Death is a Place – “The Body of This Death”

King James had a problem. The Christians in England were arguing about the correct version of the Bible. Kings don’t like controversy especially about topics where they are not especially informed. He gathered a group of scholars together and using the best Greek, Hebrew and Latin texts translated the King James version still in use today (1604-1611). It is called “authorized” because he authorized its translation. Is it filled with errors? Not really.
His charge to them was to be as faithful as possible to the texts they had, and not to deviate. This they did. Consequently today there are very few glaring mistranslations of God’s word; in fact, many modern translation have improved the use of language through philological sources.
But one place has been mis-translated by modern versions.
Here is the accurate King James:

Romans 7:24 (KJV) | 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Here is the inaccurate New King James Version

Romans 7:24 (NKJV) | 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Let’s look at the Greek original.

ΠΡΟΣ ΡΩΜΑΙΟΥΣ 7:24SBL Greek New Testament (SBLGNT)

24 ταλαίπωρος ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος· τίς με ῥύσεται ἐκ

Our portion:

τοῦ σώματος τοῦ θανάτου τούτου;

All 5 of the most popular Greek versions of the New Testament agree on how this is phrased, including the version I used in seminary the Nestle Text.
Here is the structure of the sentence.
τοῦ: this is the genitive case, both masculine and neuter meaning “of, or belonging to.

σώματος: this neuter word means body, that is a flesh body. It is not to be confused with another word for body, corps, which we use today when we say the Marine Corps, a body of men committed to the same military goals. Or perhaps the word corporation which is a body of workers hired for a group’s benefit.

θανάτου: is the masculine word for death
τούτου: this neuter or masculine demonstrative pronoun means “this”

This passage might mean either this body or this death. But why tamper with the original?

The fact that the word “this” appears at the end of the sentence should erase all doubts as to whether it modifies death or body. It is, at that position, a long way from any reference to the body.  Position in Greek is important.

Furthermore, in Greek tradition, the flesh was evil in and of itself. Hebrew teaching does not endorse this; the Hebrews believed the body was good, inasmuch as God had called everything He made good.
Paul was more Hebrew than Greek and he would not have endorsed anything evil in his physical body.
That leaves us with the clear indication that we must investigate what “this death” is. Clearly it does not refer to being dead at the end of one’s life, or specifically Paul’s life. He is asking for deliverance here and now from not his body but “this death.”
Why would so many modern translations jimmy with this text? Apparently because they believe death is an event. It is not.
Death is a place. When we understand this we can then move on. No one actually dies if they mean a total absence of self. The soul of every man (woman and child) lives on. Where that place of eternal living is, is called either heaven or hell, and that destination depends on the choices one makes in life. You, yes you were created before the foundation of the earth.

Ephesians 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love

Some commentators think this means some are appointed to damnation and others to life. If that is so, and it is not, then the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice is belittled. If men do not have free will, then the whole exercise is pointless.
God had a plan and a place in mind for you, individually. You were born into this place where death reigns.

Romans 5:17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)

If you don’t believe me, look around. Eating a single meal involves something that previously died, be it animal or vegetable. Every human dies eventually. Even the planet is scheduled to die along with the entire universe. (See http://wp.me/p1otAF-lH for an explanation of time and eternity.)
If we recognize that this planet is the place of the First Death then we can comprehend what The Second Death might be.

Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 2:11 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.”

Revelation 20:6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 21:8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
So how plain is this? The Second Death is indeed a place, a lake of fire. A fire that never goes out.
What is also clear is that while the body of the First Death has no permanence, ashes to ashes – dust to dust, another “body” must exist in the Second Death. This is the body that feels fire but never burns up. It is an “eternal” body just as those with “eternal” life have a spiritual body which is not destroyed.

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