Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | February 1, 2013

Death, Deaths, and the Second Death, by David Bower

 First of All What is Death?

I’ll confess I’m guilty of asking a trick question; I’ll ask someone what is the first death recorded in the Bible and I’m generally told the death of Able is the first death recorded in Scripture. That, of course, is a seriously wrong answer; the first death recorded in Scripture is the spiritual death of Adam and Eve when Adam disobeyed God.

Lets reconstruct the sequence of events; God told Adam in Genesis 2:17, “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Notice the timing – when he ate of it he would surely die. Next, let us recall Eve’s conversation with Satan in Genesis 3:4 where Satan tells Eve, “”You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.” At this point Satan is calling God a liar and seems to be giving Eve totally opposite information.

After Eve’s initial conversation with Satan as embodied in the serpent, I believe several days, or more likely several weeks went by while Eve watched the tree and may have even watched animals eating the fruit of the tree with no evidence of death. It is probable that Eve had previously mentioned this to Adam and, as I’ve mentioned before, Adam grew so tired of Eve always bringing it up that Adam added the do not touch part out of a sense of frustration with Eve.

One fateful day Eve decided to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree and what do you know, nothing happened. This may have gone on for several days before she finally mentioned it to Adam. She and the animals seemed to continue to enjoy good health even after eating the fruit of the forbidden tree; this seemed to support the serpent’s argument that one would not die.

At some point Eve confronted Adam with the facts and caused Adam to doubt God; perhaps he had misunderstood God or gotten confused about which tree was forbidden. Regardless of his excuse he joined Eve one day and ate of the forbidden fruit and they both died spiritually on the spot at the instant Adam ate.

The Federal Headship of Adam

What is really sad is the entire human race died spiritually in Adam at that same moment; you died, I died, everyone died. This is called the “Federal Headship of Adam” and is taught, for example, in Romans 5:12f.

Does this mean that Adam and Eve fell dead on the ground at that point? No they did not, in one sense Satan was bending the truth to serve his purposes. Although they died spiritually at that moment they did not die physically for hundreds of years, in Adams case, and an unspecified number of years in Eve’s case; although physical death had become certain it was delayed but spiritual death was instantaneous.

Let us reconstruct what I believe happened; the command had been given to Adam before the creation of Eve so I believe it applied only to Adam and not to Eve. The tree itself was not poisonous so its fruit did not cause injury or death to the animals and to Eve. The danger was the act of direct disobedience to the only command that had been given, don’t eat the fruit of this one tree.

When Adam disobeyed a direct command of God, the only recorded command at that point, by the way, Adam and the balance of humanity died spiritually and that specifically included Eve.

From this we can determine there are two forms of human life, spiritual and physical. The spiritual side is eternal and will last forever for each and every human being. The physical is temporary and usually lasts less than 100 years, in some instances much less.

Two Forms of Life and Two Forms of Death

When Adam and Eve were created they had living spirits and living bodies; at the time of the fall they died spiritually which meant they had dead spirits and living bodies. I think it likely that they were both eventually saved by faith and we’ll see them both in heaven.

After the expulsion from the Garden of Eden other children were born to them but these children and their children after them were born spiritually dead the same as today. Since the fall, only the Lord Jesus Christ who was fathered by God, the Holy Spirit, has been born spiritually alive. Spiritual life now comes to the rest of us only by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.

There are two classes of humans walking on the surface of the earth today, those who are still spiritually dead and those who have been made spiritually alive by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior; between those two classes of humans there is a great gulf fixed. The only bridge is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Second Death

There remains one fearful fact that I must mention and that is the eternal nature of those who are spiritually dead. Although they died once in Adam there awaits them a second death which is eternal in nature. In Revelation 20:11-15 we read:

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” 

If a person has rejected the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, that person’s eternal soul is given a body that will never perish and will suffer the torment of the second death, the lake of fire, forever and ever.

We live in what has been justly called the “Age of Grace” but this age may rapidly be drawing to a close. The Bible tells us the events following the end of this age are going to be terrible beyond description. I urge you by the mercies of the living God to avail yourself of the free gift of salvation; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.


  1. Hi David,

    My husband, asked me a question this morning regarding physical death and the soul. He asks when a person dies without Christ, what happens to his soul? Since we who are alive in Christ believe the scripture which states, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, he questioned if the unsaved person’s spirit immediately goes to hell. If so, is that the judgement for them at that time.

    When I saw this post on death, I wondered what your thoughts were.
    Peace and blessings,



    • Jan:

      I believe that at death, the unbeliever goes to the place of the dead as described in Luke 16:23 and referred to as Hades. This is an interim place of torments where the unbeliever will wait until the second resurrection, the resurrection of the unsaved. The second resurrection takes place in the future after the Millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ and just before the Great White Throne judgment as descirbed in Revelation 20:11-15. After their judgment at the Great White Throne, the unsaved, who will then have eternal resurrection bodies, are cast into the Lake of Fire where they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever, this is the Second Death and it is terrible beyond imagining.

      Although today, sinning and evil seem to have no adverse consequences, this is not a true indication of how much God hates sin. The Lake of Fire is a much more accurate indication of how He feels about sin and rebellion.



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