And we’re going to be looking at verses 19 through 22, but I want to begin reading in verse 18, which is where we were last week. And last time, just to remind you, we put a title on this “The Groaning and The Glory,” and we were unable to get through it, and so this is like part two for “The Groaning and The Glory.” We could call it “From Groaning to Glory,” either way you like it, and this is the way life works.
So, I want to begin by reading, starting in verse 18, but we’re going to be looking at verses 19 through 22. But let’s get the running start here. Paul writes, “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.”
We’ll stop right there. Anytime we look at a passage of Scripture, we want to put our finger on what’s the live nerve in this text, what’s the main idea, what’s the big idea of this passage, because we want to major on majors and build out from there. And so, it should be fairly obvious to us what this passage is about, because in verse 18 he talks about sufferings. And that carries forward from the previous verse, verse 17, where he says, “we suffer with Him.” And this is talking about our present suffering in this world, and that is a reality for each and every one of us. Whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever, there is suffering in this world. And whether God has caused it or whether God has allowed it, God nevertheless controls it, and it’s a part of daily Christian living.
And you and I basically, well this is going to be an overstatement, but I’ll go ahead and say it, we would be rather worthless if it was just all prosperity, if it was just all good times, if it was just all, “Everything is just falling into place, and I don’t have any problems, I don’t have any troubles.” We would never pray, we would never long for heaven, we would be so settled down in this world that we would think that this world is our home. And so God, in His infinite wisdom, mixes in with good times, difficult times. And He has a very wise pattern and purpose in this. And it is to cause us to be humble.
We would be so stinking arrogant if it was just…we’re just cruising through this world. We would think that we’re the reason that all these good things have happened. And so to keep us humble, God brings adversity and trials and tribulations. And as I’ve already said, in order to ground us to the altar of God in prayer, to cause us to walk by faith and not by sight, to prune things out of our lives that are un-Christlike, God uses our trials and tribulations to purge us of worldliness and things that are not honoring to the Lord.
And it also helps us identify with other people who are hurting so that we can minister to them. It’s always been amazing to me that when I go through difficulty, the people who rally around me to encourage me are people who have gone through a very similar trial. I remember when our last son was born, he was born with SIDS and with many difficulties, and I remember he turned blue, we had to rush him to the hospital, he had stopped breathing. The people who came up to the hospital and were in that waiting room with me were people who had gone through basically the very same thing. God strategically brings trials into our lives so that tomorrow you can have an outreach to other people and so you can get in that foxhole with them and identify with them and connect with them.
So, God’s doing…I agree with John Piper, God’s doing a thousand things in your life right now, you’re only aware of about two of them, and there’s another nine hundred and ninety-eight things God’s doing in your life that you and I are just oblivious to. God has this whole thing wired in our Christian life and has networked every step of providence. And I agree with R.C. Sproul, there’s not a maverick molecule in the universe. Everything He’s causing to work together for our good.
And just to remind us all, Romans 8:28 is just right around the corner here. I mean, we’re in the neighborhood of Romans 8:28 when he says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good,” those “all things” include verses 18 through 22, all of this suffering. So, God has appointed it for me, God has appointed it for you, none of us get a free pass, and none of us have an exemption to this. And I want to say one more time, sometimes the godlier you are, sometimes there will be more trials, because you’re now cutting against the grain of this world, you’re now swimming upstream. As long as you were going with the flow of this world, there is a sense in which everybody in the world were, man, they were on your team. They were patting you on the back.
But when you reverse your course and you now begin to go with the Lord, you now are cutting against the flow of this world, and you’re going to face opposition. And now, for the first time, you’re facing the devil head on, and there’s some pushback going on. So, we need to be aware of the big picture, the macro, as we look at the micro now in this passage. We should not be surprised as we come to these verses and we see the word “sufferings,” and we go, “What’s this? Where’d this come from?” okay?
So, as we began looking at this last time, here’s the big idea. In order that we would be longing for heaven, God brings sufferings into our life right now so that we do not become too comfortable in this world, to keep us longing for heaven. So that’s what Paul is laying out for us here.
So, last time we looked at only verse 18, and verse 18, I called it “The Comparison,” and I’m going to give you an outline as we walk through this, each verse will just have one main heading. And it’s just, I need this for me, I need to like slice this passage up. John Calvin said that a Bible teacher should be like a father sitting at a table and has his little children around the table, and there’s a piece of steak in the middle of the table. And the father cuts it up into little pieces and then just feeds it one bite at a time. If he gave them the whole steak they would just choke to death, okay? So I need to slice this up into little pieces for me so I can understand it and so I can digest this, and I think you’re probably at the same place where I am as well on this.
