Corruption is a state of decay, pollution, or incorrectness. In the Bible, corruption is one of the effects of sin that resulted from the fall of man. In the beginning, God created a perfect paradise, free of sickness, pain, and death. But when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world, spoiling its perfection. That sin also brought contamination and decay to Adam and Eve and to the human nature of every person born after that (Romans 5:12). Thus, corruption in the Bible is the state of moral contamination and spiritual decay expressed through disobedience toward God.
Corruption is closely related to spiritual death. God told Adam that, if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Adam didn’t die a physical death that day but a spiritual one that involved separation from God (Ephesians 2:1–3).
By the time of Noah, the corruption of mankind had been amplified: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” (Genesis 6:11–12).
The Bible describes sinful humanity as corrupt: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:1–3; see also Psalm 53:1–3; Isaiah 1:4).
In the Old Testament, corruption can refer to literal, physical decay (Job 17:14; Psalm 16:10), but, most often, corruption is used figuratively for moral corruption and depravity (Exodus 32:7; Hosea 9:9). The prophets boldly took a stand against moral decay among God’s people: “The sin of the house of Israel and Judah is extremely great; the land is full of murder, and the city is full of corruption” (Ezekiel 9:9, NET).
The Bible teaches that the consequence of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Living in a state of moral corruption brings about eternal separation from God: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36). This wrath will eventually result in God’s judgment of sinners and their final, irreversible separation from Him (Matthew 25:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9; Revelation 20:11–15).
The power of corruption is broken by the divine power of the gospel of Jesus Christ: “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:2–4).
When we come to know Jesus Christ, we embark on a personal relationship with Him. The more that relationship grows, the better we understand who Jesus is and what He’s done for us. We start to grasp what His divine power accomplished for us. One of Jesus’ promises to us is the empowering and purifying ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer (John 14:15–17; 16:7; Acts 1:4–5, 8). The Holy Spirit empowers us to obey God, reversing the curse of corruption and making us partakers of God’s divine nature.
The book of Galatians likens the process of spiritual development in the child of God to sowing and reaping: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8, ESV). As the Holy Spirit undoes the effects of corruption and decay, we reap the rewards of eternal life.
One glorious future day, the curse of corruption and decay will be lifted for all eternity: “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay” (Romans 8:19–21, NLT; see also Revelation 22:3).