Spiritual Death; Spiritual Life

By Dr. Samuel M. Frost

Paul consistently uses ο θανατος (“the death”) for what is commonly translated as simply, “death” (see Romans 5:12-ff., for example).  Equally, in 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54.  One can simply go to the Hebrew texts and find the same thing.  Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8 in 15:54, and there we find, המות (ha-muth – the death).  I can site numerous examples.  The same is done is Revelation, where “the death” is found, finally, being destroyed, again alluding to Isaiah 25:8 (Revelation 21:4).

So, Paul connects “the death” that entered in through the one man, Adam, in the beginning, and Isaiah foretells the destruction of “the death” in the middle with John describing its annihilation in the end.  Wonderful tapestry!  With such biblical support, then, we may ask: how many “deaths” are there?  And, if we were honest, we would say: 1.

Here, though, we must ask, “what is meant by the death?”  What is “the death”?  First, it is universal.  Isaiah likened it to a wrap; as something that is wrapped around “all peoples” (Isaiah 25:7).  Interestingly enough, “wrap” is a noun with an article: “the wrap.”  In Hebrew, you pay attention to nouns with an article, and in this verse it is repeated in the form of anadiplosis.  In the second half of this verse, it is a “molten metal that is poured upon all the nations.”  Poetically, then, Death is an active agent.  It isn’t abstract.  It is also something that God is going to “destroy.”  Until then, it is “active.”  It is in operation.

For Paul, Death is also an active force.  It “enters” (Romans 5:12).  Many have seen it as a personification of an active force.  It “passes on to all human beings” (5:12).  All die (are dying).  He also speaks in the same manner with the word, “sin.”  It is “the Sin” – an active power.  “The Death” also “reigns” (5:14).  “The Sin reigns,” too, “in the Death” (5:21).  Paul uses the term, “power” (dunamis) for “the Sin” in 1 Corinthians 15:56. Hebrews 2:14 speaks of the “authority” (kratos, there, “the Authority of the Death”).  Here, we have an idea of “authorities, powers, rulers in heavenly places” that are “of the Evil” (Ephesians 6:12; compare this to Isaiah 24:21).  Death, then, is a power, an authority.  It has command.  In Acts 2:24, Death is spoken of an authority with power that holds the body of a human being in its clutches.  As such, Jesus’ body was “loosed” by God’s power, and here the term “loose” is in the meaning of “binding and loosing” authorities.  God is more powerful than Death.

Now, with this, Death “entered” through the transgression of one man, Adam.  Adam ate the fruit of the Tree that was forbidden to him.  As such, Death “entered in” and “Adam died” 930 years later (Genesis 5:5).  As a “power,” Death can work instantly, or it can work slowly.  In this case, we may speak of “dying.”  “All human being in Adam are dying” (1 Corinthians 15:22; “dying” is Present Active Indicative).  Nonetheless, Death is the cause of our dying, and our deaths.  As an “authority” it “holds” the body in the grave until “loosed” by God in resurrection, when it, “the Death,” is “destroyed” once and for all.

As a singular aspect, or power, the Bible does not speak of “deaths” in the plural.  Rather, “the Sin reigns in the Death.”  The “power of the Sin” is directly related to its power to get a person to commit sins.  Equally, the knowledge of our mortality (Ecclesiastes 9:5) is the basis of ethics, morality, law, and “living” in general.  In “living” we age, grow old, and die.  In this, we try to avoid “Death” at every turn, or at least some do.  Avoiding death comes in the forms of “knowing” how to eat properly, or not smoke cigars.  Wear a helmet, and put your seatbelt on.  Don’t do drugs, and too much alcohol will kill you.  We have “Life Insurance,” “death taxes,” and whole businesses devoted to death (Funeral Homes).  In Revelation, “the Death” and “the Grave” are seen as principalities riding on a “dark horse.”  The relationship between “death” and “knowledge” – “death” and “sin” is a large topic in the Bible.  Sin is directly related to Death; Sin reigns in Death’s reign.

