim -- all I can do is note that you could disprove my negative claim by grounding your positive claim (that "spiritual death" is Biblically an actual definable state of the soul that's not simply a metaphorical reference to an aspect of physical death), or you could dispute the interpretations I've given, or you could provide other passages that you think are unequivocal. You have chosen the latter of the third (thank you for the interaction), but the first would be more conclusive -- none of your passages actually _ground_ or define "spiritual death"; the most you can say is that they refer to it in passing (and I will dispute that for each one, in a followup message).

I do claim a Biblical grounding for my understanding of death. All of these texts are figures of speech founded on a correct understanding of /literal/ death, which is given in Genesis 2-3. Death is the _personal_ and natural return to pre-life status (Gen2.19, "to dust _you_ will return"), and ultimately it means being prohibited the means to live forever (Gen 3:22). None of the later revelation contradicts God in the way the serpent did -- notice that the only thing the serpent directly contradicted God in is "you will not surely die" (and by the way, notice that Solomon makes the exact same-worded sovereign threat in 1Kings2, that "you will surely die"). But although the first death is a clear example of death, and God seems to force it to be so by forbidding actions that claim to pierce the veil of death, God also reveals that the first death does not fulfill "death" as completely as the Sadducees (and Jehovah's Witnesses) thought it did.

The wisdom literature explains why: because the wicked SHOULD hear their judgment to their own face so that their death will be shameful, instead of simply incidental. Job 21 is a shining example of the argument for the need for the wicked to hear their own verdict -- even though we can't _trust_ Job (and he may not even know about the resurrection of the wicked) we can see that he knows about the _need_ for it. And Job's argument is echoed by the reliable author of Psalm 73, Asaph -- but Asaph unlike Job DOES know about the final judgment, and he recognizes that the difference between the righteous and wicked there is that the death of the wicked, the second time they die, is horrible, shameful, irreversible, and final, unlike the first death that he envied -- and they will be dismissed like a bad dream.

Norman • 8 years ago

Thanks for your replies but I think the issue is that you appear to take Genesis literally concerning death while I take it metaphorically as representing a consistent theme throughout the OT and NT. Spiritual death IMO is nothing but a legal covenant separation that has occurred because humans want to exert control over the process of Godly relationship. The first Adam broke that Covenant with God (Hosea 6:7) while Christ upheld it. Adam lost immortality and Christ as the last Adam reinstated it.

I’ll continue to point out how these spiritual death themes are used throughout scripture and you can continue to attempt to explain them away, but you know after a while it becomes obvious that your trying to hold something in check that can’t be.

This idea of Paul’s concerning being either dead or alive is really not all that hard to understand. He delves into it deeply again in Rom 7 in his discussion upon how his, Israel and Adam’s adherence to the Law or commandment was what brought about their plight that he classifies as “death”. I understand you are going to try to explain the obvious away, but be that as it may the concepts are laid out clearly in scripture after scripture. What you are doing is trying to force these scriptures into your paradigm and it’s fairly obvious that you are bringing your own supposition into the mix that hasn’t been established, and I doubt it can be to the degree you are implying.

Let’s take a look at Paul again.

Rom 7: 9 I WAS ONCE ALIVE apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive AND I DIED. The very commandment that promised life (immortality nv) PROVED TO BE DEATH TO ME. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it KILLED ME (not literally nv). … It was sin, producing DEATH IN ME. 8: 6 For to SET THE MIND ON THE FLESH IS DEATH, but to SET THE MIND ON THE SPIRIT IS LIFE and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, …

It’s as plain as it can be that Paul is presenting a polemic against following the works of the Law by setting one’s mind on the flesh like Adam did. And no he‘s not talking about physical flesh but is presenting flesh as a description of our human and limited means of seeking relationship with God. It’s the same with using metaphors like mortal and from the dust regarding the way scripture illustrate our limited human “works of the flesh”. Instead one should set their mind on the Higher Heavenly calling of the Spirit through our putting on and emulating Christ which brings life. This story of Paul is not focused upon a physical post mortem get out of jail card but is focused upon a release from the bondage of a bad religious system called the “works of the Law”. That is the system that Paul has been preaching about from Romans 5-8 and trying to get his Jewish and Gentile converts to understand why adherence to Law is what brought “death” to Adam and Israel and to them if they continue in it.

