Bible Study Guides – “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH”

By Gordon Anderson

MEMORY VERSE: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12

STUDY HELP: Testimonies, vol. 2, 200–215.

INTRODUCTION: “The principles of justice required a faithful narration of facts for the benefit of all who should ever read the Sacred Record. Here we discern the evidences of divine wisdom. We are required to obey the law of God, and are not only instructed as to the penalty of disobedience, but we have narrated for our benefit and warning the history of Adam and Eve in Paradise, and the sad results of their disobedience of God’s commands. The account is full and explicit. The law given to man in Eden is recorded, together with the penalty accruing in case of its disobedience. Then follows the story of the temptation and fall, and the punishment inflicted upon our erring parents. Their example is given us as a warning against disobedience, that we may be sure that the wages of sin is death, that God’s retributive justice never fails, and that He exacts from His creatures a strict regard for His commandments.” Testimonies, vol. 4, 11.


  1. What test of obedience was given to Adam and Eve in Eden and what was the penalty for disobedience? Genesis 2:16–17.

NOTE: “God has given in His word decisive evidence that He will punish the transgressors of His law. Those who flatter themselves that He is too merciful to execute justice upon the sinner, have only to look to the cross of Calvary. The death of the spotless Son of God testifies that ‘the wages of sin is death,’ that every violation of God’s law must receive its just retribution. Christ the sinless became sin for man. He bore the guilt of transgression, and the hiding of His Father’s face, until His heart was broken and His life crushed out. All this sacrifice was made that sinners might be redeemed. In no other way could man be freed from the penalty of sin. And every soul that refuses to become a partaker of the atonement provided at such a cost must bear in his own person the guilt and punishment of transgression.” Great Controversy, 539.

  1. How did God illustrate the substitutionary death of the Redeemer as man’s only hope of escape from the penalty of sin? Genesis 3:21.

NOTE: “This is what the transgressors of God’s law have done ever since the day of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. They have sewed together fig leaves to cover the nakedness caused by transgression. They have worn the garments of their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable with God. But this they can never do. Nothing can man devise to supply the place of his lost robe of innocence. No fig-leaf garment, no worldly citizen dress, can be worn by those who sit down with Christ and angels at the marriage supper of the Lamb. Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God’s presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 311.


  1. How does the Word of God describe the creation of man? Genesis 2:7.

NOTE: The word translated “soul” in the Old Testament, in all but one case, is “nephesh” which means “a living creature” deriving from the word, “naphash,” meaning “to breathe.” The concept of man having a conscious entity that can exist independently of his body is foreign to the Scriptures and derives from the philosophy of Plato who taught that the body is merely a temporary container for pre-existing souls which also survive the death of the body. Genesis 2:7 shows that a “soul” (nephesh) comes into existence when the body, created from the natural elements, receives the breath of life from God. The equivalent Greek word is “psuche” which derives from the word “psucho” which means “to breathe.”

“The great original lie which he [Satan] told to Eve in Eden, ‘Ye shall not surely die,’ was the first sermon ever preached on the immortality of the soul. That sermon was crowned with success, and terrible results followed. He has brought minds to receive that sermon as truth, and ministers preach it, sing it, and pray it.” Testimonies, vol. 1, 342.

  1. How can we be sure that the Bible does not teach that man possesses an immortal soul? Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Ecclesiastes 9:5; 1 Timothy 6:16; Romans 2:7.

NOTE: See Testimonies, vol. 1, 39.


  1. How did the body which God formed from the dust of the ground become a living soul? Genesis 2:7.

NOTE: There are two words in Hebrew which signify breath—”neshawmaw” used in Genesis 2:7 and “ruwach.” When the King James Bible uses the word “spirit” in the Old Testament, apart from references to “familiar spirits,” it is translating the word “ruwach” which literally means “wind” or “breath,” deriving from a word meaning “to blow.” “Ruwach” is often translated as “breath.” The Greek equivalent is “pneuma” which means “breath” deriving from a word meaning “to blow.” The relationship between “spirit” and breath in English can be seen in words like “respiration.” “Pneuma” gives us words like “pneumatic.” Neither “ruwach” nor “pneuma” carry any sense of a being that can live without the body.