So verse 18, the first little slice is “The Comparison.” And Paul says in verse 18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present world are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” I don’t need to re-teach what we looked at last week, but as we go through suffering in this lifetime, as a believer, Paul wants us to know that the glory that awaits us so far overshadows our present suffering that it is an encouragement to us to hang in here just a little bit longer because it’s only a relatively short time that we’re here. And the sufferings are so little compared to an eternity of future glory. So, that’s the perspective that we have to have, and whatever the difficulty is that is surrounding your life right now, just know it’s only for a moment, relatively speaking, and that an eternity lies ahead of the extraordinary glory of God that awaits you.
Now I want to move on, I don’t want to get bogged down. So as we come to verse 19, I want you to write down the word “Expectation.” The expectation, because what Paul will do now is he will give us really an explanation of why we should patiently endure our sufferings. You’ll note the first word of verse 19 is the word “for,” and I’ve told you multiple times that introduces an explanation. And you’ll note verse 18, verse 19, verse 20, verse 22, verse 24, verse 29, all these verses start with the word “for.” The quotation in verse 36, verse 38, it’s just “for, for, for, for,” and Paul is just stacking up explanations.
So, verse 19 explains verse 18, just like verse 18 explains verse 17. And so what Paul says is, “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” Now, we need to understand this, Paul is communicating with what we call a figure of speech. It’s a figure of speech known as personification. And personification is a figure of speech in which an inanimate object, like this table, is represented as a human being. And the inanimate object is doing something that only a human could do, whether it’s the mind, whether it’s the emotions, whether it’s the will. It’s a powerful form of communication. And so Paul is representing here creation, the physical creation of this world, as though it’s a person. And this person is going to be groaning because of the suffering of the physical creation.
But in verse 19 he says, “For the anxious longing of the creation.” Now this verb, this “anxious longing,” or not the verb, the noun. It’s an interesting word, and the idea is “the turning of the head from the neck,” and the idea is you are peering your head to look in a direction in anticipation for something that’s coming. So you don’t have your nose down in the grindstone and unaware of what’s coming. No, you’ve turned your head and you’re looking for it. So, creation here is represented as craning the neck to see what is coming, “for the anxious longing,” that’s intense, “of the creation,” talking about the mountains, the meadows, the forests, the valleys, “waits eagerly,” and one paraphrase on this has it as “waiting on tip toes.” I mean, there is an anxious longing for something to come.
And he says at the end of verse 19, “for the revealing of the sons of God.” Now, the revealing of the sons of God is what will happen at the end of this age when Jesus Christ comes back and bursts onto the scene and we are caught up to be with the Lord forever. We will be made fully known as sons of God. Now we are already sons of God, and there is a sense in which it is already revealed in that there is fruit in our lives – the fruit of obedience, the fruit of love – but we will be fully revealed.
Right now, our life is hidden in Christ but in that moment, we will be made known in that we will no longer be suffering. Right now, we’re suffering with everybody else. You go down to the hospital, room 101 is a Christian, room 102 is an unbeliever, room 103 is a Christian, room 104 is an unbeliever. And so we’re just…we’re hidden with the world in that sense. We don’t have an easy path to walk. The narrow path is not an easy path. And so, there is a sense in which we’re just in the same experiences of life. We face the death of our parents, we face the loss of a job, we face hunger, we face going without certain things, just like anybody else. But at the end of this age, we are going to be so revealed and uncovered as the children of God. As we graduate to glory, we will step into the fullness of our inheritance, and there will be no more sorrow and no more pain and no more death and no more struggle. So we will be fully known when we enter into the full experience of our inheritance in that day.
But until then, this world that we live in, it’s a broken world, my friend, and creation itself is longing for the second coming of Christ to fill all of the futility of this world, to finally be evaporated. But until then, the creation is longing. How much more so should you and I be longing for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? How much more so should we be longing anxiously, craning our neck, standing on tip toes, looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Let me remind us all, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,” 1 Thessalonians 4 verse 16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, and the trumpet of God, and the voice of the archangel, and the dead in Christ will rise first. And we who are alive and remain shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. And thus, we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” We need to keep our eyes on the horizon and longing, like creation is longing, to get out of this world that is filled with suffering to be with the Lord.
Now, we can still enjoy being here, and you and I can enjoy the mountains and the meadows and the forest more than an unbeliever, because we know who made it, and we have different eyes, and we have an eternal perspective. So, this is not saying that we’re to go through life with a martyr’s complex and just looking at how horrible everything is, but we do need to be longing like creation for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ which will reveal us as sons of God.