Here are couple more examples of the consistent use of the “dead” used to illustrate those in Adam contrasted to those seeking Life.

Matt 8: 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and LEAVE THE DEAD to bury their own dead.”

Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? HE IS NOT GOD OF THE DEAD, but of the living.”

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

//Thanks for your replies but I think the issue is that you appear to take Genesis literally concerning death while I take it metaphorically as representing a consistent theme throughout the OT and NT.//

The image of death described in Genesis is a match to physical death. It's not a metaphor; it's a description of a real thing. It's something we see every day, and this passage tells us that apart from God's help death and decaying to dust is not just an illusion but an inescapable consequence of our nature -- and God's help was cut off from Adam because of his sin.

But as I said, this is a grounding for my belief. The fact that you take it as a metaphor is interesting, but I don't see where that gets you -- it certainly doesn't give you a grounding, and I still don't see you presenting a grounding. I know many people take Adam to be a fictional presentation intended to make a point (I don't intend to argue that), but the text's point SEEMS to be explaining and describing literal death and the literal penalty for sin -- that God will take action so that the sinner does not live forever.

If it's a metaphor, though, where is the reality behind it? What's it describing? What images is it holding up, how is it comparing them, what is it teaching us? Exegete! I showed you mine...

//Spiritual death IMO is nothing but a legal covenant separation that has occurred because humans want to exert control over the process of Godly relationship.//

In other words, like myself you don't believe spiritual death is a description of any intrinsic state of a spirit -- unlike physical death. Note, however, that what you describe is neither "spiritual" nor "death" in a direct sense; it's like the old saying about the Holy Roman Empire: "neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire." It becomes nothing more than your personal jargon. Certainly you're permitted to invent jargon, but you're not to read other people's writings as though any mention of either word was actually invoking your personal jargon.

Also note that just as you don't believe that spiritual death is spiritual OR death, you also don't believe it's a literal separation. God doesn't have a "distance" from us. From the Bible, we see that there are three types of separation we have from God: first, the emotional separation of our own hate and rebellion (we hate God, He doesn't hate us); second, the separation of the unholy from the holy (accomplished by God's hiddenness, so we are not destroyed); and third, the utter and ontological eventual separation of the anathema from everything that exists (see the LXX use of 'anathema' as dedication for destruction http://biblehub.com/topical....

//The first Adam broke that Covenant with God (Hosea 6:7) while Christ upheld it. Adam lost immortality and Christ as the last Adam reinstated it.//

Hm. Loosely, in these words, we agree. Adam lost immortality, and those "in Adam" remain mortal. Christ "brought immortality to light", and those "in Christ" will put on immortality, and their corrupt bodies will put on incorruption. But I mean all of this literally, even though there are cases where I can't explain how a corrupt body can be raised, I simply have to trust that God will keep His promise somehow.

Do you think Paul didn't intend us to believe we'd be resurrected at the last day?

//I’ll continue to point out how these spiritual death themes are used throughout scripture and you can continue to attempt to explain them away,//

That's not what's happening. You're making an ungrounded claim. The best you're able to do is provide passages that might be compatible with what you say -- except that because there's no passage that actually teaches it, my explanations serve not to explain things away, but to destroy the only case you've chosen to present. Meanwhile, you attempt to explain away my grounding case by simply hand-waving that it's a metaphor, forgetting to explain what sort of metaphor, what the figures involved ARE, and what the metaphor refers to.

//but you know after a while it becomes obvious that you're trying to hold something in check that can’t be.//


//This idea of Paul’s concerning being either dead or alive is really not all that hard to understand. He delves into it deeply again in Rom 7 in his discussion upon how his, Israel and Adam’s adherence to the Law or commandment was what brought about their plight that he classifies as “death”. I understand you are going to try to explain the obvious away, but be that as it may the concepts are laid out clearly in scripture after scripture.//

Romans is indeed very interesting in its subtle and many-toned use of the idea of death. One passage might use the mere notion of death in human legal codes, another right next to it might refer to physical death, and another might use 'death' metaphorically -- for example, to refer to the powerlessness that literal death brings.

