Lampstand July 2017 insert – Death and Sin

dying thou shalt die and paul.png

So the Lampstand Magazine continues on its insert to misrepresent the EC position on what death means and in the process neglect a serious number of scriptural passages raised by EC.  The relevant part of their insert is shown below:

EC teaches The Bible teaches
Death (as the end result of mortality) was in existence before Adam.

 

Death was not in the world before Adam’s transgression (Rom 5:12) BASF 4,5,10
Sin is not the cause of death, that is the end result of mortality.  The death that came by sin was a judicial sentence or ‘eternal death’ (not a physical sentence) which will occur at the judgement seat when Christ returns.  No one has died this death yet.

 

In consequence of his sin, Adam was sentenced to be “subject to death” or mortal (Gen 2:17, 3:19).  Adam died this death (Gen 5:5, 1 Cor 15:21 _ by man came death), and so do all of his descendants (Rom 5:12, 17). Among the responsible who are raised to the judgement seat, those judged unworthy of immortality will once again suffer the end result of their mortality “in Adam” and die.  It is called the “second death” because for the second time they will be subject death (Rev 2:11) BASF 4,5,10,24,25,28,30
The terms death and mortality are expressed by two different Greek words (Thanatos and thnetos respectively), and theological confusion results if these terms are confused.  Paul meant death, not mortality when he used Thanatos (Rom 5:21, 6:16, 21, 23 and 1 Cor 15:21) and these verses show that death and not mortality is the inevitable consequence of sin.

 

The Gk word for “death” (Thanatos) simply means a physical death, is the end result of mortality and applies to all regardless of any knowledge of God’s laws (eg 2 Cor 7:10, Rev 6:8, 9:6, 13:3, 18:8).  On many occasions “Thanatos” refers to an imminent physical death well before the return of Christ (eg John 21:19, 2 Cor 11:23, Rev 2:10, Rev 9:6).  The two words are used in the same context to describe the same concept (1 Cor 15:54, 2 Cor 4:11, 2 Cor 5:4 cf 1 Cor 15:45).  Thanatos is used to refer to the death that Christ experienced even though he was sinless (Matt 20:18, 26:38, 18:32, Acts 2:24, Rom 5:10, 6:9-10, Phil 2:8, Heb 2:9,14, 5:7).  EC have no basis to selectively apply their interpretation of Thanatos to limited number of occurrences in the NT BASF 5,9,10

 

  1. The bible (and EC) use death in a variety of ways

Death is used in a variety of ways in the NT.  This has been stated numerous times and it beggars belief that the EC position can continue to be misrepresented on this.  Consequently The Lampstand provides a host of quotes demonstrating death means death, as if anyone disputed this.  What The Lampstand article totally fails to address is the alternative use of death in the bible.  For a detailed explanation with evidence (neglected by The Lampstand) see this post.  However a quick summary:

  • Christ uses death to mean more than the simple ceasing to be when He states “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” (John 11:25-26). His believers do yield to the natural mortality of their bodies ie they do die.  So how can Christ say this?  Because he is using death in a different sense
  • Eph 2:1-5 where the believers are described as being once “dead in trespasses and sins…by nature children of wrath” but now (though still flesh and blood) God has “quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ”. Clearly the label death/dead is used not to indicate mortality, although the original readers are all dead, it rather indicates two classes of people.  While the original readers of the letter to the Ephesians are now dead in the simple physical sense, they were alive then in Christ in the first century and will be so again.
  • 1John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” Death is clearly being used here as a descriptor of the final judgment on an individual or as a label if you will of their spiritual state.  It is not speaking of the physical process of dying nor is it speaking of mortality.
  • Rom7:9 per the picture above says “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” And goes on to describing the Law as slaying him. Paul was actually still alive.  Nor would it be accurate to say pre the law coming he was not mortal.  Obviously he is using the idea of death as describing his state before God – conscious and alive but deserving of death (and knowing it).
  • Other examples of this type of use are found in 1Cor 15:22, John 5:24, Romans 8:6, Col 2:13 and James 5:20. Ie there are plenty of them.

