Hamartiology Theology

Hamartiology: Fallen, Lost, and Dead

While a kid I was a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. It was one of my favorite movies and toys. As powerful and amazing as these adult-sized turtles were, there was always one thing that could prevent them from protecting themselves or others. If they happened to fall on their backs, there was no way for them to get up. The sometimes quipped, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” rings true for a turtle that falls on his back. He truly can’t get up.

Within the topic of sin, every single person is figuratively a turtle: I’ve fallen and I can’t get up. We are sinners[ref]”Every sinner is totally destitute of that love to God which is the fundamental requirement of the low (Deut. 6:4f; Matt. 22:37); that he is supremely given to a preference of himself to God (2 Tim. 3:2-4); that he has an aversion to God which on occasion becomes active enmity to him (Rom. 8:7)); that his every faculty is disordered and corrupted (Eph. 4:18); that he has not thought, feeling, or deed of which God can fully approve (Rom. 7:18); and that he has entered upon a line of constant progress in depravity from which he can in no wise turn away in his own strength (Rom. 7:18). Depravity has infected the whole man-mind, emotions, and will.” (Henry Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, pp. 191-192)[/ref] headed for hell and we can’t do nothing about it without Christ’s intervention. Let’s look at how all of humanity is fallen, lost, and dead.

 Hamartiology - Fallen, Lost, and Dead

Photo Credit: The Bible Revival

Fallen, Lost, and Dead


The fact that man is lost can be seen in man’s mind, his heart, death, and Satan.

A. The Mind

The apostle Paul discusses how man’s mind is lost in his letter to the believers in Ephesus,

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, (Eph 4:17–18a, NASB, emphasis added)

The “Gentiles” that Paul is talking about here are those that live in whatever way they want. They have no set of religious values that they follow and attempt to use to live a Godly lifestyle. In essence, they are confused. Their minds are full of darkness.

Why put an emphasis on the “minds” of unbelievers? This is because “intellectually sinners are unreceptive to spiritual truth. Although the unregenerate know the changing, material world, they fail to grasp the full significance of truth from the changeless, spiritual realm” (Bruce Demartest, The Cross and Salvation74).

The Greek word for “mind” here is the Greek word, νους, which often is translated as “mind, intellect, understanding.” It is described as the side of life contrasted with physical existence. It’s the mental part of the human being and is used in this way in Romans 7:22-23, 25. The word is also used in another way described as a faculty of thinking in Luke 24:45, “He [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” and Rev 13:18, “Wisdom is needed here. Let the one with understanding solve the meaning of the number of the beast.”

In Paul’s other letters he says that the “sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will” (Rom 8:7, NLT). When talking about foolish people Paul said, ” People who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it” (1 Cor 2:14, NLT). Lastly, Paul says that before knowing Christ the believers is Colossae were God’s “enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions” (Col 1:21, NLT).

B. The Heart

In Paul’s letter to the believers in Ephesus he talks about the Gentiles and their lifestyle saying,

excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” (Eph 4:18–19, NASB, emphasis added)

Here is seems clear. They wander far from God because they have hardened their hearts to God. A hardened heart gives them no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every king of impurity. The results of a hardened heart are very different than a heart that is open to God’s direction and following him.

The Greek word used here in Eph 4:18 is καρδία which often is translated as “heart.” Furthermore, it means the “center and source of the whole inner life with this thinking, feeling, and emotion” (BDAG, 508). In effect, it’s connected with the entire person. 

Other passages that explain our lustful, greedy, selfish heart are in also in Ephesians, “All of us . . follow the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature” (Eph 2:3, NLT). In Paul’s letter to Titus he said, “Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other” (Titus 3:3). John, in his gospel about Jesus Christ said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (John 8:34, NLT).

“In the present passage the concept of disposition or moral attitude fits best. The original purpose of the mind was to be able to comprehend God’s revelation, but due to the fall a person’s mind is unable to accomplished this goal. Hence, the ‘futility of their minds’ conveys the idea of not being able to perceive the revelation of God for which it was designed” (Harold Hoehner, Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentaryp. 584).

