Redefining Hell - Part 4
Dying You Shall Die
Genesis 2:17 (NKJV)
17 … but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
According to the reference work, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Conner, the phrase “you shall surely die” can be literally translated from the Hebrew biblical text as “dying you shall die.” When stated this way, we find that death is a process, not an instantaneous event, where “dying” is the process and “die” is its consummation. This does, of course, agree with the principle of sowing and reaping and the fact that what is sown “is not made alive unless it dies” (1st Cor. 15:36; NKJV).
As we discovered in Part 4, pride is the element that brings death into our being. Paul is clear about this, stating, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” and again, “And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Rom. 8:6; Eph. 2:1; KJV). Carnal-minded means to conduct ourselves “in trespasses and sins,” in other words, walk contrary to the moral essence of the law of God due to our self-absorption. So it is that Paul states, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7; NKJV).
As we have learned, the principle of sowing and reaping is twofold, reflected in the two trees in the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life. In his book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty, Stephen Jones tells us, “The number two signifies either division or a double witness. God established two covenants in the Bible, first as a double witness of truth, but also to establish direction. Going from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant shows a progression of revelation from the lesser to the greater.”
In Part 4, we learned that the tree of knowledge symbolizes the law of God, clarified by Romans 3:20, 5:12, and 7:7. Further proof is found in the following passages where Paul discusses the Old and New Covenants. Pay close attention to what Paul says about the law.
2 Corinthians 3:5-11 (ESV)
5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone (Ten Commandments), came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.
As we see, Paul explains the difference between the Two Covenants or Testaments, Old and New. The first or Old Covenant consists of the “letter” that “kills,” while the second or New Covenant consists of the “Spirit” which “gives life.” So it is that Paul calls the first covenant “the ministry of DEATH” and “CONDEMNATION,” and the second, “the ministry of the Spirit” and “righteousness.” Do you mean the law of God is a “ministry of death” and “condemnation”? Yes, because the actions of lawlessness due to carnality IS death, which is always followed by condemnation. Note what Paul says in the following.
Romans 7:7-10 (ESV)
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to COVET if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.
No doubt, there is a mystery here, one that has baffled humankind since our inception. What does Paul say? That “sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment,” i.e. the commandment not to “covet” (Rom. 7:7), actually “produced in me all kinds of covetousness”! And should there be any doubt about this, Paul emphasizes his point in the verses that follow!
Romans 7:11-14 (ESV)
11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, PRODUCING DEATH IN ME through what is good, IN ORDER THAT SIN MIGHT BE SHOWN TO BE SIN, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.
How does Paul say it this time? “For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.” Paul then says, “It was sin, producing death in me through what is good.” What does he mean by “what is good”? Well, the commandment of course! And so the commandment provokes the very thing it condemns, and this produces death in us. Might this explain what is meant by the law being a “ministry of death” and “condemnation”?
So, one must wonder. Did Paul choose “you shall not covet” haphazardly, or, did he have a purpose in citing this particular commandment? I believe he did it for a very precise reason, because this commandment is the 10th commandment. In his book, Number in Scripture, E.W. Bullinger states that “ten is one of the perfect numbers, and signifies the perfection of divine order, commencing, as it does, an altogether new series of numbers… It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is complete.” In his book, The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty, Jones states, “Ten is the number of divine order being reestablished one way or another through the judgment of the law (as pictured by the Ten Commandments).”
Here’s the kicker. When we closely examine the Ten Commandments, we will find that the 10th commandment sums up all the commandments. Why do I say this? Because the word “covet” is defined by Strong’s as, “To set the heart upon, i.e. long for (rightfully or otherwise).” Is this not just another way of describing our desires for pleasure? And this being true, does this not fit quite well into the understanding of the Garden of Pleasure, that is, our principle of sowing and reaping?
Finally, Paul tells us that sin produced death in us “in order that sin might be shown to be sin.” What does this mean? My friend, it means that sin or lawlessness is simply a reflection of a lack of love for our Maker and our fellow man! After all, if we conduct ourselves in “trespasses and sins,” we’re considered “dead.” Death, therefore, is the manifestation of the inordinate love of the Self.
Dying is the process, while death is the consummation. We begin the process of dying when pride rises in our being, producing a love for the Self which supersedes our love for God and others. When the Self succeeds in conquering us, our death is complete and our behavior becomes a reflection of its dominion. Cain kills Abel. And so the struggle begins.