Q) How did people come up with the second death meaning “Separation from God”?
A) Only four times in the Bible is the term “Second Death” mentioned: Revelation 2:11, Revelation 20:6 & 14, and Revelation 21:8. We have been taught that this “Second Death” means permanent separation from God.
The physical death process involves the separation of the human spirit or soul from the physical body. The death of Rachel, Jacob’s wife, was described as her “soul” departing from her “body” (Genesis. 35:18). At the point of death, the body returns to the dust, but the spirit returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7) —who will deal with it appropriately (Genesis. 18:25).
The death of the body is biblically defined by the departure of the spirit (James. 2:26)
Spiritual death is the condition of being alienated from Jehovah. Since sin separates a person from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), the state of being estranged from the Creator is depicted metaphorically as the person being dead. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, that very “day” they died (Genesis. 2:17; & 3:8,23), therefore, they were separated from fellowship with the Lord (though other implications likely are involved as well; see 3:19).
Prior to their conversion, the Ephesian saints had been spiritually “dead” (Ephesians 2:1), or alienated from the Lord (Ephesians 2:12-13). It is possible to be “dead” spiritually while alive physically. Paul declared that the widow who devotes herself to pleasure is “dead,” even though she is alive (1 Tim. 5:6). Christ wrote a letter to the church in Sardis wherein he described a significant portion of these disciples as “dead” (Revelation. 3:1), that is they had drifted from Christian fidelity.
The second death is an ultimate and eternal separation from God. This condition is characterized as the second death because it follows physical death; it is designated as death because it is the terminal separation from the Lord (Matthew. 7:23; 25:41; & 2 Thessalonians 1:9).