C. Man and Death

Death is the consequence of sin.[ref]Henry Thiessen explains, “Sin is both an act and a principle, but guilt and pollution. As we look about us, we see that this sin is a universal problem. History testifies to this fact in its accounts of priesthoods and sacrifices among the cultures of the world. And every man knows not only that he has come short of moral perfection, but also that every other man has done so as well” (Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theologyp. 185).[/ref] In his letter to the Romans Paul wrote,

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23, NLT)[ref]Unless otherwise noted, all translations are from the New Living Translation (NLT)[/ref]

You might say, “Hey, but I know we are all going to die already. That’s not news to me.” The news is that the Bible describes three different deaths as a consequence of the fall.

1. Spiritual Death[ref]Some additional thoughts that the spiritual death is a death of the “soul” and the physical death is a death of the “body” and the eternal death is a death of the “spirit.”[/ref]

The second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians starts out, “You were dead” (Eph 2:1). Later he explains, “even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved)! (Eph 2:5). In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he writes, “You were dead because of your sins” (Col 2:15). This is the spiritual death.

Spiritually, they are dead. Physically, they are alive. “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” (John 3:35, NLT). Lastly, in John’s first letter he tells believers that God has “given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12). While a non-Christian is alive physically, he is spiritually dead.

2. Physical Death

Physical death was part of the consequences of the original fall of Adam and Eve. God gave a curse to the serpent, to the woman, and lastly to man saying, “By the sweat of your brow you will have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:19). While Christians and non-Christians are physically alive right now, in the future they will all be physically dead. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ became a human being so that we could conquer death just like Jesus did. “Because God’s children are human beings-made of flesh and blood-the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb 2:14-15). Everyone faces a physical death in the future. 

3. Eternal Death

Ultimately, there is an eternal death as a direct result of the fall. It’s true that all non-Christians are “spiritually” dead until they accept and follow Jesus Christ as their savior. And it is true that all non-Christians will experience a “physical” death at some point in their life. But the Bible also describes an “eternal death” that non-Christians will have to endure in the future.

Prediction of Eternal Death. In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians he was writing to comfort the Thessalonians because they had been experiencing some persecution and difficulties (2 Thess 1:4-5). Paul assured them that even though they were being persecuted, God would provide rest to them when the Lord appears in heaven coming with his angels (2 Thess 1:7) because he would be “bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess 1:8).  These non-Christians will be “punished forever from the face of God and from the glory of his might” (2 Thess 1:9).

Description of Eternal Death. The eternal death of non-Christians is described as the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. In that passage the “dead” were “standing before God’s throne” (Rev 20:12). Every non-believer gets judged by God and thrown into the lake of fire also known as “hell” (Rev 20:14) where they stay forever in punishment.

And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:11-15)

At the beginning of this section I quoted Romans 6:23 which states that the wages of sin is death. And, that death is a physical, spiritual, and eternal death resulting in punishment and pain that will last forever.

D. Man and Satan

Evidence that man is lost and fallen away from God is seen in how Satan is actively deceiving man and keeping him from a relationship with God. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he writes,

If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God (2 Cor 4:3-4)

Paul is clear: Satan is the god of this world and has blinded the minds of men. Man is blind and cannot see who Jesus Christ is and how he is the Savior that gives us life.

Additionally, Paul wrote to the believers in Ephesus that they “were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil” (Eph 2:1-2). In the book of Hebrews we read, “Only by dying could [Jesus] break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this would could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Heb 2:14-15). Jesus said, “You are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). And in his first letter John wrote that when people do what is right it shows they belong to Christ (1 John 3:7), “But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. . . So we now can tell who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God” (1 John 3:8-10).

II. FIVE DEATHS FROM THE FALL[ref]The “five deaths” material is adapted from Exploring Christian Theology, edited by Nathan Holsteen and Michael Svigel, p. 42[/ref]

A. Spiritual DeathSeparation from God’s life, resulting in depravity

The first spiritual death occurred with Adam and Eve after they ate from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 3 says, “When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen 3:8-11). Before Adam and Eve ate from the tree they enjoyed a guilt-free relationship with God. They were God’s rulers of the earth and they were in perfect relationship with him. But, after they ate from the tree, as you can see in Gen 3:8-11, they encountered the spiritual death that resulted in their guilt for who they were, their looks, and their violation of the covenant with God. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Ephesians, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins” (Eph 2:1). And to the Colossians, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins” (Col 2:13, NLT).

B. Physical DeathThis is the physical separation between material and immaterial

Part of the curse that God gives to Adam and Eve as a result of their disobedience is that their material selves will be separated from their immaterial selves. In essence, this body will die and our soul will be separated from it. God tells Adam and Eve, “By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. From you were made from dust, and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:19).

C. Covenantal DeathThis is the loss of blessing and current suffering

Under the point above I mentioned the curse that God gave to Adam, Eve, and to the serpent. Here’s the entire curse:

14Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
16Then he said to the woman,
“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.”
17And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:14-19)

When God made man and placed him on earth, God made man in his own image and in effect man was “like” God (Gen 1:26-27). God also said man was to reign over the earth (Gen 1:27-28). God gave everything to man for him to tend, watch over, and reign (Gen 1:29-30). God and man were in a perfect relationship in which no conflict occurred (Gen 1:31). There was a covenant between man and God: man obeys God and man gets to reign over the earth. Sadly, as I’ve explained in this post and others man was disobedient and that covenant was violated. Man was supposed to enjoy the blessings of a wonderful guilt-free relationship with God and serve as a ruler over God’s creation, but that was lost through the fall.

D. Relational Death – This is the interpersonal and social conflicts and difficulties we have with other humans (Gen 3:16).

I love the description of the Fall given by Zig Ziglar on some of his tapes a while ago.

“Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So they hid from God. God called out to Adam, ‘Oh Adam, where are you?’ Now God knew where Adam was, God just wanted Adam to acknowledge God. When Adam and Eve presented themselves to God, God asked, ‘Why are you wearing leaves?’ Adam responded, ‘Well, we noticed we were naked so we covered ourselves.’ God replied to Adam, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat fruit from the tree I told you not to eat?’ To that point, Adam responded, ‘God, let me tell you about that woman you gave me.’ So God asked the woman, ‘Did you eat from the fruit of the tree I commanded you not to eat.’ Eve responded, ‘God, let me tell you about this snake.’ And to that, the snake did not have a leg to stand on.”[ref]I heard this on one of Zig Ziglar’s “How to Stay Motivated” series a long time ago. I cannot remember which CD from the series, but it sticks out in my mind as a clear example of the relational death that occurs in the lives of believers because of the the fall.[/ref]

As Leon Morris puts it, “Both Adam and Eve were quick to point the finger of blame away from themselves, and all their descendants have been quick to do the same” (Leon Morris, Genesis: A Study Guide, p. 34).

E. Cosmic DeathThis is the breakdown, corruption, and death seen in all of creation.

The curse given to Adam and Eve displayed death that affects all areas of life.

17And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.” (Gen 3:17-19)

First, the ground is cursed because of man (v. 17). From that day forward man would struggle to make a living from the ground. It would be hard to grow things and to provide for his family. Second, the ground will fight back by growing thorns and thistles to attempt to protect itself (v. 18). Yet, the man will overcome the ground and get from it what he wants from it. Man will eat the grains that the ground produces. Third, man will have to “sweat” and work hard to get food from the ground (v. 19). It will cause him troubles and frustration to get food out of the ground.

20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Rom 8:20-23)


A. The original sin of one man negatively affects everything in my life.

Everything I do is tainted in sin. Why? Because my human nature comes from Adam, and he led all of humanity into sin.

Can I do anything pure with pure motives? I think not. There will always be the “what’s in it for me motivation” when I try to do things and treat people well. Sin taints the good things I do and effects every area of my life.

Yes, I have been freed from the power of sin in my life. I no longer “have to sin” because sin is “no longer my master” (Rom 6:1-14), yet I still get pulled into doing sinful things because it’s in my nature to sin.

B. I might suffer now because of sin, but my faith frees me from future punishment.

Thankfully, our faith in Jesus Christ frees us from the power of sin in our lives. We are able to show God’s love to others because he showed his love to us. And because of the love God has showed for us, we no longer face punishment of hell in the future. Instead, we get to live with our God in heaven forever. Sin affects us now, but the future will be one free of sin and its effects.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at