“Ye shall not surely die” — do you believe the lie?

The Toronto street preachers I’ve written about somewhat frequently in recent times have given me a number of excellent examples of how so many Christians completely misunderstand what Scripture says about so many topics, and death is yet another topic that most of them miss the mark on.

If you listen to a “gospel” sermon or presentation by a Christian, odds are you’re going to hear something along the lines of, “When your heart stops beating, you won’t actually die — instead, you’ll pass on to the next stage of your life, the place where you’ll spend the rest of eternity, and the location you’ll end up in forever depends on whether or not you choose to accept Christ before you pass on to that final destination,” and the street preachers here in Toronto are no different when it comes to this message of supposed good news.

Of course, such statements completely ignore the fact that the final judgement takes place in this physical universe after one has been resurrected into a physical body on earth, not in an ethereal afterlife dimension where people will be judged as ghosts, and that the location everyone ends up in is also here in this physical universe (which means that one’s death can’t bring them to their final destination; even a member of the body of Christ who has died will be resurrected into this universe in a living, physical — albeit glorified and immortal — body rather than end up spending eternity in some ghost world or higher dimension or wherever it is most Christians believe dead believers go), but we’ll forget about that minor point for the time being because the rest of this post should make it clear just how wrong that idea is anyway, and just how satanic their statement actually is. You see, in making such a statement, they’ve essentially repeated and promoted the first lie recorded in Scripture: the lie of the serpent, which was, “Ye shall not surely die.”

Of course, a Christian who reads this will immediately start thinking of loopholes to make their assertion that “you won’t actually die” not mean the same thing as the serpent’s statement that “ye shall not surely die,” such as reinterpreting the phrase to mean they’d die spiritually (whatever that means), but no matter how they try to make this statement not mean what the serpent said, it still comes down to the same thing in the end.

Now, I should point out that, technically, the serpent didn’t actually say, “Ye shall not surely die,” nor did God say, “Thou shalt surely die.” Instead, if you check the Hebrew, God said something more along the lines of, “For in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying,” and the serpent’s lie was actually more along the lines of, “Not to die shall you be dying.”

Basically, God was simply warning Adam that he would become mortal and eventually physically die if he ate the fruit, and the serpent was just denying that claim. But because of their desire to hold on to certain other doctrines (such as the concept of the immortality of the soul, for example, as well as the idea of “original sin”), most Christians prefer to stick with the less literal translations of these passages and point out that the phrases can be idioms based on way the Hebrew was written, claiming that the fact that the word for “die” (mûṯ [מוּת]) was repeated twice in these verses was for emphasis (which is why the word “surely” is placed before the word “die” in the KJV) rather than to simply point out that Adam would gain mortality leading to physical death. And while it’s true that this Hebrew phrase can be translated this way, to do so in these particular passages ignores a couple key factors.

The first factor this ignores is that it’s extremely unlikely God was actually speaking Hebrew to Adam. The book of Genesis was written in Hebrew long after the events it records occurred, and the words God used were probably not in Hebrew at all but were likely in a whole other language, whatever one it was that Adam spoke at the time, and there’s no reason to assume that God was speaking idiomatically in whatever that language was.

The second factor this ignores is that, if God was talking about Adam becoming mortal so that he would eventually die physically, it would almost certainly still be worded the exact same way it was when Genesis was later written in Hebrew as it would have been if God had been using an idiom there, so again, there’s no reason to assume God wasn’t being literal when He spoke those words to Adam in whatever language He used back then.

But even if it was meant to be an idiom of some sort when God actually spoke the words in Adam’s language, that phrase (which is used many more times in the Hebrew Scriptures) is never used the way that Christians reinterpret it to mean here. It still always refers to eventual physical death when it’s used in the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, and not to the supposed “spiritual death” that most Christians have decided it actually meant in the first few chapters of Genesis, so claiming it was an idiom in these two cases doesn’t actually support their case the way they assume does anyway.

