The Four States of Mankind

Although there is a common misconception that God will return things back to the “pre-fallen” state, the Bible actually teaches that the final state of things (the New Creation) is better than the “pre-fallen” state. In the history of theology, the fourfold state has been described in this way (using categories from Thomas Boston and St. Augustine):

Innocenceposse peccare aut non peccare (possible to sin or not to sin)

In the beginning, when God created Adam, he placed him in a state where it was possible to sin or not to sin. Some call this the state of “Innocence.” In Reformed circles it is also called the “covenant of works” or the “Adamic administration.”

Fallnon posse non peccare (not possible not to sin)

Once Adam chose to sin, he brought the human race into the second state: the fall. In this state, it is not possible not to sin. We are born sinners and we actually sin (cf. Romans 3:10-12). On our own without God’s grace, we cannot not sin. This state begins in Genesis 3 and continues through Revelation (or to be more precise, the second coming of Christ).

Graceposse peccare aut non peccare (possible not to sin)

Alongside the fall, we can enter into a state of grace. God does not leave Adam and the human race in their sin, but promises them redemption in Genesis 3:15 (which continues through Revelation as well). Grace brings us into a state where it is possible not to sin for the first time.

Glorynon posse peccare (not possible to sin)

The last state is one of glory, which begins with the arrival of the New Heavens and New Earth. In this state, it is no longer possible to sin at all. There will be no more sin and no more death there.

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