I want to jump ahead for a moment, but please bear with me. Adam’s sin thwarted God’s original plan for man. His treasonous act brought Spiritual Death to the life of humanity
“Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and as a result of that sin, death came and spread to all men, no one is able to stop it or to escape its power because all men sinned” —Romans 5:12
This verse gives us a picture of the Spiritual Death that was waiting to enter into the spirit of man. Man’s sin is the door that threw open his spirit to this dreaded nature. Most teaching about the fall of man focuses on Physical Death. We already talked about the essence of man—the spirit of man—and how it allowed us to walk in fellowship with God—who is a spirit being.
It was into this spirit of man that Death entered. Now this does not mean that the man ceased to be a spiritual being—or that the man ceased to exist. The term Spiritual Death is not a state of non-existence; it is a state of existence—separated and alienated from God and, more importantly for our understanding, in union with Satan.
There are actually three kinds of death mentioned in the Scriptures. We are all familiar with Physical death. This is a violent and unnatural separation of man’s spirit and soul from his body. The second death mentioned in Scriptures is the separation of man’s spirit from God (Ephesians 4:18). We find the third death mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15. This is an eternal separation of man from God. It is a state of existence where the nature of God is no longer—and will never—be accessible. (What a horrendous thought!)
Spiritual death is real. Ephesians 2:1-3 explains that we were dead in our transgressions and sins and followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us gratified the cravings of our sinful nature and followed its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
All of the real powers today are spiritual. According to John 4:24, God is a spirit; Ephesians 6:12 tells us that Satan is a spirit; and I Thessalonians 5:23 explains that man is a spirit. Humanity, created in the image of God, is dependent on a higher power than his own for his spiritual life. He must share either God’s nature or Satan’s nature. As Bob Dillon sang, “You Gotta Serve Somebody.”
What do you think would have happened if man had been allowed to eat from the Tree of Life? It would have united man with God—but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, united man with Satan.
As I already mentioned, the moment Adam committed his act of Treason he died spiritually. Spiritual Death came first, and demonstrated its reality by destroying physical life. After man died spiritually, his body became mortal, or death-doomed. The physical death came because of—as the result of—spiritual death.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome