Did Christ Die Spiritually?

by Dan Norcini

The Preterist movement, or “Realized eschatology”, has been a breath of fresh air within the modern church, as it has laid bare the false assumptions, particularly of the most prominent and widely accepted eschatological system known as Premillennial Dispensationalism.

That being said, a significant number of teachers within the Preterist system have sadly veered far off course and run the risk of discrediting the entire viewpoint due to serious errors that they are propagating. Some of these errors are most disconcerting as they have moved outside of the historical viewpoint of the church for the past two millennia.

This brief essay deals with their claim that the Lord Jesus “died spiritually” on the cross. Their claim is that the physical death of Jesus was not what was most important but rather it was His “spiritual death” that was efficacious. They state that since men who believe in Christ still die physically, then Christ’s physical death could not have been a substitutionary one but rather was only a means to his experiencing “spiritual death”.

To further substantiate this interpretation, they have also come up with another term analogous to the “spiritual death”, which they call, “separation death”.

I should note here that neither of these two terms is expressly used in the entirety of Scripture. We do see the apostle Paul using the term, “death” and “dead” quite regularly in his letters to various churches, but nowhere does he ever use the terms, “separation death” or “spiritual death”.

It is this writer’s opinion that some of these well-meaning men, have not seriously thought through the implications of this view.

I will grant this before we delve into the Scriptures further – those advocating the use of these two terms do attempt to define them using other portions of Scripture. That I do not have a problem with on the surface. The issue I have is that their attempt to define both terms has led them into error.

First of all, let’s go back to their view of what happened to Adam in the Garden. They claim that Adam died “spiritually” on the day that he sinned or as they further explain, he suffered “separation death”. In other words, Adam became separated from God on the day he sinned in the Garden of Eden. But is this statement true? In my opinion, no, it is not.

The Bible nowhere states that Adam was separated from God. As a matter of fact, if mankind was ever completely separated from God, it would cease to exist.

“…in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:10)

10 Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do wickedness,
And from the Almighty to do wrong.
11 “For He pays a man according to his work,
And makes him find it according to his way.
12 “Surely, God will not act wickedly,
And the Almighty will not pervert justice.
13 “Who gave Him authority over the earth?
And who has laid on Him the whole world?
14 “If He should determine to do so,
If He should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath,
15 All flesh would perish together,
And man would return to dust.” (Job 34: 10-15)

And again,

7 “Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.” (Psalm 139: 7-10)

Man cannot ever be completely separated from God. Yet, the Scriptures do speak as follows:

“But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear”. (Isaiah 59:2)

So here in Scripture we have clearly stated that sin (iniquity) separates man from God. It is further amplified, as is common in Hebrew, that sin results in a hiding of God’s face from the sinner.

When God is said to “hide His face” from someone, it means that they are separated from His gracious presence not utterly from His person. If the latter were true, the man would be dead since God is a life-giving Spirit, without Whom, nothing would exist, for He alone gives life to all things and upholds all things by the word of His power.

24 “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25 nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;” (Acts 17: 24-25)

1 “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1: 1-3 NASB)

Referring back to the idea of God hiding His face from man on account of his sins and a breach in the relationship between God and man, the New Testament uses the word, “reconciliation”, when speaking to one of the things that Christ accomplished by His death on the cross.

Reconciliation is necessary when there is a breach created between two parties, either caused by the actions or words from one or both involved. This creates a state of hostility which needs to be repaired before the relationship can be restored.

In other words, God hides His face from man when He is angry with the man on account of sins. Thus, while the man is not utterly separated from His maker, the life-giving Spirit, he is separated from His gracious presence. He has no favor with God, no true expectation of having his prayers answered, or for that matter, even heard.

He has no promise of Divine protection, of God being a hiding place in time of trouble, a shield, a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a strong tower, a mountain that surrounds him, a provider, a healer, etc. For God to no longer hide His face from that man, that same man must FIRST be reconciled to God. That is precisely what the gospel message tells him. Even more than that, it tells the sinner that God has made a way for that necessity of reconciliation to actually take place!