“The doctrine of man’s consciousness in death, especially the belief that the spirits of the dead return to minister to the living, has prepared the way for modern Spiritualism. If the dead are admitted to the presence of God and holy angels, and privileged with knowledge far exceeding what they before possessed, why should they not return to the earth to enlighten and instruct the living? If, as taught by popular theologians, the spirits of the dead are hovering about their friends on earth, why should they not be permitted to communicate with them, to warn them against evil, or to comfort them in sorrow? How can those who believe in man’s consciousness in death reject what comes to them as divine light communicated by glorified spirits? Here is a channel regarded as sacred, through which Satan works for the accomplishment of his purposes. The fallen angels who do his bidding appear as messengers from the spirit world. While professing to bring the living into communication with the dead, the prince of evil exercises his bewitching influence upon their minds.” Great Controversy, 551–552.

  1. How does Solomon show that the death of man is no different from the death that befalls animals? Ecclesiastes 3:19–20.

NOTE: “A correct understanding of ‘what saith the Scriptures’ in regard to the state of the dead is essential for this time. God’s word declares that the dead know not anything, their hatred and love have alike perished. We must come to the sure word of prophecy for our authority. Unless we are intelligent in the Scriptures, may we not, when this mighty miracle-working power of Satan is manifested in our world, be deceived and call it the workings of God; for the word of God declares that, if it were possible, the very elect should be deceived. Unless we are rooted and grounded in the truth, we shall be swept away by Satan’s delusive snares. We must cling to our Bibles.” Review and Herald, December 18, 1888.

  1. What hope does the Bible give that death is not the end for those who sleep in Jesus? 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18.

NOTE: “The Thessalonians had eagerly grasped the idea that Christ was coming to change the faithful who were alive, and to take them to Himself. They had carefully guarded the lives of their friends, lest they should die and lose the blessing which they looked forward to receiving at the coming of their Lord. But one after another their loved ones had been taken from them, and with anguish the Thessalonians had looked for the last time upon the faces of their dead, hardly daring to hope to meet them in a future life. As Paul’s epistle was opened and read, great joy and consolation was brought to the church by the words revealing the true state of the dead. Paul showed that those living when Christ should come would not go to meet their Lord in advance of those who had fallen asleep in Jesus. The voice of the Archangel and the trump of God would reach the sleeping ones, and the dead in Christ should rise first, before the touch of immortality should be given to the living. ‘Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.’ The hope and joy that this assurance brought to the young church at Thessalonica can scarcely be appreciated by us. . . Now they rejoiced in the knowledge that their believing friends would be raised from the grave to live forever in the kingdom of God. The darkness that had enshrouded the resting place of the dead was dispelled.” Acts of the Apostles, 258–259.


  1. What assurance are we given that, though our bodies may decay, God keeps a record of them? Psalm 139:16.

NOTE: Many are concerned that the destruction of the body in death will lead to a permanent loss of identity. The bodies of some were consumed by fire; others have been destroyed by explosives, drowned, eaten by wild creatures. Such fates befell many of the martyrs. For many that die, there is no grave. We speak of the graves being opened and the dead coming forth at the resurrection but how, many ask, can those who have no grave be raised to life again in the resurrection? This verse shows that, though all trace of them may be lost, so far as man is concerned, our heavenly Father has not forgotten any of His creatures.

“Our personal identity is preserved in the resurrection, though not the same particles of matter or material substance as went into the grave. The wondrous works of God are a mystery to man. The spirit, the character of man, is returned to God, there to be preserved. In the resurrection very man will have his own character. God in His own time will call forth the dead, giving again the breath of life, and bidding the dry bones live. The same from will come forth, but it will be free from disease and every defect. It lives again bearing the same individuality of features, so that friend will recognize friend. There is no law of God in nature which shows that God gives back the same identical particles of matter which composed the body before death. God shall give the righteous dead a body that will please Him.” SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, 1093

  1. How did Job express his confidence that the destruction of his body was no obstacle to the resurrection? Job 19:26–27.

  2. What promise do we have that our identity will remain? 1 Corinthians 13:12.

NOTE: “No more broken hearts, no more sadness, no more sins, no more sorrow, no more suffering, in that kingdom of glory. If I am faithful, I expect to meet the loved ones there. Oh! I have everything to be thankful for. I expect to see Jesus, in whom our hopes of eternal life shall have glad fulfillment. I expect to see the Redeemer’s glorified saints, the white-robed ones about the throne, singing the victor’s song. They have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. There they stand by the great white throne, and Jesus, He that was crowned with majesty, glory, and honor, leads them to fountains of living waters. He is to open to us the living truths of the word of God. We have a little of it here; but throughout eternity will be unfolded the rich treasures of truth. I am so glad that He has honored me in giving me a part to act in this work of shedding the light of truth on the earth. I am so thankful that I can be a partaker with Christ of His self-denial and suffering, and finally of His glory. I thank Him with all my heart; with all my voice will I praise the Most High, and glorify Him on the earth. Soon we shall know as we are known.” Review and Herald, December 23, 1884.


