For the last three weeks we have been looking at Romans 8:18-25. This will be part four and our final look at this section. We have seen that "the creation," in Romans 8, is not referring to the physical creation, but is a reference to the believing remnant of Israel. Paul told them that their present sufferings were not worthy to be compared with the glory "about to be revealed." Since this was about to happen, it must not be talking about the physical renovation of the planet, because that hasn't happened.
The "creation" is referring to Old Covenant saints who, under the law, were in the bondage of corruption of sin-death, yet waiting/groaning in pain to be delivered from that bondage when the first fruits, New Covenant saints, received the redemption of the body.
Paul tells us in verse 20 that the "creation" was subjected to futility, which is from the Greek noun mataiotes, which means: "the inability to reach the goal of its intended design." We saw that this word refers to a moral futility of life under the Law:
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
Here, speaking of the "creation," he uses three Greek words: eleutheroo, meaning "set free"; douleia, meaning "slavery"; and phthora, meaning "corruption." All of these words are tied to Israel and its bondage to sin and death. Why would he do this if the creation was the physical planet?
We also saw that the phrase in verse 22, "Suffers the pains of childbirth,"was imagery that became known as the "Messianic birth pangs." We saw from Scripture that it was Israel who was in labor pains. This text is loaded with connections to Israel. This "who passage" is about Israel and not the physical planet.
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
As we said last week, the "redemption of our body" is a reference to the resurrection. The promise of resurrection was a promise made to who? Physical creation? NO! Resurrection was a promise made to Israel. Ezekiel 37 connects the Spirit and the resurrection, and Romans 8 talks about the Spirit and the resurrection. The resurrection was Israel's hope. God had promised to redeem His people from the grave:
Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. Hosea 13:14 NASB
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah. Psalms 49:15 NASB
This verse expresses hope that God will provide salvation beyond the grave, one of the few First Testament references to life after death. This is what Paul calls "the redemption of our body"--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. "Our body" is the body of Christ, and it has been redeemed! Redemption is tied to the destruction of Jerusalem that happened in A.D. 70. In the context of speaking of Jerusalem's destruction, Jesus says:
"But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21:28 NASB
Alright, so hopefully I have established that the subject of our text is that God will soon redeem His people Israel along with the first century saints.
Let's look at the last two verses in this section. Verses 24-25 explain the eschatological thrust of verse 23, emphasizing that the hope that the "creation" and the first fruit believers longed for was still future when Paul wrote:
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 8:24-25 NASB
"We have been saved" --Paul here speaks of salvation in the past, using the aorist tense. This is interesting, because Paul most often locates salvation in the future:
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:9-10 NASB
We even see the future dimension of salvation in our text, for Paul says, "In hope we have been saved"; making it something in the future. They were hoping for what they did not yet have. Paul also connects hope and salvation in:
But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 NASB
Paul uses this word "hope" fourteen times in nine verses in Romans. Hope is from the Greek elpis, which means: "confidence". The word "hope" has come to have a different meaning today than that which was originally used in the New Testament. Today it indicates something of contingency; an expectancy that something will happen, but there is some question as to whether or not it will really occur. We say, "I hope they'll pay me," indicating some uneasiness or uncertainty about the future. But this is not the New Testament usage. In the New Testament "hope" indicates an absolute certainty about the future, an attitude of eager expectancy, of confidence in God and His ability to do what He has promised.
In Romans 5-8 Paul argues that those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ are the inheritors of the promises made to Israel. Believing Jews and Gentiles are now recipients of the hope that belonged to Israel.
Paul says, "In hope we have been saved"--so, salvation is an eschatological hope, not a present possession for Paul's original audience. They were saved in the confidence of its future arrival.
Paul's audience looked forward to salvation with hope. It was future to them. Is it still future to us? Most Christians think so, and they do so because most Bible teachers teach that salvation is still a hope for us, some two thousand years later. Let's look at what some prominent Bible teachers have to say.
N.T. Wright writes, "Paul's concern is to stress that, while salvation is already a reality for the Christian ['we were saved':the tense is aorist, denoting a one-off event], it carries an inevitable future component."
In his book, Love Wins, Rod Bells says, "Jesus' disciples ask Him in Matthew 24, 'what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?' Because this is how they had been taught to think about things, 'this age' and then 'the age to come.' We might call them eras or periods of time. This age, the one we are living in, and the age to come."
So Bell sees "this age" of the Bible, the one Paul was living in, as the same one we are living in. This causes great confusion. The Church today doesn't know what time it is.
John MacArthur writes, "Yes, folks, hope is a major ingredient inseparable from salvation. We have been saved in hope, the hope of glory. We aren't all we are going to be and we haven't received all we're going to get...Salvation is in hope. We have not yet entered into the fullness of our salvation."
John Piper writes, "Our salvation is not finished, it is only begun. We are saved only in hope."
Commenting on Romans 8:24, Tom Holland writes, "All that Paul has been describing lies in the future. He has already said that believers are groaning for the completion of their redemption. This is a future hope, but it is a hope that is grounded in the historical happening of the death and resurrection of Jesus."
Cranfield writes, "Though God's saving action has already taken place, its final effect, our enjoying salvation, still lies in the future."
Kenneth Wuest writes, "It is because salvation is essentially related to the future."
Wright, Bell, MacArthur, Piper, Holland, Cranfield, Wuest, and almost all other Bible teachers teach that our salvation, the resurrection, the coming of Christ and the judgment are future, because they don't know what time it is. This is an error that throws off their understanding of Scripture. This causes the Preterist to sing the song written and sung by Robert Lamm and the group, "Chicago," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" Does anybody really care about time? If so, I can't imagine why they all ignore the time statements.
The New Testament writers taught very clearly, over and over that salvation, redemption, righteousness was something that was future to them. They longed for it, anxiously waited for it, were certain of its coming, but to them it was future:
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12 NASB
What was it that Paul had not yet obtained? The Greek word used here for "obtained" is lambano. It means: "to receive, to grasp, to seize, to acquire." Paul is saying, "I don't have it yet." What is it that he doesn't have yet? The verb lambano is transitive, but the object is not expressed. Is it the resurrection that he mentioned in verse 11 that he has not attained? Yes, the resurrection is included, but it is more than that. Philippians 3:4-11 is a unit speaking of righteousness. The key verse being:
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, Philippians 3:9 NASB
I think that what Paul is saying is that his righteousness had not yet been consummated. That would mean that eternal life had not been consummated. That might not fit your theology, but it fits the context of what Paul has been talking about. Paul was saying, "Not that I have already obtained, or have already been made righteous." Notice what Paul says about righteousness in:
For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5 NASB
If righteousness was already a fulfilled or completed event, Paul made a big mistake in making "righteousness" by faith a matter of hope. You don't hope for what you have. If righteousness was a present reality, why would Paul hope for it? But Paul also talks as though it was a present possession:
But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, Romans 4:5 NASB
Did Paul have Christ's righteousness or was is still future to him? Yes! He had it, but it was also still future to him. How can this be?
Paul lived in what the Bible calls the "last days"--they were the last days of the Old Covenant. Those "last days" began at the time of Christ and ended at A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. We now live in what the Bible calls, "the age to come," which is the New Covenant age. The forty year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period the New Covenant had been inaugurated but not consummated. It was a time of "ALREADY BUT NOT YET."
Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first century believers, it was their hope, they looked forward to its soon arrival. In this same way, "eternal life" was not a present possession, but a hope. Please remember the "already but not yet" character of the transition period. They had eternal life positionally, but it would not be theirs in fact until the Lord returned:
He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7 NASB
Again, you don't hope for what you already have.
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. Jude 1:21 NASB
As much as I hate to admit this the NIV makes this verse much clearer:
Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:21 NIV
They had the hope of eternal life (already), but they did not have it as a present possession (not yet). Eternal life was something that was to come to them at the Second Coming, in 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
Eternal life was a condition of the age to come!
So if we are going to understand the Bible, we must know what time it is. Due to some bad translations many see "the age to come" as something that will follow the end of the world or time as we know it:
As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. Matthew 13:40 KJV
The Contemporary English Version mistranslates it this way:
Weeds are gathered and burned. That's how it will be at the end of time. Matthew 13:40 CEV
So based on these translations, people believe that the world is going to end, and there will be an end of time. The problem here is the translation of the Greek word aion. Aion does not mean "world" or "time," but "age, dispensation, era, or a period of time." We can understand that an age can end and yet the world and time can still go on. The Bible talks about the end of the age, but never the end of the world or the end of time. Most newer translations of the Bible correct this error in the KJV.
"So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. Matthew 13:40 NASB
So, Jesus is here talking about something that will happen at the "end of the age" He was living in. Notice what was to happen at the end of the age:
"So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:49-50 NASB
Notice who is taken--the wicked. Is this a reverse rapture? I believe this speaks of the Judgment of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The "end" that Jesus is talking about was the end of the Jewish age when the wicked Jews were burned in the destruction of Jerusalem. We see the end of the age attached to the destruction of the Jewish temple in:
Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:1-3 NASB
Their question was two-fold. First they ask, "when will these things be?" The "these things" refers to the temple's destruction in verse 2. In verse 1 the disciples point out the temple buildings to Jesus. In verse 2 Jesus says, "All' 'these things' shall be destroyed." It should be clear that they are asking, "WHEN will the temple be destroyed? When will our house be left desolate?" After all Jesus had just said about judgment on Jerusalem (Matt. 23), and then about not one stone not being left upon another, the disciples' response is, "When?" That makes sense, doesn't it?
The second part of their question is, "What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age." If you compare all three accounts, you see that the disciples considered His "coming" and "the end of the age" to be identical events with the destruction of the temple.
The sign of His coming and the end of age was the same as the "these things," which referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70. The disciples had one thing, and only one thing, on their mind, and that was the destruction of the temple. With the destruction of the temple they connected the coming of Messiah and the end of the age.
