Pastor David B. Curtis

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Creation Set Free - Part 1

Romans 8:18-25

Delivered 10/23/2011

We saw in our last study that the Spirit of adoption was the guarantee that they, first century saints, would receive the adoption as sons, the redemption of the body. The presence of the Holy Spirit in the first century saints was like an engagement ring in that it gave substance to their hopes of future glory.

To be a son of God is also to be an heir, and so Paul's discussion of the Holy Spirit's ministry relative to adoption as sons flows easily into the hope of future blessings which the first century saints had as the children of God. We closed last time by talking about suffering and that is where we pick up today.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:18-25 NASB

Many take this text to be teaching a renovation or redemption of planet earth. They see this as a refutation of Preterism. They say that the earth was not renovated in A.D. 70, so Preterism is wrong.

The arguments in the commentaries boil down to whether this text is dealing with rational creation or irrational creation. The majority of commentaries see this as referring to irrational creation. They say that creation is seen here in a metaphorical way, that this is apocalyptic language. But what we must see here is that whatever is true of the creation is true of the saints.

Let's examine the text and see what we can learn from it:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18 NASB

"For I consider"--is the word logidzomi, which refers to a conclusion, logic, an absolute deduction from the facts, clear, resolute, conviction that results from reasoning with the truth. It means that you are putting it all together in reasoned fashion. What is it that Paul considered? He considered that present sufferings do not compare to coming glory.

"Sufferings"--is the Greek word pathema. This is a term for suffering used particularly of persecution and of the sufferings of Christ. In Hebrews 2:10, it's used of the sufferings of Christ; and in 1 Peter 5:9, it's used of persecution. It talks about hostilities against the Gospel, hostilities against Christ..

This is not talking about the sufferings of this life, the sufferings of being human. Paul was talking about the suffering of "his" time. The eschatological sufferings of the transition period. It was persecution for the cause of Christ.

We see this same idea of suffering and glory in:

but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 1 Peter 4:13 NASB

This is not talking about the sufferings of life. Things like losing a parent or a child, losing a job that you had labored in for years, rejection by a child that you nurtured, pain caused by disease or injury. These sufferings are not that you get a cold, you get sick, you get mistreated at the job. It is the sufferings of Christ. Peter talked about this in:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1 Peter 1:3-7 NASB

We see here the same idea as in out text in Romans; inheritance, suffering and then glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul also talks about suffering and glory in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB

Here again affliction and glory. Just because someone suffers for years and years in this life with some debilitating disease, somebody suffers from a malady of some kind, or somebody has terrible suffering from cancer, or whatever it might be. That pure physical suffering is not gaining them an eternal weight of glory.

The temporal things here are the Old Covenant and the things not seen are the New Covenant. The sufferings are eschatological sufferings. From here Paul goes right into chapter 5 and talks about the earthly tent and a house not made with hands. But the transition from the earthly house to the heavenly house in one of groaning:

For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 2 Corinthians 5:2 NASB

"This house" is the Old Covenant and the dwelling from heaven in the New Covenant. While in the Old Covenant they groan, longing for release.

The glory that Paul said was about to be revealed in them, in our text, was the glory of the New Covenant:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NASB

This is from Old Covenant glory to New Covenant glory. The context is the two covenants. These sufferings are the birth pangs of Messiah. The birthing of the new creation.

Who better to talk to them about their suffering than Paul. Paul knew what it was to suffer for Christ. Look at what he said in:

From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus. Galatians 6:17 NASB

Brand-marks is from the Greek word "stigma." This is a word that was used of the marking of slaves' bodies in the first century. In the ancient world, slaves were branded with the name of their master. Most likely what Paul means is that the scars of the things he had suffered for Christ are the brands which show him to be Christ's slave.

Paul said that this suffering was of "this present time"--time here is kairos. The Greek has two different words that we translate as time. One is chronos from which we get chronological time; for example: eleven o'clock, October 23, 2011. That's all chronological. The other word is kairos, which we translate as "time" yet it has more to do with an epoch or event or an age or a point in history. The present time is that epoch or juncture of history. What is the present time for Paul? It is the "this age" of the transition period.

