The 'ORIGINAL INTENT' of 'Wage of Sin' Quote.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 6:23

I do have to tell you all. I am not very religious. And I probably never was. (Although I think I was, when I was younger.) I believe in God, and not much else. But I do still follow the Bible a little, because I know the importance it has in some people’s lives. (I do also consider myself a Christian, perhaps a nominal one at least, now too, FWIW.)

But about 30 years ago, when I was still in hs, I started receiving magazines and other material from the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong. I have to tell you, I wasn’t really planning on joining. But the materials were free (so I couldn’t beat the price), and he always did have something interesting to say.

The WCG has an interesting belief system. Inspired by Biblical passages, like the one above, they do not believe in an immortal soul. They believe your very MORTAL soul, undergoes purification, and complete extermination, in the fires of hell. But is that what that passage literally says?

I have to make clear, this is original intent in the extreme, that I am looking for here. I don’t care how other churches interpreted it later. I don’t care how they interpret it now. What was the meaning of “death” in the above passage, to the person who originally wrote it?

Total extermination of the soul? Is that what he really meant? Maybe he meant capital punishment? Maybe he meant God would smite you. You can see the confusion it might cause. So I am just looking for the original intent of the above passage–and to a lesser extent, I am also looking for the original views of the afterlife, of people who wrote the New Testament, too.

As I said, I am just curious, myself. But I think there are also many people who need to know, the WCG members at the very least.


There are three beliefs about the fate of the soul that can be supported using passages from the bible. The orthodox Christian view is that the “unsaved” will suffer eternal, conscious torment in hell. The annihilationist view, that unsaved souls are extinguished or destroyed, is the one supported by the verse you cite, and others, including the often-quoted John 3:16. The third view is universalism, the idea that all souls will ultimately be saved. Annihilationism and universalism are minority beliefs.

Famous pastor Rob Bell’s book Love Wins lays out the case for universalism in an easy to read style, although the book seems to avoid bluntly stating that Bell is a universalist. C.S. Lewis may have been a universalist. His book The Great Divorce is a fictional tale describing how souls might be reconciled to God after death.

The annihilationist case is addressed in a scholarly style in a book called The Fire That Consumes by theologian Edward Fudge.

Like many orthodox Christian views, the eternal punishment position is supported clearly by some verses, but is directly contradicted by others. The orthodox position requires “using scripture to interpret scripture”, which sometimes means coming to believe that some passages don’t mean what they clearly say.

It is interesting to read old testament references to death and afterlife. The Jewish belief throughout most of the old testament appears to have been that all souls went to a bleak underworld called sheol. It was not a place of punishment, it was just where dead people went. By the time Jesus came along, some Jews believed in a resurrection of the righteous, while others, like the Sadducees, didn’t.

Interestingly enough, Cracked just ran an article on this very organization…

My take. Sin is Original Sin, the primal sin committed by Adam and Eve in disobeying their maker, thus condemning themselves and all their descendants to the death of the body and the pains of hell for the soul in the afterlife. Jesus, by his suffering and death, redeemed men and by his sacrifice conquered Death and Sin. Those who follow him (such was the original Christian belief) will not die but partake of the Kingdom of God on the return of Jesus, which was imminent. Those who deny him and are not washed clean of Sin will reap the wages thereof: the death of the body and the eternal pains of hellfire. The wages of Sin is Death.

Paul (aka Saul of Tarsus), the author of Romans, meant that the consequences of sin was death in the eternal sense. There would be no eternal life without a blood sacrifice, consistent with Hebrew teaching.

The orthodox protestant view of the verse is that death means separation from God. Thus the soul in hell is dead even if still existing.

Omar Little, that’s a pretty confident statement about what the author of Romans meant(ignoring the fact that Paul is not universally recognized as the actual author). It contradicts the most common Christian orthodox interpretation.

In Colossians 2:13 (also attributed to Paul), the author says “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” (NIV) So clearly when Paul talks about “death” he does not refer to it as a permanent state: You were dead, but Christ has made you alive. So I’m not convinced that the “death” referred to in Romans 6 is eternal annihilation. Personally, I’m a universalist myself – believing that the love and joy of God are ultimately irresistible, even after the death of our body. And that God’s mercy and grace are infinite, and do not stop at the grave.

Means that sin means one goes to Hell. Although in a literal sense Adam and Eve were immortal, as I understand it, before committing Original Sin, at which point they became mortal and would die some day.

At the risk of hijacking the thread: cite? Some of the letters attributed to Paul are believed by many scholars not to have been actually written by Paul, but I’ve never heard that Romans is one of them.

No, you’re correct, I had a momentary brain cramp. The consensus of most scholars is that Romans is authentically Pauline. Somehow it got reversed in my head.

I think you have to look at the surrounding scriptures to understand any one verse. The entire chapter talks about death in a way that clearly does not mean literal death, since he says that all of them have already died. (6:2 “We have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer!”) In Romans 7, he explicitly says that sin had put him to death while he was still yet alive. (7:11: “For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.”)

In that context, it seems that death need not be some final thing. Now this doesn’t prove it isn’t, but it does prove it doesn’t have to be.

Common Christian interpretation is that the death that Paul refers to is eternal separation from God. It is only permanent once you come before God for judgment. Without atonement for that sin, you cannot be in the presence of God for eternity. Belief in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins is that atonement.

Instead of the both of your referring to “common” Christian interpretation, might it not be clearer if you refer to the major denominations you are referring to? As it now stands, “common” seems to mean(at least to me) “that which I believe or was brought up to believe”.