I'd like for us to look this morning at Paul's encouragement to the first century church as they waited for the arrival of the Resurrected Body.
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. Romans 8:18-23 NASB
The majority view of this text is that Paul is talking about the physical creation. Most believers see this text as talking about the physical re-creation of earth. They see the earth as under a curse that will be lifted at the return of Christ.
N.T. Wright states, "The whole creation—sun, moon, sea, sky, birds, animals, plants—is longing for the time when God's people will be revealed as God's glorious human agents." Then later Wright says, "Paul never says that creation itself will have 'glory.' It will have freedom because God's children have glory." What Wright and so many fail to see in this passage is the time statement:
For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us; Romans 8:18 YLT
The glory "about to be revealed" is not in our future, it was in their near future, and is two thousand years past for us. Since this was "about to happen," it must not be talking about the physical renovation of the earth, because that hasn't happened.
Giving us the Futurist view of this text John MacArthur writes:
God never changes, but this creation is going to change. It is really going to change. There is going to be a glorious restoration. There is going to be a regeneration, and I'm not talking about the new Heaven and the new earth. That's after the millennial Kingdom. There is going to be a change before that.
Jesus says there's coming a regeneration, and when it comes, I'm going to be on my throne, and we know it; the prophet said he'd be on the throne of David in the City of Jerusalem, and not only is he going to be on his throne, he is going to rule the nation of Israel, and not only is he going to rule the nation of Israel, but the twelve Apostles are going to sit on twelve thrones and assist Him in judging the twelve tribes. That's the regeneration. That's the promise of the regenerated earth, the Kingdom where Christ establishes His throne and reigns. This is the promise of God.
One of the features of the millennial Kingdom is of course you have these believers taken to glory both New Testament believers and Old Testament believers, all taken to glory, given glorified bodies. They come back to earth to reign with Christ and they're all resurrected individuals with a glorified body like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ.
The restored earth exists for a thousand years, after which the whole thing is totally uncreated and God creates a new heaven and a new earth. At that point all that has been recreated is utterly uncreated. The elements melt with fervent heat, probably talking about the reversal of the atomic creation that God put into motion in six days and it's all uncreated and then God creates a new heaven and a new earth.
That's a pretty good summary of the Dispensational view. But again, he like Wright, is missing the time statement. The glory was "about to be revealed." About two thousand years ago.
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, 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.
Let me make a comment on the word "LORD" in this text. This is from the Hebrew . Reading from right to left it is: Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei, which is pronounced as Yahweh. This is called the "Tetragrammaton" (Greek, meaning: "four letters"); these are the four consonants, YHWH, which make up the divine name. The written Hebrew language did not include vowels, only the consonants were used; thus readers supplied the vowels as they read (this is true even today in Hebrew newspapers). Reverence for the divine name led to the practice of avoiding its use. In time it was thought that the divine name was too holy to pronounce at all. Thus the practice arose of using the word Adonai (LORD). Many translations of the Bible followed this practice. In most English translations, YHWH is recognizable where the word LORD appears in all caps.
The name (Yahweh) appears nearly 7,000 times (6,824 in NASB) in the Hebrew Scriptures, but not even once in the English Bible. If Yahweh used His name almost 7,000 times in Scripture, I think He wants us to know it and use it:
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, Praise the name of the LORD. Blessed be the name of the LORD From this time forth and forever. From the rising of the sun to its setting The name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalms 113:1-3 NASB
It's hard to praise His name if you don't know it or don't use it. Our God's name is Yahweh! Back to Isaiah:
"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; Yahweh 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.
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. Romans 8:21 NASB
We have seen that "the creation," in Romans 8, is not referring to the physical cosmos, but is a reference to the believing remnant of Israel. It is referring to Old Covenant saints who, under the Law, were in the bondage to corruption of sin—death.