Phil Newton writes, "When he speaks of 'this present time,' or more literally, 'the now time,' he points to the age in which we are living. It is the period from the fall to the consummation of the ages; from the entry of sin into the world to the end of sin by the coming of Christ." Is this true? No, it is not we are living in what the Bible calls the age to come. The new covenant age that was consummated in A.D. 70.

John MacArthur says, "He is talking about this present age, and he's talking about another age to come, the glory age, and, frankly, that's basically how the Jews saw redemptive history unfolding. They saw time divided into two sections, this present age and the age which is to come, this present age and the age of the Kingdom of God." He is wrong when he says that Paul is talking about "this present age" meaning the age we live in. We are living in the age to come. We have eternal life which was a blessing of the age to come:

but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. Mark 10:30 NASB

All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age," and the "age to come." The New Testament writers lived in the age that they called "this age." To the New Testament writers, "the age to come" was future, but it was very near because "this age," the age they lived in, was about to end.

So Paul says that "the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us."

What is the glory? John MacArthur writes: "And all of us, as Christians, if we understand our Christian faith, live in the hope of the glory which is to come. We all anticipate the time when we will be free of this fallen flesh, free of our sinful tendencies. We all anticipate the time when we will be completely delivered form any taint of sin at all. When we will enter into the presence of Jesus Christ and be made like Him."

Is that what glory is? Let me ask you a question; Will we be free from our sinful tendencies in heaven? To support a sin free state in heaven Futurists use verses like:

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2 NASB

As a Preterist, what verses would you use to support a sin free state in heaven? We all seem to assume that heaven will be a sin free zone, but do the Scriptures support that? I'm just asking!

MacArthur writes, and this is a very well accepted idea: "You have been saved. Yes, that's true in the past when you put your trust in Christ, from the penalty of sin. You are being saved right now as the Spirit works from the power of sin, and you will someday be saved from the presence from sin. But you're not there yet. That's why Paul in Romans 13 says, 'Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed.' You're on the way to full glory."

Since we live in the age to come our salvation is not near, it is here. Notice that Paul says that this glory is "about to be" revealed"--the Greek word here is "mello" with the infinitive. Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first century audience that this glory was about to be revealed. This word mello is used in:

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; Matthew 17:22 NASB

The Son of Man is "about to be" delivered. It was on the verge of happening. The glory that Paul talks about was about to be, not way off in the future. It was about to be revealed.

The word revealed is apokalupto. It is the same stem from which the title given to the book of Revelation comes. It means a removal of a covering. What was about to be uncovered was God in our midst!

So the terms "present time" and "about to be" are time words in Greek, and they insist on imminency here. Paul expected this glorification of the saints to occur very soon, within his lifetime. Paul is living in "the last days" and is soon-expecting the revelation of the sons of God, the resurrection of the dead.

So in other words, the apostle is saying, "You are going to have to suffer, but I want to support you in your sufferings by reminding you that those sufferings are not worthy to be mentioned, not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in you." Paul is talking about the eschatological sufferings of the first century saints.

So what about our sufferings? Romans 8:18 is not a verse that speaks to us, so what does the Bible say about our suffering? Well first of all suffering is part of life. Everybody suffers to some degree, some much more than others:

"For affliction does not come from the dust, Nor does trouble sprout from the ground, For man is born for trouble, As sparks fly upward. Job 5:6-7 NASB

Suffering does not grow out of the ground like weeds; it is rather established in the divine order of the world just as it is established in the order of nature that sparks of fire should ascend. Suffering for believers should drive them to Yahweh. To trust Him to work through them:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 NASB

Do we need suffering to help us keep our trust in God? Yes, we do. The health/wealth Gospel is a lie from Hell. Suffering, not wealth, drives us to God. Notice what Paul says about his suffering:

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10 NASB

This is the same idea; his weakness causes him to trust in Christ's strength. God controls all things, even your suffering. Trust Him in it.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:19 NASB

What is "the creation"? The majority view here is that Paul is talking about the physical creation. Is it possible, I'm asking you to think through this with me, that Paul is not talking about the physical creation in this verse? The context here leads me to believe that he is talking about Israel. Israel is the "creation." The Greek word used here for "creation" is ktisis, which occurs 20 times in the New Testament and can be translated as either "creation" or "creature," depending upon the context. At times it is used for the physical creation, but it is also used for mankind:

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Mark 16:15 NASB

Here "creation" is ktisis, and it is obvious it doesn't mean physical creation. They were to preach to people.

