Question: What is the Downward Spiral of the unbeliever?

            Everyone knows an unbeliever can be sinful.  There are unbelievers like Hitler who are responsible for the murders of millions.  There are far more civilized unbelievers like Madalyn Murray O’hare, who may have not hurt anyone physically, but have spiritually deceived thousands with the American Atheists organization she founded.  Why is this even important?  It’s important to understand the downward spiral of an unbeliever and understand the spiritual bridge that needs to be built in order to share the gospel.  As a following article will explain, it is the same downward spiral that a believer can descend. It is also important to understand that when God takes the life of an unbeliever, it is His mercy in action.
There are seven steps of the downward spiral followed by the final stage called the Sin unto Death.  The acrostic NEBISCOS can be used to explain these seven steps and Romans 1:20-32 is the perfect passage.  See if you can note the seven steps as you read the passage below. Paul writes,
·         20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
·         21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
·         22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
·         23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man– and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
·         24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
·         25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
·         26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
·         27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
·         28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
·         29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
·         30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
·         31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;
·         32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.  (Rom. 1:20-32) 
We know that this is describing the unbeliever, because Paul describes the person who has suppressed the truth and is without excuse (Rom. 1:18-19).  Furthermore, while it says “they knew God,” (Rom. 1:21) the word for “knew” refers to “knowing” (ginosko-)God, described in Romans. 1:18-19, but not fully knowing (epiginosko-) God, which is true of a believer. The following describes the unbeliever’s seven steps of the downward spiral.
The first step following the acrostic NEBISCOS is Negative Volition.  Negative Volition recognizes the free will choice the unbeliever has to choose against God. Paul writes, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.” Note the two choices the unbeliever makes: 1)  did not glorify God and 2) were not thankful.  These are two key characteristics of unbelievers related to God.  They make light of God, rather than make Him exalted and they are not thankful for who and what God is.
The second step following the acrostic NEBISCOS is Emptiness of the Soul. Paul uses the phrase, “but became futile in their thoughts,” which word “futile” (mataiote-s) refers to the vacuum of the soul.  Inside every person is a God-shaped vacuum, as Paschal stated, that only God can fill.  However, if the person rejects God, the soul will suck in anything and everything around it from the world. If the person does not fill his soul with biblical truth, he will fill it with worldliness by default. He is likely not even aware that he is sucking in the world-views around him.
The third step in the acrostic NEBISCOS is Blackout of the Soul.  Paul uses the phrase, “their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Rom. 1:21)  Just like the inside of a vacuum cleaner gets very dirty and dark, so the inside of the soul of an unbeliever becomes very degenerate and dark.  The unbeliever cannot change this, no matter how civil he wants to be. His soul will become more and more darkened toward the things of God as he looks to the world for his blessing.
The fourth step in the acrostic NEBISCOS is Induced Ignorance. This is induced, because as the soul is darkened, the unbeliever is not able to understand the things of God and it creates and environment of greater and greater ignorance (1 Cor. 2:14).  Note the phrase Paul uses, “Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (Rom. 1:22)  The unbeliever thinks he is becoming wise related to the world, but he is becoming more and more foolish related to God.  His pride induces ignorance or foolishness into his soul.
The fifth step in the acrostic NEBISCOS is Separated from God.   Paul writes,
·         and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man– and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
·         24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
·         25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom. 1:23-25)
Note the entire passage of Romans above and you will see three times “God also gave them up.” (Rom. 1:24,26,28) God is a gentleman and does not force man to choose.  God allows the creature to reject Him, because there is a greater divine court room scene going on.2As God gives man over to the desires of his heart, man becomes more and more separated from the holiness of God, even though the chasm is always great and fixed between God and the unbeliever. The unbeliever is given over in his rejection of the truth to deeper levels of degeneracy.
            The sixth step in the acrostic NEBISCOS is Callousness of the Soul. Paul writes, “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” (Rom. 1:28)  Calluses are great on the bottom of feet in the summer time for romping and playing as a kid.  Callused feet almost float over sharp rocks and prickly weeds. A similar condition builds spiritually related to the soul. Every time a person sins a “callused cell” is laid upon the soul. Over time, a callused layer builds and prevents the Holy Spirit from being able to convict or have an effect on the unbeliever unto salvation. Conviction will be present, but there will be no effect. At this point in the downward spiral, the unbeliever can commit heinous crimes without being overly bothered by the crime as in serial crimes.
            The seventh step in the acrostic NEBISCOS is Occupation with Evil.  At this point, the unbeliever has been given up by God to his life dominating sin patterns.  The unbeliever may be civil and even altruistic, but life is all about self and evil.  Paul writes,
·         29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,
·         30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
·         31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; (Rom. 1:29-31)
This is the state of many in our society.  The only thing holding back evil is the righteous remnant of believers and the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit in them. That is why evil will be the norm of the day in the Tribulation when believers are removed at the Rapture of the Church.
            The last letter of the acrostic NEBISCOS stands for Sin unto Death.  This is the final condition of the unbeliever waiting transition into eternity. His life is characterized by sin and death.  The unbeliever is used as an aggressor against Christians who are pursuing the Lord.  Paul writes, “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”(Rom. 1:32)  This is the state of utter foolishness.  He is callused about hell and the enemy called Satan.  He is so callused, he has no concern for the holiness of God.  He is so darkened in his soul he has very little understanding of the saving work available to him through the shed blood of Jesus.
            These are the unbeliever’s seven steps of the downward spiral.  The article following this one will be the believer’s seven steps of the downward spiral. You will see that these same seven steps are identified with believers.  Paul immediately gives the solution to what a believer should do.

 

2This courtroom scene is the Angelic Conflict and the Appeal Process which initiated the creation of man in the first place.  This subject will be presented very soon in a future article.

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