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Already and Not Yet: Part 1

12 July 2011 by Daniel

Q. 28. What are the punishments of sin in this world?

A. The punishments of sin in this world are either inward, as blindness of mind, a reprobate sense, strong delusions, hardness of heart, horror of conscience, and vile affections; or outward, as the curse of God upon the creatures for our sakes, and all other evils that befall us in our bodies, names, estates, relations, and employments; together with death itself.

The Westminster "Divines" asked the question this way because they wanted to identify (and explain) the persisting consequences of the fall in our everyday lives as contrasted against the consequences of sin that persist beyond this present life.

When God breathed life into that body he had just formed for Adam, Adam became a living soul who was dependant upon God for the sustaining of the life that had just been breathed into him.

When Adam sinned, God did not take this breath of life away from Adam, even though that was what God had promised He would do should Adam rebel against the command. Yet when Adam did usurp God's reign in his life, God did not immediately execute the promised condemnation that God had obligated Himself to perform. This has led some to imagine that God had relented of the original judgment, and instead merely banished Adam and Eve. But that isn't what happened. God did not set aside the condemantion He promised Adam, rather He postponed it, setting a day on which that judgment would fall - Judgment Day. The reason God postponed this judgment was because He, in His mercy, determined to save a remnant of Adam's race whom He had elected beforehand for this act of grace. Adam did not drop dead the moment he sinned because God was extending mercy to generations who had not yet been born; thus the judgment was postponed; nevertheless Adam became "dead" in his trespasses/sins the very moment he rebelled against God's rule.

Even though God's judgment against sin awaits the coming Day of Judgment, Adam's sin was not without consequence in the present world. Above all else, mankind lost the privilege of having direct access to God. Access to God, from the moment Adam fell has been (and presently is) mediated through Christ. No person has access to God through any other means. This was a veiled truth in the Old Testament, but now it has been revealed in Christ.

Given that Christ was (and is) the only gate through which a person has access to God, every person who is born into this fallen world is born blind, ignorant, and dead in their trespasses. This spiritual stillbirth is the primary consequence out from which flows almost every other sinful effect in the world; but there is more. God cursed all creation on account of sin, so that we are not only born spiritually bankrupt, but we are born into a world that cannot sustain us indefinitely, we grow old, we die, we get sick, we toil for limited resources, and having been left to ourselves, we define the purpose of our existence as nothing better than continuing to exist at all costs. Adam's rebellion left mankind dead in sin, and corrupt in body. We have inherited both the curse of Adam (separation from God), and the cursing of creation. The curse against us personally is removed when we come to Christ, but the world, and the things in it will remain cursed until Christ returns as our Judge on the Day of Judgment. Until then Sin has left us in sickness and poverty with death and with suffering, even after-and-if we have been reconciled to God through Christ.