OUTLINE

I. Death: Result (wages) of Sin

1. In Adam we all die. As his offspring we all inherit death as a consequent sentence of his disobedience in the garden. In Adam we become sinners, and as a result we die physically due to our separation from God. We are born unclean, unholy, unrighteous enemies of God; children of wrath.

2. We are all sinners, but that does not mean all our sins are crimes. Some sins are criminal in nature and result in the swift judgment of God in terms of a death sentence. I have identified three subsets under this category in studying the Old Testament (Tanakh; hereafter OT).

      • Major—Group Death Sentence.
      • Minor—Individual law-breaking death sentence
      • Cut-off—A death sentence in a metaphoric sense.

3. We are all sinners and this, if not repented of, results in everlasting condemnation. This is found in the New Testament (hereafter; NT) more than any other part of the Bible.

**Summation of the parts: All of us die physically as a consequence of Adam’s sin. Some of us may die in this life, having our lives cut short, if our sins are worthy of a punishment of death by violating God’s law. Some of us may experience death figuratively speaking, in the sense of being cut-off, but this is not necessarily a permanent state. Some of us will experience eternal punishment for rebelling against our Maker, having died in our sins. For such, there is no repentance of sins possible.

II. Death: Results (wages) of Christ’s Righteousness

1. In Christ we all die . However, what we die to is different than the death we were born into. We are born “dead in trespasses and sins,” but when we die in Christ, we are reborn “dead to trespasses and sins.” In Christ, we die so that righteousness may abound. In this way, He makes all things new, and we are new in that we are creations in/through Him. For these the power of death has been broken, and it is robbed from the victory that the evil one desired.

The Types of Death We Witness after the Fall (OT)

As was noted in the outline provided above (Part 1, point 2) there are three subsets of physical death that are directly/indirectly a result of Adam’s rebellion as seen in the OT. The first two we shall look at are sentences of death carried out by the Lord God and his representatives (civil magistrates). These result as a violation of His holy law. I have classified them as major and minor cases. These sections nor the footnoted texts in support of them are not meant to be exhaustive. They are given, however, to encourage the reader to knock some dust off their Bible’s if they’ve laid around for far too long. Or, if that’s not the case, maybe you need to get past some of your pet verses that you’ve spent the majority of your time stroking.

Death as Judgment… (Major Cases)

Many of the deaths that we witness in the OT are related specifically to judgments delved out by the Lord. The catastrophic Flood of Noah’s day is one example.[1] Another is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.[2] We have the plagues poured out on Egypt culminating in the death of the firstborn who failed to heed the Lord’s destruction.[3] When that wasn’t enough God destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea.[4] The rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram is one example of many where God judges a multitude for their sin.[5] The Israeli vs. Canaanite conquests where Moses and Joshua led many battle campaigns against the foes of the Lord.[6] The destruction of the Northern Kingdom Israel by the Assyrians,[7] the devastation wrought against Jerusalem and Southern Kingdom of Judah by Babylon[8] give ample proof of God’s retributive action.

Time and time again we witness war being waged by the Lord against sinful men. The reason they died is because they had broken God’s law and it was a just punishment for their sin.[9] Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it. The law is a nonnegotiable standard.  Law breakers are still guilty if they violate the law without detailed knowledge.[10] Each of these types of death were exercises of penal punishment—i.e., the death penalty being enacted.

Death as Judgment… (Minor Cases)

In this short space, I’ve spoken primarily about the major penal executions carried out in the OT, but there are more deaths that fall under this category. God established as the 6th commandment “Thou shall not kill [murder]…” (Exod 20.13), some mistakenly apply this to all manners of killing. However, there are some sins that are worthy of death (1John 5.16-17). Take for example the death of Lot’s wife.[11]

These would fall under the criminal statutes laid out in the case laws of the OT. Here are a few criminal offenses that receive the highest form of punishment, the death penalty: Adultery[12], Man-stealing (i.e., forced slavery/chattel slavery)[13], rape[14], attacking one’s parents (not little children but adults)[15], blasphemy[16] (includes lying under oath against one’s neighbor,[17] if the perjury would have granted the accused a death sentence), various manners of sexual exploits (incest[18], bestiality[19], sodomy[20] (which would cover the entirety of the LGBTQ? today), sacrificing of children[21] (i.e., abortion, infanticide, or child sacrifice), false worship (like Aaron’s sons),[22] and false teaching.[23]

Though the penalty for such sins—sins of a criminal nature and not merely private—was death, this does not mean that lesser punishments could not be delved out by the elders at the gate.[24] Moreover, it was not a simple matter to enact this strictest form of punishment. In order to get the death penalty, the civil system had to prove their case on the testimony of two-to-three (solid) witness.[25] They did not merely take the word of such individuals, but were required before God to inspect the crime fully. The accused were assumed innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around (or why else look for perjuring witnesses?).

Death Metaphorically Speaking…(Cut-off)

Death is spoken of, or referred to, in a number of circumstances in the OT that do not pertain to physical death. For example, you have the concept of being “cut-off” from the assembly of Israel due to uncleanliness. This can be seen in a variety of instances. We will briefly look at three.

