The Primary and Obvious Meaning of “Death” – An Excerpt

what-is-death-lolThe following quotation is taken from William Cochrane’s work against Conditional Immortality/Annihilationism, and other heretical views of the final end of man (e.g. universalism, etc). The book is free on Google Books. You can find it here.


We cannot accept the Annihilationists’ view of the death threatened in Eden, because they do not themselves adhere to it, and cannot adhere to it, without coming into direct conflict with what they acknowledge to be the teaching of Scripture. Those who embrace the phase of the doctrine of Conditional Immortality with which we are dealing, maintain (1) that the death threatened in Eden, and death in the primary and obvious sense of the word, are one and the same ; and both imply the extinction of a general Judgment, where the wicked shall have such punishment inflicted on them, as will issue in their final annihilation. It must be evident to any one who reflects that these positions are mutually destructive.

We turn to Gen. v. 5, and we read, “And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.” This is certainly death in its plain and obvious, in its primary sense. Then, of course, according to Mr. White, he “utterly and wholly ceased to be.” He was, as another writer has it, resolved into his “elemental atoms.” These existed before he was created, and they exist after he is dead, but, if death is the cessation of being, in no other sense did Adam exist after he died, than he existed before his creation. And, as “it has been appointed unto men once to die,” it follows that all who have passed away from this earthly scene, have ceased to be : “they have returned to the earth, and have become as though they had not been.”

But what has ceased to be cannot be raised up again. The rain drops of this year are not a resurrection of the rain drops of last year. The sounds which issue from the tolling bell to-day are no resurrection of the tones which came from it yesterday. A resurrection implies continuity of being. If Adam ceased to be, when he died, he cannot be raised up again. Another man may be created in his likeness, but the original Adam is gone for ever. When a great teacher, to whom Annihilationists pay some respect, would establish the resurrection of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and of the dead generally, he did so by proving that these patriarchs continued to live long after they were, in the primary sense of the word, dead. Math. xxii. 23-32. He knew that a creation is one thing, and a resurrection another.

But when we press Annihilationists with the consideration that, if death is the extinction of being, a resurrection is impossible, they meet us with the statement that, owing to the remedial system introduced by Christ, none of the human race will be annihilated, in the body; and in order to permit of the reconstitution of the identical transgressor, we hold that his spirit is preserved in its individuality from dissipation in the death of the man, to be conjoined again to the body at the day of Judgment.” Life in Christ P. 130. Hudson informs us that ” the soul is an entity not destroyed by the death ot the body, however dependent it may be on embodiment for the purposes of active existence.” Debt and Grace. P. 261.

This no doubt secures continuity of being, and renders a resurrection possible. But what becomes of death as the cessation of existence? What has befallen the primary meaning of death, the plain and obvious meaning, the meaning to which all dictionaries of all the languages in the world bear witness? What has become of that meaning which Adam gathered from observation of the animal system around him? It has surely been resolved into its elemental atoms, and has ” become as though it had not been “!! The possibility of a resurrection is preserved, but it is by renouncing what we have been told, with wearisome reiteration, is the plain and obvious meaning of death, as the extinction of being. It turns out that, although the Bible says Adam died, he is not dead. Abraham did not die. The rich man did not die, before he lifted up his eyes in Hades, being in torments.

Lazarus did not die, before angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. And Jesus Christ did not die on Calvary. For not one of these, ” utterly and wholly ceased to be.” Nay, we must go farther: we are forced to accept two remarkable generalizations, viz., (1) that from the beginning of the world down to our own day, not one human being has died, in the plain and obvious, in the primary sense of the word, and not one human being shall die, until after the General Judgment, and (2) that while the Bible speaks familiarly, on almost every page, of death, in what mankind regard as its ordinary and primary meaning, in no single they assign to it in the threatening in Eden!! We are asked to believe that what the Bible everywhere calls death is in reality not death, in its plain and obvious meaning; and this too by men who insist that we must always follow the simple and primary meaning of the word!

-Future Punishment, or, Does Death End Probation? 146-149.


4 thoughts on “The Primary and Obvious Meaning of “Death” – An Excerpt

  1. Daniel says:

    That is definetely worth reading, clear reasoning and profound teachings. The final paragraph confused me a little, in a good way. What would be the authors point? Is it that the so-called plain and obvious meaning of death is not the cessation of being? I could agree with that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hiram says:

      Daniel, you’ve got it ;) Cochrane is contesting the definition of death given by conditionalists of his time. They defined death as, in so many words, the cessation of being. So Cochrane is just doing the logical work in order to show how absurd and unbiblical their definition of death is.

      Thanks for your comments!


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