"Will be set free"—the words "set free" are from the Greek word eleutheroo, which means: "set at liberty; from the dominion of sin." The future passive verb implies that God will do the work of liberation, with the context declaring it as fruit of Yeshua's redemptive work at the cross. Eleutheroo is only used 7 times in the New Testament, all in relation to Israel being set free from the bondage of the Law:
So Yeshua was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:31-32 NASB
"Make you free" here is eleutheroo. It is also used in:
"So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NASB
This same word is used in:
and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:18 NASB
This is dealing with believing Israelites:
But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. Romans 6:22 NASB
Again, this is believing Israelites:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Yeshua has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:2 NASB
This is referring to those in Romans 7 who cried out for deliverance from the body of sin and death—Israel:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 NASB
The word free here is eleutheroo. Paul says that they are not to, "be subject again to a yoke of slavery"—what is the "yoke of slavery"? A similar use of yoke can be seen in Peter's speech at the Jerusalem council as reported in:
"Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? Acts 15:10 NASB
To compel the Gentiles to adopt the Mosaic Law as a means to a right standing before God was to "tempt God" by putting the Gentiles under a "yoke" that even the Jews could not live under. The yoke of the Law is a yoke of slavery, because it places them under the burden of commandments they cannot keep.
So every use of eleutheroo is to Israel. It is never used of the earth being set free from anything. This would strengthen the idea of ktisis being a reference to Israel.
The word slavery here in Galatians 5:1 is the same word used in our text in:
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. Romans 8:21 NASB
This word "slavery" is the Greek word douleia, it is only used five time in the New Testament and only of Israel. It is used in Romans 8:15, 21; Galatians 5:1; Hebrews 2:15; and in:
This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Galatians 4:24 NASB
The "slaves" here are those under the Law, which would be Israelites.
The word "corruption" in our text is from the Greek word phthora. It is only used 8 times in the New Testament and is always dealing with the corruption of sin and the Law:
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:4 NASB
Paul is talking to Jewish believers here, they have escaped the "corruption" of the Law of sin and death.
So Paul is telling us, "the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption"—here speaking of the "creation" he uses three Greek words: eleutheroo (free), douleia (slavery), and phthora, which are all tied to Israel and bondage to sin and death. Why would he do this if the creation was the physical earth? Is he trying to confuse us? No, we are already confused, he is trying to make it clear that the creation is Israel. Paul goes on to say that they will be delivered "into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." The "creation," the remnant of Old Covenant Israel, will share the same freedom of glory as the children of God. This is not the physical creation sharing in the glory of the children of God, but the believers of the Old Covenant. The writer of Hebrews makes this clear:
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. Hebrews 11:13 NASB
Believing Old Covenant Israel died in faith, hoping for a better resurrection:
Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; Hebrews 11:35 NASB
God did not give Old Covenant Israel deliverance in advance of New Covenant saints:
And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40 NASB
God had provided some better things for us (N.C. saints), so that apart from us (N.C. saints), they (O.C. saints) would not be made perfect. The text says they "did not receive what was promised"—what was promised? Prior to the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, "resurrection" was a promised future hope, not a present possession. The promise was eternal life, resurrection life in the presence of Yeshua the Christ.
"So that apart from us they would not be made perfect"—perfection consists of being resurrected. It's receiving their eternal inheritance. The Old Covenant saints did not receive their resurrection until the Church was perfected. Prior to A.D. 70 and the return of Christ, nobody entered the presence of God.
"The creation," (Old Covenant believers) received what was promised right along with the children of God. The creation received eternal life, they were resurrected in the presence of God along with the New Covenant believers.
Notice what else Paul says about the creation:
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. Romans 8:22 NASB
"The whole creation groans"—this is all the righteous remnant of Israel. The creation here cannot be the physical earth, How do you have literal groaning of believers here, "even we ourselves groan" v23, and the metaphorical groaning of the earth from the same word? Is groaning literal and metaphoric at the same time? What kind of hermeneutic is that?
"Suffers the pains of childbirth"—is all from the Greek word sunodino. It means: "to suffer in pain together." The Jews believed that just before the manifestation of the Messianic Kingdom Israel would go through a period of intense suffering.
William Barclay says, "Time was divided by the Jews into two great periods—this present age, and the age to come. The present age is wholly bad and beyond all hope of human reformation. It can be mended only by the direct intervention of God. When God does intervene the golden age, the age to come, will arrive. But in between the two ages there will come the Day of the Lord, which will be a time of terrible and fearful upheaval, like the birth-pangs of a new age."
