THE GROANING CREATION
Romans 8:22, 23 says, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” The human race is compared to a woman suffering birth pangs, longing to be delivered from her suffering, about to give birth to a new human race, and begin life in the new heavens and the new earth. Obviously, this is a figure of speech and speaks of all mankind, with its many forms of suffering looking, longing, hoping for a better state of existence. This is a difficult passage, and all do not understand it alike. My primary subject of this message is, “The Groaning Creation. ” But be fore I analyze this statement, I want first to bring to mind the wonderful status, state and position we Christians enjoy in this world, which Paul describes in the previous part of this chapter and which leads up to the text we will study.
Paul informs us that there is no condemnation to soul-minded people who are in Christ Jesus, who do not live just for their bodies but for their souls. “What gain is there if we gain the whole world and lose our souls,” said Jesus. Christians live under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit, and those who do are the children of God. The Holy Spirit lays down the conditions of the new birth, the birth of the water and Spirit, and declares that upon compliance with those conditions we become the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit testifies to our human spirits that we are the children of God.. He bears witness with our spirits through the written word of God, of which He is the author. Having informed us how to become children of God, we know within ourselves whether we have or have not complied with these conditions. Not only does He tell us how to become the children of God, but He also teaches us how to conduct ourselves as the children of God. With His help, our souls are able to sufficiently control our physical bodies, with their sinful desires, and live in a way that is acceptable to God.. We do not control our bodies perfectly, but sufficiently in such a way that we can live a godly and acceptable life before God. With the Spirit's help and leadership, sin does not exercise dominion over our lives. We are able to keep sin at a minimum, and for the most part we live righteous lives; and that is all God requires under the New Testament law of grace. The fact that God accepts imperfect people as His children is a great mystery, but we rejoice in it.
In addition to our exalted condition in the sight of God, Paul adds
because we are the newly adopted children of God by faith in Christ, we have become the recipients of an inheritance. We are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. If we are God's children, it follows we are heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, and whatever inheritance
awaits Jesus as God's Son, awaits us also as God's children. Christ is God's Son by nature; we are God's children by adoption. Jesus was a human being as well as you and me, and this inheritance belongs to God's only begotten Son and all of God's children. It is a kind of joint-inheritance.
However, there is one downside to the exalted position we Christians enjoy in the world. In Romans 8:18 Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Many are the sufferings of this life, in both body and mind. The good and bad meet sufferings in the way, and not an hour or day passes without them. Not till the grave shuts over the righteous is their suffering at an end. The glory that shall be revealed in us denotes the fullness of the honor and happiness which awaits the children of God at the resurrection and their entrance into the new heavens and the new earth.
These foregoing considerations bring us now to the text that is before us and will help us to understand better a difficult passage. Listen to the text again, “For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” This simply says Christians are longing for that day when their bodies will be raised from grave with new glorified bodies, when their inheritance becomes a reality, and when they shall enter the new heaven and new earth. Compared to the glory that will be revealed in us, the sufferings of this time are insignificant, says Paul.
But why must we go through so much groaning? Paul says the creation was subjected to frailty, weakness and suffering by God. This was done when and because Adam and Eve fell from righteousness and introduced sin into the world. The creation has been groaning ever since. Part of the curse was that man would have a hard time making a living and would have to work by the sweat of his brow. We inherit from Adam and Eve feeble and diseased bodies that sicken with diseases and often die prematurely. We suffer from storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, war, violence and tragedies of all kinds. These are all a part of the frailty to which God subjected the creation because of the fall of man and the introduction of sin into the world.
But the good news in Romans 8:21 is that the creation will be delivered from this bondage of groaning and corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. The old creation is going to be delivered from this afflicted condition, delivered from the curse and corruption. God is going to create a new heaven and earth. for the saved of all ages. We are told that the creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption imposed on it by God at the fall of man. This passage has given commentators and Bible believers no end of trouble. There is much disagreement on the exact meaning of the word, “creation, ” in the passage.
