Author: Ron Graham
States of the Soul
—Changeable and unchangeable
Studying the scriptures, we become aware that there are seven possible states in which the human soul can exist. This lesson is about these.
Three of the seven states of the soul belong to our sojourn in this life in this world, and are changeable states. They are the states of innocence, spiritual death, and spiritual life.
Innocence is the first state of every human soul. It is the state acquired by every human being at conception.
The soul before physical conception
Down through the ages, there have been many theories about some kind of pre-existence of a person's soul. These theories hold that a person's soul exists in some state before the person's physical conception and birth.
Some theories have ideas about past lives. Some beliefs describe a storehouse of souls kept in waiting. The Bible does not teach any of these things, therefore we have not added a "waiting" state to make eight states altogether. Instead we simply refer to "no state" prior to conception.
There are indications in the Bible that a soul is brought into existence when a new human being is conceived in the womb. For example Psalm 139:13-16.
A state of grace
Innocence is a state of grace, not a state of merit. An infant does not deserve eternal life by virtue of its innocence, since he or she has done no works by which to claim merit.
All human beings rely on the grace of God through the righteousness of Christ. Although infants are innocent of sin, they have no righteousness of their own, but rather "the righteousness of God in Christ" (2Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus recognised the state of innocence and grace in little children. "The kingdom of God belongs to such as these" (Luke 18:15-17). Nobody is born a sinner, nor is sin inherited from one’s fathers. Nobody is condemned before having grown up and committed personal sin.
- "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:2-4).
- The "spirit returns to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7). God does not give a depraved or contaminated spirit.
- The soul or spirit is a gift of God, and all God's gifts are "good and perfect" (James 1:17).
What David says
Some will try to cancel out these facts with David’s statement, "I was brought forth in iniquity... In sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalms 51:5).
However this must be interpreted so as not to contradict the other scriptures. David is not saying he was sinful as a child in the womb. He is just saying that through conception he was brought into a sinful world. The terms "in iniquity... in sin" simply mean, in this poem, "in an environment of sin".
David also says, "You wove me in my mother's womb..." (Psalms 139:13-16). Here David attributes procreation to the Creator. God brought David (and every other child) into being in the womb. God can only weave something good. He cannot weave something corrupted. Therefore the child in the womb is in a state of innocence.
Note:— In sin did my mother... It is possible that David is attributing sin to his mother in particular rather than to the world in general. The Bible does not say who David's mother was, nor does it tell us anything about the union that caused David to be conceived. If the union was not according to God’s law, then David could be lamenting (in Psalms 51:5) that his sin with Bathsheba followed the sin of his mother and father. He is not saying that he was a sinner in the womb.
Innocence becomes a changeable state when a person can accountably exercise will. When a person’s will is exercised to commit sin for the first time, that person makes a transition to the state of spiritual death (James 1:13-15).
2 Spiritual Death
When one first sins, one is said to have "died" (Rom7:9-11), and to be "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). In this state, a person is “dead in” the sense of being "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18). In this sense death is a state of separation from life but not from existence.
"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). The penalty of sin is death, meaning the loss of everlasting life.
Includes the state of apostasy
Spiritual death is also the state of the apostate —one who, having been forgiven and having entered into the state of spiritual life, quits and falls back reverting to this state of condemnation (2Peter 2:20-22, Hebrews 10:26-31).
Please note that there is a difference between the apostate who has fallen away from grace, and the believer in the state of spiritual life and grace who is struggling with sin (1John 1:5-10).
Spiritual death is a changeable state in this world. A person’s repentance in faith and obedience permits a transition to the state of spiritual life. (Acts 2:38-39).
3 Spiritual Life
When one is "born again" in Christ (John 3:3), one becomes "a new creature" forgiven in Christ, "dead to sin and alive to God" Romans 6:4,11). Being dead to sin is the opposite of being dead in sin.
