Genesis 2:16-17 states, “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.’” As we see the consequences of Adam’s and Eve’s sins come to bear in Genesis 3, we may be prompted to wonder, “Weren’t they supposed to die “on the day” they disobeyed? Why didn’t they?”
Actually, they did! First, their physical bodies began the dying process. The process did not culminate until death claimed every ounce of life from them; but still, death, on the very day of their disobedience, began to do its work. Second, death entered the universe and the human race—not just into Adam’s and Eve’s situations. Third, Adam and Eve died spiritually. They lost touch with their Maker. They became afraid of Him and sought to run away from Him. Fourth, their sin brought a condition of spiritual lifelessness to all their future offspring.
It is helpful here to think of death not primarily in terms of termination or absolute destruction, but separation. Death separates! Obviously physical death separates the one who dies from those who continue to live, but spiritual death also separates. In this life, it drives a wedge between people and God as well as between people themselves, in their relationships with others. It further drives a wedge between people and their God-ordained potential. In addition, in the afterlife, spiritual death separates in the ultimate sense. It separates people from God forever. Nothing is more ominous than this! This is why Jesus’ words offer the ultimate hope: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). It is no coincidence that these words uttered by Jesus, we see both the element of life and the element of peace, or union, with God. Death separates; yet, as death’s Conqueror, Jesus offers life and a relationship with “the Father,” Almighty God (see Rom. 5:1,17).
Sin is real, and so is death—but Jesus also is real, and He offers life! Death separates, but Jesus restores!