Earlier Studies –
- Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section One – Authority, Revelation, and Scripture
- Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Two – Theology Proper
- Studies in The Baptist Catechism: Section Three – The Decrees of God
Listen to the audio for this lesson here.
Q.22: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. All mankind by their fall lost communion with God,1 are under His wrath and curse,2 and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.3
1Genesis 3:8, 10, 24
2Ephesians 2:2-3; Galatians 3:10
3Lamentations 3:39; Romans 6:23; Matthew 25:41, 46
The catechism teaches that there are two prime aspects of man’s estate after the fall. Our estate is marked by both sin and misery. In our last lesson, we considered the sinfulness of our estate. In this lesson, we shall consider the misery of it. The Catechism delineates into three particularly miserable results of man’s fall: our loss of communion with God, our standing under His wrath and curse, and our subjection to the miseries of this life, death, and hell.
Loss of communion with God. Let us begin with a consideration of our loss of communion with God. The first instance we see in Scripture of man having lost communion with God is all the way back in the temple garden. First, we see the man and his wife hiding themselves in their shame from the presence of God, as a result of their sin against Him. The work of the law written on their hearts (Rom. 2:15; cf. Eccl. 7:29) moved them to shame, and they could not bear to be seen by Him in their disobedience.
Second, we find that God took their predicament even further. He not only created them with a conscience that bore witness to their sinfulness, but He cast them out of the garden of Eden—His very presence—and barred them from ever entering again. “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life,” (Genesis 3:24; NASB). The way into the holy of holies, the innermost room of the temple of Israel, was also barred to all men. Only the high priest could enter it once a year to make intercession on behalf of the people of Israel (Heb. 9:6-7).
This is the predicament in which we find ourselves as well. We are each born at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7), our communion with Him having been broken through the sin of Adam our first high priest. We know that we are sinners, and the shame of that sin drives us from the presence of God in fear and dread of discovery. Furthermore, God has cast us out from His presence, and has barred the way to eternal life (Eph. 2:3).
Under God’s wrath and curse. We are barred from eternal life, children of wrath, because we are born under God’s wrath and curse. This is the second result of the fall brought to our attention by the Catechism in order to helps us understand the misery of man’s estate after Adam. We are not merely ashamed, nor are we merely cast out of God’s presence and barred from entering it anew. We are actually His enemies, hostile in mind toward Him and He toward us.
It has long been claimed, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.” R.C. Sproul, in a lecture that recently aired on Renewing Your Mind, stated in response, “He doesn’t send the sin to hell; He sends the sinner.” We must recognize this fact of man’s existence outside of Christ. Man, by virtue of his sin against an eternally, infinitely, immutably holy and righteous God, is under the wrath of God until he comes to Christ.
When Paul writes in Ephesians 2 that men are “children of wrath,” He does not mean that we are experiencing the wrath of God. What he means is that men are born with the certain expectation of God’s wrath, until such a time as they turn from their sins toward God and place their full trust and allegiance in Christ alone for salvation. They are born on a trajectory, in other words, toward the wrath of God that awaits all who are found to be stained by the world, the flesh, and the devil.
We are not merely born under the terrible expectation of His wrath, though. We are also born under the curse of the Law. “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law, to perform them,’” (Galatians 3:10; NASB). Who though are under the works of the Law? In Romans, Paul makes clear who have the work of the law written on their hearts:
“14For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them . . . 9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one,’” (Rom. 2:14-15; 3:9-10; NASB).
So—whether Jew or Gentile, whether those who are born under the Law of Moses or those who instinctively do the things of the Law—all who are born in Adam are born under the curse of the Law. We have each received his curse. Sinning as we do, we each also have earned the curse. Let all who are outside of Christ, then, own it. Let them come under the great weight of this curse and the dread of impending divine wrath that they may see their need of Christ.
