I haven’t read the thread, but let me give you a little of my take on the passage you posted. First, just reading this fragment of a sentence doesn’t give a real picture of what Paul was trying to say. For this, he wrote the epistle to the Romans. You just can not take this fragment out of context and have it mean much of anything. I spent quite a long time in a personal study of Romans.
On reading and meditating through Romans, it becomes obvious that Paul is using a definition of “death” that isn’t immediately apparent to most of us today. Death is what you have when you are a slave of sin–that is your portion. From a close reading of the entire letter, you can see that for Paul, in the service of his thesis, death doesn’t have much to do with that moment when the heart stops beating and the brainwaves stop undulating. Jesus seems to have the same view of death that Paul has, as evidenced by certain things He says… For example, He tells Martha (on the death of Lazarus) “Whoever lives and believes on Me shall never die.” I’m pretty sure that Martha eventually died according to the human viewpoint, and I’m sure that Jesus knew she WOULD physically die, so He must have meant something else. He also told the Pharisees that God, who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is not the God of the dead, but of the living. In a prayer He prays, we learn that Jesus’ view of ‘eternal’ life means something different–more–than what WE usually mean: “…and this is eternal life, that they may know You (God) and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (At least, that’s the way the writer quoted Him–probably revising a little to make it easier to understand.) For Jesus (and presumably for Paul), real life consists of knowing God.
Thus, to start with, it’s important to understand that when Paul says that the wage (portion provided by) sin is death. This is not mere physical death, but a lack, a separation from LIFE–real, genuine life. That kind of life is not a thing or a state. It is a relationship with and a oneness with LIFE Himself, with God. This is why the portion of sin is death. It’s not a punishment imposed by God–it’s a natural consequence of a life lived out of fellowship with Him and in slavery to sin.
One of the main themes of Romans is mankind’s slavery to sin and God’s incredible rescue of His creation, starting with His human offspring. Paul explains this in light of his “two Adams” analogy. The first Adam represents natural mankind. All (Jews and Gentiles and Barbarians alike) are dead in sin. One way to look at this is that because humankind always chooses to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (TOKOGE) instead of the tree of life (TOL), we are living from the wrong source. Since our source is NOT God, there is no life in us. We are merely going through the motions of biological machines and (ironically enough) that is how the scientists of the “age of reason” have taught us to think of ourselves. Bereft of the spirit of life, that is all we actually are. BUT God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to deal with sin in the flesh.(Romans 8) Jesus became a new prototype for humankind. In fact “the prototypical human” is one way to translate “Son of Man,” which was Jesus’ s favorite designation for Himself. Paul refers to Jesus as “the last Adam” and as “the second Adam.” In Romans (and elsewhere in scripture) Paul portrays God as seeing all of humankind as an outflow of Adam. Eve came from Adam, and so did all their children–clear up to and including us, today. We are all Adam. But Adam is dead. He partakes of the TOKOGE and worships the attainment and leveraging of knowledge as the means to eternal life. Adam is and always has been wrong. Adam is enslaved to sin (look around you and you will see this clearly) and the only way he can be set free from his bondage is death. THIS death designates death toward sin, not physical death. WE do not have the means to die to sin, aside from dying physically. However, the scriptures say, “Of God, we were in Christ Jesus on the cross.” God did this–HE put us there, in Christ on the cross. Jesus is, if you will, the Mercy Seat. HE is the Ark of the Covenant. We are in Him as He sacrifices Himself to save us. We cannot die to sin, so Father places us safely in the Ark and covers us over with the Mercy Seat and the Son takes us to the cross–the place of death. “He that is dead is freed from sin.”
Still in Christ, we are raised with/in Him to newness of life. I’m going to take a little side trip here. Paul explains something in Romans 6 or 7 that I think is very important. He talks about how he always seems to end up doing the sinful thing he hates rather than the good thing he would much rather do. He says, “If I do that which I hate, it is no longer I, but sin that dwells in me.” Granted, this situation is a pre-regeneration condition, however regeneration doesn’t occur in our flesh (including our thought processes) as instantly as it does in our spirits. Nevertheless, when we do sin (which we should absolutely avoid like we would avoid the most disgusting pile of doggie doo)–as I say, when we do sin, it is not ourselves as the “One New Man” in Christ who do the sin, but rather the residue of the old man (our fleshly bodies), which will not be completely saved until the resurrection. When we are saved, we are given a new heart, but we are commanded to renew our minds, and we are promised that our bodies too will be redeemed at the resurrection. Thus there are these three stages of salvation which we are brought through by the Holy Spirit.
Back to the main point–Paul is very clear, IMO, that the old Adam–ALL of the old Adam (which is to say, all humankind)–is put to death in Christ so that ALL Adam may be raised to eternal life (the God kind of life). “As in Adam all died, even so in Christ all are made alive.” I think this is in chapter nine, but I might be mistaken about that.
This is (believe it or not) a very short exposition of your “problem” verse. As you can see if I’ve expressed myself adequately, the passage describes not the state of the sinner who refuses to repent and is therefore subject to hellfire (or annihilation), but rather the state of the entire human race up until the time that we are reconciled to LIFE (AKA God). Note that it is WE who must be reconciled to Him. We are the prodigal son; He is the Good Father who is eager for His child to return to Him. God does not need to be reconciled to His offspring. He longs for His offspring to return to Him and receive His loving welcome and His blessings. He longs for us to reject death and to finally eat from the TOL and with the LIFE, to receive also the knowledge–but as a servant and not as a master or a god. “He who has offered up His Son for us, how will He not also with Him, freely give us all (things)?” ALL awaits us. When we are reconciled to the Father in the Son, we have ALL. Nothing will or can be denied to us in that blessed state of life. “The portion of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”