Pastor David B. Curtis


Creation Set Free - Part 2

Romans 8:18-25

Delivered 10/30/2011

We are continuing our study of Romans 8:18-25 this morning. Many take this text to be teaching a renovation or redemption of planet earth. They see this text as a time when God will free the planet from the curse, which seems a little inconsistent, because most Futurists believe that God is going to destroy the earth. And you can't have destruction (2 Pet.3:10) and deliverance (Rom.8:21-23) of the same creation at the same time. Let's read the text:

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

What is Paul's source for this text in Romans? Is this some new teaching that was given to Paul? No, Paul said that he preached nothing but the Law and the Prophets:

"So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; Acts 26:22 NASB

Paul is saying that he was preaching nothing but what is found in the Tanakh. Paul is saying that what he is preaching ALL comes from the First Testament. Paul's eschatology was nothing but what the Prophets and Moses taught. All eschatology is Israel's eschatology.

Dwight Pentecost, in his book, Things to Come, on page 137 writes: "The concept must stand that this whole age [he's referring to the Church Age] with its program was not revealed in the Old Testament, but constitutes a new program and a new line of revelation in this present age."

How can that be if Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, says that he teaches nothing but what Moses and the Prophets taught? Who do we believe, Paul or Dwight Pentecost?

Listen to me, believers, There is nothing new in the New Testament. Everything that Paul, and all its writers, taught was nothing but the hope of Israel. All the promises that God gave to Israel are fulfilled in the Church, because the Church is the true Israel of God.

So what Paul is teaching in this text in Romans 8 comes from the First Testament. So what is Paul's source for Romans 8 and the creature groaning in birth pains? Paul draws heavily from Isaiah. We see in the context of Isaiah 26 that Israel is in bondage:

O LORD our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; But through You alone we confess Your name. Isaiah 26:13 NASB

Whenever Israel was in bondage, in captivity they considered themselves dead, and to be brought back to the land was considered a resurrection. Now notice what Isaiah says and see if it sounds familiar to what we see in Romans 8:

O LORD, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer, Your chastening was upon them. As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O LORD. We were pregnant, we writhed in labor, We gave birth, as it seems, only to wind. We could not accomplish deliverance for the earth, Nor were inhabitants of the world born. Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. Isaiah 26:16-19 NASB

Here we see the tribulation before the resurrection. This passage is all about Israel, not the physical creation. Believing Israelites are the "creation":

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

This theme of suffering and glory is the same theme Paul takes up in:


Here Paul quotes from Isaiah 64:4. Isaiah's message was given to encourage the pilgrim community that the sufferings they experienced were of little consequence when compared to their future blessing. Paul is doing the same thing here in our text.

This verse 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.

In our text the glory that Paul said was about to be revealed in them was the glory of the New Covenant age. Paul told his first century audience that this glory was about to be revealed.

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

We saw in our last study that "the creation" here is the Greek word ktisis, which can be translated as either: "creation" or "creature," depending upon the context. It is sometimes used of physical creation, and it is at times used of men. In this text it is better translated "creature" because it is not referring to physical creation, but refers to the believing remnant of Israel. We saw in chapter 1 that Paul used the term "creation" to speak of Israel. Israel was God's creation. Notice how the writer of Hebrews uses this word ktisis:

The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; Hebrews 9:8-11 NASB

The point of this passage is to show the superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Old Covenant system. The end of verse 11 says, "[It's] not made with hands, that is, not of this creation." The Greek word for creation is ktisis. The tabernacle, in which our Lord serves, is "not made with hands," referring to the tabernacle of national physical Israel that is talked about in this chapter. The tabernacle is "not of this creation"; again meaning: "not of physical Israel." This chapter contrasts Israel's earthly tabernacle and sacrifices to the heavenly tabernacle and sacrifice. It is very clear here that Israel is the creation.

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

Notice what Paul tells us about the "creation" here, which is the believing remnant of Old Covenant Israel, they are anxiously longing and eagerly waiting. "Anxious longing"--is from the Greek word apokaradokia. It is a word that literally means: "to sort of stretch your head up, to stand on your tiptoes." This intense watching implies nearness. Paul just told us in verse 18 that the glory was about to be revealed.

The words "waits eagerly" are from the Greek word apekdechomai. This 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. It's about to be revealed.

This anxious longing and eager waiting was for the "revealing of the sons of God"--what they are looking for is for God to reveal those who are His true sons. In the First Testament Israel is quite frequently identified in both the singular and the plural as God's son:

"Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. Exodus 4:22 NASB

But in the New Covenant it is no longer racial, the sons of God are those who have faith in Messiah:

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:7 NASB

This would have been a shocking statement to Paul's Jewish opponents. They deeply believed that they were God's sons, because they were genetically descended from Abraham.

The Jews saw themselves as the exclusive children of God. But Jesus told them:

and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. Matthew 3:9 NASB

The Jews also saw themselves as God's vine. Notice what Isaiah said:

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel And the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress. Isaiah 5:7 NASB

But who did Jesus say was the true vine?