  1. What promise did Christ give to the repentant thief? Luke 23:43.

NOTE: Following the original word order in the Greek, this verse reads literally: “And he said to him truly thee I tell today with me thou wilt be in the paradise.” “Today” is an adverb of time and the fundamental grammatical rule requires it to modify the meaning of its nearest verb within the same sentence or clause. This verse contains three verbs, “he said”, “I tell” and “thou wilt be.” Luke clearly places “today” immediately after the verb “I tell” and separates it from the other two verbs. Thus a correct translation of this verse should read: “And He said to him, “Truly today I tell thee, thou wilt be with Me in Paradise.” The reading found in most English versions is wrong, both grammatically and because it does not accord with the words of Christ in John 20:17. ” ‘I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.’ Christ did not promise that the thief should be with Him in Paradise that day. He Himself did not go that day to Paradise. He slept in the tomb, and on the morning of the resurrection He said, ‘I am not yet ascended to My Father.’ John 20:17. But on the day of the crucifixion, the day of apparent defeat and darkness, the promise was given. ‘Today’ while dying upon the cross as a malefactor, Christ assures the poor sinner, ‘Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.’ ” Desire of Ages, 751.

  1. Did Paul teach that when we die, we go to heaven? 2 Corinthians 5:1–8. Compare 1 Corinthians 15:22–23, 51–52.

NOTE: Paul is using figurative language. “Our earthly house of this tabernacle” is the mortal body. “Tabernacle” means tent, a temporary dwelling. Our mortal body is only our temporary dwelling. But if this mortal body is dissolved, “we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

This building of God is not a tent; it is our eternal dwelling. Since the tent is our mortal body, the eternal house must be our immortal body. Paul expresses his desire to have his immortal body in place of this mortal body. Paul does not want to be “naked.” Those who lose this mortal body at death but do not have an immortal body in the heavens will be found naked. Paul does not want to be among those with no hope of eternal life. While we are in our mortal body, (our tent) we groan, not because we want to be “naked” but because we want our mortality to be swallowed up in [eternal] life. All agree, whatever happens at death, that our mortal bodies remain on earth. Those who believe in the immortal soul are actually teaching that, at death, we become naked, that is, without a body of any kind. They are not teaching as Paul did. 1 Corinthians 15:51–54 explains what Paul taught about when we receive immortality. The word “earnest” means a guarantee or a down-payment. The fact that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit in our hearts is God’s guarantee that we shall at last receive eternal life. So we have confidence even though we know that, while we live in the [mortal] body, we are absent from the presence of the Lord. (This confidence is based on our faith in His promise, not on anything we can see.) Our desire would be to be away from this mortal body so that we may be present with the Lord. But Paul is not equating “absent from the body” with the soul going to heaven at death. Paul is not asking to be naked, which is what would happen if his soul went up to heaven at death. Paul wants to receive his immortal body, his “building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” He earnestly desires “to be clothed with our house which is from heaven“. Isn’t Paul clearly saying, “I want Jesus to come so that I can be in His presence and receive my immortal body”?

  1. Does Christ’s parable about the rich man and Lazarus teach that our souls go to heaven or hell when we die? Luke 16:19–31.

NOTE: “In this parable Christ was meeting the people on their own ground. The doctrine of a conscious state of existence between death and the resurrection was held by many of those who were listening to Christ’s words. The Saviour knew of their ideas, and He framed His parable so as to inculcate important truths through these preconceived opinions.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 263.

A parable is a story told to illustrate a spiritual truth. It is dangerous to use the incidental details of a parable as the basis for a doctrine without support from other straightforward Bible passages. In this case, the parable’s lesson is found in verse 31 and the truth of this lesson, and Christ’s purpose in telling it to the Pharisees, is clearly shown in John 11:45–53. Christ’s parable does not teach that the soul goes to heaven or hell. Both the dead men have bodies, since the dead Lazarus possesses a finger while the rich man possesses a tongue. An examination of their graves would reveal that both tongues and fingers remain in the grave. Water would surely be of no interest to a bodiless “soul.” Other details showing that this parable does not portray literal fact include:

  • the description of the saved reclining in Abraham’s bosom. How many of the saved could Abraham comfortably carry at a time? What sort of eternal life would this be for Abraham?
  • the close proximity of heaven and hell. Will the saved and lost both be able to observe each other’s eternal destiny? Will they be able to hold conversations throughout eternity? Would such a prospect be attractive to the saved? Does such a view harmonize with Isaiah 65:17?