by Hiram R. Diaz III
[N.B. The author's argument here assumes, for the sake of argument, that "the man" was the whole man and not Adam's body only. This is because the annihilationist's conception of life as being breathed into man in Genesis 2:7 requires such an interpretation. The thrust of the argument presented here is this: If Adam is wholly and entirely present after God has molded him from the earth, then the problem of Adam ensues.]
The Wages of Sin is Lifelessness?
Annihilationists capitalize on the fact that Scripture teaches the wages of sin is death. This punishment for transgressing of God’s law is first found in Genesis 2:16-17, where God declares:
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
As elaborated upon elsewhere, the promise of death is more than a promise that the sinner will be rendered a lifeless, non-conscious body. In Genesis 3:14-19, God elaborates on the nature of the death promised, and the reduction of man to the dust from which he was formed is only an aspect of that death. In these verses, in fact, the only person to explicitly receive the promise of returning to the dust is Adam, as the following table demonstrates.
1. Cursed above all livestock
2. Cursed above all beasts of the field
3. Made to travel on his belly
4. Made to eat dust all the days of his life
5. Set in opposition to the woman
6. Set in opposition to the seed of the woman
7. Will be bruised by the foot of the woman’s seed
1. Labor pains in bringing forth children
2. Unfulfilled desire for her husband
3. Ruled by husband
1. Futility in work
3. Return to the dust
There is no doubt that the serpent and the woman will also “return to the dust,” but this is not explicitly mentioned in God’s elaboration of the death he promised in Gen 2:16-17. What is common among the judgments explicitly mentioned concerning the three persons is separation, conflict, antagonism, turmoil, pain, suffering, futility. Death entered into the creation through Adam’s sin, and that death entails, but is not limited to, the body’s “return to the dust.”
Thus, though death entails lifelessness, death is not itself lifelessness. This is borne out elsewhere in the Scriptures. For instance, idols are identified as without breath in Psalm 135:15-18. Seeing as they were never alive to begin with, the idols cannot be said to be dead. They are lifeless, but they are not dead. Similarly, Paul identifies musical instruments as lifeless or without breath in 1st Cor 14:7. As rocks, dust, and air are lifeless but not dead, so too the idols of the nations, as well as the musical instruments Paul alludes to are lifeless but not dead.
The Problem of Adam
Annihilationists’ identification of dead men as lifeless, non-conscious bodies is a theme that frequently appears in their stated belief that the wicked will not be tortured eternally but die the second death. This second death, they argue, is to be understood as we “normally” understand the first death, i.e. as the reduction of a man to a lifeless, non-conscious body. Its primary differences are (a.)the soul will be killed in the second death, whereas it is not in the first death, and (b.)the second death will never be followed by a return to life, unlike the first death which is followed by a resurrection and time of punishment.
Problematically, however, the Scriptures teach that Adam, prior to receiving the breath of life from God was a lifeless, non-conscious body. As it is written:
…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the earth…
“The man” (Heb. אָדָם, 'adam) was present in the garden, but lacked life and consciousness. Thus, if being-dead means being-a-lifeless-non-conscious-body, then Adam, before he even lived, was dead. Employing the law of transitivity we have the following:
If Adam (A) is a lifeless, non-conscious body (B),
and a lifeless, non-conscious body (B) is a dead man (C),
then Adam (A) is a dead man (C).
As noted above, death did not come into the world until Adam sinned. Prior to this moment, there were no dead men. Consequently, there were no men who were in a state of death. Being-dead, in other words, cannot be equivalent to being-a-lifeless-non-conscious-body, or Adam was dead in the garden of Eden before he was alive.
It is not the case that being a lifeless, non-conscious body is equivalent to being a dead man. Therefore, any attempt to identify the punishment of death as the reduction of a living man to a lifeless, non-conscious body cannot be logically or Scripturally maintained. Those who are dead cannot exist in the same state that Adam existed in prior to him being alive, moreover, without the Scriptures then contradicting themselves by implicitly asserting that the state of being-dead existed prior to death existing in the world, and explicitly stating in another place that death entered into the world through Adam’s sin.
Whatever death is, in other words, it cannot be the reduction of a living man to a lifeless, non-conscious body. The state of being-dead has to be distinct from any state that existed prior to the fall, and that state is one of separation from God.
 Rom 6:23.
 See Diaz, Hiram R. “Does the Doctrine of Hell Conflict with Penal Substitutionary Atonement?” Biblical Trinitarian, http://www.biblicaltrinitarian.com/2016/10/does-doctrine-of-hell-conflict-with.html.
 Gen 2:7a.
 viz. If A is B, and B is C, then A is C.
 This would also imply, of course, that rocks, air, and dirt were and are still also dead, which is clearly absurd.