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Genesis 2:17 – Was Adam Sentenced to Spiritual Death?


Genesis 2:17 – But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die.”

It is claimed by many of those who have adopted the Hellenistic philosophy of dualism that this scripture is saying that the penalty of sin is “spiritual” death, as opposed to “physical” death. It is claimed that the penalty for sin – death – is spiritual separation from God.

Adam began to perish when he sinned, bringing estrangement from his God — he began to die — began to perish in the day he ate: “for in the day of thine eating of it — dying thou dost die” (Genesis 2:17, Young’s Literal Translation; see also KJV margin) His dying condition, his perishing condition, finally brought the wages of sin — death, total and complete absence of all sentiency; thus Adam perished in death and went into the condition of sheol, the condition of being dead, in which condition he had no knowledge of anything, the condition in which “there is no work, and device, and knowledge, and wisdom.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10) This is the same condition in which the righteous are not able to praise Yahweh, or give thanks to him. (Psalm 6:5; Isaiah 38:18) It is the condition to which all go when they die, both good and bad.

This same perishing condition has been upon the race in Adam ever since, and the resultant removal of sentiency would have been eternal had it not been for Jesus’ sacrifice for the church and the world, so that all will be brought back from the perished condition, some to life, and some to judgment. — John 5:28,29; Romans 5:8-12; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 1 Timothy 2:5,.6; Hebrews 2:9; Revelation 20.

We know Adam did not die in the very day that he ate of the fruit. He lived for a long time after that, for he had many sons and daughters. Of course, there are those that argue that “muth temuth” (to die, you will die) is a Hebrew idiom of emphasis, and that it is why many translations render it “You will *surely* die”, rather than “Dying, you will die.” The idiom argument is put often forth in order to promote the idea that Adam’s fleshly body would have died anyway even if he had not sinned, and that thus the death received through Adam’s sin is “spiritual” death rather than “physical” death. However, such an idea runs counter the whole idea of Jesus’ death for our sins. (Jesus did not die a “spiritual” death as opposed to “physical” death for our sins.) Again, this goes back to reading Hellenistic “dualism” into the scriptures and adding more and more and more to the scriptures to get the scriptures to seemingly support such doctrines.

There are others that admit to the literal rendering of “dying, you will die”, but still try to force the dualistic teaching into this. Some have claimed that “dying, you will die” refers to spiritual death, not physical death. However, as we have seen, Jesus’ death indicates to us what kind of death is the penalty for sin.

Why did Adam have to die? Was his death a so-called spiritual death (as is claimed for the death in Adam — 1 Corinthians 15:21,22), or a was he totally dead — soul and body? We can find out the kind of death that is the penalty of sin by the kind of death that Jesus died. Did Jesus give to God a sacrifice of “spiritual death”? (1 Corinthians 15:3) “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6) Whatever death Jesus “died”, as shown in Romans 5:6, has to be same death that is the penalty of sin as shown in Romans 6:23. Why? Because of the equivalent price needed to pay the debt for mankind. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22) So what was the death that Jesus died? Is he now suffering eternal separation from God for the sins of mankind? Jesus certainly didn’t suffer eternal torture for our sins. Dualists end up with all kinds of self-contradictions and extra-Biblical explanations by trying to add and blend the heathen dualistic philosophies into the Bible.

Adam was created a living soul consisting of the spirit of life from God and the body made of dust (Genesis 2:7), but his living soul came under the death sentence because he disobeyed God. (Genesis 2:17; 3:19) It is man’s soul that needed to be delivered from death, not the exact dust particles that make up his flesh. Thus the Psalmist says: “God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol.” — Psalm 49:15, New American Standard.

To accomplish this redemption, we read that Christ Jesus “poured out his soul to death”; He made His soul (which includes his human flesh — Genesis 2:7), represented in his blood, “an offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:10; 13:11; Leviticus 17:11) Moreover, we are particularly told that it was the “soul” of Jesus that was raised from the dead: “you will not leave my soul in Sheol — the oblivious realm of death. (Psalm 16:10; Ecclesiastes 9:5,10) The apostle Peter quotes this statement as prophetical of the resurrection of Jesus, that His soul was not left in hades; God raised Jesus from the dead. (Acts 2:31,33) Thus Jesus gave his human soul — a soul for soul — in death as an offsetting price to correspond to what Adam lost. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 2 Timothy 2:5,6; Hebrews 2:9) Jesus gave his human soul as represented in his blood once for all in sacrifice. When raised back to life, Jesus’ soul was no longer human (Jesus offered and gave his humanity in sacrifice, he is therefore no longer human), but he was raised in a spiritual body. — 1 Peter 3:18; Acts 26:13; 1 Corinthians 15:45.

Many of our trinitarian neighbors, however, would have us to believe that Jesus only died physically for sins, and that spiritually he continued to live and never died at all. If then the penalty of sin is spiritual death, the ransom price has never been paid! Thus the dualistic philosophy actually ends up denying the ransom!

Others would claim that the man Jesus died both spiritually and physically, but they usually deny the eternality of either. They certainly would not claim that Jesus is now and will be for all eternity separated from God, for they claim that Jesus now has both of his natures — his alleged “God” nature, as well as human nature — and will have both natures for all eternity.

See our study: 1 Peter 3:18 – Jesus Died a Human Being – Raised a Spirit Being

Some studies by Bible Students (we may not necessarily agree with every conclusion given) that contain some thoughts pertaining to “spiritual death”:

Preaching to the Dead

Why Evil Was Permitted

Reckon Ye Yourselves

Although we do not necessarily agree with all statements given by the following author, we give another related online link below:


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