The Groaning of Creation
Creation’s Hope

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 37c of 83


19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:19-22).

[By “the creature,” the apostle Paul is referring everything in the environment in which man lives. We may speak of it in shorthand as creation. Creation is, of course, irrational and therefore cannot feel or hope. So Paul is clearly metaphorically when he speaks of the hope and expectation of the creature. But what is the hope and expectation of the creature. This is what we have to consider as we wrap up our exposition on our textJJL]

3. The ‘Hope’ of the Creature

Creation is groaning and hoping for two things.

First, it is looking forward to “the manifestation of the sons of God.” We saw that in verse 19. The word rendered ‘manifestation’ is rendered ‘revelation’ 12 out of 18 times in the New Testament. It speaks literally of an unveiling of something that has been hidden.

All creation is looking forward to the unveiling of the sons and daughters of God!

The apostle John puts it strikingly when he says:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he [Christ] shall appear, we shall be like him…” (1 Jn 3:2)

The children of God are already children of God today. We have been born again. We have the Spirit of Adoption indwelling us. We have already been adopted as the sons and daughters of God. But our status is still, in a sense, hidden from the world. What hides us? Sin, suffering, poverty, death,—all these hide the true status of the children of God.

What is the true status of the children of God? Holiness, perfect righteousness, blessedness, heavenly riches and honour and immortality!

·  God is holy and perfect. His children should, therefore, be holy and perfect. But today they are not. So we look like everyone else. We can hardly be distinguished from the children of wrath. Sin veils the sons of God.

·  Likewise, God is eternally and infinitely blessed. His children should therefore be blessed. But today we are not. Our joys are always mingled with sorrow and suffering. So it is often difficult to tell a child of God apart from a child of Satan by looking at our lives. Pain and suffering veils the sons of God.

·  Again, God is Sovereign: He is rich and powerful. His children therefore should be rich and powerful. But today, we are generally not. “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (1 Cor 1:26), says the apostle Paul. Most of the rich and powerful people in the world are ungodly persons. The children of God often have nothing,—even as our Lord had nothing. Therefore no one will believe that we are the children of God when they look at us today. Poverty veils the child of God.

·  Similarly, God is the ‘I AM.’ He will never die. He is the giver of life. Therefore, the sons and daughters of God should not die. But today we still decay and die. Yes we have eternal life. But today, you can hardly tell that a person has eternal life. Look at two dead bodies lying side by side. One is a child of God, and other is a child of wrath. Can you tell who the child of God is? They are both dead. So today, death veils the true status of the child of God.

Sin, suffering, poverty, death,—all these hide the true status of the sons and daughters of God. This is why both the apostle Paul and the apostle John speak of our revelation as the children of God at the Last Day.

The whole creation, according to Paul, is straining its neck, and looking expectedly for that to happen. At the Last Day, when Christ shall return, God will remove the veil that covers the sons and daughters of God. In that day, the whole world will see who we really are.

In that day, we should be as Christ our elder brother is: perfect and holy, blessed, rich and powerful, and immortal.

This is the first thing that all creation is, as it were, earnestly looking forward to. It is earnestly expecting the manifestation of the sons of God.

But secondly, it is also looking forward to freedom from the bondage of corruption:

21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

All creation, as we saw, is held bondage to corruption. Death and decay is inevitable today. We see it everywhere. Maybe you did not notice it because you are so used to it, or maybe you have not gone out to the open enough.

Singapore is really not as clean as many of us think it is. Go to the beautiful Xiao Guiling. If you are driving by, it looks beautiful and pristine. But take a walk by the lake, and look at the water. Smell it. Notice how polluted it is. There is death and corruption in the water. The fishes in them, if you can see them are sickly. Almost every public pond in Singapore is dead or dying because irresponsible pet owners have released their cute terrapins into them when they grew too big for their little tanks.

Every time I look at these ponds, I feel a sense of disgust; and I am reminded of how creation is held under bondage to corruption today. But the corruption of today, says Paul, speaks of better days to come.

Thank God that one day, creation will be freed. It will be freed from the bondage of corruption. It will be released into the glorious liberty, which will be enjoyed by the children of God.

What is the “glorious liberty of the children of God”? Today we are held in bondage. We cannot glorify and enjoy God as we desire to. Our hands are bound by the chains of sin. One day the chains will fall off. We shall be freed. We shall have perfect heart, perfect will and perfect mind to glorify God and to enjoy Him fully.

Let me put it this way: All creation is waiting for the children of God to be released to play. It knows that only when the children of God are ready to be released will it be renovated. It desires to be renovated. It desires to be used by the children of God to enjoy and glorify God.

All creation is travailing and groaning in pain today as it looks forward to that day. When that day comes, creation will also be freed from its bondage to corruption and from its subjection to vanity. Why? Because man would in that day be able to use creation as it was originally designed for.

In that day the groaning of creation will turn into rapturous joy. The apostle Peter calls it the “times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21). The Prophet Isaiah anticipating such a time burst out into beautiful poetry:

“… the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isa 55:12).

What will be the reason for this joy? The reason is the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God. The sons and daughters of God will be raised up in glory. They will enjoy the glorious liberty of the children of God.

When that happens, creation will be renewed. There will be a new heaven and a new earth for the sons of God to dwell in. There will be, as it were, new trees, new plants, new creatures all perfectly suited for the enjoyment of the sons and daughters of God in their glory.