The death of Jesus makes spiritual life possible for any sinner, given the sinner’s personal faith, repentance, and baptism John 3:16, Acts 2:38).
A state of grace
The state of spiritual life is like the state of innocence. It's a state of grace, not a state of merit. Spiritual life is a gift. "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
"But God who is rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:4-5).
In the case of one who has fallen away from spiritual life, a renewal of faith and repentance, with prayer for forgiveness, brings the fallen Christian back to spiritual life (Acts 8:13,18-24).
The amazing promise
"Anyone in Christ is a new creature: old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new" (2Corinthians 5:17).
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk by the way of the flesh, but by the way of the Spirit" (Romans 8:1).
The state of spiritual life or "death to sin" is a changeable state in this world. It is untouchable by anyone but the person who enjoys it. It is conditional upon that person being committed to it. If you have spiritual life, it cannot be taken away from you —"if you continue in the faith" (Colossians 1:22-23).
4 Doomed in Hades
Of the seven possible states of the soul, two belong to the realm of the dead called Hades in the New Testament and Sheol in the Old. All souls go to Hades after physical death, but all souls are not in the same state. There are in fact two Hadean states, each quite opposite of the other. One is a state of doom. The other is a state of safety.
The place called Hades
Hades is the "unseen" nether world where the souls of the dead await the resurrection at the second coming of Christ. Hades (Sheol in the Old Testament) is sometimes translated or interpreted as "the grave". The Psalmist indeed refers to "Sheol" and then to "the pit" (Psalms 30:3).
Some assert that the Psalmist is speaking of the grave where the fleshly body decays at death. The Psalmist, however, speaks of Sheol as a place for the "soul" and nobody's soul has ever been buried in a grave. Another translation of Sheol is "hell" which confuses Sheol with Gehenna, the eternal abode of the wicked.
Because of these problems some translators prefer to merely merely transliterate, thus they put the words Sheol and Hades.
In Hades, many await the day of Judgment without any hope of Heaven because they do not know Christ. This is the doomed state of all unbelieving and disobedient who have died physically. The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is in this setting (Luke 16:19-31).
No second chance
In contradiction of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, there is a common belief that Christ “descended into hell” where he preached to the damned. Many in hell took this opportunity to be saved and Christ led them out of hell at his resurrection, and into heaven at his ascension.
The “proof” that Christ preached to people in hell, is thought to be Peter's statement that Christ "went and preached to the spirits in prison" (1Peter 3:19).
However that is an anachronism, because the time of this preaching is clearly stated as "in the days of Noah". Peter is referring to Christ preaching through Noah to a sinful world (1Peter 3:19).
Jesus said to the thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). This shows that Jesus, when he died, did not go into hell, or into the bad side of Hades, but into the good side of Hades. In the parable that is represented as a paradise where Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom.
5 Safe in Hades
In Hades, many await Judgment day in the assurance that they have been counted righteous and worthy of Heaven in Christ (Hosea 13:14).
This is the blessed state of those who have died in the Lord whether innocent or forgiven (Revelation 14:13, Luke 23:43, Luke 16:19-31).
This blessed state is an unchangeable state in world of the dead.
Now we come lastly to the two eternal states which will apply after the judgment of the world at Christ’s second coming. These two states are sometimes referred to as “the final states” because the other five states will be no more, and all human souls will exist forever in either one of these final states.
These are unchangeable states. The only journeys associated with these states are journeys into them. There are no journeys out.
6 Eternal Death
Misery and banishment from God for ever, awaits those who failed to obey the gospel while living on earth. This everlasting anguish of the outcast, punished with Satan and his demonic angels, occurs on Judgment Day (Matthew 25:41,46, Revelation 20:12-15).
7 Eternal Life
Rapture and joy with God for ever, awaits those who obeyed the gospel or remained innocent while living on earth. This everlasting bliss of the innocent and forgiven, made acceptable to God through Jesus, occurs on Judgment Day. (John 3:16, Romans 6:23, Matthew 25:34,46).