Q19: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God (Gen. 3:8), are under his wrath and curse (Eph. 2:3; Ga. 3:10), and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself and to the pains of hell forever (Rom. 6:23; Matt 25:41).
I. The human race is lost and man’s misery is self-evident.
A. The whole creation groans (Rom. 8:22).
1. Unbelieving man dislikes this, convincing himself and others that the world now is a happy place and that man (by his own power) can change death, disease, war, etc.
a. How dark the heart is: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
II. Fallen man’s misery consists of three parts (see Gen. 2:8–3:13).
A. Misery results from man’s loss of communion with the eternal God (Gen. 2:17; 3:8), for he is born alienated, under God’s wrath and curse. The Book of Ecclesiastes vividly describes this state.
1. Man is created with a capacity for, and need of, eternal life (Ecc. 3:11).
a. The Fall subjected man’s heart to “emptiness,” or as the Preacher calls it “vanity of vanities…all is vanity” (Ecc. 1:2). In this context “vanity” (Heb., hebel) means transitory, unsatisfactory, something meaningless and purposeless.
(1). Nothing but God can fill that void, not wealth nor entertainment, for “the laughter of the fool” is like “the crackling of thorns under a pot…also vanity” (Ecc. 2; 7:6): i.e., quickly ended and only ashes are left. Man is nothing without God (Pss. 30:5; 63:3).
2. Man is born alienated from the life of God, having no hope, and in need of reconciliation (Eph. 2:12; 4:18; Col. 1:21).
a. Blindness of mind (Eph. 4:13).
b. Reprobate sense of discernment (Rom. 1:28).
c. Able to be strongly deluded (2 Thess. 2:11).
d. Hard-hearted (Rom. 2:5).
e. Vile affections (Rom. 1:26).
f. Fear, sorrow, horror of conscience (Isa. 33:14).
3. Man is cursed, under God’s wrath (Nah. 1:2; Isa. 1:24; Rom. 1:18; Ga. 3:10; Eph. 2:3).
B. Misery is found in this life which none can completely escape.
1. “Man is born to trouble…full of trouble” (Job 5:7; 14:1).
a. Disease, famine, war, disaster, pains of body, sorrow of heart, something claims us all (cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 28).
(1). Even an upright man like Job may suffer, while the wicked seem to prosper (Ps. 73:3-5; cf. Ps. 37).
C. Misery results from the universal dominion of death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23).
1. Death is threefold, resulting from sin, and is not natural.
a. Spiritual: Adam died when he sinned, and all his posterity are born in such a state (Gen. 2:17; 3:5-6; Eph. 2:1; Col. 2:13).
b. Physical: Adam began to die, as all his posterity are also appointed to death (Heb. 9:27).
(1). Death is a present enemy of the believer, the last to be conquered (1 Cor. 15:26).
c. Eternal: Adam, and all his posterity are subject to death, the “second death” (Rev. 21:8, cf. 20:14).
(1). Hell is described as: “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12); a place where the “worm dieth not” (Mk. 9:48); “outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 8:12); apart from the presence of God and the beatific vision (Matt. 25:41). [See Q84]
III. Fallen man’s misery is different from the position of the Christian.
A. There are differences that pertain to this present life.
1. The Christian enjoys communion with God (Jn. 14:23; 15:5).
a. The wrath and curse of God is taken away by the cross of Christ (Rom. 3:23-25; 8:1; Eph. 1:7; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10).
(1). Communion is still not perfect, but is beset and hindered by indwelling sin (Rom. 7).
2. The unbeliever is spiritually dead, a God-hater (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 8:7).
B. There are differences that become more pronounced at death.
1. The Christian enjoys full blessedness (1 Cor. 13:12; 2 Cor. 5:8, 1 Jn. 3:2; Rev. 22:4). Only his body dies.
a. His soul was already brought forth from death to life (1 Pet. 1:3), now at death he finds out death has no “sting” (1 Cor. 15:55) for him and nothing can separate him from Christ (Rom. 8:35-39).
2. The unbeliever’s soul has not passed from death to life, he is already dead (Eph. 2:1), and now God’s wrath is felt in greater measure.
C. There are differences experienced on the last day in the world to come.
1. The Christian is reunited to his body at the general resurrection and lives forever in glory (1 Cor. 15:50-54).
2. The unbeliever is reunited to his body and both body and soul are destroyed forever in hell (Matt. 10:28).
A. Use, of knowledge.
1. See here the great evil of sin, in that it opened the sluice gates of misery upon mankind.
2. The misery is not part of God’s creation, but the onus is rather upon man.
B. Use, of testing.
1. Who do we blame for the miseries of life? God or others?
2. Do we think that being saved nullifies suffering in this life (cf. Phil. 3:20)?
C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.
1. Sinners. Come to the Lord Jesus, who alone can open the door of access to God, whose blood quenches the fire of wrath, and who can deliver from the curse of the law.
2. Saints. Meditate afresh upon your deliverance from the power of tyranny of the soul (2 Tim. 2:26), the lake of fire that eternally burns, and vanity of life separated from God. Let this spur you to good works of gratitude.