Paul calls these “spiritual things of the evil in the heavenlies” (Ephesians 6:12).  Thus, the Death is spiritual in terms of it being a power.  It is a spiritual power.  As a Bible scholar, I am not permitted to speak of death as “natural,” or as “just is.”  It is an “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26).  God is to “destroy” it (a term used for enemies in general, military contexts).  It is a spiritual power, and the Sin, also called a power, rules “in” it.  The Sin, then, is also a spiritual power that is described in Paul as something “in operation” within us (Romans 7:20).  Equally, in the same chapter, “the Sin works Death in me” (7:13).  Sin’s wages is Death.  The Sin “deceives” us (7:11).  As an active power, Sin “works” Death “through the Good” so that I “do the Evil” (7:19).  Here, do we not have all the key words in Genesis 2-3: death, good, evil, knowledge? Paul’s “I know” (7:14) is in direct relation to what these spiritual powers “do.”  They operate in us, deceiving us, so that it is “the Law” (another power) which puts us to death (Galatians 2:19). Sin’s ability to deceive is to take “the Truth” and twist it so that it appears as “not the Truth.” Sin, without knowledge, affects nothing. Sin always works in and with knowledge.

It is, then, in this vein we can speak of “spiritual Death” because Death is a “spiritual power.”  It operates as a result from the deception of Sin, which deceives us to “do the Evil” instead of perfectly following God’s will (the Good).  The principality of Sin’s work results in our individual “sins” or “transgressions.”  From this, because “all sin,” then “all die.”  If The Sin reigns in the Death, and the Sin operates “in” us, bringing about our deaths, then death is brought about through knowledge – which is what “transgression” means: The Good says, “do this.”  We know what the Good is.  Yet, we do not do the Good.  Sin takes “knowledge” between Good and Evil, and so twists it that it makes Evil appear “good,” and “good” appear Evil.  As such, we are not able to “discern” what “good and evil” are in terms of ethics, or morals (any smattering of reading the history of Philosophy will reveal this).  This is why we need the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures that also “operate within us” through God’s power/empowerment (Hebrews 5:14).

So, if this is the case, “alienation” from God is the result of the combination of these powers and is in direct relationship with our knowledge of good and evil; how we come to define what action is good or evil, right or wrong, correct or incorrect.  At any single point wherein we “do” something, we are either doing it (any action whatsoever) in terms of a “good” action, or an “evil” one.  And, in this, we “do” according to our wills that are informed by our knowledge.  A person not having the indwelling Spirit is left to the devices of their own minds, and as such, are “alienated” from God.  Alienation is the result of Sin working in knowledge which brings about Death.  For those who are reconciled with God through having the indwelling Spirit, Sin and Death still work within them because of our relatedness to the flesh and blood of Adam, and due to the fact that we are intellectually formed with “eyes opened” by the deception of Sin (Genesis 3:7).  We are not “perfect,” and our actions are not all “good” all the time, every second or every minute of any given day.  However, resurrection life, when the body is redeemed through the destruction of Death (and, thus, the removal of Sin that reigns in Death), is the Hope wherein those who “walk by faith” are ultimately delivered.  As Sin and Death work spiritually upon and within us, so also Grace and Righteousness is working upon and within those who have the Indwelling Spirit operating “in” their mortal frames.  This is carried on until resurrection of the dead. 