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

Here believers are made a new creation; the Church, the body of Christ. We are no longer in the body of Adam, but are new in Christ:

For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. Galatians 6:15 NASB
And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. Colossians 1:15 NASB

So this word ktisis does not always mean the physical creation, it is used for men. In Isaiah 43 we see that Israel was God's creation:

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! Isaiah 43:1 NASB

He seems to be talking here about the creation of the covenant people Israel. So it is possible that "creation" in our text is not referring to the material creation, but to Israel:

"I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King." Isaiah 43:15 NASB

These verses tell us that Israel was a special creation of God. Israel was special, God gave them His covenant.

The eighth chapter of Romans discusses the role of the Spirit in setting believers free from the Law to serve God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It compares the actions of those indwelt with the Spirit to those who do not have the Spirit. In looking at the overall context, one would have to ask why Paul would interject an allegorical passage about the creation in a chapter that is otherwise devoted solely to a discussion of the role of the Spirit in the life of believers versus unbelievers. Therefore, the overall context of the chapter suggests that Paul was not talking about the non-rational creation.

John Brown (Analytical Exposition of the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, 1857) stated that this is referring, not to irrational creation, but to rational creation.

Notice what Paul says about this "creation"--he says that it anxiously longs and waits eagerly for the revelation of the sons of God.

"Anxious longing"--is from the Greek word apokaradokia; apo, means: "from"; cara, means: "head"; and dokia means: "watch," it means: "intense anticipation, earnest expectation." This is an interesting word. It is a word that literally means: "to sort of stretch your head up, stretch up your eyes, stand on your tiptoes." It is concentrating on a single object and indicates a patient waiting.

As one would watch intently with a neck stretched and head tilted in the direction of the approaching visit of the highest official in the land, so the creature is watching for the revelation of the sons of God. This intense watching implies nearness. Would you strain to see something that was not to arrive for thousands of years?

The words "waits eagerly" are from the Greek word apekdechomai. This Greek word is made up of three words put together; the word "to receive," which speaks of a welcoming or appropriating reception such as is tendered to a friend who comes to visit; the word "off," speaking here of the withdrawal of one's attention from other objects; and the word "out," used here in a perfective sense which intensifies the already existing meaning of the word. The composite word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and eager waiting for the coming of the Lord. Again, this implies that it would happen soon. This Greek word is only used seven times in the New Testament and every one of them is in reference to the Second Coming. Apekdechomai is used three times in Romans 8:19, 23, 25.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20 NASB

Who is the "WE" who were eagerly waiting for the Lord? It was the Philippian Christians who lived in the first century. It was these first century saints who were "eagerly waiting" for the Second Coming. And with the coming of the Lord came "the revealing of the sons of God." Who the "sons of God" were would be revealed when the Lord returned, destroying Jerusalem and making it manifest that the Christians were His "sons."

Is the non-rational creation really waiting for the revelation of God's children? Obviously, if this passage is really referring to the creation, this verse would have to be anthropomorphic rather than literal.

Paul goes on to talk about creation waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God in Romans 9:

As He says also in Hosea, "I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, 'MY PEOPLE,' AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, 'BELOVED.'" "AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,' THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD." Romans 9:25-26 NASB

This is talking about Israel and so is Romans 8:

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope Romans 8:20 NASB

"Subjected to futility"--the word futility is from the Greek word mataiotes (mat-a-o-tace),which means: "the inability to reach the goal of its intended design." It cannot achieve what it was intended for. It is not able to fulfill its purpose. It can't be what God intended it to be. Can this be talking about the planet? Is the planet not achieving its intended purpose? Notice how this word is used in:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, Ephesians 4:17 NASB

Futility here is again mataiotes. And here it is futility of their mind. This is talking about people, not rocks and trees. At some point, God subjected the creation to futility. He refers to the fall in the garden of Eden and the judgment that was pronounced upon the creation. Creation fell when Adam fell.

