Romans 8, Part 5
Nov 19, 2010
Having established the fact that we are sons of God and fellow heirs with Christ, Paul gives us two factors proving our sonship. First, Romans 8:14 says that we are being led by the Spirit. Second, verse 17 says that "we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him."
This is primarily a reference to our identification with Christ in both His crucifixion and death as well as His resurrection life. As we put to death the flesh and live in the power of resurrection life, we give clear evidence that we are the sons of God. Paul then continues,
(18) For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us. (19) For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing [apokalupsin, "revelation, unveiling"] of the sons of God.
Here Paul moves from the present to the future. There is not only a present suffering but a future glory. What glory? It is "the revealing of the sons of God." When we presently manifest the glory of God through our limited ability to live the resurrected life, creation can see Christ in us only through a veil. The time is coming, however, when creation will see the glory of Christ unveiled.
When the tabernacle of Moses was built, there were two veils in the sanctuary. These veils hid the glory of God. When God came down upon Mount Sinai, He came as fire, and a cloud veiled His glory (Ex. 20:21). When the temple of Solomon was filled with the glory of God, a cloud once again filled the house to veil His glory. When Jesus came, full of the glory of God, He came in human flesh which also served as a veil (Heb. 10:20).
Likewise, we ourselves, as sons of God and the body of Christ, also house the glory of God. But yet it is hidden behind human flesh which again acts as a veil. All of the saints in Scripture were veiled in that sense, and together they form great "cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1). We are told that when God came down on Sinai, He came with ten thousand saints, or "holy ones" (Deut. 33:2; Jude 14).
These "holy ones" may be either men or angels. Gal. 3:19 says that the Law was "ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator." Moses was the mediator in that day, but the angels may be the cloud of holy ones at that time.
Others believe that this cloud upon Sinai was the cloud of witnesses in Heb. 12:1. If so, we must keep in mind that the spiritual realm is not bound by time or space. Hence, the event at Sinai might have been witnessed by men and women who had not yet been born, but who would come into that place of glory later. When a person is in the spiritual dimension, he or she could return to the time-based world at any point in history as desired. And so, the saints accompanying the glory of God at Sinai could very well have included the cloud of witnesses not yet born.
At any rate, creation itself was created to manifest the glory of God in this earthly dimension. God's purpose for creation will be fulfilled, in spite of the long detour brought about by Adam's sin. Creation as a whole seems to know this, for it is eagerly awaiting the climax of history when the sons of God are unveiled.
(20) For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it in hope (21) 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.
Creation did not subject itself to futility. God did it. However, God did not do so apart from Hope. The Greek word translated "hope" is elpis. It is not based upon wishful thinking, but upon confidence and expectation. The Septuagint translators used this word elpis as the equivalent of the Hebrew words mibtach and batach. Young's Concordance says that mibtach means "confidence, trust," and that batach means "to lean on, trust, be confident."
Therefore, we may conclude that creation is not experiencing an anxiety attack on account of the uncertainty of its hope. Instead, it has an impatient longing, because it is confident that what God has purposed will indeed be fulfilled.
(22) For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Hope is actually a confident expectation of things to come. It is a word used of pregnancy as well, for a pregnant mother is said to be "expecting." This is far more than wishful thinking, for she has confidence that she will give birth at the appointed time in the future. In that same sense, creation is expecting. The earth has already brought forth the Head, which is Christ Himself. The rest of the body now follows.
All of the pain and suffering that creation has been experiencing since Adam has been "the pains of childbirth." When God told Eve in Gen. 3:16, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children," this was a long-term prophecy of creation itself, for Eve was said to be "the mother of all the living" (Gen. 3:20).
There has been purpose in all of it. Hence, what was said of Eve was to be experienced by all of creation generally.
(23) 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.
To understand the concept of Sonship, we must understand that we are all pregnant with Christ, having been begotten by the seed of the Word through the Holy Spirit. That Christ in us is yet veiled by our flesh, but we have a confident expectation of a time of birth, when the Hope of Glory is unveiled for the world to see.
The sons of God will be delivered first, because they have "the first fruits of the Spirit." James 1:18 says that we are "the first fruits among His creatures." We are not the only ones to be delivered, but we are indeed the first. The first fruits sanctify the harvest, for they represent the rest of the crop that is yet to be harvested. When the priest waved the first fruits sheaf of barley on the first Sunday after Passover, it was the signal that the people could now harvest the rest of their barley.
So also is it with the sons of God. They are the first fruits of a great harvest that comes after they have been presented to the Father on the eighth day of Tabernacles and then manifested (presented, unveiled) to the world. This is "the redemption of our body" and the transformation of 1 Cor. 15:51-54. All of creation awaits this great event, because creation cannot fulfill its own destiny until the first fruits have been presented to God. It must be patient, and yet it has confident hope and trust in the divine plan.
(24) For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Hope, or expectation, implies waiting for an event yet to come. It is a time-based word. That which we do now (in putting to death the flesh and in exercising our spiritual authority) is not the hope itself, but is part of the growth of the Manchild within us. There is a present work, but also a future event that we have not yet seen.
Those with a pie-in-the-sky mentality will do nothing as they have eyes only for the future event. On the other hand, those who see only the present run the danger of thinking that they have it all now, when in fact, they are yet in training.
This is the fifth part of a series titled "Romans 8." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones