In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:15)
I have been a believer since the ripe old age of 19. Being 57 now, and schooled well in public school math, I am able to do simple subtraction and come up with 38 years of being a believer. Remarkable, isn’t it? How much public schools taught me. Forgive my cynicism—I am a public school teacher and live with the guilt of what is avoided in education. But this piece is not meant to be about public education, or the lack thereof, but it is meant to be a reflective piece on what death means. I have spent 2/3 of my life believing that we did indeed die when we (in Adam) partook of that fruit. But I do still wonder what it means, and the difficulty of understanding what it means may lie in the fact that we have never known what it means to live. That is, we never have the experience of living and walking and talking with God, so how can we possibly explain that which we have never known?
In Bible school, the professors taught me that death means separation from God. I think in a wholesome sense that is the best meaning, for who am I to argue with men that spend their lives in theology? I have often pondered the ramifications of death and what it means. At the least, I suspect that it must include a loss of the wholesome “rightness” that comes from our relationship with God. Perhaps an analogy will serve here to clarify what might have happened that fateful day when man first disobeyed God.
When our relationship with someone close is severed, such as a man and woman severing their relationship, or the loss of a loved one, we see some gleanings of what that separation from God might mean. When a man (and here I speak from a man’s point of view, naturally) loses the woman he fancies, he dwells on that loss. It fills his imagination, and in extreme circumstances, even the most minor corners of his thinking. Everything in the course of his ordinary day just serves to remind him of his loss of her. Even after the separation continues his loss may bring fresh remembrances and longings for lost companionship.
What if, in the beginning of the separation of God and man, it was still possible to remember that companionship? Indeed, possibly some men remembered it so well that they continued some of that relationship in their minds. Are there things which we study about that time that could give us hints about that being true? I think of the long life spans of man, 900 years or more, as being part of the radiance of the lost relationship with God. The Bible tells us of one man, Enoch, who missed companionship so sorely that he found it in an extraneous walk with God, who eventually took Enoch to be in companionship with him.
If I may extend the analogy a bit, perhaps it may help to think of those who we all know, the poor souls who seem never to be able to make it through the loss of a loved one. The presence of their beloved lost one so fills their minds that they never get over it; their minds are consumed with their loss so much that even their everyday life is spoiled. The normal grieving process becomes extended to years and even decades; their whole life is afflicted by their loss, and neurosis eclipses totally the joy of continued life.
Which is the point of my wondering. What if mankind has become so neurotic in their loss of fellowship to God that they have become “walking dead people”? What if we have so lost our remembrances of fellowship with God that we are nothing but walking zombies? Indeed Scripture seems to indicate that very fact, declaring over and over that we are dead in our trespasses and sins.
I am convinced that we do not even realize our zombie-like condition. One day, perhaps right after we are allowed to drink from His spring of living water, then and only then, will we realize just how dead we really were.