The bottom line is, Adam didn’t actually drop dead the day he ate the fruit, so we know that God didn’t mean He’d definitely physically die that day as the KJV and other less literal Bible versions seem to imply he should have if we were to read those translations literally, which means we have to figure out what God did mean by His warning. Now, I’ve already told you what it is I believe He meant (that Adam would become mortal and eventually physically die), but let’s break down some of the other interpretations that Christians like to use when they try to make sense of the fact that Adam continued living for many more centuries after he first sinned, in order to see if any of them make any sense at all.

As I already mentioned, the first thing they try to do is redefine the word “death” into meaning something other than physical death in the first few chapters of Genesis, by claiming that Adam “died spiritually” when he ate the fruit. Of course, there’s no such phrase as “died spiritually” anywhere in Scripture at all, nor does the concept of a spiritual death exist anywhere in Scripture either, so we have to ask them what they mean by that phrase.

In fact, I did just that with one of the street preachers a couple weeks back, and he first tried to argue that it means to be separated from God (he did this after I pointed out that it can’t literally mean our spirits actually die, since our bodies would immediately die too if our spirits could die  — our spirits being what give our bodies life to begin with — so spirits can’t actually die without killing the body they’re in as well). Of course, I then had to explain that it’s impossible to be separated from God, because “in Him we are living and moving and are,” as Paul put it, quoting the Athenian poets, so to be separated from God would mean to cease to exist if it were even possible at all (which it’s not). It would also mean that we could be outside of God, which would mean that there’s a universe “bigger” than God that something or someone else could exist within, and something “bigger” than God would make that thing itself God, so it can’t mean that. (I use quotation marks there to make it clear that I’m not talking simple Euclidean geometry when I refer to something being potentially “bigger” than God.)

Those points made him realize it couldn’t mean that, so he then decided that it must actually be a reference to the second death in the lake of fire, but he quickly realized it couldn’t mean that either when I pointed out that Adam didn’t end up in the lake of fire that day, and can’t even be in it today because nobody has been cast into it yet, since nobody will end up there until after the still impending Great White Throne Judgement occurs. I also pointed out that anyone in the lake of fire would have to physically die a second time because nobody who will be cast into that location will have been made immortal yet, so there can’t be any connection to the lake of fire in this concept either.

He finally landed on it simply being a metaphor for no longer being spiritually in tune with God or becoming an enemy of God or something else along those lines, but that just brought up other problems. Because, let’s say the warning actually was just a metaphor or some other figure of speech for not being at peace with God or being enemies with Him or something like that: if that’s all it meant, that brings up the question of why Adam began dying that day, and why we ourselves die physically as well. If God’s warning wasn’t about physical death, but was simply a metaphor for “falling out of sync with Him” or something similar to that, to also make Adam (and us) mortal would have been an additional punishment on top of the one He did warn Adam about (the figurative “death” that most Christians claim He was actually talking about).

When I brought these points to the attention of the street preacher, he quickly claimed that we die because we sin, and that Adam died because he sinned, but aside from the fact that this isn’t what God warned Adam about if the warning was simply a metaphor, as I just explained in the last paragraph, it also ignores what the rest of Scripture teaches about death and sin. He tried to bring up the idea of the wages of sin being death, but I explained that, aside from the fact that “wages” is not necessarily the best translation of the word opsōnion (ὀψώνιον), the idea that we die because we sin doesn’t make sense anyway, since otherwise newborn babies who haven’t sinned yet could never die, and it would be literally impossible to perform an abortion (especially if a fetus is a person, as he certainly believed). I also pointed out that Paul wrote, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that reason all have sinned” (the word “reason” is in italics because the word isn’t in the original Greek, but the interpretation that we sin because we’re mortal/dying rather than we die because we sin is the only one that makes sense when we take everything else I wrote above into consideration).

After I explained all that, he had to back down from that idea too, and at that point he had to admit that he didn’t have any answers to refute my points (which is extremely rare for a street preacher to do, so I commend him for that admission). At that point, I simply gave him a card with a link to this website, and hopefully he’ll read it and learn the truth about death. As for the rest of you in the meantime, the fact of the matter is, because Adam sinned, he became mortal (to die he began dying), and he passed that mortality on to his descendants (you and me), and for that reason, we all sin. But, even as, in Adam, all are dying (mortal), thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified (made immortal), and when that happens, we’ll all also become sinless since we’ll no longer be in a state of slowly dying.