Then will come to pass all the covenant promises of God revealed in the Scripture. Then paradise will be restored. Then will the seed of Abraham possess the heavenly Canaan. Then will every prophetic loose end be tied.

It may be asked: Will there be literal plants and trees? Will we see the Angsana and Casurina? Will we see the frangipani and the hibiscus? Will there be literal animals? Will we see the elephants and tigers? Will we see the corals and fishes? I don’t know.

Some theologians think that nothing of our present order of things will be preserved. They believe that the new heaven and new earth is merely a symbolic description of the blessings which the sons and daughters of God enjoy under the new covenant.

I am, personally, inclined to think that heaven and earth will be merged into one. But there will at least be an equivalent or a representation of each of the species of life that we can find today.

I believe that as we will be raised body and soul, the physical creation will also have a part to play in our eternal enjoyment of God.

But that is not the most important thing. It is not the point that the apostle Paul is seeking to bring across.

What is the point that Paul is seeking to bring across?

The point is: we cannot fully imagine the great glory and enjoyment that awaits the faithful children of God.

Today, as the sons and daughter of God, you will suffer. The road to the Celestial City is paved with the stones of tribulation and suffering. Yes, the suffering that you have to endure are not unavoidable in the sense that you can choose not to suffer. But if you are a child of God, you know it is inevitable. You will choose Christ over your honour, Christ over the praises of men, Christ over your wealth, Christ over your comfort, Christ over your pleasures.

If you are walking faithfully as a child of God, you will suffer.

·  Perhaps you have a miserable marriage. If you are not a child of God, you would have walked away long ago. But because you are a child of God, you know that for Christ’s sake, you must remain faithful in the marriage. You are suffering for Christ.

·  Perhaps you are still single and in a way you are suffering because you long greatly in your heart to have a companion for life. If you are not a child of God, you would have given up and married that unbeliever who tried to court you. But for Christ’s sake you turn him down. You are suffering for Christ.

·  Perhaps you are have been having a hard time looking for a job. If you are not a Christian, you would have taken up many job offers that pay well but requires you to work on the Sabbath. But you are a child of God, and you want to honour Christ by not desecrating His Day. So you have remained jobless. You are suffering for Christ sake.

Whatever the reason for your suffering for Christ, let it encourage you to know that the suffering will only last a little while compared to eternity. And the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared to the glory that shall be revealed in you. So great is the glory that is waiting for you that the whole creation is stretching out its neck and groaning and travailing in pain as it awaits it.

Conclusion

Will you, therefore, not look forward to that day? Even the brute creation is, as it were, looking forward to that day. It is looking forward to the day when you shall be manifested as a son or daughter of God.

When that day comes, all who suffer for Christ today—who therefore prove themselves to be the sons and daughter of God today,—will enter into eternal glory.

You will enjoy paradise renewed. You will enjoy God without anything to hinder you. Sin will not hinder you. You will have no sin. All the residents in paradise will have no sin, for no sinners will be allowed into the gates of Paradise. And not only will sin not trouble you, nothing in your dwelling place will trouble you, for everything will be restored to its original perfection.

What a prospect! Therefore take courage beloved brethren. Are you suffering severely today? Take courage. One day you will laugh in heaven.

Let the knowledge that creation sympathises with you and is groaning with you encourage you with the hope of better days to come.

Therefore when you are feeling down and discouraged, remember to go out into the open. When was the last time you go to one of the nature parks?

Look at the wondrous creation of God. Enjoy the breeze, enjoy the music of the birds and the cicadas. Behold the beauty of the birds in the sky. Smell the flowers and fresh cut grass. Thank God that he has made all these things. Thank God that you can enjoy them. But remember that today all creation is subject to vanity and to bondage of corruption.

Remember that your present enjoyment is only a little hint of what great enjoyment is awaiting you in paradise to come. Ye sons and daughters of God who today suffer for Christ’s sake,—be assured that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in you.

But what of you who would not suffer for Christ today? May I remind you that such as are truly sons and daughters of God will choose to suffer for Christ today.

If you will not suffer for Him today, then I am afraid, you will have no part in the everlasting kingdom of joy. And neither will you enjoy even the earth as it is today.

Let me remind you of the words of the apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:7—.

7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

The 2nd Coming of Christ will be attended with great and glorious changes of the external world. But it is also a day of great judgement. It is a day when God will separate the righteous from the unrighteous. It is a day that God the Father will separate His children from the children of wrath—for in the new heaven and new earth, there will only dwell righteousness. God will not permit the unrighteous to pollute His new creation with their sin.

The prophet Malachi reminds us that a book of remembrance is being written today on behalf of those who fear the LORD and think upon His name. In the Last Day, this book will be opened, and these will treated as children and spared from God’s wrath that will befall the wicked. In this way God will distinguish between the righteous and the wicked and between those who serve Him and those who do not (Mal 5:3:15-16).

All who are not united to Christ will remain unrighteous and children of wrath. They will have no place in the new heaven and new earth, for in the new heaven and new earth dwells righteousness. The question is: Which side of the divide will you stand?

Oh dear reader, will you not seek the Lord while He may be found. Even the brute creation is, as it were, looking forward to the day of judgement. You who have a rational mind to think, will you not turn to the Lord and fear Him while he is yet calling sinners unto himself? Amen.

—JJ Lim