Death Does Not Have the Last Word

Written by R.C. Sproul |
Sunday, August 13, 2023

When we close our eyes in death, we do not cease to be alive; rather, we experience a continuation of personal consciousness. No person is more conscious, more aware, and more alert than when he passes through the veil from this world into the next. 

The guns of secular naturalism, when aimed at the Christian faith, resemble not so much shotguns as carefully aimed rifles. The chief target of the naturalist is the biblical doctrine of creation. If the doctrine of creation falls, all of Judeo-Christianity falls with it. Every skeptic understands that. Thus the constant shooting at Genesis 1.

But along with the assault against divine creation comes an assault against the biblical teaching of a historical Adam who is involved in a historical fall, the result of which is the entrance of death into the world. If Adam can be confined to the genre of mythology and the fall set aside with him, then we see death as a purely natural phenomenon with no relationship to sin.

Much is at stake with the biblical teaching of the fall because this doctrine is linked to the doctrine of redemption. The historical function of the first Adam is matched and conquered by the historical life of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.

In the eighteenth century, when Jonathan Edwards wrote his lengthy treatise on original sin, he argued not simply from biblical teaching. He also maintained that if the Bible itself were completely silent about a historical fall, natural reason would have to suggest that idea based on the reality of the universal presence of sin. If sin is simply a result of bad decisions that some people make, we would assume that at least 50 percent of the people born in this world would choose the right path rather than the sinful one that is so damaging to our humanity. The fact that 100 percent of the human race falls into sin indicates that there must be an inherent moral defect in the race. Of course, Edwards points to the fall, a historical event, to account for this universal fatal flaw.

In the Genesis account, we are told that the soul that sins will die. In His warning to our original parents with respect to disobedience, God declared that “the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). But the record goes on to say that the day Adam and Eve disobeyed their Maker, they did not experience the fullness of what the Greek translation of the Old Testament calls thanatos—physical death. Because of this, some have argued that the death that God promised was not physical death but rather spiritual death.

To be sure, spiritual death set in the very day that Adam and Eve sinned.

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