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. John 15:1 NASB

Jesus was the true vine, the true Israelite, the true son of God. And all those, and only those, who put their faith in Him were also the true sons of God. In Galatians 4 Paul. in the context of talking about the sons of God, says:

Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. Galatians 4:21-22 NASB

Now notice that some of Abraham's sons were born of a bondwoman, they were in bondage to the Law. But he also had sons by the free woman. Paul is here contrasting the covenants, those under the Law were in bondage. Notice what Paul says in out text in Romans":

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

The creation, believing Israel, is going to be set free from slavery. Back to Galations:

But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? "CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN." So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. Galatians 4:29-31 NASB

The Jews persecuted the Christians, but God said, "cast out the bondwoman and her son"--this is physical Israel, who has no heir-ship. It is the brethren; Christians who are the children of God. And in A.D. 70 God cast out the bondwoman and her sons, and made it clear to all the world that those who believe in Jesus the Messiah are the true sons of God.

Please remember that it was the Jews who were the main instigators of persecution against the Christians throughout most of the first century. The Jews were saying that they were the true sons of God. But notice what Jesus says to His Church at Smyrna about this Jewish persecution:

'I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Revelation 2:9 NASB
'Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie-- behold, I will make them to come and bow down at your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Revelation 3:9 NASB

Who would say they were Jews, but weren't? Physical Israel. Jesus said that an unbelieving Jew was of the synagogue of Satan. These are some very strong words. Jesus is quoting here from Isaiah 60:

"And the sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, And all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; And they will call you the city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 60:14 NASB

If we were an Old Covenant Jew, we would understand this prophecy of Isaiah as our Gentile enemies being subservient to us. But Jesus uses this verse and applies it to the Church, that is true Israel, and it is Old Covenant Israel that is persecuting the Church. Jesus said that the Old Covenant Jews were going to come and bow before the feet of the Church, the true Israel of God. God openly confirmed or revealed Christians as true sons of God in the destruction of the Jewish and the complete end of Judaism in A.D. 70.

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

Paul tells us here that the "creation" was subjected to futility--the word subjected is hupotasso, a military term meaning to line up under. So the creation was made to line up under, or brought under futility. Futility is from the Greek noun mataiotes, which means: "the inability to reach the goal of its intended design." It cannot achieve its intended use. It is not able to fulfill its purpose. This word does not refer to inanimate objects; to the physical creation. This is a moral futility.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:21 NASB

Who was it that knew God? All men did not know God. It was Israel, and only Israel:

He declares His words to Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances to Israel. 20 He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His ordinances, they have not known them. Praise the LORD! Psalms 147:19-20 NASB

Israel alone knew God, being in covenant with Him. Paul says in Romans 1:21, "They [Israel] became futile"--futile here is the verb mataioo, the same word in our text in Romans 8. And this is referring to Israel. Israel was unable to reach the goal of its intended design.

Luke uses the adjective mataios in:

and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain (mataios) things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM. Acts 14:15 NASB

Again we see that this is a moral futility. Peter uses the adjective mataios in:

knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 1 Peter 1:18 NASB

Futile here is mataios. Peter is talking to Christian Jews and telling them that they have been redeemed from their "futile" way of life inherited from their forefathers. This was life under Torah.

The Law was a yoke of bondage, which kept Israel from their purpose for which they were created. The Law subjected them to futility. All men were subjected to the futility of sin--not being able to fulfill the purpose for which they were created, but Israel was given the Law, which increased the transgression. We see this futility in such verses as:

"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
Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 NASB

This is the futility of life under the Law. It was bondage:

So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:3-5 NASB

This adoption as sons would remove Israel from her futility, and this would happen at the Second Coming. Luke ties redemption to the Second Coming at the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:28).

Paul says, "The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly"--the Greek here is hekon, which means: "voluntarily." How can this be said of the physical planet? Does the physical creation have a will? Do plants, animals and dirt have a will? Hekon is only used one other place in the New Testament:

For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me. 1 Corinthians 9:17 NASB

Hekon is here translated as voluntarily. So this subjection to futility was not a voluntary thing, which would mean it was against its will. How can this refer to physical creation?

This moral futility came on man "because of Him who subjected it, in hope"-- God subjected the creature to futility. This is referring to the fall of man in the garden of Eden. A curse was placed on man, he was separated from the presence of God, he died spiritually. Man cannot achieve his intended purpose--fellowship with God.