This verse is used to say that the physical creation was subjected to futility, it was cursed. Were tress, plants, fish, animals and bugs cursed? How was it cursed? Did lions and eagles no longer eat meat? Were they plant eaters? And in the curse did they grow fangs and begin to kill? Did bugs no longer bite and sting people? How was creation cursed? How were trees and plants cursed?

One commentator writes: "All of creation groans and anxiously awaits the restoration of all things. Certainly here is the explanation to the problem our world faces in the realm of ecology. All creation suffers from the sin of men. We strip away desired minerals and resources without sufficient concern for the effect of our actions on the environment. We pollute the environment with our rubbish. No wonder creation groans." This sounds like he is saying that the curse of creation was man. Man is cursed, no doubt, but is the earth? Let's go back to Genesis and look at the curse:

Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; Genesis 3:17-18 NASB

The word "ground" is from the Hebrew word adamah, which has a wide range of meanings. It can mean: "ground, a specific plot of land, or land, territory, country." It is not most commonly translated "ground." In fact, the most common translation is "land." Therefore, the meaning of the verse can refer to a geographic area and not to the "ground" in general.

It would be safe to say that God did not plant any weeds in the garden. But this does not mean that there were no weeds outside the garden. We know from Genesis 2:2-3 that God rested from His creative acts after the sixth day:

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. Genesis 2:2-3 NASB

Therefore, God had already created weeds on the earth prior to the fall of Adam and Eve. In order to claim that God created weeds as a curse, one would have to question the meaning of "all" (repeated twice) in these verses:

The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8-9 NASB

The text says that the garden of Eden was planted by God and Adam was placed in the garden and given the assignment of maintaining it. Adam did not have to do any planting in order to eat, since God had done all the planting. It was already self-watered by mists or streams. If there were no weeds in the garden, I am not sure what Adam would have to do in order to "cultivate and keep it.":

therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. Genesis 3:23 NASB

The text says that Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden into the real world of weeds and untended land. Therefore, the curse of the "land" was, more likely, a curse directed against Adam for his transgression against God's rules.

Well if you don't buy that, another view may be that the ground was cursed, but the curse was later lifted after the flood. It seem like Lamech prophesied that the curses would be lifted:

Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son. Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed." Genesis 5:28-29 NASB

And it seems like God lifted the ground curse after the flood:

The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease." Genesis 8:21-22 NASB

If the ground was cursed, would it not now be removed? God promises to never again curse the ground even though man would still sin. I don't see our physical world as being cursed. Jesus did not die for animals, bugs and plants? God told Adam that he would die--that is the curse.

People say that when the earth is renewed that Isaiah's prophecy will be literally fulfilled:

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper's den. Isaiah 11:6-8 NASB

If this passage talks about a physical restoration from a physical curse then this would mean that this is how everything was before the curse. But if that was so, why does the Hebrew word lion, ariy mean: "violence"? How does he get a name like "violence" when he is eating straw.

John Piper writes: "No more destructive tornadoes or hurricanes or floods or droughts or plagues or diseases or accidents or harmful animals or insects or viruses. The prophecy of Isaiah 65:17 will come to pass: 'Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.'"

If this prophecy of Isaiah 65 has not yet been fulfilled then we are all still under the Mosaic Law, every bit of it:

"For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:18 NASB

The Law is gone, it passed away with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. We dwell in the new heavens and earth where righteousness dwells:

The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Psalms 19:1 NASB

We can see the hand of God in the physical creation. We stand by the Grand Canyon, and we are awed by what we see; or we stand on the beach of the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, and are awed by that great body of water; or we're in the Alps, and we look and we see one of these magnificent peaks, and we are awed by that. Will the redemption of the earth someday make the sunsets more beautiful? Will it make the mountains more awe inspiring? Will it make the sky bluer, the grass greener, the flowers prettier?

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