– Death Is Covenantal –
There came in Eden a calamitous intensity to the experience of pain and
death due to "the fall" – literal pain and death were part of the
equation of life in the Garden pre sin. This can be deduced from
the fact that God said: "I will greatly increase your sorrow…"
Gen 3:16. "…And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of
the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" Gen 3:22.
Both these verses strongly imply both pain and death to be present
before Adam and Eve transgressed. To increase pain
presupposes its prior presence; as does likewise the potential to "live
forever" indicate that up until that point physical death was indeed
a factor in creation. Consider also the decomposition [biological death]
of plant life that sustained them both – there was death-life in
action in Paradise.
Gen 2:17 "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt
not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou
shalt surely die"
Reflecting the Hebrew tense, Young's Literal Translation reads "…dying
thou dost die." The literal Hebrew rendering of Gen 2:17 is "dying
die." The differences in verbal tensing do not affect this Hebraism
i.e., Hebrew idiom – a form of expression having a significance other
than the literal one. In the Hebrew, when a word or short phrase is
sequentially repeated it intensifies or strengthens its given
meaning, as in Jer 7:4 and Ezk 16:6 – giving it an
unequivocal definitive position of certainty. For example: Jesus often
said "amen! amen!" meaning "truly! truly!" i.e., "with absolute
surety I say…". Gen 2:17 literally means without fear of
contradiction "you SHALL die!" And in this instance, according to
this verse "…in the day…" thereof. This was NOT talking about
the beginnings of a "process" of biological demise, no; this verse
carries a strong overtone of the immediate execution of the divine
This whole issue of "death" in relation to Adam's stance before God
is important to grasp. A big problem straight up front is the impasse
over this whole "spiritual" versus "physical" death argument. It is an
erroneous concept [Greek thinking] that has muddied the waters and
brought much confusion and misunderstanding.
'Death' in the Scriptures is far more than just corporeal. In
relation to our stance before God it is primarily covenantal
i.e., RELATIONAL. Under the Old Covenant when someone was cast
out of Israel they were out of covenant and therefore
considered dead – their stance in fellowship was broken, they were
out of fellowship with their brethren, the people of God, and therefore
with God Himself – and this invariably due to sin. This is the "death"
described in Eden, a covenantal or relational separation from God. Lk
15:11-32 reflects the truth of this brilliantly – the son that was
lost [dead] is now found [alive].
"It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for
your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and
With this issue of biblical death; if by "literal" is meant
"physical" then we are presented with a few problems beyond the text.
Covenantal life is all about restoration i.e., resurrection from
covenantal death – it was and is definitely "literal" – it's just
not physical. Jesus literally meant what he said: "you must be born
again" [Jn 3:7] – he just didn't mean literally as in
physically. Jesus was speaking of a covenantal reality. Nicodemus
who hankered after a "wooden literalism" missed the spiritual import of
Jesus' words at that time. Again, in relation to man's stance before
God, death was covenantal.
It was covenantal death that God in Christ rectified, thus bringing
covenantal life. Just as the first Adam brought covenantal death to all
mankind, so the last Adam brought covenantal life to all humanity.
For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on