Please note this interpretation of death as occasionally being used as a state etc is not a novel EC interpretation.  Bro Roberts made the same use in 1874 (post the first version of the BSF) saying

Death as the wages of sin is a definition used by Paul in contrast with everlasting life as the gift of God. Therefore it means death, under the divine anger, inflicted for the extinction of the sinner[1]

 

  1. Was Adam sentenced to be subject to death or mortal?

As is so often the case the article just gets Gen 2:17 wrong.  The simple Hebrew root pair pattern, which occurs hundreds of times in scripture to merely mean “certain” or “surely” is given a warped meaning.  Even simpler bible study than this common Hebrew idiom would be looking at the exact phrase which is used repeatedly of mortal men eg Gen 20:7, Num 26:65, 1 Sam 14:44, 1 Kings 2:27 and Ezek 3:18.  Basic bible study demonstrates the phrase does not mean the imposition of mortality.  While misunderstanding on this is common in our community, there are notable examples of prominent brethren who came to this conclusion without controversy (eg Thirtle, H Whittaker, D Levin, LG Sargent).  The Lampstand (and others) are redefining our faith by demanding narrower readings – and incorrect ones at that.  Adam was sentenced to death for his sin.  That’s what the bible says, that’s what EC believe.  The bible does not teach Adam was sentenced to be subject to death or that he was sentenced to be mortal.

 

  1. Does the bible accidentally use two words to say the same thing?

To ask the question is pretty much to answer it.  Mortality does not mean death.  Death is used in a number of senses – a scriptural fact The Lampstand has ignored in both this and other articles.  That the two words are used close to each other in parallel structures does not mean they are equivalent – this is a terribly inconsistent argument.

The fundamental flaw in the position here is recognising that Paul is using something like Hebrew parallelism and thinking this means the parallel expressions are equivalent/interchangeable. However, this is neglecting the reality that “the repetition at work, at least in some “parallel” or congruent constructions, indicates that sameness is every bit as important as difference[2]  Ie parallelism is not just equivalence, it can incorporate contrast or the development of an idea eg “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching” in Prov 6:20 doesn’t mean a father = a mother. Such examples can be multiplied ad infinitum.

1 Cor 15:53-54 doesn’t arise in a vacuum. An issue Paul is addressing is the resurrection and the fate of those who were asleep (not dead?) in Christ 1 Cor 15:18. What was the fate of these individuals when the Lord returns. Paul uses different words and related ideas to show that all share the same salvation.

1 Cor 15:53-56 describes two groups of faithful ones, all of whom are changed. There are those who are described as corruptible, having died prior to the return of Christ. The corruptible ones are made incorruptible. Those left alive are mortal – subject to death but not dead in v51 are changed into immortality. The ideas are related as the article notes, but not identical. Deciding to make words equivalent in contrast to the choices of inspiration is dangerous ground. Death in the context of 1Cor 15 is not mortality. This is quite clear in 1Cor 15:22 where those who are in Adam die and in Christ will be made alive – mortality doesn’t fit as a synonymous term as those in Christ are clearly mortal (at least the ones still reading the letter are!). This use in 1 Cor 15 is the same meaning of death Paul uses in Eph 2 and clearly in Romans 6:23, where death as the wages of sin in contrasted to the gift of eternal life in Christ.

__________________________________________________________

[1] Roberts, R. “Answers to Correspondents” The Christadelphian (11.125.526), 1874

[2] LeMon, J. M., & Strawn, B. A. (2008). Parallelism. In T. Longman III & P. Enns (Eds.), Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings (p. 510). Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Inter-Varsity Press

1 thought on “Lampstand July 2017 insert – Death and Sin

  1. Pingback: Sin leads to death, grace to life | Christadelphians Origins Discussion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s