So, the age that was to end was the Jewish age. It would end with the destruction of the Jewish temple and the city Jerusalem. The end of the age did not happen at the cross or at Pentecost, but at the destruction of Jerusalem. The world was not going to end, but the age of Judaism was. 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.
This brings us to a very important question, "HOW MANY AGES ARE THERE?" To the Jews, time was divided into two great periods, the Mosaic Age and the Messianic Age. The Messiah was viewed as one who would bring in a new world. The period of the Messiah was, therefore, correctly characterized by the Synagogue as "the world to come." All through the New Testament we see two ages in contrast: "This age" and the "age to come":
"Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:32 NASB
The word "come" at the end of the verse is the Greek word mello, which means: " about to be." We could translate this, "the age about to come" (in the first century). Many think that the age to come will be a sinless age; not according to this verse. Sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in that age, referring to the age of the New Covenant, our present age. We see here that both of these ages have sin in them.
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. Ephesians 1:21 NASB
Here again we see the two ages. So, the New Testament speaks of two ages, "this age" and "the age to come." The understanding of these two ages and when they changed is fundamental to interpreting the Bible.
Let's see what the New Testament teaches us about these two ages. Questions that we need to try to answer are: What age did the new testament writers live in? What age do we live in? What does the New Testament say about "the age to come"? When does "this age" end and "the age to come" begin?
WHAT AGE DID THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS LIVE IN?
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" was about to end:
Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 NASB
Paul said very plainly that the end of the ages was coming upon "them," the first century saints. "This age" was about to end:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB
Jesus was speaking in the last days. What last days? The last days of the Bible's "this age"--the Old Covenant age.
Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Hebrews 9:26 NASB
When was it that Jesus appeared? He was born, not at the beginning, but at the end of the ages. To suppose that he meant that Jesus' incarnation came near the end of the world, would be to make his statement false. The world has already lasted longer since the incarnation than the whole duration of the Mosaic economy, from the exodus to the destruction of the temple. Jesus was manifest at the end of the Jewish age. Peter says the same thing:
For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 1 Peter 1:20 NASB
Jesus came during the last days of the age that was the Old Covenant age, the Jewish age. That age came to an end with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. All the things prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24 occurred at the end of that age. Alright, so the New Testament writers lived in what the Bible calls "this age."
WHAT AGE DO WE LIVE IN?
We now live in what was to the first century saints the "age to come." When most Christians read in the New Testament and see the words "the age to come," they think of a yet future (to us) age. But the New Testament writers were referring to the Christian age. We live in what was to them the "age to come," the New Covenant age.
Since the "present age" of the Bible ended in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the temple and the coming of the Lord, we must be in the "age to come."
WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT SAY ABOUT "THE AGE TO COME"?
It is an age that has no end! The end of the age came upon the first century believers. The Bible nowhere speaks of an "end" far removed from the first century inspired writers. The end was always at hand, near, about to come. The New Covenant age has no end:
to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:21 NASB
Paul says that it is the mission of the Church to give glory to God forever and ever. The Christian age, the New Covenant, is not temporary. The age we live in will never end, it is an everlasting age:
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, Hebrews 13:20 NASB
The Bible doesn't teach about an age future to us. The age in which we live is the everlasting age of the New Covenant. It has no last days, no end, and nothing left to be fulfilled.
In an attempt to deny that we are living in the "age to come" some quote:
Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; Luke 20:34-35 NASB
They say that here Jesus notes that marriage is a normal custom in the present age, but that it would no longer occur in the age to come. In the text, who is Jesus talking about? The subject is physically dead people:
"Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; and the second and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died, leaving no children. "Finally the woman died also. "In the resurrection therefore, which one's wife will she be? For all seven had married her." Luke 20:29-33 NASB
The woman and her seven husbands had all died physically. This "no marriage" state will also apply to us when we physically die:
"For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Mark 12:25 NASB
Understanding the two ages and when they changed is fundamental to understanding the Bible. The New Testament writers were writing to people who lived in "this age," an age that was shortly to end. We live in what the Bible calls "the age to come," the New Covenant age.
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 8:24-25 NASB
Paul uses this distinction between "seen" and "unseen" things in 2 Corinthians 4:18:
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
This is a comparison between the Old and New covenants:
But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:25 NASB
Verse 25 ties this section (18-25) together. The thesis of this section is that the future glory is so magnificent that it renders the present suffering as not worthy to be compared. This is an encouragement to endure suffering with an eye on the future. And it was their hope that gave them strength in their sufferings.
This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, Hebrews 6:19 NASB
The early church used the symbol of an anchor to refer to the Christian hope. It was just as common in the early church as was the sign of the fish. The sign of the anchor has been found carved into the walls of numerous caves in Jerusalem and that part of the world. It was designed to be an encouragement to the Christians who were suffering martyrdom, and who were being oppressed. They would see the anchor, and their thoughts would turn to this passage in Hebrews and the teaching that it contained. The hope of inheritance accomplishes for the soul the same thing which an anchor does for a ship. It holds it secure in the midst of storms. In the tempest of their eschatological trials the first century saints were held secure by their hope of a soon to arrive salvation.
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