The question, “What is spiritual death?” is a common objection. This next objection goes hand in hand with the objection just examined. Under the guise of “interpretation” many sincere Christian people add the word “spiritual” to the numerous plain statements which promise death to unrepentant sinners. For instance, these people believe Romans 6:23 should read: “For the wages of sin is spiritual death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ our Lord.” They would then translate spiritual death here to mean eternal “separation of man from God because of sin” (Dake 619). The obvious problem with doing such is that none of the multitude of Biblical texts which promise death and destruction as the ultimate wage of sin contain this word “spiritual.”
God wrote the Bible through men by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21; 2 Timothy 3:16). The Bible is truly “God’s Word.” If He really meant to say “spiritual death” in all the many passages we’ve looked at throughout this study, then He would have surely said so. I don’t think the Almighty needs our help in writing a book, do you?
Actually, adding the word “spiritual” to the many passages which simply promise death to unrepentant sinners is another case of adding to God’s word and subtracting what it really says. Once again, this practice is a serious offense in God’s eyes.
As briefly mentioned in the previous section, spiritual death is indeed a legitimate doctrine. To understand what spiritual death is we must understand that it is the spiritual side of human nature that actually “connects” with God. Thus spiritual death simply means that the spirit of a person is dead to God, that is, the capacity of his/her spirit to unite or commune with God is dead. “Original sin” is the reason this capacity does not exist. In order for a person’s spirit to unite with God he or she has to be spiritually born again. This explains why Jesus taught that our spirit must be born again for us to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-6).
The doctrine of “original sin” suggests that humanity’s fallen nature—our inclination to commit sin—was naturally passed on to all of us by our primeval parents, Adam and Eve.
So spiritual death is a present state of the non-Christian. This is why Paul described the Ephesians as “dead in transgressions” before their spiritual re-birth (Ephesians 2:5). The second death, by contrast, is a future event entailing the complete destruction of soul and body in hell. Spiritual death ultimately results in the second death, which is an absolute death described in the Bible as “everlasting destruction.”
All the texts that we’ve examined in this study apply to the second death—a future event. None of them refer to spiritual death, which is a present state in the non-believer’s life.