//you are doing is trying to force these scriptures into your paradigm//

"Show, don't tell." Show me why those passages work better with your paradigm than mine.

Further, I've just told you that Genesis 2-3 sets my paradigm. You've failed to even claim one passage that sets yours. (This is what I've referred to as "grounding".)

//and it’s fairly obvious that you are bringing your own supposition into the mix that hasn’t been established, and I doubt it can be to the degree you are implying.//

Do you suppose for one moment that YOU are working without a paradigm?

//Let’s take a look at Paul again.//

Again, you haven't even TRIED to deal with my previous points; all you've done is brush me off (you made the excuse that I was dodging and weaving, but you never even mentioned any of my actual arguments). Now I'm going to deal with yet another point, and you're going to have to decide whether to dismiss me again, or deal with my arguments.

//Rom 7:9-10 I WAS ONCE ALIVE apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive AND I DIED. The very commandment that promised life (immortality nv) PROVED TO BE DEATH TO ME.//

What does "nv" mean? The law promises "life", not "immortality". The promise of the Law sets before us death, and life. I can't respect your attempt to insert "immortality" here, honestly. That aside:

Paul is presenting a complex picture here, pulling in life, death, law, sin, the flesh, and many other parts. This is NOT a simple passage, and it is NOT teaching us about the definition of life (or death). Instead, it's a complex passage that's a transition point in Paul's teaching about the inadequacy of the Law to save us from the wages of sin. What it's teaching is reasonably clear, even though its complexity makes it a little hard to see how it's using each concept. For example, I actually do not know why Paul says that he was once alive without the Law -- I have lots of possible explanations, but no single winner. Does that mean that unknowledgeable people are saved apart from Christ? Does it mean he THOUGHT he was alive, then the Law revealed his death sentence?

I don't know. Do you?

//For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it KILLED ME (not literally nv). … It was sin, producing DEATH IN ME.//

I'm actually good with that -- yes, it wasn't literal physical death. This is my point. In fact, I really like your explanation of the rest of Romans 7. You're dead-on to warn that Paul isn't teaching us to hate our literal flesh; and I'd add that Paul is not being a gnostic and teaching us that our mind is always good. In fact, I think that "making up your mind" to do good is very bad; that's actually a work of the flesh. Again, this is your point (I think).

I'm honestly a little confused... Are we arguing past one another? I tried to express that I think metaphor is one of the uses of the word 'death'. I just insist that it's not the only use; the Bible also talks about it quite literally, and further when it uses metaphor you can often find WHAT type of metaphor it is. Sometimes it's prolepsis, sometimes whole-for-part...

//This story of Paul is not focused upon a physical post mortem get out of jail card but is focused upon a release from the bondage of a bad religious system called the “works of the Law”.//

MAN I really appreciate what you're saying. Is this all a misunderstanding between us? Did you think I was teaching that "death" is literal all the time?

OTOH, do you think death is metaphorical all the time?

//That is the system that Paul has been preaching about from Romans 5-8 and trying to get his Jewish and Gentile converts to understand why adherence to Law is what brought “death” to Adam and Israel and to them if they continue in it.//

No. No, that's not Paul's point. What an absurdity -- Adam didn't adhere to the Law. Neither did Paul.

But look in Rom 8. Look at the sheer range of meaning for "death" Paul puts in there (and "life" too, for that matter). And don't miss that some of those uses are physical -- the Holy Spirit doesn't "only" raise our spirits, but //if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also make alive your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.//

//Here are couple more examples of the consistent use of the “dead” used to illustrate those in Adam contrasted to those seeking Life.//

//Matt 8:22// I agree.

