The Misery of Being Fallen
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” John 8:34NKJ
Question 27 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What misery did the fall bring upon mankind?” It gives the answer, “The fall brought upon mankind the loss of communion with God, his displeasure and curse; so as we are by nature children of wrath, bond slaves to Satan, and justly liable to all punishments in this world, and that which is to come.” Last week we looked at how we inherit sin from Adam. Today we examine what sin brought to us.
To be fallen is to be miserable. Misery is defined in the dictionary as “a serious lack of contentment or happiness.” Because of the rich common grace of God, many people in Western society do not feel their misery. I suspect that the majority of people would say they have a healthy measure of contentment and happiness in their lives, most of the time. This conclusion is reached as we compare ourselves to other people in other cultures and times. Surely we are much better off than the cannibals of Africa and pre-Columbus America. We have so much more freedom and prosperity than the serfs and peasants of medieval Europe. Americans have never known the tyranny and oppression of the Muslim nations of Asia and the Middle East. As we compare ourselves to those around us, we may feel happy and somewhat content with our lot.
However, how would the average American middle class pagan look to the average saint in heaven having received his everlasting reward? The saint would notice the infinitesimal lifespan of the American, consisting only of a few decades of real youthful vitality and strength. Consider how many diseases and sicknesses, injuries and broken bones, sorrows and disappointments, injustices and abuses that affect the average American? The saint in heaven knows none of these. Likewise, in heaven we will not know the fears, anxieties, uncertainties, pain, regret, rejection, loss, loneliness, and troubles that are part of our everyday lives here on earth. As sinners we are liable to all of these things, which since they are here by the sovereign judgment of God, the Catechism justly describes them as the “punishments in this world.” Thus, we are beginning to look pretty miserable and we have not even begun to look at the personal displeasure of God resting upon every fallen sinner who has not been redeemed!
In the fall, we lost communion with God. Originally, God dwelt with man and walked with him in the Garden (Gen. 2:22; 3:8). We know that when Moses spent only a few moments in God’s presence his face shone with the glory of God, to the point that the Israelites were afraid to come near Him (Ex. 34:30)! We cannot begin to fathom what we lost when we lost communion with God! Surely the splendor will cause the wicked to weep and gnash their teeth, when they see “Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” and themselves thrust out (Luke 13:28). In fact, the loss of our communion with God is so great, that its restoration is set forth by Scripture as the culmination of our salvation; “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God,’” (Rev. 21:3).
Not only do we have the loss of communion with God, but as fallen creatures we are under His wrath and curse. We all know the pain and sufferings brought into this world when God cursed the ground on account of Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:17). Quoting Scripture (Eph. 2:3), the Catechism describes us as “children of wrath.” This phrase refers to our sure destiny apart from the converting grace of God. For unless we are saved we will know only the wrath of God, and none of His mercy, grace, and goodness forever and ever. In the epithet, “bond slaves to Satan,” the Catechism recalls a host of Scriptures which speak of unconverted man as being entirely dominated by Satan’s power (John 8:34, 44; 2 Tim. 2:26; 2 Pet. 2:19). All fallen men know these miseries continually, and still we have not even begun to speak of that punishment of the world to come, which the Bible describes as the place of everlasting torment in a lake of fire (Rev. 20:10, 15).
What should the doctrine of the misery of our fall effect in us? It should drive us to our knees to thank and appreciate every single mercy we have, brought to us entirely by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ! Take some time today to meditate on the fullness of your misery in Adam that you might better know and rejoice in the richness of the salvation we have in Jesus Christ!