In this, then, when God said to Adam, “when you eat, you will certainly die,” what is meant is that when Adam ate – when he transgressed – The Death “entered” and the power of “the Sin” with it, since the power of Sin reigns in the Death.  Adam, at that point, began to die.[1]  Equally, his spirit (mind, thoughts, etc.) was affected by The Death and the Sin as operating powers.  Adam did not “die” when he ate; rather, by the grace of God “overabounding” (Romans 5:20) he began to die, and he began to experience the rule of Sin and Death as powers over him, and in his mind/thinking/knowledge.  In terms of his existence, Death started its process of deterioration and corruption until, finally, he returned to the dust.  In terms of his mind, other thoughts other than God’s and God’s Good Knowledge, entered.  The mind is now on “earthly things” (Philippians 3:19).  Or, as Paul says it, “alienated and enemies in the mind, in the works of the Evil” (Colossians 1:21).  It upon “hearing the Voice of God” that Adam responds to His call, and repents (Genesis 3:8). However, the damage to do his transgression has now produced conflict in his mind as it concerns what to do. No doubt, Adam’s proper response to God reveals that God’s knowledge is retained in his mind as well, but as the next story shows in his children, conflict between “doing the Good” and deciding/discerning between Sin’s “desire” cannot be accomplished alone (Genesis 4:7). Cain is “mastered” by Sin and murders his very own brother.

What are the wages of “works of evil” that originate in our “minds” due to our “thinking” about what is “good and evil”?  Death.  Death’s work, then, begins immediately upon us in conception, when we are born.  Since Sin reigns in Death, even before we have “knowledge of Good and Evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39), if we make it to conscious accountability, Sin will “revive” in us (Romans 7:9).[2] In this, then, since we know that we are dying and will die (Ecclesiastes 9:5), then we can speak of our alienation in terms of “dead.”  “The day you eat of it, you will die.”  Death is certain.  It is not a separate spiritual death that is another death from our actual death in the grave (which is so too often, sloppily, defined).[3]  Rather, our alienation from God, which can be reconciled in an instant upon “hearing” the Voice of God, is the result of the spiritual power of the singular, active Death, and Sin.  The Sin operates in the mind, through knowledge, and brings about Death/dying.  These operations are inevitable for every, singly human being.  Here, truly, and theologically, we can speak biblically of “Spiritual Death.”

Spiritual Death is the working of Death in us through Sin which reigns in Death, which operates in our minds and our bodies.  Our reconciliation, then, is also in our “minds,” when our minds are enlightened, renewed, illuminated, convicted in the knowledge of God by the power of the Spirit.  As there is, then, a singular power of Life, and one Author of Life, who will bring us to the Resurrection of the Life, so also The Death is a singular power operating with The Sin.  If the operation of Sin-in-Death is not arrested to the degree that it is through the Knowledge of God by the Spirit’s operation, then their completed work is that a person dies “in Sin.”  Upon their resurrection, it will be a resurrection to judgement and condemnation.  For the believer in God, however, since the “alienation” has been effectively undercut, “reconciliation” will bring us to a resurrection of Life, Peace, Joy and Perfection of Righteousness.  This process does not, at the moment, remove flesh, death, or our penchant to sin; instead, those “reconciled” will engage in “wrestling” with Sin-in-Death, calling Sin what it Is, renouncing Its work “within the members of our body.”  The Spirit begins the process of “putting to death” the Sin’s ability to deceive us.  As such, when we die (are dying), even though Death’s claims still hold, nonetheless, Life’s claim in Jesus Christ are guaranteed.  We may die with full hope and faith, having persevered in this life in faith until death, that we die knowing, “Death, you shall not have the last word.”  Our minds have been renewed to this truth.  The Reign of Death, and the Reign of the Power of Sin-in-Death are temporary.  In fact, every sin we are enabled by the Spirit’s work to overcome and “do no more” is an announcement of Sin-in-Death’s ultimate destruction

When a person, so constituted as “dead in Sin,” receives the Spirit-in-Christ, “dead in Sin” is changed to “dead to Sin.”  That is, their life has now been altered by the Spirit, and in this they begin to “put to death” (Colossians 3:5) the lustful urges of Sin-in-them.  This process is “sanctification.”  However, the point here is that “dead in Sin” or “dead to Sin” means what “dead” ordinarily denotes.  When I actually die, when my spirit is apart from the body, when my breath breathes its last, I will either die in Sin, or die to Sin.  The end result of death determines my present status before God: I am either “dead in Sin,” or “dead to Sin.”  This present status, then, will come about when I actually die.  When I die, I will die as one “dead in Sin,” or “dead to Sin.”  “For in the death He died, He died to the Sin” (Romans 6:10).  Jesus literally died to “the Sin,” when He died.  Thus, “likewise, consider yourself dead to the Sin” (6:11).  Even though I am not actually dead to the Sin, which will not happen until, like Jesus, I actually die, nonetheless, “by faith,” and because of the work of the Spirit now in me, Sin’s power to bring me to death-in-Sin has been retarded.  As one now being engaged in “putting to death” Sin’s urgings (the process), I anticipate my own death (which is inevitable) as a death to Sin.  As such, my entire motivating factor is towards being raised from the dead “in power and glory” – as He was.   