10 “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5: 10-11 NASB)

18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18-19 NASB)

In the case between God and man, God is the party aggrieved as it is not possible for the Almighty to do anything wrong. He did nothing to disturb the relationship that existed between Himself and Adam in the Garden. Everything Adam needed to be happy was given to him, including a companion fit for him. It was indeed a Paradise. Rather it was the man, who refused to obey the simple command from His Maker, who spoiled all things by one act of disobedience and thereby caused the breach in the relationship.

From that moment on, all mankind, every single human being ever born on this planet who traces their descent from Adam, entered life, by nature, as an enemy of God needing reconciliation. However, they are not utterly separated from the person of God, for the reasons we have cited above.

What is astonishing is that it was the God of all grace who would make provision to repair the relationship between Himself and His creature, not the man who actually initiated the breach.

Speaking directly to the serpent of old, God proclaimed his demise, a demise that would undo the ruin his temptation had brought on man.

As this promise would become more clearly defined with the passing of time, the Seed of the Woman, would Himself bring in a perfect righteousness, one that would be everlasting which would allow the breach, the separation between man and Himself to be closed.

18 “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him
.” ( 2 Cor 5:18-21)

This was typed out in the Garden scene in the third chapter of Genesis:

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” ( Gen 3:21).

To obtain this clothing for both Adam and Eve, it was necessary for the animals to be slain. Why does it state that it was God who made the garments? Answer – to show that it was the God of all grace who initiated the reconciliation and that this reconciliation must needs involve the death of substitutes.

When God warned Adam…

16 “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;
but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”” (Gen 2:16-17)

…He was not bluffing. The threatened punishment had to be inflicted or the Lord of Heaven and Earth would have been shown to be a liar, something that it is impossible for God to do (Hebrews 6).

Here was grace and mercy mixed with justice or as the Psalmist would tell us years later:

“Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Psalm 85: 10-12)

Instead of the blow falling upon Adam and Eve, the Lord Himself, as He would do many, many years later for His servant Abraham, provided a sacrifice that would die in their place. The threat, “the soul that sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:3), was carried out, but it was upon the substituted animals that the judgment would descend. Divine justice being satisfied, God could then justly deal in mercy with His now fallen creature. The animals were prefiguring the One, True sacrifice, the Lord Jesus, the One for Whom a Body would be prepared:

4 “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; 6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. 7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME)TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’“ (Hebrews 10:4-7)

Both Adam and Eve had the gospel message preached to them directly by God Himself. They in turn taught it to their sons. Where else did Abel learn that he needed to offer a firstling from his flock showing that he understood the demands of Divine justice that the blood of the substitute had to be shed for atonement for sin? ( Gen 4:4)

The apostle Paul clearly tells us in his letter to the Romans, that faith, true saving faith, comes by hearing the word of Christ, the gospel.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Roman 10:17)

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.“ (Hebrews 11: 4)

Abel understood that he needed a substitutionary sacrifice if his person was to be acceptable to God Most High. This he no doubt learned from his parents. This alone would reconcile him to God and close the breach between himself and His maker, albeit if only temporarily since the sacrifices had to be repeated constantly prior to the coming of the Perfect Lamb of God.

To sum up – Adam sinned in the Garden and as a result, his former relationship with God, His maker, was marred. Guilt and shame were now his new fellows. Hitherto, he knew nothing of either of these.

Guilt was created by his now fully active conscience and that produced the new sensation of FEAR. Before that, Adam had enjoyed sweet communion with God. Now he hid from his Maker. He understood a side of God that he previously had not known, namely one of perfect Justice who would by no means leave the guilty unpunished.

Shame also now wracked him. Before he had been naked before God and was not ashamed. His sin had now produced a sense of defilement and uncleanness in the presence of a Holy and Righteous God. He felt dirty, unclean, defiled when the Light of perfect holiness shown upon him in his newly fallen estate.

