This is Part 2 of 4 parts answering the question, “What happens to those who dwell on the suffering that God allows?” in the larger question “Why does a loving God allow suffering?” Parts 3 and 4 will be posted in the next two days.
The Downward Spiral
There are two passages of Scripture that describe this “Downward Spiral” – one applying to believers and the other to unbelievers. If either the unbeliever or the believer chooses man’s way rather than God’s way, he will slip further down this slippery slope. It is a process described regarding the sinful actions of individuals, even those who make these sinful choices as a response to suffering.
The Steps of the Downward Spiral
Whenever a person acts independently of the Lord, he begins this process. As he continues to seek understanding, purpose and contentment apart from God, he will continue down the Spiral until he gets to the stage called the Sin unto Death. At this point, the person stays in the Sin unto Death, until God takes him home in grace to be in heaven (the believer) or removes him from earth to torments until the Great White Throne judgment (the unbeliever) or he humbly repents before God.
There are seven steps of the Downward Spiral and they follow the acrostic NEBISCOS (this is no reflection on the food manufacturing company – Nabisco). Each of the letters in the word NEBISCOS refer to a step in the Downward Spiral,
- N – Negative Volition
- E – Emptiness of the Soul
- B – Blackout of the Soul
- I –Ignorance Induced
- S – Separation from God
- C – Callousness of the Soul
- O – Occupation with Evil
- S – Sin unto Death
I do not consider the final stage of Sin unto Death as a step, but as the holding pattern for the person who is living his life in rejection of God’s plan, purpose and will, even in the midst of suffering.
The Downward Spiral of the Unbeliever
The Downward Spiral is explained in two passages: Romans 1:20-23 and Ephesians 4:17-19. Romans 1:20-32 is the passage used to explain the Downward Spiral for the unbeliever,
- 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. Why? Because Paul described the person who has suppressed the Truth of General Revelation (nature) and is without excuse. That is he has not even gotten to the point of receiving Special Revelation (God’s spoken or written Word, 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.
Part 3 will be posted tomorrow.