Subject to miseries, death, and hell. This list given us in the Catechism follows a natural progression. As a result of man’s broken communion with God and the resulting enmity with Him, the wrath that now awaits him in his sin, and the curse under which He finds himself, he now finds himself subject to the miseries of this life, to death, and to an eternity of torment in hell. The consequences of the fall, then, are exhaustibly thorough. They fall upon the unregenerate both in this life and, if he does not bow the knee to Christ in this life, in the life to come.
Regarding the miseries of this life, these are a universal reality. A murderer may repent of her sins and come to Christ on death row. However, she will still be subject to the consequences of past actions. The same is true for all who sin before Christ. There are myriad expected and unexpected consequences for the sins we commit in the flesh. This is all the more reason parents should fervently pray for the salvation of their children at an early age. A deathbed conversion, be it genuine, is surely sufficient for the salvation of our children, but a deathbed conversion is of no guarantee. Many have gone to their deathbeds after telling themselves for years that they will one day repent and believe on Christ only to find that, in their final hours, their hearts had so hardened to the gospel that they could not bow the knee as they had supposed they would be able. Beyond the uncertainty of deathbed repentance is the certainty of compounding miseries that accompany the unrepentant life. Best that they follow Christ from their youth and be spared such miseries than, being strapped with a lifetime or regret and shame, to barely eek out a mustard seed of faith.
Regarding our looming death, we have all heard the statistic, “One out of one person dies.” None of us can expect to be granted the unique dispensations granted to Enoch or Elijah, being taken up without ever experiencing death. Unless Christ returns during our generation, we will each go to sleep with the saints who preceded us. Our deaths are yet another consequence of sin that cannot be avoided, even with repentance. Paul refers to it as the very wage of death: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 6:23; NASB).
Death is not presented in Scripture as an event to be celebrated, as some denominations teach today. Death is a result of the fall, and it is a terrible rending of a soul from its eternal home. Paul refers to the state of man from the point of death to the final resurrection as a kind of nakedness and destruction of our earthly home (2Cor. 5:1-4). However, for those who are in Christ, there is a consolation. “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord,” (2Cor. 5:8; NKJV).
The concept of hell should not be treated lightly. Those who find themselves outside of Christ on the day of judgment should not expect that they will be removed from the presence—that is the present activity—of God for all of eternity. God is omnipresent (everywhere present), which means that He is present also in hell. What will be removed from the unrepentant in eternity is God’s loving, forbearing, providential kindness and grace. What they will receive instead is only His justice and wrath poured out upon them for all of eternity.
In Scripture, hell is described as outer darkness (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 8:12; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Lk. 13:28), a lake of fire (Rev. 20:10, 14-15), an eternal fire reserved for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41), a place of eternal punishment (Mt. 25:46), etc. Hell is the ultimate, just consequence of any and all sin committed against an infinitely holy, incomparably worthy King, Master, Creator, and Sustainer. None among the descendants of Adam can stand and claim, on his own merit, the right to be exempt from this dreadful destination. It is our just reward for the sin we have committed, no matter how small, because the One against Whom we have sinned is deserving of nothing less than perfect obedience from us.
In closing, we must be careful not to press this point as the point of greatest concern in evangelism. Christ does not bid men to come to Him out of a dread of consequences. Our sin, misery, death, and future wrath are not sufficient to move us to godly sorrow over our sin. What is required is a godly sorrow (2Cor. 7:8-11) that can only be worked in us by an equal measure of the good news of Christ.
“Worldly sorrow is sad because people know about your sin. Godly sorrow is sad because God knows about your sin. Worldly sorrow is sad because of a disrupted relationship with a spouse, kids, or others. Godly sorrow is sad because of a disrupted relationship with God,” (Heath Lambert, Finally Free, pg. 38).
Yes, we must know our present condition in order to understand the goodness of the good news. Yet, it is the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16), and it is the kindness of God that leads men to repentance (Rom. 2:4). If the Lord wills, we will explore this great and glorious gospel in future lessons.