Friday, February 7, 2014
Three kinds of death: Spiritual-Physical-Eternal
Ecclesiastes 12:1 "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no delight in them”
In the dust jacket of his 1956 book "immortality", we find the following brief description of Dr. Lorraine Boettner: Dr. Boettner was born on a farm in Northwest Missouri. He is a graduate of Princeton Theologicall Seminary (Th.B., 1928; Th.M, 1929), where he studied systematic theology under the late Dr. C.W Hodge. Later on the summary says: He taught Bible for eight years in Pikeville College, Kentucky."1
Dr. Boettner was a Biblically sound theologian, writer and teacher who was heralded by all who read his books and listened to his teachings. I have found his work to be generally helpful, and the piece I will be quoting from today is an example of how clear he can make any subject. The portion deals with the subject of "Three kinds of death: physical, spiritual and eternal." I think the reader will find what Dr. Boettner has to say to be illuminating and instructive.
1. Spiritual death means the separation or alienation of the soul from God. It is the principle the condition in which the Devil and the demons are, but since in this world man's descent into evil is restrained to some extent by common grace, it has not yet proceeded to such a degree of depravity as is found in them. This was the primary penalty threatened against Adam in the Garden of Eden. Since man can only truly live when in communion with God, spiritual death means his complete undoing and the continuing worsening of his condition. Later on Dr. Boettner writes: The opposite of spiritual death is spiritual life. It was this to which Jesus referred when He said to Martha: 'I am the resurrection, and the life: He that believeth on me, though He die, yet shall He live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die,' John 11:25,26. Mr. Boettner then quotes John 5:24 to further demonstrate his point.
2. Physical Death means the separation of the soul from the body. This, too, is a part of the penalty for sin, although, as indicated in the preceeding section, it is not the important part. In contrast with the angels, man was created with a dual nature, a spirit united with a body. He receives information through the avenue of the senses. His body is the organ through which he makes contact with other human beings and with the world about him."2
Later on Dr. Boettner writes: "At death man's body, which is composed of some thirty different chemical elements, returns to the earth from which was taken. This phase of death, too, was conquered by Christ when He made atonement for the sins of His people, for they eventually receive a gloriously restored resurrection body."
3. Eternal death is spiritual death made permanent. 'This,' says Dr. Berkhof (another conservative theologian), 'may be regarded as the culmination and completion of spiritual death. The restraints of the present fall away, and the corruption of sin has its perfect work.
Later on Dr. Boettner says regarding physical death vs eternal death: "The first death is physical, and it awaits every human being. The second death is spiritual, and it awaits only those who are outside of Christ. It is the eternal separation of the individual from God, and it results in the eternal punishment of those whose names are not written in the Book of life (Rev. 20:12-15). In another connection the Bible speaks of a new birth, which in reality is a spiritual re-birth: 'Ye must be born anew,' John 3:3,7. Those who are born only once, the physical birth, die twice, a physical and a spiritual or eternal death. Those who are born twice die only once, the physical death. These latter are the Lord's redeemed."
As Dr. Boettner writes on regarding some amazing insights into what the scripture teaches on the this subject, we come to this concluding thought: "As a result of the redemption accomplished by Christ the death of the body becomes for His people the gateway to heaven, a transition by which they move out of the body and into the presence of the Lord. It has lost its sting. 'Death is swallowed up in victory," 1 Corinthians 15:54.
1. Loraine Boettner. Immortality. 1956.
2. Just as a minor point, I would assert that human beings are three-part beings (body, spirit and soul).