The truth is, death for man is simply an end to, and separation from, some given form of life which he has lived in. Death to God is separation from His world of light, by the destruction, through the lie of the serpent, of the divine life of light and love in us. Death to sin, the exact converse of this, is the separation from the world of darkness, by the destruction, through the truth, of the dark life of unbelief and self-love. The death wrought by the law is the end of, and separation from, our fallen carnal life of self-sufficiency; while what is commonly called death, namely the death of the body, is simply our separation from the outward world, in which we live, as partakers of its outward life, while we are in the body. Once let us see that there are three worlds, each having its own life,—a light world, a dark world, and this outward seen world,—and then what is said in Scripture of the new birth, or of the varied deaths we pass through, becomes at once self-evident. For the only way into any world is by a birth into it, even as the only way out of any world is by a death to it. We have by sin died to God's light-world, to fall into and live in a spirit-world of darkness. We must by the truth, that is by Christ, die to this dark spirit-world, to return to live in God's light-world. The outward birth and death of the body, and its life, have only to do with the outward seen world.--Nick
For this reason it is that the word "destruction," as used in Scripture, never means annihilation. Take for instance the words of the 90th Psalm, "Thou turnest man to destruction: again Thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men." Can "destruction" here be annihilation? Is it not rather that dissolution which must take place if fallen creatures are ever to be brought back perfectly to God's kingdom. So, again, Job says, (Job 19:10,) "He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone"; and again, (Job 9:22,) "This one thing I said, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked." But does he mean to say that he is brought to non-existence, or that the "perfect" will be so destroyed that they will exist no longer? So, again, St. Peter says, (2 Pet. 3:6,) "The world that then was perished." So, again, of the present heavens and earth it is said, (Heb. 1:11-12,) "They shall perish, . . . and be changed." So, again, both of Israel and Jerusalem it is said, (Deut. 30:18; Jer. 12:17; 15:6;) that they shall be "destroyed" and "perish." But does any one suppose that therefore they will be annihilated? So, again, as to the expression, "them that perish," sometimes translated "the lost"; (see 2 Cor. 4:3; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15;) do we not know that these "lost," though they "perish," still exist, and exist both as "lost" ones and as "saved" ones, as text on text will testify abundantly. So as to the righteous, in the well-known passage of Isaiah; (Isa. 57:1;) "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart";—is this "perishing" non-existence? So, again, where we read, in Psalm 83:16-18, "Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek thy name, O Lord: let them be confounded and troubled for ever; yea, let them be put to shame and perish; that men" (literally "they," for the word "men" is not in the Original,) "may know that Thou, whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth;"—men are to be "confounded for ever and perish, that they may know Jehovah." So as to the question, "Wilt Thou shew wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise Thee? Shall thy loving-kindness be declared in the grave, or thy faithfulness in destruction?"—is the true answer, Yes, or No? Is not the "losing" or "destruction" of our fallen life the only way to a better one? Does not our Lord Himself say more than once, (Matt. 10:39; 16:25; John 12:25;) that the way to "save our life," or "soul," is to "lose it," or "have it destroyed," in its fallen form, that it may be re-created?
These last words should of themselves settle this question, for in one place, (Matt. 10:39,) they occur in immediate connexion (see Matt. 10:28,) with those other well-known words, as to "fearing him who can destroy both body and soul in hell," which are constantly quoted by some to prove, as they think, that "destruction" must be non-existence. And yet, in the very closest connexion with these words, our Lord repeats this self-same word, "destroy," (in our Authorized Version translated "lose"—it is the word ἀπόλλυμι, on which some build so much,) to express that death and dissolution of the soul, which, so far from bringing it to non-existence, is the appointed way to save it. Christ saves it, as we have seen, by death; for being fallen into sin, what is needed is "that the body of sin should be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." (Rom. 6:6.) The elect, that is the first-fruits, are the living proof of this. A "new man" is created in them, and the "old man" dies and is destroyed, while yet he in whom all this is done remains through all the same person. It may be, and is, a riddle, like "dying, and behold we live: having nothing, and yet possessing all things"; yet it is only the riddle of the Cross, that "by death God destroys him that has the power of death." Therefore, though destruction, like death, may be, and is, a ceasing from some particular form of life which has been lived in by man, yet it is never non-existence absolutely; rather it is the means to bring the fallen creature into a new life, a chaos being ever the necessary condition for a new creation.