[1] There is considerable debate on the exact meaning of “in the day,” or “when.”  One may argue that Adam was to die that very day, “when” he ate.  However, instead of immediate death, God slowed the effect of its power so that Adam would continue to live for a time.  That God does this is seen in Genesis 6 wherein human beings are limited in their life to a 120 years.  Psalm 90 limits it even further.  This demonstrates that God is over the powerful effect of Death, and can bring it about immediately, or prolong its effect.  God can also raise the dead as ever so often He wants.  Death, then, as a power, is always under the Power of God.

[2] Here, Paul speaks of his being “alive” apart from being conscience of Sin (“right and wrong”).  However, the inevitable process of the power of Sin-in-Death “revives” (we are made aware of mortality and sin).  In this, Paul, using the aorist, states, “and I died.”  The aorist captures the whole process which ends in death as a “single point.”  Paul is not saying he “spiritually died” and then later on he will “physically die.”  Such dualistic (Greek) aspects are not found in Paul’s rooted thinking in the Hebrew Bible.  We are alienated in our minds, which in turn works death through and through.  Until the indwelling of the Spirit, our minds, and all of our actions lead to death.  That is, we will die in sins unatoned for through grace unless arrested by the Spirit of God before we die.

[3] Here, some speak of two resurrections, one “spiritual” and another “physical.”  Again, this type of inexact thinking brings in all sorts of problems for Paul’s overall thinking.  Paul understands that the work of the Spirit begins the process of resurrection Life that is not complete until glorification, the “redemption of the body” (Romans 8:23).  This process involves the whole man, body and soul, and is a singular work of the Life in Christ; “being confident of this, that He did begin a good work in you will carry it to completion as far as the Day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6).  The work is singular.  It has a beginning and an end.  Its end is resurrection of the body.  There is only one resurrection life.

Author: Samuel M. Frost, Th.D.

