In our previous two articles, we reviewed the EC proposal that “death” and “mortality” are referring to two different unrelated concepts, and found it to have no scriptural basis. EC proponents teach that the death (Gk thanatos) that entered into the world when Adam sinned was not the normal death that is part and parcel of mortality, but a “judicial sentence of eternal death”, to be received at the judgement seat of Christ, for all those who sin after obtaining sufficient knowledge of God’s laws. Hence, in their view, no one has died this death yet.

Jesus Christ was Subject to Death (thanatos)

However, in Romans 6:9 the Apostle Paul explains that Christ was under the dominion of death during his mortal life – “being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death (thanatos) hath no more dominion over him”. If Paul is referring to “eternal death” in Romans 6, noting that in context “the wages of sin is death” (v23) is frequently quoted by EC supporters who teach this definition of thanatos, then how was it possible for Jesus to come under the dominion of “eternal death” during his mortal life, given that he never sinned?

In Hebrews 2:14, thanatos appears twice; we are told that Christ’s own “death” (first mention), was able to destroy him that had the power of “death” (second mention), that is the diabolos. Assuming the EC concept of “eternal death” to be correct, and consistently applying the same meaning to both occurrences of death in this verse, how is it possible for Christ’s own eternal death to destroy that which holds the power of eternal death at the judgement seat of Christ? Moreover, if Christ was judged with eternal death why isn’t he still dead? After all, the death he is supposed to have experienced is eternal. We have confusion at every step. To the contrary, Christ’s “death” was actually an act of obedience to his Father’s will.

The apostle is employing the language of personification when he states in Hebrews 2:14 that Christ’s death destroyed “him” which has the “power of death, that is the diabolos”. The Diabolos has a dominion and exerts the power of death over its subjects. This was not the position of Adam and Eve when created, for God created them “to have dominion”. It was when sin entered that it gained dominion over them. After Adam and Eve’s sin, all humans are born into a realm where the Diabolos or King Sin reigns, and that monarch distributes death to all without exception. As Paul states in Romans 5:21 – “Sin reigned in death.”

Other verses which prove that Jesus Christ himself was subject to the same thanatos as everyone else include Matthew 26:38; Philippians 2:8 and Hebrews 2:9. EC advocates simply have no exegetical warrant to selectively apply the meaning of a second death or “eternal death” at the judgement seat to a limited number of instances where thanatos occurs in the NT. When the Bible is specifically referring to the second death which those who are raised and rejected at the judgement seat will face, then it prefixes “second” to thanatos (eg Rev. 2:11).

The Wages of King Sin is Death

EC view-holders quote the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 6:23 “for the wages of sin is death” in an attempt to establish that thanatos is a sentence that only applies to those who have sufficient knowledge of God’s laws and subsequently sin by transgressing those laws. They interpret Romans 6:23 as “for the wages of sin [actual transgression by those who have sufficient knowledge of God’s law] is [eternal] death [in the future at the judgement seat of Christ]. Hence, in their view the “death” that is the wages of sin has nothing to do with the death that is the end result of our mortality.

They reason that it is impossible to threaten a man with mortality as a punishment for sin when he is already mortal. This is because they argue that mortality was already in the world before Adam, a view not derived from the Bible, but from their belief in evolved humans living and dying prior to and contemporary with Adam and Eve.

The context of Romans 6 reveals that the sin-prone condition of our nature is being personified throughout this chapter (“body of Sin” v6; “consider yourself dead to Sin” v11; “Sin will have no dominion over you” v14; “slaves of Sin” v20). Sin is likened to a king that reigns in a dominion filled with evil, disease, transgression, proneness to sin and finally death. To help make this easier to understand, Brother CC Walker made a worthwhile suggestion of marking those occasions in the book of Romans where sin is being personified with a capital “S”, and this includes Romans 6:23 (see box below).

The Personification of Sin

As to the personification of Sin, in the New Testament the epistle to the Romans abounds with examples… If the interested reader will mark the following places with a capital “S” he will find the exercise enlightening: Rom 5:21; 6:6,7,10,11,12,13,14,16,17,18,20,22,23; 7:7,8,9,11,13,14,17,20; 8:3.

CC Walker, The Atonement, Salvation Through The Blood Of Christ, 1929

The personification of sin continues right through to verse 22, when the Apostle Paul refers to King Sin as a slave owner and states that we are now “made free from Sin, and become the servants of God”. Then verse 23 starts with the word “for”, linking it with the previous verse and making it clear that “sin” once again is being personified in the expression “For the wages of Sin is death”, as the apostle refers to King Sin as a master who pays wages.

A Vital Connection Between King Sin and Mortality

In Romans 6:12 the apostle Paul connects King Sin, as the master or governing principle of our nature, with mortality – “Let not Sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof ”. What is Sin that reigns in our mortal body which we often obey? If the meaning of sin is limited to actual transgression, how can actual transgression be obeyed and result in lust? Surely lust leads to transgression, and not transgression to lust (James 1:14-15). Any confusion over the meaning is removed once we appreciate that throughout Romans 6 the apostle is personifying our nature as King Sin and our obedience to it when we yield to its carnal desires through transgression.

This verse also establishes that there is a vital connection between our mortal bodies and sin, in contrast to EC teaching that mortality was in the world long before Adam’s sin. The apostle is asking us to do our best to prevent King Sin reigning in our mortal bodies, and accordingly this can only mean that the default position of a mortal body is a state in which King Sin reigns. Consistent with this, Paul also refers to our mortal state as a “body of Sin” (Rom 6:6), “the motions of Sin” (Rom 7:5), “Sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom 7:17,20), “the law of Sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23), and “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18). All mortal bodies have King Sin or the Diabolos enthroned as the ruler, and this is simply the sin-prone condition of our nature that we are born with in consequence of Adam’s sin.