Leprosy is spoken of in Leviticus 13-14. Those found with that contagion are cut-off from the congregation of Israel, unless or until a priest declares them clean (i.e., having been cured of the disease). This served as a living example of sin. Not that the leper necessarily committed a sin to contract the illness, but just as sin kept one from the sacraments and worship (i.e., access to God) so too does sin break the bond of fellowship with one’s creator. Though living, the leper was in a sense as good as dead. They were cut-off from their friends, their family, their jobs, and various rituals of worship given to God’s elected people.

I would recommend that the reader become familiar with the purpose behind circumcision[26] (the cutting off of that flesh demonstrated a transition from life and death, unclean to clean, apart from God to be a part with God). I would also point to what divorce actually entails in both OT and in the NT. To be divorced is a death of the relationship.[27] The innocent part therein was allowed by the Lord to remarry, but the guilty party was restricted (though many still did it). To break the bonds of the marriage covenant (i.e., adultery) earned the guilty with two or more witnesses a death sentence.

Unfortunately, those unfamiliar with the OT and the relationship of God’s law with His people (as further defined in the case laws) do more harm than good when they attempt to teach on these matters (cf. 1Tim 1.6-8).[28]

Forthcoming…

Next, we will look at the final type of death taught as a consequence of Adam’s sin as cited in the NT. In that post we shall look at the final state of those who die in their sin. 


ENDNOTES:

[1] Read Gen 6-9.

[2] Read Gen 18-19

[3] Read Exod 1-13

[4] Read Exod 14-15

[5] Read Numb 16

[6] Exod-Numb, Joshua-Judges-1Sam. These books provide the information you are looking for.

[7] E.g., Isa 10; Hosea 5-10

[8] See Jer 20.4; 29.21; 39.6-7; Ezek 12.13-16; Dan 1-4. Again, none of these references are meant to be exhaustive. They are merely pointers to get you started in your study. When reading prophetic books, pay attention to the timing of the prophecy given. This is usually in the opening sentences of the book in question. This provides historical context. Next look at the books of Kings and Chronicles for the kings of the period mentioned. In the prophetic books the name Israel sometimes refers to the whole nation as if it were united since their calling out of Egypt as sons/daughters of Jacob, but at other times this refers primarily to the Northern Kingdom (also called Ephraim) that split after the kingship of Solomon.

Check your assumptions at the door. Be aware of your traditions that might lead you falsely. Sometimes it is argued that these prophetic utterances only speak of the end of all things, but be aware that the vast majority of those prophecies were given as an indictment (a legal case) against the people, kings and prophets/priests of that day not our day or some future date. Also note that symbolic language has a literal meaning, but only when the symbol is correctly understood from what has been spoken of prior. Which means you cannot read your understanding of symbols today—in our generation—back into the period of the prophets. This is a bad hermeneutic (way of drawing a meaning from the exegeted text) to practice on any part of Scripture, let alone biblical prophecy.

[9] See Lev 18.24-25; Lev 20.22-23; Deut 12.32; 18.12. What these passages prove is that God judges a nation for breaking His holy law regardless of the knowledge they have. It is true that there are variances in “eternal condemnation” for violators of God’s edicts, but the physical penalty is death. And this was carried out on all nations at different times. Cherry picking texts or glazing over them due to traditional blinders is not an excuse for not knowing these things if you are a teacher of the Word of God. Understanding them in light of today’s context requires wisdom, but we must not do as some have done in ethical matters and dismiss God’s holy law as no longer applicable.

[10] The late Greg L. Bahnsen explains as much in his ethical work “By This Standard.” On this particular subject he writes, “Only Israel was given a written revelation of these laws, to be sure. All will grant that. But that fact alone does not imply that only Israel was bound to obey the moral standards expressed in such written revelation. After all,” Bahnsen continues, “though Paul, God wrote to the Ephesian and Colossian churches that children should obey their parents (Eph 6:1; Col 3:20), and nobody seriously takes that fact to imply that only children of Christian parents are under moral obligation to obey their parents. Therefore, the fact that only Israel was given a special revelation of certain political laws would not imply that only Israel was bound to keep such laws” (see also Rom 1.30-32; 2.12-15). Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, [1985], 1998), 234, PDF e-book.

For the reader that may still have difficulty with this idea of being held accountable where a law might not be known, I would merely refer them to our current traffic law system. To speed is a violation regardless of whether or not the driver is aware of the speed limit placed on a particular area (say a suburb). Though leniency might be shown, the guilty will still be held accountable by the law. The Judge reserves the right to make determinations that he finds equitable given the nature of the case (cf. Gen 18.25).

[11] See Gen 19:17, 26; Luke 17:32; compare with Acts 5:3-5, 8-10.

[12] Lev 20:10.

[13] Exod 21:16.

[14] Deut 22:25-26.

[15] Exod 21:15, 17.

[16] Lev 24:16.

[17] Deut 19.18-20.

[18] Lev 18:6,

[19] Lev 18.7-19, 20:11-12, 17-21.

[20] Lev 20:13.

[21] Lev 20:1-5; Exod 21:22-25.