Samuel M. Frost has gained the recognition of his family, peers, colleagues, church members, and local community as a teacher and leader.  Samuel was raised in the Foursquare Gospel tradition and continued in the rising Charismatic Movement of the early 1980’s.  While serving in local congregations he was admitted to Liberty Christian College in Pensacola, Florida where he lived on campus for four years earning his Bachelor’s of Theology degree.  It was there under the tutelage of Dr. Dow Robinson (Summer Institutes of Linguistics), and Dr. Frank Longino (Dallas Theological Seminary) that he was motivated to pursue a career in Theology.  Dr. Robinson wrote two books on Linguistics, Workbook on Phonological Analysis (SIL, 1970) and Manuel for Bilingual Dictionaries: Textbook (SIL, 1969).  It was under these teachers’ guidance that Frost entered into his Master’s studies, being granted a scholarship for Greek I and II at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, accredited, in Cleveland, Tennessee (adjunct of Lee University).  Frost completed his study under Dr. French Arrington (The Ministry of Reconciliation, Baker Books, 1980), who used the text of J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners. Frost studied Hebrew for two years under Dr. Mark Futato (author, Beginning Biblical Hebrew, Eisenbrauns, 2003) and Dr. Bruce K. Waltke (author, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Eisenbrauns, 1990) at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida. With combined credits from PTS and RTS, Samuel completed his Master of Arts in Christian Studies and Master of Arts in Religion from Whitefield Theological Seminary in Lakeland, Florida under the direct tutelage of Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, co-author of the well reviewed work, Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism (Whitefield Media, 2005) with Dr. Gary Crampton (and Foreword by the late, Dr. D. James Kennedy).  Dr. Talbot also oversaw Samuel’s Dissertation, From the First Adam to the Second and Last Adam (2012) earning him the Magister Theologiae (Th.M.) degree.  He also helped put together A Student’s Hebrew Primer for WTS, designed and graded exams for their Hebrew Languages course. Samuel’s studies lead him into an issue in the field of Eschatology where his scholarship and unique approach in Hermeneutics garnered him recognition.  Because of the controversial nature of some of his conclusions, scholars were sharp in their disagreement with him.  Frost’s initial work, Misplaced Hope: The Origins of First and Second Century Eschatology (2002, Second Edition, 2006 Bi-Millennial Publishing), sold over four thousand units.  While arguing for the Reformation understanding of sola Scriptura as defined by the Westminster Confession of Faith, Frost’s book launched a heavily footnoted argument for a total reassessment of the doctrine known as the Second Coming of Christ.  The conclusion was that the events of the war of the Jewish nation against their Roman overlords in 66-70 C.E. formed the New Testament authors’ eschatological outlook, and went no further than their own first century generation; a view otherwise known as “full” or “hyper” Preterism.  Internationally recognized Evangelical author and speaker, Steve Wohlberg remarked, ‘On the “preterist” side today…we have such influential leaders as Gary DeMar, Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., David Chilton, R.C. Sproul, Max King, James Stuart Russell, Samuel M. Frost, and John Noe.  To these scholars…the beast is not on the horizon, he’s dead” (Italics, his)” (End Time Delusions, Destiny Image Publishers, 2004, page 133).  It should be noted that only Noe, King and Frost supported the “full” Preterist position. Thomas Ice and co-author of the best selling Left Behind series, Tim LaHaye, quote Frost’s work, Misplaced Hope, as well in their book, The End Times Controversy: The Second Coming under Attack (Harvest House Publishers, 2003, page 40).  Dr. Jay E. Adams, who single handedly launched “a revolution” in Christian Counseling with his work, Competent to Counsel: An Introduction to Nouthetic Counseling, (1970, Zondervan), also wrote an analysis of Frost’s work in Preterism: Orthodox or Unorthodox? (Ministry Monographs for Modern Times, INS Publishing, 2004).  Adams wrote of Misplaced Hope as a “useful, scholarly work” (p.6 – though he disagreed with the overall thesis).  Dr. Charles E. Hill, Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, wrote of Misplaced Hope that Frost, “attacks the problem of the early church in a much more thoroughgoing way than I have seen” (When Shall These Things Be? A Reformed Response to Hyper Preterism, Ed. Keith Mathison, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 2003, ‘Eschatology in the Wake of Jerusalem’s Fall’ p. 110-ff.).  There were several other works as well that took the scholarship of Frost seriously, like Ergun Caner in The Return of Christ: A Premillennial Perspective, Eds., Steve W. Lemke and David L. Allen (B&H Publishing, 2011). Because of the controversial nature of Frost’s conclusions on these matters, it was difficult to find a denomination within the Church-at-Large to work in terms of pastoral ministry.  That situation changed when Samuel was called by a Bible study group in Saint Petersburg, Florida to found a congregation.  