Bainbridge, GA., July 12, 1859.
Brother Beebe: - As I see there are many requesting your views on passages of Scripture, I will also request your views on the following subject: When God gave a law to Adam, the penalty of that law was death. Now, what death did Adam die? Some of our brethren preach that he died a three-fold death - a spiritual, a temporal and an eternal death. My own mind is dark on that subject. Please relieve your brother, if I am a brother.
W. C. THOMAS.
Reply: - In reply to brother Thomas, in regard to what death Adam died in the day of his transgression, we have no theory to offer, but simply to refer our brother to what the Scriptures teach, namely, "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." What the advocates of a three-fold death mean by a spiritual, temporal and eternal death, we leave them to explain, as none of these terms are used in the Bible in reference to the execution of the divine sentence upon man for having eaten of the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How a natural man could die a spiritual death is as difficult for us to solve as it would be to show how a creature of time could die an eternal death.
Neither of these terms are, in our estimation, either scriptural or appropriate in setting forth the death referred to in the words of our Creator to Adam, "Thou shalt surely die." And if by the term temporal they mean in a literal sense, still we apprehend a difficulty in accounting for the fact that Adam lived after the transgression to beget all his sons and daughters, and continued to live until his nine hundred and thirty years were numbered. The word temporal does not, to us, seem to sufficiently express the nature of that death that passed on him the day he ate of the forbidden fruit. We ask then to be excused for rejecting all these terms with their respective theories, and for preferring the language used on the subject by divine inspiration.
Whatever was the death that Adam died, is and must be the same death that has passed on all men, for that all have sinned. If then Adam died a spiritual, a temporal and an eternal death, then all men have died, or do die, a spiritual, temporal and eternal death, for the same death has passed on all men. But this will prove too much for the theory of the advocates of the three-fold death of Adam. That Adam was created pure and holy or sinless, and that all his posterity were created in him in the same purity, no intelligent Bible reader will dispute. But that he was even in that state, or in his creation, a spiritual man, the inspired apostle Paul denies. On the other hand we have the testimony of Moses that God made man out of the dust of the ground, and after he had breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man had become a living soul, and after he had sinned, God himself said to him in pronouncing on him the sentence of the very death that had been threatened, "For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return." As all the posterity of Adam was in him in his creation, so were they all in him in his transgression; and so when death passed on Adam, it passed on all his then unborn posterity. The whole Adamic nature was involved in the death which was incurred as the penalty of sin. For as sin entered by transgression, so death entered by sin, and as it entered the person, so it entered the posterity of Adam. Death has passed on all men, for that all men have sinned. Although millions, untold millions of the sons of Adam perhaps are not yet literally born, still death has passed on them, for they have all sinned. We were in Adam, and we were Adam, when he, and when we in him, sinned, and when death passed on him and on us in him. We still, in our earthly nature, are Adam. For the decree of God was, that Adam should multiply and replenish the earth. We are not added to, but are the multiplication of Adam, whose name God called Adam, for God did not call his name, but God called their name Adam in the day when they were created. Whose name did he call Adam? Their name, that is, as we see from the connection, the generations of Adam. Generations of Adam is the antecedent in this Scripture to the pronoun their. God, therefore, called the name of the generations of Adam, ADAM. Hence, as the earthly Adam, we all die, because sin has entered and death has passed upon Adam, and that is our name, and beyond all controversy, that is the condition of us all in our earthly nature. Mortality, and all the train of mortal evils to which we are subject, were introduced into the degenerate family of man as the consequence of sin.
In our first estate we were pure and sinless, though natural and earthly beings. In that state we were adapted to and capable of enjoying an earthly paradise, of subsisting upon the spontaneous productions of an uncontaminated and uncursed earth, and free from disease, sorrow, pain, infirmity and death. What then is the death inflicted on Adam? It is not only mortality, but it involves us in degeneracy, in sin and transgression against our holy and righteous Creator, entails upon us a nature which is corrupted and totally depraved, and places us under the condemnation and wrath of that law, the penalty of which, unless it be canceled by the Redeemer, dooms us to endure the wrath of God for ever and ever. This is not a spiritual death, for we were not spiritual in our first estate in Adam. It is more than temporal death, for temporal death only consigns our dust to dust, while the death that has passed on us leaves us dead in trespasses and sins, children of wrath, condemned already, and the wrath of God abiding on us. It is not eternal death, if by such terms is meant the decease of an eternal life before possessed. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. And those unto whom this life is given are secure from death. "I," says Jesus, "give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and none shall pluck them out of his hand."
July 15, 1859.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 249 - 252