[22] Lev 10:1-3. Some may wonder why some of these “sins” were labeled criminal offenses worthy of death. No doubt people today have a negative reaction toward such realities. But these crimes were seen as an attack on God first and foremost, and then also the spheres of governance that He had established. The most important of which was the family unit, a close second was society as a whole, and the final consideration was civil authorities. God gave His reasoning for enacting such penalties when necessary, “To purge evil from your midst” (Deut 13.5; 17.7, 12; 21.21; 22.22, 24; 24.7).

Bahnsen writes, “Not only are such penal sanctions necessary in society, they must also be equitable. The measure of punishment according to the just Judge of all the ear is to be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a life for a life—no less, but no more (for example, Ex. 21:23-25; Deut. 19:21). The punishment must be commensurate with the crime, for it is to express retribution against the offender.” Idem., 273.

[23] Deut 13:1-5.

[24] Here James B. Jordan offers some helpful insight into the matter of the maximum penalty of the law. Speaking specifically on the subject of adultery, Jordan points to Mary and Joseph in the gospels. In “…a case of adultery…both would be put to death, unless it were a case of rape [ref. to Deut 22.25-27]. There seems to be some latitude here, however, since we read in Matt 1:19 that ‘Joseph, being a just man…was minded to put her [Mary] away privately.’ Here again we see a circumstantial application of the unchanging law of God; Joseph apparently regarded Mary as basically a good woman, who must have fallen into sin on one occasion, and os he determined that death was too severe a punishment for her. That this was perfectly just, the text itself tells us. This proves, by the way, that the death penalty is not mandatory in all cases where it is prescribed by law. It is the maximum penalty.” James b. Jordan, The Law of the Covenant: An Exposition of Exodus 21-23 (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1984), 148-149, PDF e-book.

It should be noted that while I agree with Jordan’s conclusion that the maximum penalty of the law—death—was in fact the maximum penalty, but was not necessary to be enforced in every case, but should be judicially decided on a case-by-case basis. I think that Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s pregnancy should also be viewed in light of missing evidence. The death penalty needed two-to-three witness in order to establish it (Deut 17.6). Whether or not Mary being pregnant and Joseph claiming that he was not the man was sufficient to seek her death (if that had been what he desired) I do not know. Surely, in this Joseph was driven by love to be merciful to the woman he was about to take as a wife and in this case, he reflects one “slow to anger” a communicable attribute of God.

[25] This does not limit this to “person-to-person” interaction. It had to be specific lines of evidence that served as a witness to verify that the crime had actually been committed. Circumstantial evidence in those cases were not sufficient lines of evidence to carry out a death sentence. This would interject reasonable doubt, which would nullify the grounds for executing the alleged criminal. “What if the person was guilty, though?” one might inquire. The biblical notion of justice is seen as finally resting in God’s hands. If the alleged perpetrator is in fact guilty, but the court system is unable to prove it, then that individual has the fearful reality of facing his/her Maker on judgment day.

[26] Gen 17:10-14; Deut 10:16; 30:6; compare with Col 2:11.

[27] “…if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him…But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved” (1Cor 7.12-13, 15; ESV, italics mine).  Here Paul is saying that the innocent party (the one not wanting a divorce) is not enslaved (bound) to remain married to the unbelieving person who has abandoned them. Bound by what? Enslaved under what? To what binds the two covenantal members of marriage? In what way are they being torn asunder? The answer lies in understanding what is previously known about marriage. I will be brief though since this is a footnote and not an article in and of itself. In Romans 7:1-3 Paul uses marriage as an analogy of how our union with Christ frees us from our former slavery to sin. The spouse is free from the bonds of marriage when the other spouse dies. The law no longer binds them. In the same way, the innocent party in a divorce is freed from being bound to the law of God since their spouse is considered dead (metaphorically), which is how Paul could tell the Corinthians that they need not worry if they desired to remain married but their spouse did not. In such an instance, that sort of covenantal violation freed the innocent party from guilt; though their spouse was counted as dead (again, metaphorically speaking).

[28] I am by no means claiming “teaching par excellence” in this, for I readily admit that I am still a student on such matters. But having studied them for some time I am confident in what I have thus far explained. I would recommend to the reader the two works cited in this post perhaps as introductory works in this particular field of inquiry.

“By This Standard” this work pertains to the ethical validity of the OT Law-Word of God in all areas of life. The argument presented by Bahnsen states that every jot and tittle of God’s Law is upheld by His Sovereign authority, and its status remains unless some prohibition has been provided regarding a specific statute announced by the Lord. God has the authority to change or eliminate His said law, we do not (e.g., Gen 1.29; Mark 7.19; Acts 10.15).

“The Law of the Covenant” by Jordan is exactly what it says it is, an exposition of the case laws provided in Exodus 21-23. These case laws expound and explain the fuller application of the Ten Commandments in daily life. Jordan’s treatment of these matters makes accessible what many modern Christians have a hard time understanding. His offered application to everyday life drawn from God’s holy law gives greater clarity to Paul’s words of teaching the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20.27) so that every man is fully equipped for a righteous life. (2Tim 3.17).

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