What did God mean when he said “you will surely die”?

My second lecture at MMTC last week focused on personal eschatology and in particular the question; what did God mean when he said “you shall surely die”?

Executioner’s axe and block

In Genesis 2:17 the Hebrew term for “you shall surely die” is môt tāmût

Môt = infinitive absolute of “to die”
tāmût = imperfect 2nd person masculine singular of “to die.”

In English the literal translation might be “die! he will die”

The exegesis of the term môt tāmût is key to understanding the nature of the sentence for the guilty, unrepentant, unfaithful sinner. God’s word is true and God is faithful to his word. As môt tāmût is the sentence pronounced in advance by God for Adam’s disobedience, then its meaning needs to be read into the rest of scripture to make sense of the various, apparently contradictory, sentences of conscious torment, destruction and death. If we try to reverse the direction of interpretation, trying to make sense of môt tāmût by reading the rest of scripture back into Genesis 2:17, we can’t solve the contradictions and end up proof texting between eternal conscious torment and annihilation, or stretching the semantic range of death and destruction.

My handouts give the framework for an answer MMTC lectures 3 & 4 personal eschatology

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