A breach in the relationship with the Creator had now been formed and mankind would never be the same. To close this breach, blood sacrifices were instituted, which allowed for a substitute, one without sin or defilement, to take the place of the guilty sinner and to take the stroke of Divine Justice upon itself in his place so that the other could be set free and have fellowship with His Creator once more.

This is all one needs to know to understand the gospel message of reconciliation, of redemption, of atonement, of propitiation. Any attempts to confound this simple meaning by the unwarranted use of extra-biblical terminology such as “spiritual death” or “separation death” merely muddies the waters and produces confusion where they need not be any.


We went in great depth into these things to dispel the novel idea termed, “separation death” by the teachers of the CBV or “spiritual death”. To repeat, no where are these terms used in the Scriptures especially as they are defined by the CBV teachers.

As far as “spiritual death” goes…

The term is not found in the Scriptures. The concept might be but it needs to be correctly explained and therefore understood.

Paul states in Ephesians that all of us were “dead in our sins and transgressions”. That is as far as he goes. He does not use the terms, “spiritually dead” or “separation dead” (whatever that is supposed to mean).

It simply means that man in his fallen estate is devoid of the life of God in his soul. The New Testament defines this separation as being “alienated from or excluded from the life of God”.

17 “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;” (Eph 4:17-18 NASB)

17 “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart;” (Eph 4: 17-18 NKJV)

This alienation from the life of God is defined numerous times in the Scriptures:

“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions…” (Col 2:13

“even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” (Eph 2:5)

Conversion, regeneration, the new birth, being born again, is exactly what it says it is – it is a NEW LIFE coming into the sin-deadened soul of man. That life is the life of God Himself. It is one thing to say that all men depend on the life-Giving Ruler of all things for their existence. It is altogether another thing to say that the life of God is within them. The latter only comes to man through the new birth, or regeneration.

This new life loves righteousness while it hates sin. It loves that which is good and clings to that which is pure. It despises evil in any form. It sees sin as an ugly, deforming thing, a leprosy of the soul while it sees righteousness as a thing of beauty and that which is to be desired and sought for. It moves the man to please God in all that he does or says, while the man devoid of this life cares not a whit whether he is pleasing to God or not.

One man is alive to God; the other is dead. It is that simple. It needs not to be confounded by the introduction of extraneous terms such as “separation death” or “spiritual death”. Such extra -Biblical phrases only add to confusion and create uncertainty in the minds of some where none is needed.

Having dispensed with the notion that Adam experienced “separation death”, we now come to the more serious error concerning the nature of the death of Christ.

The teaching out of the CBV movement boldly asserts that the Lord Christ died “spiritually” or that He experienced “separation death”, since that was what Adam experienced and therefore, so their reasoning goes, so too must Christ if His death was to truly be substitutionary.

Of first importance, Christ was never separated from His Father. That is nowhere found in Scripture. What He did experience was the sense of being forsaken, abandoned, left to himself:

“My God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)

He experienced what many of us go through when the sense of God’s presence of love and care is withheld. This takes place when one grieves the Holy Spirit and His communications of the love, grace, mercy and tender care over His people is lost through repeated sin.

In its place, he experienced for the first time ever, a sense of the wrath of God against sin. Prior to His offering of Himself, the gracious sense of His Father’s presence never left Him. Why did our Blessed Lord have to undergo such things? Because this is the just desert of all sinners. By nature, all of us are “children of wrath”.

“Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.“ (Eph 2: 3)

“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

Please note – this Scripture does not say that the wrath of God WILL COME upon him (in the future). It states that the wrath of God ABIDES (present tense) on him. He is already under the wrath of God and will remain so unless he repents and believes the gospel message. It abides on him now in the present and will follow him into eternity.

Read the entirety of Psalm 88 if you want to get a small sense of the amazing suffering that our blessed Lord went through for us! Mortal men cannot bear up under the wrath of God in its fulness but our Savior tasted it for all those for whom He came to die.