Now verse 20, I want you to see “The Subjection.” “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him (capital H), Him who subjected it in hope.” Paul now explains, you see, it begins with the word “for.” Verse 20 is explaining verse 19, Paul is explaining why there is this eager longing by creation for the return of Christ. And he tells us because the creation was subjected, and that means to be put under something, to futility.
Now, this word “futility” means “emptiness, vanity, perversity,” even “frustration.” And I want to say it again, we live in a broken world, and it’s not just the world system; it’s even creation itself. And he says “not willingly,” I mean, who would want to be subjected to futility? I mean, that would have to be done by someone else, and there’s only one who has the authority to put the entire world under subjection to futility, and that is the sovereign God of heaven and earth. And he says, “Because of Him who subjected it,” and the “it” refers to creation.
Now, we’re going to have to go right now to Genesis 3. So I just want you to turn with me, this is not going to be a passing reference. We cannot understand this without networking this to Genesis 3. And we’re going to look at verses 14 through 19, and this is what is known as “the curse,” C-U-R-S-E, the curse. And after Adam sinned, God said, you remember, in chapter 2, I think its verse 17, “The day that you eat of this fruit, you’re going to surely die.” Well, as has been noted by some, well, Adam ate from the fruit and he still lived. Well, not so fast. Because death entered the world, and death began to work in Adam from that moment.
Understand this, there are always painful consequences to wrong decisions. And Adam stood as the federal head of the entire human race, and whatever he did affected you and me. And you say, “Well, that’s not fair.” Well, if you’d been in Adam’s position, you’d have done the same thing. In fact, you would’ve folded your tent earlier than he did. And when Adam sinned, God brought the hammer down, because God is a Holy God, and the wages of sin is what? Death. “In the day that you eat of this fruit, you will surely die.” And so starting in verse 14, is the subjection of creation to futility. And this is still in effect, and this is the only explanation for the world that you live in right now. This is the only explanation for what’s wrong with everything, okay?
So, beginning in verse 14, please note who the speaker is, “the Lord God said,” God mounts the pulpit and He begins with the serpent, and behind the serpent and perhaps in and through the serpent was the devil. And God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,” and the “this” refers to the beguiling and the seducing of Eve in order to get to her husband, “cursed are you more than all cattle and more than every beast of the field.” There now came a curse on the entire animal kingdom. There just happened to be one that was more cursed.
And you want to know why there is such enmity between some animals with other animals and the fierceness of survival and one feeding off the other, it’s a part of the curse. God never set it up that way, and God put the curse on the serpent, which is like a snake. And He said, “And on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life.” And it’s is very possible that before this the snake had legs, and now the subjection, even physically, “I’m bringing you all the way down to the dirt. And now everything else will walk on top of you and tread on top of you, and there’s going to be enmity now between you and the other animals, and you and man. And I’m going to put fear between you and man,” and that’s a part of God’s curse upon creation, and it wasn’t there before Adam sinned. All of the animals got along great, and one wasn’t feeding off of the other, there was no death before Adam sinned. Think about it!
So now in verse 15, and this too is a part of the curse, “And I will put enmity,” that means hostility and warfare and conflict “between you and the woman.” You, the serpent, and in reality, Satan, who is behind the serpent, in the serpent, speaking through the serpent, and the woman who is Eve, “and between your seed and her seed.” “Your seed” refers to every unbeliever, and “her seed” refers to believers. And there is now going to be conflict between light and darkness, between truth and lies. And that’s why 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. What harmony is there between light and darkness, between Belial and Christ?” There is no harmony.
And I want to go further. That’s why, and for whoever is watching this, that’s why you need to marry a believer. You marry an unbeliever, you’re going to have conflict for the rest of your life, because there is this conflict that’s built in. So, because you have a whole different worldview, a whole different set of standards.
Now note the next line, “He,” that “He” refers to just one of her seed, and it’s a reference to Christ, the seed of the woman. “He shall bruise you” the serpent, “on the head and you” the serpent, meaning…excuse me, Satan, “will bruise Him” referring to Christ, “on the heel.” And there is now going to be spiritual warfare between the King of kings and the Lord of lords, and the god of this age and the prince of this world. There’s going to be conflict. And everyone who is a believer under Christ and everyone who is an unbeliever under Satan, there is this inevitable opposition. And we are to live in love and love our neighbor and reach the world for Christ, but we cannot escape this curse that God has placed upon the world in which we live. And you just pick up today’s paper, you watch cable news and all of the conflict politically, economically, sociologically, it all goes back to this curse.