//Matthew 22:32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? HE IS NOT GOD OF THE DEAD, but of the living.”//

Wait, what? He's talking to the Sadducees. He's explaining why they're wrong to deny the Resurrection. He rebuts their counterexample (a silly little attempt to use the Law against the resurrection), then He tells them they're wrong about the Scriptures (by which He must mean that they're incorrect to deny the authority of the prophets) and about the power of God (by which He must mean that their denial of the Resurrection is effectively a denial of the power of God to work it). But he doesn't just TELL them they're wrong, he uses their own type of midrash argument to PROVE it in their own terms from the Scriptures they DO accept. He quotes God talking to Moses AFTER Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are literally DEAD, and points out that God is still their God -- from which the Sadducees are supposed to conclude that the Resurrection IS going to happen after all. (In a parallel passage, the conclusion is clarified as "for all are alive to Him.")

The force of the logic here is that Jesus says (1) the power of God they deny will produce the Resurrection, (2) scriptures they deny will produce the resurrection, (3) the resurrection includes the literally dead patriarchs, and (4) God's plan to resurrect them makes them "alive to Him".

I think it's reasonable to say that #4 is not physically literal -- the argument Jesus is presenting is about the future resurrection, not a present "living" state. But there's another sense, a subjective sense: they are alive "to Him", and from that we conclude that they will be alive, objectively, later.

Norman • 8 years ago


Yes indeed we all bring suppositions into the mix. :) And yes we are arguing past each other to a certain degree but you have gigged me on so many points that I don’t have time to point out my agreements. However there are substantial points of divide as well but hopefully plenty of agreement about being in Christ.

nv is my initial indicating my insert.

I’m going to address where I’m coming from instead of trying to interact with your points. My point is going to be that Adam’s 930 year life span is not an example of “physical death” nor was it ever intended to be. It is a literary tool of expression used to build theological concepts in a world quite different from ours. And my summary point would be “that’s alight” once one comes to grips with it in faith. But as Paul says one must answer to their conscience and I surely don’t expect people to bail on their faith conscience in these matters. The questions you raise are beyond the scope of simple forum interactions and really can’t be ironed out so simply. We have Job to help illustrate that for us.

Let me provide some 2nd Temple literature that may help shed some light on how Jews were reading Genesis concerning Adam. If we look in Jubilees the 4th chp we see an interesting presentation about why Adam died and some commentary about it. This is important because it influenced the first Christians and we see it influenced the Essenes who also were messiah seeking Jews and might be called first cousins theologically of their contemporary Christian Jews.

Notice below in the death account of Adam that it’s obvious that they are taking “day” to represent a metaphorical period of time which equates to the Jewish concept of completeness. In this case a complete Day represents 1000 years in which Adam fell short of attaining the fullness of that metaphorical complete day. That completeness represents “immortality” is what the author is driving at. In other words Adam lost what he had been given. It’s the same concept about being driven from the Garden where forgiveness of sins/immortality existed. Jubilees is postulated to have been written around the middle of the 2nd Century BC and it takes and works Genesis from the angle of a coming judgment upon Israel just as we see in the OT and NT themes. This is because Israel has not lived up to her covenant commitment to God. Adam only lived to be 930 years and that lack of attaining the fullness of eternal life overshadowed him. The 1000 year lifespan, like death is used to illustrate a lacking and incompleteness to drive home the point that Adam began Israel’s slide into displeasure to God. Jubilees also provide the understanding of why the patriarch death ages were becoming shorter and shorter as time went by. It was because the man of faith was becoming more and more violent in their actions and hearts. These metaphors are all tools used by the Jewish prophets and scribes to tell this story of paradise lost and to point to a “day” of redemption from this plight.

Jubilees 4:29.And at the close of the nineteenth jubilee, in the seventh week in the sixth year [930 A.M.] thereof, Adam died, and all his sons buried him in the land of his creation, and he was the first to be buried in the land. 30.And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years; for one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge: 'On the day that ye eat thereof ye shall die.' For this reason he did not complete the years of this day; for he died during it.