” 1 O LORD, the God of my salvation, 2 Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry! 3 For my soul has had enough troubles, And my life has drawn near to Sheol. 4 I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength,

13 But I, O LORD, have cried out to You for help, And in the morning my prayer comes before You. 14 O LORD, why do You reject my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me? 15 I was afflicted and about to die from my youth on; I suffer Your terrors; I am overcome. 16 Your burning anger has passed over me; Your terrors have destroyed me. 17 They have surrounded me like water all day long; They have encompassed me altogether. 18 You have removed lover and friend far from me; My acquaintances are in darkness.” (Psalm 88: 1-4, 13-18)

Now, it is important to understand that this burning anger of God is what is due to sin. His perfect Justice demands that He punish it. Our Substitute therefore had to undergo such if His sufferings for His elect was to be complete.

We accept this concept every day in the workings of our modern court system. A person is charged with a crime, brought before a judge and/or jury, tried and if found guilty, is sentenced with a punishment commensurate with the severity of the crime. The exact same thing goes with the Judge of Heaven and Earth when it comes to mankind. Once the guilt of the suspect is ascertained, and it has already been decided so, then the punishment must be meted out.

“…Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin;” (Romans 3:9)

Christ, the Substitute, was CHARGED WITH THE GUILT OF SIN. But this is important – His holy, spotless nature was never contaminated or defiled with it as is our nature.

“26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” (Hebrews 7: 26-27)

Even as a sacrifice for sin, He retained every bit of his pure, unspotted, undefiled nature. To say that he became “separated from God” or “died spiritually” [apparently the CBV teachers use the terms interchangeably] , one would have to ask what was the cause of such a thing? It would assume a defilement of His nature would have taken place, which would have rendered His sacrifice unacceptable to God. That flies in the face of Scripture which states that the Father was pleased with the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself.

“But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering,“ (Isaiah 53:10 NASB)

Notice, Christ, the promised Messiah, rendered Himself as a guilt offering. He was not mystically transformed into sin, with His nature becoming corrupted but rather He took upon Himself the guilt of sin and therefore bore in His own person its just punishment.

This is also the clear teaching of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians in his second letter to that church:

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5: 21 NIV)

The NIV provides a marginal note properly defining the Greek word used for sin as a sin offering.

To repeat, to therefore say that Christ died “spiritually” (again, this term is not found in the Bible) would entail that somehow His nature became defiled, which is the only cause of separation from the goodness of God. That in itself is so grievous an error that it is unconscionable to me that anyone claiming to speak on behalf of Christ could assert it. The men propagating these things should rethink what they are stating as this is so reckless with the truth that it is terrifying! They apparently have not thought through the ramifications of the things which proceed out of their mouths.

Those who spout this foolishness err greatly therefore because it is a symptom of the lack of understanding of the doctrine of justification through faith alone. It has often been said, by myself and many others, that to be wrong on this foundational doctrine, is to make oneself liable to fall into all sorts of error and confusion.

The entire method whereby God justifies sinner is a legal or forensic one. It is a declaration by a Judge and is in its essence, purely OUTSIDE of the sinner. In itself, it effects no change INTERNALLY to the recipient. What is does change is the state or STANDING of that sinner before Heaven’s tribunal.

Let me add here briefly, so that my enemies do not take liberties with my statement above – Justification is never separated from sanctification of the sinner. Wherever the first is found, the latter ALWAYS accompanies it. But make no mistake, the two are completely different from each other. One affects the standing of the sinner; the other affects his nature.

This being established, Christ’s nature was never defiled in any form, shape or fashion as those advocating the teaching stating that He “died spiritually” or He suffered “separation death”. We have already stated that is impossible or else God would not

have accepted His sacrifice, the proof of which He would have left Him in the grave and never raised Him.

