Everything the serpent has said proved true. Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened (Gen 3:7). They did become like God—seemingly independent. Thing is, everything he said also had a twist: they could see their nakedness and hid. They knew good and evil and were culpable. The serpent also said they wouldn’t die—and they didn’t die! Precedence would have us look at what exactly death means in the text and did it happen to Adam.
Today, what does death mean? If a body continues to function yet brain activity is minimal is a person dead? If a person is prevented from final expiration via mechanical means is the person truly alive? If a person is prevented from being born are they dead? If a person’s mind is transferred into a computer shell so that their persona persists yet their body decays, are they alive? Some folk think of death as The End or finality. Other people look at death as “rot” or “decomposition”—a stage in the life-cycles.
Adam didn’t immediately die as is evidenced by his lifespan of 930 years (Gen 5:5). That would make Adam’s death a final nail in the coffin (sorry) of a long life of work and sweat (Gen 3:17-19). That being the case, some have taken death in this passage to not mean the cessation of physical life.
Taking Romans 5:12, 21, some have taken Adam’s death to be spiritual. Adam literally spiritually died. Perhaps Man, being three parts (as a proof-text 1 Thes 5:23 but without personally supporting this view): Physical (which lives but eventually dies), Soul (which is who we are, our Being) and Spirit (which is the part that relates to God but is dead)—can continue to physically live although that component is dead. Therefore, Adam immediately became 1/3rd dead another 1/3rd ready to die and the thing that persists is his Soul or Being. Perhaps Adam (and man in general) consists of two parts (1 Cor 5:5 or 2 Cor 4:16): Outer and Inner or Flesh and Spiritual—one decaying the other dead.
A hard and fast definition of death could be the cessation of physical life, which includes the cessation of all physical activity pertaining to life. So then taking a corpse and moving it around ala Weekend At Bernie’s isn’t really life—it’s a farce of life. With this definition a man who is physically dead can’t respond, react, reproduce—he can only rot. Likewise a man who is spiritually dead can’t respond to anything spiritual, react to anything spiritual, and reproduce anything spiritual. Perhaps Adam could spiritually rot—I don’t know. I’m just talking here.
Adam’s spiritual death happened that very day and would render him deaf to God or anything dealing with god-ness—be it facsimiles or otherwise. This wouldn’t demand that all of his kids be in the same position but Romans 5 does seem to make something in Adam’s act inheritable. A spiritually dead person shouldn’t be able to respond to God or any god—they have no spiritual component. They shouldn’t even have a desire to have a spiritual life. Not even a blip of a spiritual urge.
That doesn’t line up with what we experientially know. People have religious leanings and even zealously so. They have a spiritual need (as evidenced by the amazing amounts of world religions).
That doesn’t line up with what we survey in Scripture because what may be known of God is manifest in men, for God has shown it to them (Rom 1:19) and they suppress the knowledge themselves (Rom 1:18). They reject the love of the truth, refuse to obey it, and turn after their own path. The Bible refers to the physical dead responding (1 Thes 4:16) and reacting (John 11).
Perhaps death in Adam’s case is more like the general usage of death throughout Scripture: a form of separation. A dead womb: the separation of the purpose of the womb (giving birth) from the womb. The womb can be opened but it’s not like the womb is made anew. The death of a living being: the separation of the being from life. The dead can live again either in the same body or a re-created body. The death of your members: the separation of a body part from the rest of the body. The body part can live again by being rejoined to the body miraculously (and currently scientifically). Burying your dead: the separation of those family members from your home. The relationship is ended although it may be renewed at a later date. Cut-off: the separation of a member of the community. They were either stoned or sent outside of the camp; where they could be seen and spoken to but with a heavy condemnation upon those who did it.
Adam’s death would be the separation of A Being from God’s Responsibility—not relying on God’s choices (and thence leaving matters in his creator’s hands) but taking the responsibility (and onus) upon himself. Adam knew what was right and wrong before hand, but by stepping outside of God’s oversight he put himself in a position where he knows better than God: he has become like God. That being the case each decision he makes, from thought to action, is held under divine scrutiny. Does it measure up to the Divine meter? Adam, as a finite being now held culpable on a divinely perfect scale finds an infinite impossibility in attaining the divine perfection.
God would of course know every detail about man; from the hairs on their head to their intentions. God could act within the lives of men, placing situations where men are held responsible for their response (ie: Romans 1, Nature evidencing God’s sovereignty and power and that being the meter by which some men are proven guilty). God would not want any to perish and could offer a savior for all of mankind but especially for those who believe that He would do such a thing and who that Savior is.
This is way shorter than it should be and doesn’t do justice to the scope of the subject matter, but I’ll let it lie there.