Death/Life (Bible verses teaching on the meaning)

The aspect of life/death “physically” in the Bible is not a hard concept for us to understand as humans, as we are all currently physically alive, see and hear about physical death on a regular basis, and all know one day it will be our turn.  However, it is when it comes to trying to understanding the Biblical teaching of sin-death and its condemnation to eternal death in many other passages in the Bible is where some confusion can arise.  Let’s delve into numerous scriptures seeking to allow the Bible to provide the explanation of this for us:

What was Jesus meaning when He said:

  • John 8:51-52, “Verily, verily I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
    • I believe we all can understand that this cannot be referring to physical death (notice how the Jews in vs. 52 misunderstood Him…just as so many people are doing today).
    • He is saying that those who obey His words will never experience the second/eternal death.
  • John 5:24, “has everlasting life…has passed out of death into life.”
    • This is an example of the many “already but not yet” passages in the Bible.
      • Already: the believer presently has the right and guarantee of eternal life, and has passed out of the condemnation of sin and being subject to go to Hades/Sheol upon physical death, and a subsequent eternal death in the Lake of Fire. 
      • Not yet: new perfect immortal bodies and eternal life in heaven.
  • John 6:47, 53-54, “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”
    • Guaranteed to receive the inheritance –> will take the possession of it once they physically die and pass into the Promised Land (Heaven).  The already but not yet.  They are “heirs” but are not yet in the promised land.
  • 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love the brethren.  He who does not love his brother abides in death.”
    • Those believers who love the brethren have passed from the condemnation of eternal death and now have the guarantee of entrance to, and eternal life, in heaven. Already but not yet.
    • Those meeting among them who do not love the brethren continue to live under the condemnation leading to eternal death.
  • 1 John 5:11-13, “…that you may know that you have eternal life…”
    • Same already but not yet. They are “heirs” but not yet in possession of, or experiencing that heavenly country yet (the real promised land).
  • 2 Cor. 1:10, “…who delivered us from so great a death…”
    • Past tense: He has delivered us from the condemnation of the eternal/second death.
  • Col. 2:11-13, “…buried with Him…raised with Him…dead in trespasses…made alive…”
    • All speaking in the past tense: this is speaking of our soteriological (salvation) position in Christ at the time of our conversion. Just like the animal in the Garden died as a substitute type, and Adam and Eve died with that animal –> Christ is our true Antitype substitutionary sacrifice. At our conversion we are born again through faith. Our baptism displays externally what has happened internally where our old self died with Christ, was buried, and we were raised and made alive a new creation by the power of His resurrection.
    • We were in sin-death separation from God, slaves to sin, and under the condemnation of eternal death –> but were raised and made alive with Christ –> forgiven and delivered from that condemnation of the eternal second death.
  • Eph. 2:1; 5, “…you He made alive, who were dead…even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…”
    • Same past tense soteriological (salvation) position as above in Col. 2:11-13.
    • Positionally described as already seated in the heavenly places in Christ –> the guarantee of our promised final position in heaven in the eternal afterlife.
  • Rom 8:13, “…live according to the flesh you “will [are about to]” die…put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
    • The Greek word Mello is stated in the present indicative active tense –> which means “about to.”  Paul is writing to the Christians in Rome and speaking about an imminent judgment which is soon coming, and if someone continues to live life satisfying the lusts of their flesh they are in peril to physically die, and if outside of Christ will also be under the eternal condemnation of the second death.
    • Where on the other hand, he says if a believer through the power of the Holy Spirit puts to death the lusts of his physical flesh (heeds the many warnings throughout the NT letter to “watch,” “be sober,” “be holy,” “put off the works of unrighteousness,” etc), they will not be under the condemnation of eternal death –> they will inherit the eagerly anticipated reward of eternal life in heaven.

Let’s look at one more powerful verse:

[Also see: Death (Biblical definitions)]

  • 2 Tim. 1:10, “…who has abolished death (sin-death separation from God, and sin’s condemnation to eternal death in the Lake of Fire) and brought life (fellowship with God now, and the guarantee of immortality in the heavenly afterlife.  The already but not yet)…”
    • The Greek word for “abolished” in the above verse is Katargeo, and means to: make inactive, of no effect, render inert – inoperative.  We all still have to die biologically, but Paul was writing to Timothy speaking to him in the “past tense” that there was “now” no power or condemnation of eternal death anymore.  Christ had conquered the full power of the comprehensive death which came upon Adam in judgment in the Garden.  He paid the wages of sin and removed the judgment of eternal condemnation in the Lake of Fire for all who in faith believed.  In conjunction with this, physical death had been forever stripped of its power to ever again send a believer to Hades/Sheol.


For a more in-depth study see the related full “Study Series”:

Study Series 3 What Happened in the Garden