“For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Psalm 86:13). The default destination of every person that dies is hell. The word translated hell in Psalm 86:13, “Sheol is the abode of the dead” (7585). In the time that David lived, “It was not understood to be a place of punishment, but simply the ultimate resting place of all mankind” (7585).
David’s exclamation about his soul being delivered from hell was probably due to his awareness that as a living , breathing creature, his soul longed to be in the presence of the LORD. In hell, David would be separated from God for all eternity.
In order to demonstrate the difference between being in the LORD’s presence and being separated from God, a tabernacle, or house of God was built, and an ark placed in it, so that the Israelites could experience heaven on earth. David said in Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psalm 122:1).
Today, the transition from earth to heaven or hell takes place instantaneously, the moment a person dies. That was not the case for David because the gates of heaven had not yet been opened to man when he died. David said, “thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Psalm 86:13). The word delivered or nâtsal (naw – tsal´) in Hebrew means “to snatch away.” Natsal is also translated as escape, rescue and take out (5337). When David died, he went to hell like everyone else, but when Christ rose from the dead, David ascended into heaven with him.
Although David’s soul didn’t get taken to heaven until hundreds of years later, David’s deliverance was assured the moment he put his trust in God. David prayed, “Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee” (Psalm 86:2).
The word David used to describe himself, holy or chaciyd in Hebrew is typically translated as saint or saints “which must be understood in the sense of sanctification (dependent on grace), not moralistically [of native goodness]” (2623). The term saints is used frequently in the New Testament of the Bible to describe believers in Christ Jesus. In essence a saint is one who patterns his life after God. The word chaciyd is properly translated as kind (2623) and is derived from the word chacad which is “a practical exhibition of lovingkindness toward our fellowman” (2616).
It’s difficult to say if David’s experience with God was any different than Abraham’s or Moses’, but it appears that David clearly understood what it meant to be born again. It is possible that his repentance after killing Uriah did lead to a type of conversion and brought David into a right relationship with God, one that enabled him to behave like a saint.