Now, continue to read, verse 16, “To the woman he said,” and now God continues to speak, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth,” and literally it is in conception, in the womb. I mean, from the moment you conceive, there’s going to be morning sickness, there’s going to be…there’ll even be the death of the child in the womb, there will be pain in delivery, and it is to be a constant reminder to you of original sin. And it is there until the end of the age, and it’s a part of the curse.
Now look at the end of verse 16, and this explains the world in which we live, “And your desire will be for your husband.” Now, this desire is a desire to dominate and a desire to rule, and this is the beginning of the women’s lib movement right here, which is to usurp her God-assigned role. And part of the curse is aggressive women who want to dominate their husbands and dominate men. That’s just part of the curse, men.
And if you’ll look at chapter 4 and verse 7 in Genesis, just to give you in context how the same word is used, “The Lord said to Cain, ‘If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? But if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.'” It’s like a lion ready to devour you, and please note, “its desire is for you,” same verb, “and you must master it.” So the desire is a desire not to be in submission, but to rise above and to dominate.
Now, note the next line, “and he will rule over you,” and this rule is an ungodly rule, to be heavy handed, to abuse, dominant. And this clash of the sexes, of both struggling now to dominate the other, and you will also have aggressive women and passive men. And just look around, and that’s a part of the world, that’s a part of creation being subjected by God to futility.
Now verse 17, “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it,” cursed is the ground because of you,'” and so the very earth now is subjected to the curse of God. And He says, “In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” I mean before this, Adam, he was in a grocery store, in Eden. I mean, everything was just right there in front of him. But now, now God says, “I’m going to cause thorns and thistles to grow in this garden, and it’s going to be by blood, sweat, toil, and tears. You’re going to have to work the land, you’re going to have to get the weeds out, there’s going to be adverse weather, it’s going to be the challenge of your life, and there’s going to be droughts, and there’s going to be famines, and there’s going to be floods, and there’s going to be storms, and there’s going to be tsunamis, and there’s going to be hurricanes, and there’s going to be tornadoes, and there’s going to be earthquakes, and it’s going to be tough.”
Now, to work is not the curse. God had already assigned work. Now the challenge and the difficulty of work and earning your living is going to be the curse. And so, notice what He says, “In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.” Verse 18, “But thorns and thistles it shall grow for you.” There were no thorns and there were no thistles before this. There were no thorns on the rose. “By the sweat of your face,” until it’s dripping off the tip of your nose, “by the sweat of your face, you will eat bread till you return to the ground because from it you were taken,” remember God took earth and He just fashioned a man, and He breathed into it. He says, “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” And the process of death began in Adam that moment. And though he lived to be 930 years, the aging process began, the deterioration began, the decline began, the wrinkles began, the gray hair began, the slumped shoulder began, the loss of eyesight began as a part of the curse. The whole creation – man, woman, earth, work, Satan – was cursed by God because one man sinned.
Now let me tell you some good news, this whole thing is going to be reversed by one man, the second Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ. And before we get upset with Adam, you better be glad that one man can do a lot for you. Because you’re going to gain more in Christ than you ever lost in Adam. And this world is going to be…paradise lost will become paradise regained. But it’s going to be even better with a new heavens and a new earth and a new Jerusalem. It’s going to be even better than the garden.
But over in the Middle East where this all happened, it was a desert…I mean, it was a garden at one point. It’s nothing but stinking desert right now, it’s a wilderness. So severe was the pinpoint of God’s curse that came down upon it that now it’s like a blowtorch hit that area, and it’s just a burned over district which is where they lived between the Euphrates and the Tigris River, in the cradle of civilization. And it’s rather strange that the conflict in the whole world continues in that one little area, and it won’t go away and it’s not going to go away.
All right, come back to Romans 8. But in order to understand what Paul is saying here in Romans 8, we had to go to that text in Genesis 3. So, look at it again now in Romans 8 and verse 20, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope,” and the “in hope” refers to Genesis 3:15 and the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent. And this is metaphorical language, the devil would bruise the heel of Christ upon the cross, but Christ would crush the head of the woman upon the cross. Satan would be nipping at the heels of Christ, who is the author of all death, but Christ in His death would literally crush the head of the serpent upon the cross and win an eternal victory for everyone who is of the seed of the woman, for everyone who is a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So verse 21, write down the word “Liberation,” “The Liberation.” And Paul now specifies the hope at the end of verse 20. At the end of verse 20 he said, “in hope,” and so now he specifies this hope in verse 21, “that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption.” There’s coming a day when God will remove the curse from creation, and creation will be restored to what God originally intended it to be. And in the new heavens and in the new earth and in the new Jerusalem, it will be extraordinary. You and I are going to live again in the beauty of the garden of the new heavens and the new earth. We can’t even begin to comprehend the future glory that awaits us where you and I are going to live. It’s going to be Augusta National on steroids, okay, that’s what it’s going to be. Am I communicating? Okay, alright.