Notice that next on the agenda is Cain who represents the corruptness and jealously of Israel’s expected privilege. Think now to the story of the prodigal son who represents the lost that Christ brings back to the fold and makes the established Jews Jealous so that they murder them as their ancient firstborn forebear did to Abel who brought the better sacrifice. Notice that just as Christ projected that their House (Temple) would be destroyed and them with it so too is Cain destroyed by his house in just retribution for his murder of innocent blood. These are themes that resonated throughout Jewish literature including especially 2nd T literature that influenced the earliest Christians and NT writers. The persecuting Jews are often warned to not emulate Cain in the NT or suffer judgment.

31.At the close of this jubilee Cain was killed after him in the same year; for his house fell upon him and he died in the midst of his house, and he was killed by its stones; for with a stone he had killed Abel, and by a stone was he killed in righteous judgment.

Now we get to the section in Jubilees where it is prophesied that judgment is coming and the righteous will live to be a 1000 years old, surpassing Adam because Adam fell short because of his sin. They are lamenting that righteousness has become so weak among the Jews that their life spans only last 70 years. Keep in mind this language is an apocalyptic type of language in which images and metaphors are used to tell story. That is one of the reasons we need to recognize what kind of language Genesis is and not to demand it to speak literally to us.

Jubilees 23: 14.And all these shall come on an evil generation, which transgresses on the earth: their works are uncleanness and fornication, and pollution and abominations. 15.Then they shall say: 'The days of the forefathers were many (even), unto a thousand years, and were good; but behold, the days of our life, if a man has lived many, are three score years and ten, and, if he is strong, four score years, and those evil, and there is no peace in the days of this evil generation.'

… 27 And the days shall begin to grow many and increase amongst those children of men Till their days draw nigh to one thousand years. And to a greater number of years than (before) was the number of the days.

When you become familiar with this Jewish language a lot of NT concepts start to make better sense and concepts that are used by writers like John in Revelation start to leap out at you with a better understanding. Let me provide an example.

Revelation 20:4-5 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (5) The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection.

You see John understood Jewish symbolism concerning the 1000 year life span and its implications. Those worthy due to their allegiance to Christ were recognized as having attained 1000 years which meant in Jewish shorthand that they received immortality that eluded Adam.

Essentially I believe the way I do because I make it a priority to study the background of the first Christians explicitly, and that is to study all their literature in order to know their mindset. Conversely what is typical of most evangelical Christians today is that they are more likely to study the church fathers, Luther and Calvin and contemporary leaders who have assimilated a handed down Greek/Jewish hybrid philosophical understanding of scriptures. You should always filter your understandings of the earliest Christian theology through their world view first and not filter it through our inherited hybrid system with its multiple layers of philosophy. Once you attain that one will be better positioned to rightly divide the scriptures. ;)

On by the way the best reason for Paul saying that he was once alive without the law IMHO is that he was speaking collectively as a member of the body of death/Israel inferring himself to being in Adam before he received the commandment/Law. There was no other time that anyone was alive to God except Adam in the Garden before he broke covenant through a commandment. That is why Paul begins in Romans 5 with Adam and sets the table and keeps coming back to it throughout Rom 5-8.

By the way I want to commend your passion and even though we disagree I respect anyone who exhibit’s the biblical knowledge that you are presenting. It’s not uncommon for biblical students to be at different positions and understandings. In fact I don’t know if I’ve ever seen two people even if they are friends who agree totally. :-)

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

What an amazing, educational reply. Thank you for exploring the details of concepts that are indeed new to me -- you're correct that the church fathers are the farthest back I've gone in terms of scriptural studies, aside from some of the Babylonian Talmud that I found simply impenetrable. ("Yeah, I tried it, but I didn't inhale, and I didn't enjoy it.")

I don't think you touched on anything that I can see as altering our conversation -- but I agree that we're generating "more heat than light", and it's about time to pack it in.

Mark Pixley • 8 years ago

How is it conditional if according to Corinthians "all have died"?...just wondering how this logic deals with 2 Cor. 5?

Chris Date • 8 years ago

The same way traditionalists do, recognizing how the Bible uses the word "all." When the Bible talks about Christ dying for "all" it means either all of the elect or all kinds of people, not every human being.