Some are of the opinion that the word creation means the entire creation, including mankind, fish, animals, trees and the earth itself. According to this interpretation the animal and vegetable world, along with mankind are all groaning because they too are suffering from the curse and fall of Adam. They all are going to be in the new heaven and the new earth. According to this view, the vegetables, trees and animals are looking forward to the time when the curse of death is removed. I really have a problem with that view. I don't read that death came on animals and vegetables as a result of Adam's sin. God created animals and vegetables for the use and enjoyment of mankind. By nature any living thing that becomes food must die whether animal or vegetable. There is no evidence that God created animals and vegetables to live forever, and that they would have if Adam had not sinned and brought a curse upon them. The thing that kept Adam and Eve alive was the tree of life in the garden of Eden, and I don't think the animal and vegetables were kept alive by the same means(Rev. 2:7).
I agree with those thinkers who interpret the word creation in this passage to be mankind, and the passage divides mankind into believers and unbelievers, the saved and the lost, the children of God and the children of the Devil. Every statement indicates that he was talking about intelligent beings who had a real interest in the resurrection and glorification of the children of God. These words were written to encourage Christians to endure patiently the sufferings of this present time for the sake of the glory that shall be revealed to them.
What then is the creation mentioned in verses 19-21? Who or what is it that are expectantly waiting for he revealing of God's sons? Who but Christians are so hopefully interested in that event? Of what creation could it be said that it hopes to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God? Who but Christians have such hopes? Christians are referred to as a creation.
In 2 Cor. 5:17 we read, “Wherefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation..” The church is said to be God's creation. Eph. 2:15 states that God created out of Jews and Gentiles “one new man,” the church. If this view is not correct, it at least has the merit of being in harmony with what the scriptures elsewhere say concerning the present condition and future destiny of Christians. In verse . 22 Paul speaks of the whole creation, the whole human race. He reminds Christians that sufferings, death and decay are not peculiar to Christians, but are the common lot of all human beings. However, there is no hope–no future outlook–attributed to the whole creation.
Finally, I would like to make a few comments on that part of the Christian inheritance called the new heavens and the new earth. Those who interpret the word creation to include the earth itself, mankind, the vegetable world and animal world, believe that the earth itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption and be a part of the new heavens and the new earth. They believe that every disability under which the earth now lies in consequence of the fall of Adam will be removed. It is supposed that after the old heaven and earth are destroyed by fire that God will transform what is left of the earth into a new state of glory and newness. The earth itself will undergo a change comparable to the change the bodies of the redeemed will undergo. It will not become absolutely new, but it will be the old earth renewed. This they say this is the meaning of Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:13 that the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat and the earth and the works in it will be burned up. Then Peter said, “Nevertheless, we according to His promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth.” To affirm that the old earth renewed and made over will be the new earth is to affirm far more than is revealed in the Bible.
We do not know why the Holy Spirit saw fit to compare the future world of the saved of all ages to a new heavens and a new earth, but so it is written. Without doubt, it is a figurative description of heaven. It is interesting that Peter said that according to God's promise we look for a new heavens and a new earth. God made the promise that in the future He would create a new heavens and earth. It was a distinct prophecy and had to be fulfilled. This prophecy is found in Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Here God says that when we see the new heavens and earth, it will be so superior in excellence and beauty that the present heavens and earth will not be remembered or even come to mind. This
sounds like to me that the new heavens and earth will be fresh and new and not worn and old as the present heaven and earth are now. This new universe will be the abode of righteous and obedient people. More than this we cannot know. Where will the new heaven and earth be located? What will be the nature and characteristics of it? We cannot know the answer to these questions. These are unrevealed matters. . No full account of it has been given. A vague but exciting hint is all that we have.
This much can be said about it. The new heaven and earth will follow the destruction of the present heavens and earth. It would appear that the present heavens and earth serve as a figure of the heavens and earth to follow The present heavens and earth appear to be the type and the new heavens and earth the antitype. It does makes us wonder if there may possibly be some similarity between the old heavens and earth and the new heavens and earth., but we cannot know. We know that the old heavens and earth were a marvelous, majestic and beautiful creation, and we can only wonder and imagine what a thing of beauty the new one shall be. I like the words of the prophecy in Isaiah 65:17, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.” Since the first century A.D., all mankind has lived in the Christian age of the world and under but one approved religion, the religion of Christ. The only people in this time period who will enter the new heavens and new earth are people who have become Christians and were faithful unto death.