The question Ethan asked was regarding the teaching of being “spiritually dead” and what that means. This is an extremely popular teaching in Christianity. It’s the idea that when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, since they didn’t actually die, they died in another way, hence the teaching of dying spiritually. This teaching stems from a lack of understanding and not taking God at his word. Before getting into the meat of this, let’s first take a look at what God meant when He said, “…for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” When the Bible uses the words die, dying, or death it refers to the physical body ceasing to function. There are a few exceptions, but the exceptions prove the rule. One more thing to consider is Jesus’ death on the cross to pay for our sins. Did He die spiritually or physically? This will be much more clear shortly. With all that out of the way, let’s begin.
When looking at what took place in the garden, it helps to take one bit at a time. For me, it’s best to break it up into three separate events. First, there is the temptation or the testing. This has implications of free will, morality, and independence. Eve had a tempter which presented her with the same temptations we all face: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. All temptations can be broken down into one or more of these. Adam, on the other hand, had no tempter. He chose independently out of his own free will. My opinion is that Adam is a picture of Christ sacrificing Himself for his bride. The second event is the judgment. Adam and Eve were caught and knew their guilt so much that they tried to hide and to cover themselves as if they were trying to earn their salvation. They stood guilty before their God and judge, waiting for the punishment to be carried out, hoping it would be swift and painless, but God had another plan. The law must be satisfied which could be different that what we think, but it must be satisfied. God looked down at His children, whom He loved, and killed an innocent lamb in their place. Blood was shed to fulfill the law, and the innocent died in the place of the guilty. Adam and Eve were then placed in the animal that is covered by its skin (like baptism), so when God saw them, instead of seeing guilty sinners, He saw the innocent lamb that was slain. The reason animal sacrifice is insufficient is twofold; one, the skins wear out, and secondly, the animal didn’t violate the law. Man sinned, therefore a man had to die. Right here in the first few chapters of the Bible, God gives a picture of the Gospel of Christ, and God Himself being the Lamb that was slain to cover our sins. This brings us to the third event. We will call it “the aftermath”. This includes the cursing of the serpent, the “greatly multiplying of sorrow in child bearing” for women, and to man, the hard labor. Now that we see why Adam and Eve didn’t die physically themselves but something else did in their place, let’s find out why they did eventually die physically. Adam and Eve were made of flesh just as you and I are, and flesh is subject to decay. It will get old and wear out and die unless something is added that will prevent this. In Genesis chapter 3, from verse 21 to the end, God explains why they grew old and died. God took away their access to the tree of life. Since they were not able to eat of it and live forever, they grew old and died. In conclusion, the teaching of dying spiritually misses the whole picture of the substitution of Christ.