This verse is used to say that the physical creation was subjected to futility, it was cursed. Were trees, plants, fish, animals and bugs cursed? How was it cursed? I received a question last week that I really misunderstood. Chuck's question was: "In Genesis 1:29 God gave them green plants for food. Before the flood they did not eat meat. Why did God restrict the food supply before the fall?" I took that as why did God change man's diet after the fall. Chuck e-mailed me an explanation of his question:

"Hopefully I'll make it clearer. Let me first say that what I wasn't asking was anything to do with the dietary laws or whether we should or shouldn't eat meat...At any rate, I asked my question only because of what I perceived as a contradiction in what I heard you say regarding animals prior to the fall. I believe you said that lions and eagles got their names because of their function i.e. that they both had to have hunted and eaten flesh prior to the fall. In other words, why else would animals have large fangs if they couldn't function as they were intended? And you further said that animal death existed before the fall. How do we know that? And that presumption, though makes sense logically, is in violation of the next passage:

Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so. Genesis 1:29-30 NASB

This sounds like animals ate only plants prior to the fall. Did animals die prior to the fall? If not why was a lion called violence, the Hebrew meaning of lion? What is so violent about a vegetarian lion that hurts no one? Did the animals change after the fall? Did God curse animals? Why, they didn't sin, nor can they sin."

Let me see if I can explain why Genesis 1:30 seems to say that animals were vegetarians before the fall. Look at:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Genesis 2:15 NASB

The Hebrew word translated "put" here is the word nuach, which means "rest" (from where the name 'Noah' comes). the sense of the verb is causative, meaning that God "caused Adam to rest" in the garden.

Then he says, "to cultivate it and keep it"--the word "cultivate" is from the Hebrew word "abad," which is most often translated elsewhere as: "serve or worship.. The word "keep" translates the Hebrew word "shamar" and is elsewhere translated "keep" in the sense of obeying or keeping a command:

God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep [shamar] My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. Genesis 17:9 NASB

In some passages, the words are used together as "serve" and "keep" as in serving the Lord and obeying His commands:

"Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve [abad] the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep [shamar] the LORD'S commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? Deuteronomy 10:12-13 NASB

Contextually, there was no reason that Adam needed to tend and keep the garden before the fall, God planted and watered the garden. Working the ground in order to provide for himself was a curse that was a result of the fall (3:17-19).

Rather than Adam bearing any responsibility toward the garden, Adam's responsibility was toward God: to worship and obey Him. Now let's talk abut the garden:

Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. Genesis 2:15 NASB

The word "garden" here is gan, which means an enclosed garden. It is from the word ganan, which means: "to hedge about, to protect, to defend." Internally, it has the form of an enclosed space with a single entrance facing East. The garden of Eden was an enclosed zoological park; inside it were the non-violent animals, the vegetarians if you will. And outside were the more dangerous animals, the lions and bears. If all animals were vegetarians, why did Adam need to be put in an enclosed space?

Theologian Bernard Ramm writes:

The Bible ascribes death from sin to man alone. Plant life had to die even in pristine Eden. To insist that all carnivora were originally vegetarian is another preposterous proposition. Why such huge teeth and sharp claws? Its application to sea life is impossible, for the large fish could not possibly survive on seaweed (Bernard Ramm, The Christian View Of Science And Scripture, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1954 p. 143).

Adam didn't name all the animals, just those in the garden:

The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. Genesis 2:20 NASB

Notice what man named: cattle, birds and beasts of the field. We know cattle and birds, but what does he mean by beasts of the field?

They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. Psalms 104:11 NASB

This is a parallelism, the beasts of the field are wild donkeys. It seems that Adam only named the animals in the garden. He didn't name the whales and sharks.

Alright, so my position is that Adam was placed in a walled garden that was safe and comfortable and had all the food he needed. He was there to worship and obey God. The curse was not on the earth or physical creation, but on man. The curse was being expelled from the garden, God's presence. In the garden were the tame animals, outside the garden were the wild animals and ground with weeds. When Adam left the garden, which was the curse--he had to work for his food. I don't see the curse was on the ground or animals, it was on man. Back to 8:20:

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

God subjected man to futility, but He did so in hope! It's God who cursed the creation, but He did it in hope. What was this hope? At the same time that God cursed man He also gave him hope of deliverance. Where do we find this hope?:

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel." Genesis 3:15 NASB

This is what theologians call the protoevangelium, the first Gospel. Immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve, God, even in pronouncing judgement and the curse, promises deliverance through the offspring of the woman. In one cryptic sentence, addressed to the Serpent, God divulges the plan of salvation: An individual from among the woman's seed, namely Christ, shall deal a death blow and utter defeat to Satan at the cross, while Satan would bruise Christ's heel, that is, cause Him to suffer.

So God promises deliverance to fallen man through faith in Christ Jesus. He gives man hope. But where in Scripture do you ever see hope given to physical creation? Where is a promise of the planet being redeemed? It doesn't need hope, it is inanimate, and it can't hope.

But "hope" is a major theme of Israel. What was Israel's hope?:

"And now I am standing trial for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers; the promise to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly serve God night and day. And for this hope, O King, I am being accused by Jews. "Why is it considered incredible among you people if God does raise the dead? Acts 26:6-8 NASB

Israel's hope was resurrection, and that is what this passage in Romans 8 is all about, the creation, the believing remnant of Israel, was anxiously longing, eagerly waiting, for their hope, the redemption of the body, which is resurrection.

Continue the Series

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