So, the creation will be set free. That says, right now, creation is not free, creation is in bondage, is imprisoned in chains. And that’s why, right now, there is all of these natural disasters that take place that kill people and leave people without homes and leave people without food and just wipe out everything that they’ve worked for in their life. It’s a part of the curse. So the creation itself will be set free from its slavery to corruption, and right now it is subject to corruption. There is decay, there is deterioration, there is destruction, and there is death, all of that, but it will be set free into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
And when we are revealed as children of God and we enter into our full inheritance, creation itself will share in this liberation. And we will be liberated from our earthly bodies that are subject to decay and deterioration and decline, and the physical creation will also enter into its new, glorified state. And so Paul is driving this home so that the believers in Rome, and think about the believers in Rome, they were not living in the buckle of the Bible belt, they weren’t living in a city that had a church on every corner, they weren’t going to revival meetings every night. They were under the thumb and the heel of Caesar in Rome, and they were odd man out.
You talk about the moral minority, I mean that was a tough place to be a believer in Rome at this time, and Rome is nothing more than a cesspool of iniquity. And so to encourage them, “Hang in there just a little bit longer as you’re going through persecution and tribulation and difficulty, hang in there just a little bit longer, because if you had any idea of what’s waiting for you on the other side, it will so encourage you to just be steadfast and not collapse emotionally and not burst into fear and trembling and tears. The best is yet to come.”
It’s just right around the corner, relatively speaking, and it’s not just for them; it’s for us as well. In fact, Christ could come back before I even finish this lesson. He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with me,” He didn’t say, “I will be coming.” He says, “I am coming,” it’s present tense. The idea is, “I’m on the way.” And James 5 says that “the judge is standing right at the door.” In other words, He’s got his hand on the handle and He’s ready to open it, push it open and burst onto the scene at any moment.
So look at verse 22 and we’ll bring this to conclusion, “For we know that the whole creation,” the “whole creation” just takes in the entirety of this world, “For the whole creation,” nothing was excluded, there’s no little neutral zone someplace that was exempt from the curse. Every square inch of this creation has been subjected to the futility of this curse. Verse 22, we cannot be that “the whole creation groans,” and again this is, this world is like a person just groaning in pain and suffers the pain, Genesis 3 and verse 6 together until now. And as the woman approaches that time of delivery, those pains of constriction become intensified and become stronger and become more frequent. And that’s the way it is as the end of the age approaches. It’s going to become more turbulent and greater conflict and greater contrast, building up to that time when the Lord returns at the end of the age.
And just look around, I’ve seen it in my lifetime. I grew up in Norman Rockwell-ville, I mean everything was…I mean, it was Father Knows Best, it was Leave It To Beaver, it was I Love Lucy, it was the Dick Van Dyke Show, that was the world I was born in, and it still had a lot of problems, a lot of problems. But nevertheless, that was kind of the level of morality and the level of the conflict. Until now, you don’t even know which bathroom to go into. Until now, look at the Kavanaugh hearings, until now look at what’s going on in the Middle East. It’s only going to get worse, not better.
Look at the nations in an uproar, in wars and rumors of wars, and it’s just going to intensify and come quicker and quicker. And the purpose of it is for us to long for the world to come. And I tell you, there are now more times than there used to be that I just think “Maranatha, Lord come quickly. Lord just take us home, get me out of here.” And we think about our children and the world in which they will live.
All of this suffering should have a sanctifying, purifying effect upon our lives, to wean us off of worldliness, to drive us to our knees in prayer, to cause us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, to make us more dependent upon the Lord in prayer, to identify with others who are in their suffering so we can talk to them about Christ. It’s all God’s master plan for the world in which we live and especially for the end of the age as the time approaches for the return of Christ.
So, I think we stop right here at verse 22, I think we land the plane here. And this text is a dose of reality. I mean, this text is a Christian worldview. This text gives us the divine perspective of the world in which we live and the difficulties of life. Now, we will know God’s grace in the midst of all this, and we will know God’s blessing in the midst of all this. But it’s kind of like there are two streams feeding into one river, and there’s both prosperity and adversity. They’re both feeding into the same river. It’s like there is the hot and cold faucets, and they’re both on, and they’re both feeding into the bowl of our lives. And it’s not all prosperity and no adversity. So trust me, I didn’t vote for this. If it was left up to me, we’d all just have cruise sailing, but in the infinite wisdom and genius of God He does all things well, and this is His plan.