Pastor David B. Curtis


Creation Set Free - Part 3

Romans 8:18-25

Delivered 11/06/2011

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 the planet. They see the planet as under a curse that will be lifted at the return of Christ.

As I have said, I think this text is talking about Israel. Believing Israelites are 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. 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. This passage is all about Israel, not the physical creation.

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 planet, 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 what does the Bible say happens at the end of the millennium? Satan is destroyed:

And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; Revelation 20:2 NASB

So Satan is bound during the millennium; then he is destroyed at the end of the millennium:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, Revelation 20:7 NASB
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 NASB

Here the final destination of the devil and his demons is recorded as being in the lake of fire before the New Jerusalem, which is the New Covenant, is seen coming down out of heaven from God.

Notice what Paul says to the Romans about Satan:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Romans 16:20 NASB

The Greek word used here for "crush" is suntribo, it means: "to crush completely, i.e. to shatter." Paul said here to the Roman Christians that it would happen "soon." The Greek word translated "soon"' is tachos. According to Arndt and Gingich Lexicon, tachos is used in the LXX and certain non-canonical writings to mean: "speed, quickness, swiftness, haste." Paul uses this same word in:

But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. Philippians 2:19 NASB

Paul says that he hopes to send Timothy "shortly," same Greek word tachos. How soon is "shortly"? If you look at verse 23 he tells us:

Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; Philippians 2:23 NASB

I think that what Paul is saying here is, "As soon as I hear the outcome of my trial, I'm going to send him so you will know what is happening in my life." The Philippians were concerned about Paul, and he wanted to keep them informed. He was going to send Timothy to them just as soon as he knew the results of his trial.

Soon cannot mean a short time and over two thousand years! Satan was to be crushed soon, and the "glory" was about to be revealed.

We have gone over verse 18-20 for the past two weeks, so let's move on:

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 Jesus Christ'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 Jesus 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

As we saw in our study of chapter 6, 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 Jesus 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 planet being set free from anything.

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 (do-lay-a), it is only used five time in the New Testament and only of Israel. It is used in Romans 8:15, 21; Galations 5:1 and 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 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 planet? 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 Jesus 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 planet, How do you have literal groaning of believers here, "even we ourselves groan" v23, and the metaphorical groaning of the planet 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; Jesus 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 saw earlier in our study of 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."

God 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 again 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 Jesus' resurrection body. Does that mean they will have the scars and deformities of this life in them? Jesus' 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 Jesus 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. 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 we 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. 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!

Continue the Series

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