You've no doubt heard this term used from the pulpit, or read it in an article about Adam. It seems to be occurring more and more and it’s a subject that needs to be rightly divided. It's very definition should be of great importance to a child of God, yet it's used often as a general shortcut term to describe Adam's fall. We need to be careful. If you ask me if I believe in predestination and I reply “absolutely!” I could cause confusion, while my intention was only to express my firm belief in God’s sovereign grace. Whether laziness or a failure to rightly divide the word of truth, many seem to be contending the death that occurred to Adam in the fall was a Spiritual Death. While this is the position of the majority of the religious world, it bears careful examination to see what the scriptures will allow.
A recent widely circulated article makes some persuasive points. The author asks rhetorical questions about Adam before the fall, such as:
“Did Adam Love God?” “Was Adam perfect in holiness? “ “Was Adam a perfectly righteous person?”
The writer insisted in every case the answer must be “yes.” That’s compelling, but the scriptures won’t support it.
Adam was perfect, in the image of God, after his likeness. We understand Adam was made perfect, and usually add the qualification “able to stand, liable to fall.” This means Adam had the capacity to obey, but the will to choose otherwise.
If order for Adam to die a spiritual death, he must first have a spiritual life. Life always precedes action, even if that action is death. But we have no evidence of a spiritual life in Adam.
The contention made by those who say Adam died a spiritual death in the garden is often a way to make sense of God’s words: 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.” There is no problem reckoning time here: we appreciate Adam died to the things of God in that very same hour, and that he cast his progeny -- all who would follow into a death in trespasses and sins. Everyone born into this world, from the first, Cain – until the last child this earth will allow has been or will be brought into life a sinner, thanks to Adam. But Adam also physically died in the same day he sinned – at least in the day of the Lord. One day is a thousand years, and a thousand years a day.
Those who can’t understand these things look at the eating of the tree and are conflicted. See: Adam sinned and didn’t die. They too buy Satan’s lie. So to keep their faith from falling apart, they attempt to explain it away as an invisible death – a spiritual death.
A spiritual death is problematic. Did Adam exhibit the evidence we all look for when we gauge a child of God? Were the fruits of the Spirit present? If so eternal life is present as well. Life precedes action. Isn’t that what we teach?
If Adam can die a spiritual death, so can we.
But Adam didn’t lose eternal life, because he did not have it. Adam didn’t lose his spiritual life because he did not have it. Adam had not partaken of the tree of life.
Did Adam love God? The scriptures don’t tell us. If we conclude Adam had a spiritual life that he could lose??? – then we must also conclude that eventually, in time – he would come to a knowledge of his love for God. We do hear from the scriptures that Adam loved Eve. Gen 2:23 And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
Was Adam holy? No. Was Adam righteous, serving God? Probably not. Now don’t misunderstand – Adam was a special circumstance and a creation of God, but he had a natural mind, not a spiritual one.
If he had spiritual life, he had eternal life. If he had eternal life, he could not have fallen. If he had spiritual life, HOW DID HE OBTAIN IT? Was he born again BEFORE the FALL? Nonsense. Did he partake of the Tree of Life? NO!
We know he was granted the new birth when God spoke to him evidenced by the sacrifice of animals to make coats of skin. Was Adam a child of God? Absolutely. But Adam enjoys the same new birth we did, and for the same reasons. His name had been penned in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. It may be the first name written down, but it’s in the Book.
Was Adam restored to his original state after regeneration? No. He was restored to better. Now he has eternal life – now he has been carried through the tree of life – (as have we). But he’s not restored to the Garden, and he’s not restored to sinless perfection.
This is the state of Adam in the day that he was formed from the dust of the earth. He was sinless. He was perfect. He was human and given the capability to obey or disobey. He might have appreciated God as the creator and had great understanding of his own condition, but we have no proof he loved God, or understood holiness and righteousness. He did not fear God, so we might consider he lacked some necessary wisdom. After the fall, he was afraid. His eyes had indeed been opened, but now he’s looking at God through sinful eyes and the relationship has changed.
We can draw better evidence from Adam of righteousness after the fall than before. (Remember the offerings Cain and Abel made before the Lord? Someone had to teach them the time, manner and proper sacrifice to make.)
How long until Adam and Eve were born again? Probably the same day they ate of the forbidden tree. You might think that a strange statement, but consider, (speaking of God) Hab 1:13 [Thou art] of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, [and] holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth [the man that is] more righteous than he? God very soon returns to the garden to address Adam, condemn his act, curse the serpent, declare the future, and provide animal skins for the pair. As they were the only humans on earth, the blood shed from the foundation of the world was rapidly applied here. Satan does his best to wreck God’s human creation, God answers instantly with the pre-ordained solution.
But a spiritual death? Wrong terminology.
Spiritual death. Think about this for a minute. When we die, these bodies go to the dust of the earth, the way of Adam, to await the redemption. The spirit returns to God. We’re told these details about Rachel’s death for a reason: Gen 35:18 And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin. When she died, her soul departed – to where? To God. Ecc 12:7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
The spirit that dwells in you is God. Rom 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
Now consider this bold statement: There is no such thing as spiritual death for a child of God. The Spirit is from God, the Spirit is God, the Spirit IS eternal life and the Spirit cannot die.
Brother Royce Ellis