“10 But You, O LORD, be gracious to me and raise me up, That I may repay them. 11 By this I know that You are pleased with me, Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.” (Psalm 41:10-11)

When Christ completed His atoning work on the cross and His fulfillment of the Law by keeping it perfectly, He EARNED A RIGHTEOUSNESS as His reward with His resurrection being a Divine declaration to the world that His Father was pleased with Him and His sacrifice.

What took place at the cross was that our GUILT was credited or imputed to Him and God slew Him in our place.

What the Gospel tells us is that those who believe on Him for righteousness through faith, are then CREDITED or IMPUTED with it by God. There is a transfer of our guilt to Christ and a transfer of His righteousness (forensically speaking) to us done by none other than God Himself acting as a Judge.

This is what Paul speaks of his epistle to the Romans:

“because the Scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and ·God accepted Abraham’s faith, and that faith made him right with God [it was credited/counted to him for righteousness; Gen. 15:6].”

because the Scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and ·God accepted Abraham’s faith, and that faith made him right with God [L?it was credited/counted to him for righteousness; Gen. 15:6].”

When people work, their ·pay [wage] is not given [credited; counted] as a gift [grace], but as something earned [due to them]But people cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in him ?But for the one who does not work, but trusts in God], who makes even evil people right in his sight [justifies/makes righteous the ungodly]. Then God ·accepts their faith, and that makes them right with him [credits/counts their faith for righteousness]David said the same thing. He said that people are truly blessed [happy; spiritually fulfilled] when God, without paying attention to their deeds [apart from works], makes people right with himself [credits/counts righteousness to them]. “Blessed [Happy; Spiritually fulfilled] are they whose sins [lawless deeds] are forgiven, whose wrongs [sins] are pardoned [covered; blotted out]. (Romans 4:3-7 EXB)

Notice, these are accounting terms used in this amplified translation – like an entry into a ledger – it deals solely with their standing before God. Nothing happens internally ( speaking strictly of the manner in which God declares them righteous).

Why am I emphasizing this? Because if it were anything other than a forensic declaration by the Judge of Heaven and Earth, if there was an actual transfer of INHERENT RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST into condemned sinners when it comes to this Divine declaration of righteousness, then the opposite side of the transaction would have to also be true, namely that our evil was actually transferred INTO CHRIST! That would entail that His nature became contaminated with sin. Perish the thought of such horror!

Yet that is exactly what those accusing Christ of dying “spiritually” or experiencing “separation death” are advocating. I had heard of a similar teaching many years ago by several of the people who were in the so-called “word of faith” group, but never thought that others might be advocating the same grievous error. Those teaching it came right out and boldly stated that Christ actually became sin! While I am unaware of any of the current teachers in the CBV movement who have categorically stated this, when one examines the ramifications of their use of the terms, “died spiritually” or suffered “separation death” in reality, one can clearly see how dangerous and how far outside the historic understanding of the death of Christ has become.

Do not miss the significance of this! It was the guilt of our sins that was charged against Christ (imputed to Him), not the inherent defilement of those sins. Now we do indeed become partakers of the Divine nature but that is a separate work outside of our justification. Again, this work will always accompany justification, but it is separate and needs remain as such.

This is the reason that the Catholic church never could grasp the true gospel during the days of the Protestant Reformation. They kept confounding the doctrine of justification with that of sanctification. That error was what made all their so-called “sacraments” necessary to complete the salvation of their followers. They failed to understand that the righteousness which comes through faith in Christ is perfect, nor can it ever be diminished in any true sense when it comes to their declared standing before God.

The point in all this is that when one reads or listens to the teachings of the Corporate Body View people, one should understand exactly what the ramifications of their errors leads to.

Jesus Christ did not “die spiritually”. He did not undergo “separation death”. He tasted death, physical death and experienced the sense of being forsaken, of undergoing the wrath of God and the loss of the gracious presence of His loving Father for guilty sinners, but He was NEVER SEPARATED from His Father at any time. He was always pleasing to His Father, even while He was suffering on that bloody cross.

Be on guard!

Dan Norcini SS
May 14, 2024

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