The phrase "pains of childbirth" is an image that is sometimes used in the Scripture simply to express great pain; but it is often used of a woman in the pain of child birth. The imagery became known as the "Messianic birth pangs" and pictured creation being brought forth into a new existence. This process of birth would be finalized with the coming of the Messiah (Isa 26:16-18):
"Now, why do you cry out loudly? Is there no king among you, Or has your counselor perished, That agony has gripped you like a woman in childbirth? 10 "Writhe and labor to give birth, Daughter of Zion, Like a woman in childbirth, For now you will go out of the city, Dwell in the field, And go to Babylon. There you will be rescued; There the LORD will redeem you From the hand of your enemies. Micah 4:9-10 NASB
So again we see that it is Israel who is in labor pains. All these terms that Paul used were connected with Israel. Israel is the creation. Birth pains is used almost as a special term for "the birth pains of Messiah." It speaks of the period of distress preceding the return of Christ in A.D. 70. Its use here seems to be expressly chosen to denote the birth pains of a new world.
Some see the birth pains here connected with:
To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16 NASB
This could be a prophecy of Israel giving birth to the sons of God; Yeshua being the husband ruling over his bride, the Church.
Paul says, "We know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together 'Until now'"—this is not our now; it's now in the first century.
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. Romans 8:23 NASB
"We ourselves"—this is the New Testament saints (Paul and the Roman believers). Paul says that they have "the first fruits" of the Spirit. It is likely that this expression "of the spirit" is an appositional genitive, which we would render in English, the first fruits, which is the Spirit. As we see earlier in chapter 8, the Spirit was given as a "pledge," which is the Greek word arrhabon. Arrhabon means: "a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase—money or property given in advance as security for the rest: earnest or guarantee."
Yahweh commanded the Israelites to present a portion of their harvest that ripened first as an offering to Him (Exod. 23:19; Neh. 10:35). This offering acknowledged that the whole harvest was from Him and was really His. It was an offering that the Israelites made in faith, confident that the rest of the harvest would follow. Similarly, God's gift of the Spirit to the first century believers is His pledge that He will complete the process of salvation.
John Piper writes, "Because of Christ's purchased redemption, believers already have received the Holy Spirit. This is like a down payment of our full redemption, but it is only the first-fruits, a foretaste… Our salvation is not finished, it is only begun. We are saved only in hope. This is true morally; Paul says in Galatians 5:5, 'We through the Spirit by faith are waiting for the hope of righteousness.'"
Piper's mistake here is that he sees us as living in Paul's day, in the transition period. He sees us as still waiting for the adoption as sons that was "about to" happen in Paul's day. Two thousand years later he sees us as still waiting.
John MacArthur writes, "We have possession of the past elements of salvation, the present elements of salvation, but not yet the future elements." Then he quotes:
Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. Romans 13:11 NASB
The "now" here was in the first century; our salvation is not near, it is here. Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first century believers, it was their hope, but they looked forward to its soon arrival. Notice what Paul says next:
The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12 NASB
He equates their salvation with the "day," which is referring to the New Covenant, the Old Covenant was night and it was about to pass away.
Paul says that the first century saints "groan"—this is from the Greek word stenazo, which is the same word used by Paul in:
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4 NASB
The context of this passage is the changing of the covenants. The earthly tent is the Old Covenant. Paul and his contemporaries were groaning right along with creation. They were groaning under persecution for the cause of Christ.
And they were "Waiting eagerly"—this is the Greek word apekdechomai. 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 used three times in our text: in verse 19 (the creation waits eagerly), here, and in verse 25 the first century saints wait eagerly. Their wait would soon be over.
Paul says they were waiting eagerly for, "Our adoption as sons." To see the connection with Israel, all you have to do is look at the next chapter:
who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, Romans 9:4 NASB
The adoption belonged to Israel and the new, true Israel, the church, was receiving the adoption.
Then Paul says, "our adoption as sons, that is, the redemption of our body"—the full manifestation of the adoption is identical with the redemption of the body. This is the first time redemption is mentioned since 3:24. Redemption reminds us of the Exodus theme that runs through this passage.
This redemption of the body is the resurrection. Tom Constable writes, "The redemption of our 'bodies' is the resurrection." S.L. Johnson writes, "We groan waiting for the adoption that is the redemption of our body, the resurrection." All commentators, that I have read, say that the redemption of the body is the resurrection. And I agree with them that it is talking about resurrection, but I disagree with them that it is talking about a physical bodily resurrection.
MacArthur writes, "We are waiting, not for the redemption of our souls. That has already been done. We are waiting for the redemption of our body…I want a new body. I want to get rid of this fallen flesh, with its tendencies towards disease, death and sin. I want to get a new body…And it will be like the resurrection body of Jesus Christ."