Mark Pixley • 8 years ago

Yeah but the problem there is Paul later defines the terms as "the world"...so a selective "all" does not work for me...

Chris Date • 8 years ago

"The world" needn't mean "every single human being." It can, again, mean all kinds of people, or mankind in general. Universalists just don't have a compelling case from this language.

KentonS • 8 years ago

"For God so love the some that..."? "For a lot have sinned and..."? "For as in Adam a bunch die, so in Christ a few..."?

Are you kidding me?

William Tanksley Jr • 8 years ago

That's some powerful snipping! For example, "...that whoever believes in Him..." The way God loved the world was to give His unique Son, so that SOME, specifically the ones who believe, would be saved.

Is this unloving to the rest? No -- as God elsewhere says, even the wicked receive gifts from God, beginning with life and continuing in blessings during life. Even hypocrites receive love and praise for their apparent righteousness from other men.
Their just punishment after the resurrection doesn't cancel their freely given and ungratefully received benefits during life -- and I think the Bible teaches their punishment after the resurrection will be simply their shame for wrongdoing, followed by their death and removal.
If I'm wrong and you're right, that's good news and I'll give you a tip of the hat for being right before I was (please remind me once we get there); but it's good news that the Bible doesn't anywhere tell me to proclaim. It only tells me to proclaim the apostle's teaching, that the gospel is saving those who believe it.

KentonS • 8 years ago

And verse 17 - does it say "so that the few through him might be saved"?

We probably have some different ideas about "saved" and "eternal life" ("aionios zoe" in Greek - I translate it "the life of all time"). I don't think Jesus was talking so much about "heaven when you die" as "heaven on earth here and now." Probably a longer discussion than we can go into here.

Andrew Dowling • 8 years ago

Or we could just admit the words of Jesus in John is poetic language of the evangelist. Jesus would have never said "no-one comes to the Father except through me" or hypothetically if he did, had meant it referred to the state of some eternal soul after you die.

Presuppositions placed onto biblical texts is indeed a sin! :)

KentonS • 8 years ago

Including the presupposition that the language is poetic!

I agree that John was probably filling in dialog and didn't have use of a dictaphone to record exact words, but the text is what it is. We can't just say "Jesus didn't say it, I don't believe it, that settles it." (Tony Jones and James McGrath went back and forth on this a while back. Tony's final post is worthwhile.)

Andrew Dowling • 8 years ago

Actually surprised you're pushing back a little on this Kenton . . but the world would be boring if people didn't have varieties of opinions :)

I would say in response to "we can't just say "Jesus didn't say it, I don't believe it, that settles it." that in contrast to such a "faith" statement, making a statement about the unique Johannine language being a product of the evangelists' interpretation of the Jesus movement for his community and not very related to historicity is the most probable and logical result of looking at the literature in its historical and comparative literary context.

Why this is relevant for a discussion such as the one here, is that the very firm Johannine statements attributed to Jesus about "eternal life" and being in opposition to the "world" are almost always used as clobber texts to promote a viewpoint about "individual salvation/the pathway to heaven" that is COMPLETELY foreign to the text and places a whole heap of later presuppositions onto the text, and to make it even more frustrating, these quotes are made in the assumption that . . even amidst them being taken completely out of context, they are statements Jesus actually said in his earthly ministry.

If people are going to be shooting Bible quotes back and forth about the afterlife, John especially needs to be placed in its unique context . . the ironic thing is that John . . contrary to speaking of eternal life as something you obtain when you die . . is the most clear example of "realized eschatology" in the entire New Testament.

KentonS • 8 years ago

I think we may be on the same page. Yes, Jesus' words in the fourth gospel are often taken out of context and made to mean something they don't. That's the mistake the right often makes. And yes, John was interpreting Jesus' message for his community and was not employing historical statements. But we don't dismiss (or "redact") those words because of that. That's the mistake the left often makes.

It seemed to me like your previous post did that with 14:6. Apologies if I misunderstood.