God says in Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Satan picks up on this statement, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.”
Satan was right! Satan knew something was “off” about that statement by God. Sure enough, the day they ate of the tree they did not die.
Now, let’s consider what is going on here, since we have liberty to do so! Here are some options:
1) God meant spiritual death; Satan meant physical death. If you’ve ever read the Gospel of John, Jesus is continually saying things about spiritual birth, spiritual water, spiritual bread and yet people hear physical stuff all the time. This is a constant point of confusion in Scripture–God being spiritually minded and humans being physically minded. I’m guessing Adam and Eve understood this as physical death, but then again, they might have been entirely clueless what “die” meant either way!
2) God changed His mind. It is possible that God was going to kill them right off after eating the forbidden fruit and then relented, being gracious as He is. Jonah thought of this when he refused to go to Nineveh. “I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” God has changed His mind (repented) of judgment several times in the OT. Perhaps He meant immediate, physical death, but out of His grace He relented.
3) God lied. This is a poor choice, one I’d omit from the start. God doesn’t lie. Whatever is going on here, God is not lying.
4) “Die” meant “the process of death entered.” In other words, He meant, “in the day you eat of it you will begin to die.” The NIV, in it’s highly offensive habit of interpreting while “translating,” says “for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Making it sound like you will die because you ate of it, but not necessarily that day. The New Living Translation, one step below the NIV, says “If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” They will die because they ate from The Tree, this is true, but God certainly seems to be saying you will die that day you eat it.
I think the best option, and there may be others I am unaware of, is option one. God meant spiritual death and people/Satan heard physical death.
What we do know is that Satan used this point to cast doubt in Eve’s mind and it worked quite well. As a result of this doubt, Eve ate from the tree and death came.
The Bible is filled with tough words. Faith is what God is looking for and the only mindset that will allow you to understand what God is talking about. Some of the words divide between believers and unbelievers. Some of the words are to test believers to make sure they are genuine.
They aint all easy but I do believe that what has been revealed belongs to us and we need to do the work to find out what is going on.