S.L. Johnson writes, "There is a struggle then for the Christian as long as he is in the flesh, until the resurrection of the body, then we shall receive a body like unto our Lord's own glorious body."
Piper writes, "This is the promise of a redeemed body when glory replaces groaning. The promise has at least three parts: All pain and disease and deformity and disability will be gone. All sin, which so often takes the body for its base of operations, will be gone. And this is not because we will be rid of our bodies but because in a mysterious and wonderfully spiritual way we will have new and glorious bodies which are capable of touch and smell and taste and hearing and seeing."
"You will have the best body imaginable, and there will be playing and climbing and swimming and running and jumping and swinging and skiing and roller-skating and skate-boarding and biking and hiking and bouncing and tumbling and hopping—and whatever else you do when you are very, very happy." Seriously? Where is the Scripture to support this?
They all say we will have bodies like Yeshua's resurrection body. Does that mean they will have the scars and deformities of this life in them? Yeshua's resurrection body was scared with the marks of the cross!
The traditional view of resurrection that is held by most of the Church is this: When a believer dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes to heaven to be with the Lord. They are in a disembodied state awaiting the resurrection at the end of time. Then at the end of time the Lord returns, resurrects all the decayed bodies of the dead saints, puts them back together, then changes the physically resurrected bodies into spiritual immortal bodies like Christ's. Does that sound like what you have been taught? That is basically what the Church teaches abut the resurrection, but is it what the Bible teaches?
It is interesting to note that the Bible never uses the terms "resurrected body," "resurrection of the body," or "physical resurrection." Does that surprise you? The Church uses those terms quite often, but the Bible never does. The phrases that the Bible does use are "the resurrection of the dead" and "the resurrection from the dead."
So, in order to understand "resurrection," we must understand death. Resurrection is "resurrection from the dead." And the death that we are resurrected from is the death that came from Adam's sin:
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:21 NASB
Adam brought Spiritual death, separation from God, and so by Yeshua came the resurrection of the dead. Not a physical resurrection, but a spiritual resurrection, bringing man back into the presence of God. The Bible nowhere teaches a physical resurrection. Now if you know your Bible, you might be thinking, "Doesn't Job teach that there will be a physical resurrection?" Let's look at what Job says:
"Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me! Job 19:26-27 NASB
Job looked for the fulfillment of the promise of resurrection. Many see in this verse in Job the promise of a physical resurrection. But if this verse is translated correctly, it does the exact opposite. Kiel and Delitzsch translate verse 26 this way: "And after my skin, thus torn to pieces, and without my flesh shall I behold Eloah" (Job 19:26-27). In their commentary on verse 26 Kiel and Delitzsch write, "We cannot in this speech find that the hope of a bodily recovery is expressed."
So the Bible doesn't teach a physical resurrection, but it does tells us the time of the resurrection. The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the end of the Old Covenant age:
"But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." Daniel 12:13 NASB
We know this to have happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the Temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant Age and the inauguration of a New Age.
Notice what Paul said about the resurrection:having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; Acts 24:15 YLT
The words "shall certainly" in the NASB are the Greek word mello. Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first century audience, "there is about to be a resurrection."
Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. So if the timing of the resurrection was "soon," what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature: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. Romans 8:23 NASB
The body talked about here is not our individual physical bodies. The "our" is plural and "body" is singular. This is referring to the corporate body of Christ; the New and Living Temple. Some translations have "bodies" here, such as the NIV ("the redemption of our bodies"). But Paul says body, not bodies. N.T. Wright, Romans, 598, notes: "Paul uses the singular 'body' rather than the expected plural, as in v.11, but there seems no particular significance to this change."
You're wrong, Wright, Paul and the Holy Spirit use the singular because that is what they meant. It is referring to the body of Christ. This is what Paul talked about in 7:24. This is Christ's body being redeemed at the Parousia. This is the eschatalogical redemption that Paul cried out for in Romans 7:24. This is all those who have trusted Christ being brought into the presence of God. The living tabernacle. This is the fullness of salvation. This is eternal life. And this happened 2,000 years ago. This text has nothing to do with physical creation, it is talking about the fullness of salvation that happened at the end of the Old Covenant period. "Our body" is "the body of Christ," and it has been redeemed!