We usually think of death as the cessation of life. Scripture tells us it’s the beginning of life. How can that be?
Paul tells us to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God (Romans 6:11). Elsewhere he says that we were once dead in or sins, but God made us alive in Christ and forgave all our sins (Colossians 2:13).
The first death
In the Garden of Eden, Adam knew God and therefore knew good. The only reason to eat forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was to know evil. A suggestion by the devil prompted his desire, and he committed high treason by choosing to obey Satan rather than God.
God had told Adam that in the day he ate the fruit he would die. And here’s how he died: in place of a living spirit joyful to know good, there arose this dead spirit craving to know evil.
This new, dead spirit rejected the things of God and therefore cut itself off from the source of life. That God expelled him from the garden to keep him from eating from the Tree of Life was a kindness. Physical death would make renewed life possible again.
The first spiritual death took place while the physical body was still alive. While repentant sinners still remain under the curse that causes physical death, they can renounce the old spirit of death, consider themselves dead to it and do sin, and become alive in Christ.
We choose that death by renouncing the semblance of independence that old spirit of death seems to give us. (That independence is in fact another satanic lie. We were made as servants. Our only choice is whether to serve God or Satan.)
Or as Paul expressed it, we die by being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20) in order to know the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10).
Jesus’ own earthly life, death, and resurrection demonstrate the principle of death that leads to life. After he has returned and conquered sin and death, he has promised that we, too, will live again in as yet unimaginable new bodies.
Meanwhile, when we empty ourselves of our devotion to sin and become devoted instead to Christ, we become his servants and know true freedom for the first time. We experience a death that leads to life and receive the Holy Spirit as a downpayment on the promise that the death of our body will likewise lead to detain.
Life from death we can see
Does that seem like some kind of mystical mumbo jumbo? Something entirely divorced from the reality that we experience daily? Not at all.
Jesus himself pointed out that unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it cannot make a new plant to produce many seeds (John 12:24). Common grade school science experiments bear that out. When the seed is planted and watered, it begins to rot before it begins to germinate.
Even nature in this world of matter illustrates supernatural principles that can only be understood in the world of spirit. Jesus’ words are spirit, and they are life (John 6:63).