As our church family is studying Ephesians, we are considering spiritual death in Ephesians 2:1-3. What does it mean that we are spiritually dead apart from Christ? In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul really pulls back the white sheet or lifts the casket lid on humanity’s deadness apart from Jesus Christ. This truth also connects to the big picture of Scripture. The Bible presents humanity’s lost condition as death. Mankind is not sick. Mankind is dead in sin.
The following is the beginning of our church’s study on spiritual death.
1. Spiritual death is the past reality for believers in Jesus Christ
- “You were dead…”
- “You once walked…”
- “Among whom we all once lived…”
- “We were by nature the children of wrath as the rest of mankind…”
- “you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:11-12)
The past tense in Scripture is exciting! When we consider who we were and how God saved us from that destruction, our hearts soar in the atmosphere of God’s love and grace.
The past tense reality is also very freeing. We do not have to live in despair, but we can rejoice that we are not who we once were. God has begun a good work in us, and He will complete this work (Philippians 1:6)
The past tense is also incredibly humbling. When we consider who we are apart from Christ, we are increasingly freed from the poison of self-righteousness. All the good that is in us is only in Christ. We are no better than anyone else.
2. Spiritual death is the present reality for everyone who is not trusting in Jesus Christ.
- “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience”
- “we were by nature the children of wrath like the rest of mankind”
When we have our eyes open to this reality, it should weigh heavy on our hearts. Our loved ones, neighbors, co-workers, the unreached people groups of the world, everyone apart from Jesus Christ is dead in sin and on the road to eternal separation from Him.
It should also humble us in our evangelistic efforts. If these dear ones are dead, then only a miracle can raise them to life. They need to be united to Jesus’ death and resurrection. They need a resurrection. Only God can do that, AND GOD CAN DO THAT (Ephesians 2:4-5).
Considering this present tense reality with our own past tense reality enables us to see that the same God who raised us from spiritual death can do the same for the spiritually dead we know and love.
3. Spiritual death is the absence of God’s life
- Ephesians 4:18 – “… alienated from the life of God…”
- John 14:6 – “I am… the life”
- John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
- 1 John 5:12 – “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
- Revelation 20:14-15 – the lake of fire is the second death
- 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10 – “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”
Separation from God is death, because God is life. All who are dead in trepasses and sins are dead, because they are separated from God in their rebellion.
The key issue in salvation is reconciliation to God. Rebels are returned to the God they have rejected. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…”(1 Peter 3:18) Why did Christ suffer? He suffered “that he might bring us to God.”
This is why Paul describes hell as “the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). He also describes lost humanity’s current condition as “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18).
Mankind’s current separation from God, if not remedied through faith in Jesus Christ alone, will lead to eternal, intensified experience of the same. This is why hell will be hell.
The irony of this is that mankind, who continues to rebel against God and tries to run from His presence in life, will get exactly what they want in death for all eternity. The destruction of being away from God’s presence will be beyond the greatest horror story or nightmare mankind can imagine.
The Good News
“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…”(1 Peter 3:18)
The Lord Jesus Christ has died for the unrighteous that he might bring us to God. He has come back to life again, and He gives new life to all who trust Him. All who depend upon the Lord Jesus alone to be rescued from spiritual death are brought to God. To know God is to have eternal life.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
This is the message that we take to the dead world. This is the power of God to save all who believe (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 1:23-24). The same God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and raise us from spiritual death can do the same for all our spiritually dead loved ones. So, we go in confidence and victory in Jesus.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Italics have been added for emphasis only.