Christ Covenant Church was established in 2002 operating under the principles outlined by Presbyterian historian James Bannerman’s work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church (Banner of Truth Trust, 1974, original, 1869).  By-Laws and a Constitution were drawn up in the strictest manner for what was considered an “Independent” establishment of a Presbyterian Church, granted that a “call” was received and recognized by Presiding Elders duly ordained from existing and recognized denominations.  Two Elders, one ordained in the Reformed Presbyterian Church (Mike Delores), and another ordained in the Presbyterian Church of America (Dr. Kelly N. Birks, now deceased) tested and reviewed the call, ordaining Samuel on October 20th, 2002, the Twenty Second Sunday after Trinity.  Proper forms were submitted to Tallahassee, Florida with the stamp of a Notary Public Witness.  Christ Covenant Church (CCC) functioned as a local church for five years with a congregation as large as 30 members.  Frost was gaining recognition after Misplaced Hope had been published in January of that year, and conferences were hosted that included debates with another prominent “full” Preterist educator, Don K. Preston.  CCC hosted best-selling authors, Thomas Ice, and Mark Hitchcock from Dallas Theological Seminary; and Dr. James B. Jordan (Westminster Theological Seminary), well-known author/pastor in Reformed theological circles.  Frost was invited for the next several years to speak at over 25 conferences nation-wide, was featured in articles and an appearance on local news in Tampa for one of CCC’s conferences.  The Evangelical Theological Society also invited Samuel to speak at the Philadelphia conference (Frost is currently a Member of ETS as well as Society of Biblical Literature). During this time Samuel had submitted one more book, Exegetical Essays on the Resurrection of the Dead (TruthVoice, 2008; repr. JaDon Publishing, 2010); and co-wrote, House Divided: A Reformed Response to When Shall These Things Be? (Vision International, 2010).  Frost also wrote several Forewords for up and coming authors who were influenced by his teaching materials, as well as cited many times in books, lectures and academic papers.  However, because of certain aspects of Hermeneutics and Frost’s undaunted commitment to scholarship (with always a strong emphasis on the personal nature of devotional living to Christ), several challenges to the “hyper” Preterist view he espoused finally gave way, largely due to the unwavering commitment to Samuel by the Dean of Whitefield Theological Seminary, Dr. Kenneth G. Talbot, who continually challenged him.  In what shocked the “hyper” Preterist world, Samuel announced after the Summer of 2010 that he was in serious error, and departed the movement as a whole, along with Jason Bradfield, now Assistant Pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church, Lakeland, Florida .  Christ Covenant Church had dissolved after 2007 while Samuel continued as a public speaker and writer, largely due to reasons that would unravel Frost’s commitment to “hyper” Preterism as a whole. The documentation of Frost’s departure was published by American Vision’s Founder, Gary DeMar, with a Foreword by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry.  Why I Left Full Preterism (AV Publishing, 2012) quickly ran through its first run.  The book was later republished under the arm of Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry and is sold today (GoodBirth Ministries Publishing, 2019; though still available in Kindle form from American Vision).  Dr. Gentry also gave mention to Frost in his book, Have We Missed the Second Coming: A Critique of Hyper Preterism (Victorious Hope Publishing, 2016), noting him as “one of the most prominent” teachers within Full Preterism (135).  Dr. Keith Mathison, Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, Florida, endorsed the book as well.  Samuel has gone on to write, Daniel: Unplugged (McGahan Publishing House, 2021); The Parousia of the Son of Man (Lulu Publishing, 2019); God: As Bill Wilson Understood Him, A Theological Analysis of Alcoholics Anonymous (Lulu Publishing, 2017).  He is also active as a certified Chaplain with the Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Indiana, and enrolled with ICAADA (Indiana Counselor’s Association on Alcohol and Drug Abuse), and worked directly under Dr. Dennis Greene, Founder of Christian Counseling and Addictions Services, Inc., for a year.  Frost’s passion is in the education of the local church on various issues and occasionally works with Pastor Alan McCraine with the First Presbyterian Church in Lewisville, Indiana, and Bethel Presbyterian Church, Knightstown, Indiana, where he periodically is called upon to give the sermon. Samuel, with his wife, Kimberly, helped to establish Heaven’s Bread Basket food pantry that donates food items to local families in need once a month – a ministry of the Session of First Presbyterian Church, Lewisville, Indiana. Samuel also works part time at Ace Hardware in New Castle, Indiana for several years.  He has a solid, family reputation in the community, and has performed local marriages and funerals.  He also sits on the Board of the Historical Preservation Committee in New Castle. Recently, he has completed his two year quest for a Th.D from Christian Life School of Theology Global, Georgia.

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