In order to understand what is death, we need to look into the definition of life in the Bible. 


Old Testament meaning of Death

In fact I have discussed it in my earlier book “In the Image of God” where I have talked about five levels of souls.  There is a higherarchy of life forms on the earth.   Hebrew concept of life as shown in the words  (Strong's #2421 – חָיָה haya life) and   חָיָה .נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh living soul or living being) is the primary word for life 

Haya is used 70% of instances to human life, 17% refer to animals and 11% refer to God as living.

Nefesh נֶפֶשׁ is used 43% of its uses (295 times) clearly indicate life  for both animals and people (Kennard 2008, p. 170).

 Thus   hayya in Genesis 2:7 is a common expression in the Old Testament for “living being” as a description of people or animals (Genesis 2:19).

The breath of life (Genesis 2:7; 6:15; 7:15) is used to describe humans and animals but not plants. “Plants are never the subject of חָיָה ” (Gerleman 1997, p. 414) neither are they “… alive in biblical Hebrew or in second Temple Jewish literature …” (Kennard 2008, p. 169)

It is the breath of life that separates humans and animals from plants because when it is gone they cease to exist (2 Samuel 1:9; 1 Kings 17:21–22). Blood is the sign of life in both humans and animals (Genesis 4:10; 9:4–6), and its shedding causes the loss of life (Leviticus 17:11, 14). Plants do not die in the same sense animals and humans do because they are not living in the same sense that humans and animals are.

How death creep in


New Testment meaning of Death

In the New Testament two different Greek words are used primarily for death

·        thanatos θάνατος (Romans 5:12) and

·        nekros νεκρός (Ephesians 2:5.

Thanatos is a more generic word used to refer to the death of the body and spiritual or eternal death (Thayer, J. H. 2007. Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament, 8th ed. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers).

 Again the dimensional understanding of creatures clearly makes the difference between various creations within the various layers of cosmos.  A summary is given below:

The Soul on the Tree of Life.

This picture has the Hebrew names of the five levels of soul as taught by the Kabbalah. 
From top to bottom it says: 
Yechidah (unique essence),
 Chaya (living essence),
HaNeshama (the higher soul),
 Ruach (spirit), and
Nefesh (lower soul). 

These five levels of soul correspond to five dimensions of reality, each dimension larger than and inclusive of the ones before it. This is what our Kabbalists call the Five Worlds.  On material cosmos only man has all these five souls or man alone has all these five dimensions.  The highest level is the Divine level.  Man exists like many other spiritual creatures in this level because Adam was the Son of God. 
Death is essentially defined as a separation.
Thus man being a multidimensional being existing in all planes of existence can have several types of death.

Death means separation between two things:





The immediate result of the sin was the spiritual death.  It took place in two steps.
Father came down to walk with His son Adam exactly as before at the cool of the day.   But notice what happened.

When Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord, they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God.” Adam refused to have fellowship with God.

Then because God did not want Man to eat of the Tree of Life and live forever, Adam was expelled from the Garden and the tree was under guard.  We shall see that God was trying to protect Man from the consequence of the sin by doing that. This expulsion meant that Man will be mortal like the rest of the animals. 


By man came death.

1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Romans 5:12-17 Why, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; …

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life …


The fellowship had been broken. They were spiritually dead.

In Kabbalah's description of Adam, he originally "extended from one end of the universe to the other."
"His body reached from earth to heaven [or from one end of the world to the other] before sin caused him to sink" (Ḥag. 12a, Sanh. 38b; compare also Philo, "Creation of the World," ed. Mangey, i. 33, 47). (This is referring to the dimensions of the cosmos from material to divine)

Adam filled all the worlds and all dimensions of existence. This means that by virtue of his knowledge of and relationship to the Edenic universe at large, he represented the totality of all that was - a unified whole that contained all the elements of life as we know it.  The expulsion of Adam from Eden and the subsequent direct contact with God the Father directly implies the Spiritual Death. Adam contained all the humans within him.

Talmud says, quoting Rav: “Adam, the first man, reached from one end of the world to the other. . . . When he sinned, Hashem placed His hand on him and shrank him. . . . “   R. Elazar also quotes the same almost identically : “Adam, the first man, reached from the earth to the heavens. . . . When he sinned, God placed his hands on him and shrank him. . . . “  This is the expulsion from the freedom of the Divine realm.  Now on he remained within the lower realms of physical, soulish and spiritual realms outside of the divine.  He could still make contact with the divine through the spirit but not directly. This is usually termed generally as the Spiritual Death. 


Life will be hell eternally if you continue to live eternally
So go to the lower worlds until I can redeem you.


The very act of expulsion from the divine realm and the Garden of Eden would make the humanity restrained into the lower worlds of matter, soul and spirit alone which were by that time under the law of decay and death.  We will discuss this in the next chapter.





"then the dust will return to the earth as it was,

and the spirit will return to God who gave it."
Eccl. 12:7,

This defines the Physical death of Man

 “return,” שׁוּב in Hebrew, meaning to turn back.

 Psalms 104:29-30 "If you take away their spirit, they expire, and back to their dust they go. If you send forth your spirit, they are created."

When Stephen was about to die he did not ask for the grave to receive him, but said, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit!"Acts 7:59. 

.John 19:30 "So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit".

This clearly says that the Spirit of Man will return to God who gave it as breath of life to Man.  The body which was made from dust returns to earth. But the Spirit can always give life back if some form of body - material or immaterial - is given back.  Every form of life has a covering of flesh.  Only the substance can be different.

The body becomes decomposed, decays into various material parts.  This is commonly understood.  The reason for it is that the Life giving Spirit just returned to God.  This is also spiritual death really. Without the Spirit the body is just organic matter usable for vegetation and animal to replenish their bodies.


If man existed in the Divine Realm, he would have been in constant communion with the life giving Holy Spirit with an infinite amount of energy available indefinitely so that the second law of thermodynamics would have been simply reversed where everything will go from order to higher order, glory to glory.  As such he would not have been susceptible to death.  This is why Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden viz. from the constant Divine Relationship. This was equivalent to a sentence of death both Spiritual and Physical.



The question that remains is:  What happens to the Soul?

Very little is given in the bible about this that we have to rely on indirect reasoning.

Gen 5: 4-5 Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.






Thus God wanted to give a way out and this God did by introducing the law of decay and death.  We have discussed this in the chapter on life.  What God did was to introduce the dialectics of opposing forces of order in the life as the law of immaterial world (often referred to as Spiritual world, though in jewish mysticism it includes more than that). and disorder in the law of material world.  Notice what God says to Adam.

Gen 3:17  Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life."


Thus the loving father made the entropy increase law for the matter and energy was used to keep the entropy to maintain life, until finally the death comes in as a blessing. Death will reign until relief and redemption is found for man i.e. it was ordained with a hope.

The woman was sentenced to the pangs of childbirth, and the man was made to toil and sweat from the hostile soil. God then barred access to the Tree of Life by placing cherubim and a flaming sword at the eastern entrance to Eden.

"The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

But instead of removing the tree of life from the Garden of Eden,  Lord God banished Adam from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. Apparently the law of decay was already in the material world. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.