Military Metaphors in the Domain of King Sin – Wages and Weapons

In Romans 6:23, the Apostle Paul is using a military metaphor to explain that the basic ration or stipend paid by King Sin is death. The Greek word for “wages” is opsonion, and Thayer explains that it refers to “that part of the soldier’s support given in place of pay [ie rations] and the money in which he is paid.” The word comes from a root meaning “cooked meat”, and initially it referred to the basic ration of food given to soldiers (1 Cor 9:7), but over time the same word was also used to describe the basic amount in coins that a Roman soldier was paid.

The apostle previously used a military metaphor in 6:13 when he requests that we “no longer lend your faculties as unrighteous weapons for Sin to use (WNT)”. Here King Sin is likened to a warrior who wants to use our “members” (the Diabolos) as weapons for works of unrighteousness. Hence in verse 13 we are exhorted not to offer our members as weapons in the service of King Sin, and then in verse 23 we are told that the stipend or rations paid by King Sin is death to all under his dominion.

Importantly, the Apostle Paul doesn’t state that the “wages for sin is death”, but the “wages of sin is death”. This is because sin is being personified and the emphasis is on what King Sin pays to all under his dominion as a basic stipend or ration, and not what is earned depending on one’s position or number of hours worked. To illustrate this important difference, consider the following two sentences:

  1. “The basic wage of ACME is $100”
  2. “The wages for working at ACME are $10 per hour”

In the first sentence, the emphasis is on what ACME provides for all its employees as a base wage regardless of position or hours worked. In contrast the emphasis in the second sentence is on what the worker can earn depending on how many hours he works. Hence in Romans 6:23 as the Apostle Paul states that “the wages of Sin is death”, and it is clear from the context that sin is being personified, the emphasis is on what King Sin pays to all. Weymouth’s translation conveys the sense correctly: “For the wages paid by Sin are death.”

Jesus Himself Died Unto King Sin

But there is even more contextual evidence to prove that Romans 6:23 is talking about the basic stipend or rations of death (thanatos) that King Sin pays to all born under his dominion. Specifically, King Sin delivered the basic wages of death to Jesus Christ even though he did not deserve to be paid such wages. This is clear from verse 10 where the apostle refers to Jesus Christ: “For in that he died, he died unto Sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” How did he die to Sin? The image of personification is continued. The monarch Sin holds all mankind within its realm and once the Lord died under his dominion this monarch had no further influence over him (v7). That freedom from death’s dominion, Paul explains, is achieved by destroying the body of sin (v6). In the Lord’s case “the body of sin is sin’s body – the body subject to the motions of sin. This was done away, rendered impotent, paralysed, in the sense that sin’s supremacy was broken, so that sin is no longer served as a master” (John Carter, The Letter to the Romans, pg 68).

This is how he died to Sin. He experienced all the evils and consequences which Sin exerted in its dominion so that he could finally break the hold this monarch held over mankind. He was a sinless man made subject to the consequences of sin that “through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb 2:14). In destroying the Diabolos, the Diabolos was still able to bruise Christ on the heel (Gen 3:15). Accordingly, Christ “died unto Sin once” (Rom 6:10), but “being raised from the dead, dieth no more, death (thanatos) hath no more dominion over him”. (Rom 6:9).

The Wages Of Sin Is Death

E.M. WRITES: “We have been exercised of late regarding the meaning of Rom 6:23: “The wages of sin is death.” Is the death referred to by Paul intended to apply to the death all die in Adam, or the second death? or does it include both?”.
ANSWER: It includes both, for death is death, whether experienced once or twice; whether encountered as the result of the operation of the law of nature (“the law of sin and death”), or as the result of the execution of judicial sentence. The words in question are the climax of an argument in which the apostle Paul contrasts Adam and Christ as two Federal Heads of mankind; the former of a family coextensive with the race; the latter of a family coextensive only with “his people,” the redeemed of human kind. By Adam death (as “wages” fairly earned) passed upon all his family – “all men” (Rom 5:12). By “the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord”, life eternal passes upon all his family – (“he shall see a seed” – Isa 53:10); which “all” in this case (1 Cor 15:22) is but a “remnant” of the race.

CC Walker, The Christadelphian, Vol 54, 1917, pg 455-456

EC Views Undermine our Foundational Beliefs on the Atonement

The Bible clearly teaches that Adam was the progenitor of the entire human race, that Adam’s sin caused the first human death, that his sin and death impacted the entire human race, and that the diabolos is the Bible’s way of personifying this great problem; namely our death-stricken nature with its lusts and desires that are naturally inclined towards sinning. This is particularly relevant considering the Bible’s clear teaching that both death and the “diabolos” are enemies from God’s perspective (1 Cor 15:26; Matt 13:39; Acts 13:10).

This is vital to understand as it directly impacts God’s plan of salvation, including the necessity for Christ to be born with exactly the same deathstricken and sin-prone mortal nature (diabolos) that had come in consequence of Adam’s sin. In so doing Christ would enter into the very arena in which sin had come to reign, so that he might destroy and be victorious over that having the power of death even the diabolos. The clear teaching of Scripture shows that Christ came to undo the consequences that Adam’s sin had brought upon God’s creation. Our BASF is very clear on these vital teachings as well.

Our God-given hope is a positive hope, and all those now prospectively “in Christ” can look forward to that time in the future when “this mortal puts on immortality”, when no longer will we be physically “in Adam”, but physically “in Christ” for evermore. We look forward to the time when the problem of mortality introduced by Adam’s sin will be “swallowed up by life” (2 Cor 5:4), when its outworking in death will be “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15:54), and when the Diabolos will no longer be able to exert any power over us.