I am convinced that one of the greatest lies ever spoken is “You will not surely die!”
It was one of the first lies that Satan used to plant doubt in Eve’s mind in the Garden of Eden, and is still a potent lie to the misled today.
“Well, what do you mean?” you might say, “everyone dies”.
And indeed, we do. And yet, the physical death we see is just part of a broader context of the term “death” or “dying” in the Bible. Romans 6:23 states that “The wages of sin is death”, and that is true in many ways.
This passage not only directly refutes Satan’s lie, but it also tells us that it is our own sinfulness that brings about death in every sense of the word.
The wages of sin is physical death:
On the day that Eve, (and subsequently Adam), believed Satan’s lie, they introduced mortality into the world. God cast them out of Eden, lest they “reach out [their] hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3: 22). Because we have inherited their sin nature, and are sinful ourselves, we will all die eventually as well. No one is immune from the struggles of this world, nor are we shielded from decline and disease. There is a global pandemic as I write, one that is projected to increase by the time this article goes to online publication. Even so, our Lord tells us not to fear, but to expect that even through physical hardship, we will ultimately be redeemed beyond this life.
“And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Romans 8:10).
Instead of keeping that sinful flesh inheritance, we have inherited Christ’s righteousness, and will enter his eternal perfection where there is no longer pain, death, or disease.
The wages of sin is spiritual death
There is an account in John 3:1-21 that records Jesus’s teaching that man is both physical and spiritual. A Pharisee by the name of Nicodemus comes to him asking about how he can be saved. Jesus replies, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:5). To die physically would mean to be separate from the land of the living, but not extinction. To die spiritually means to be separated from God.
Note some more passages that make the distinction between the two:
“Therefore, we do not lose heart, though outwardly, we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Physical death is just a moment, spiritual death is by far the greater grief, because it is for eternity. But praise God, there is a remedy for this eternal death.
The wages of sin is relational death
The Bible tells us that when we sin, we put up a barrier in our relationship with God. As believers we know that it’s not in the sense of losing our salvation or God’s love for us, but because our sin grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:29-32). We cannot go to the Lord in prayer if we harbor sin in our hearts, (Psalm 66:18), or enjoy his fellowship if we sin by neglecting to study his Word or go to him in prayer.
Further, the wages of sin is death in our relationship with others. First Peter 3:7 tells us that a husband’s prayers are hindered if he is not in harmony with his wife. Strife and conflict can weaken any marriage and open the door to temptation and divorce. Extending that thought, jealousy, pride, betrayal, and selfishness all bring about death to our relationship with friends and family. It even effects our own worship:
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the alter and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the alter. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
The wages of sin is environmental death.
Romans 8:19-23 describes that all of creation has been groaning, as if in labor pains, waiting for the day of redemption and healing. There has never been a more global example of this than this present health crisis. It is the effects of sin upon our imperfect and weary world. The events we see almost every day in the natural world are a crying out for the Lord to rescue its fallen state – and one day he will! (Revelations 21:5).
This is our hope. That although our sin has paid a heavy price, although we suffer in this day in our corruption, we have the ultimate hope of being set free from this debt because Jesus paid the price for us. May we hold fast to this truth as we await his return.