The Hope of Creation
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 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.
Unveiling His Glory
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.
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. I believe that 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.
Futility and Hope
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 "trust, confidence," 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 Law of First Fruits
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.
The Witness of the Spirit
Paul writes in Romans 8:26, 27,
26 And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Recall from verse 16 that "the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Paul distinguishes between the Holy Spirit and our spirit. Translators use capital letters when they believe it refers to the Holy Spirit, and small letters when referring to our spirit. But there are no such tools in the NT Greek as originally written.
Sometimes it is unclear which "Spirit" is meant. It is not a crucial point, of course, because the Holy Spirit has merged with our own spirit to provide that double witness of all truth. When we come to verses 26 and 27 above, however, it is helpful to understand that the "Spirit" who intercedes for us is not the same spirit that is located deep within our own hearts.
In my view, it is the Holy Spirit who "intercedes for us," because He "knows what the mind of the [human] spirit is." Here again we see a unity and a double witness by which all matters are established.
It is self-evident that God knows our hearts. Many times our prayers are answered in a way that is far different from how we have actually prayed. That is because "we do not know how to pray as we should" (8:26), and the prayers of our mouths are not always in accord with the prayer of the spirit within our heart. The Holy Spirit, however, knows the true cry of our heart and bears witness with that cry, for our spirit is the New Man within, which is our Christ-Identity. The Holy Spirit always bears witness with Christ in you.
In our prayer life, then, the more that our conscious minds are in touch with the heart cry of our spirit, the better able we are to speak the actual prayer of our spirit. This becomes a third witness to fulfill the law of "two or three witnesses." The first witness is truth. The second witness establishes it as truth by law. The third witness clarifies truth to us and often reveals timing.
This is what we see in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44), the three main divisions of the Old Testament. Moses revealed truth. The prophets established it and applied it to the nation. The Psalms put it to music to make it memorable, pleasant to the ear, and to give it timing.
Hence, when we train our soul (mind) to serve the mind and will of our spirit, the soul begins to know how to express the prayer of the spirit through the body (mouth and vocal cords). At first, the soul may know little or nothing about the will of the spirit, for it is used to making all the decisions in life without being subject to Christ in you. In its state of rebellion, usurping the authority of the spirit, the soulish mind must be bypassed until it has been "transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2). The mind is bypassed primarily by the gift of tongues, of which Paul has little to say in the book of Romans.
Paul does make it clear, however, that prophecy is preferable to tongues (1 Cor. 14:19). In other words, it is preferable to understand what you are saying or praying, even as it is preferable to hear God's voice in your native language, rather than having to hear it in that two-step process of tongues and interpretation. Hearing God's voice in one's own language shows evidence that our soulish minds have learned the language of the spirit and have come to a more mature level of submission.
Paul discusses this more fully in 1 Cor. 14:18-25, saying he would rather "speak five words with my mind. . . rather than ten thousand words in a tongue." He then cites Isaiah 28:11 to back up his teaching, for Isaiah 28 is the foundational chapter on the gift of tongues. The people of Israel had rebelled against God and had refused to hear the prophecy of Isaiah. Ephraim was drunk on wine, rather than being filled with the Spirit (Isaiah 28:1; Eph. 5:18). So God brought judgment upon the nation and raised up the Assyrians to come and speak that word of judgment in another tongue. In that case, the unbelieving Israelites did not understand the language and needed interpretation of tongues.
Paul applies this in 1 Cor. 14:22,
22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.
The "unbeliever" can be a non-Christian attending the house church meeting, or it can be the carnal mind of the old Adam within the believers themselves. Either way, interpretation is important in order to know the will of God and disclose the secrets of the heart (1 Cor. 14:24). Paul's point is that tongues is necessary as long as there is unbelief within us or unbelievers in the world at large; but prophecy is preferable, because the Word of the Lord is expressed without the need for interpretation.
Training the Soul to Hear
Getting back to Romans 8, we can see that just because a person has come to believe in Christ—or even to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit—does not mean that the soulish mind has learned to submit to the spirit within or even to know its language. It must be taught to hear and trained to submit.
Over forty years ago (1971) my wife and I received the gift of tongues, but we discovered ten years later that we could also learn to hear His voice in English. I broke through in this regard June 5-7 of 1982, as I wrote in chapter 3 of my book, Hearing God's Voice. (My wife broke through ten years later in June 5-7, 1992.) When I first began to "hear," I thought I had reached the pinnacle of spiritual success. I soon discovered, however, that knowing the English words did not mean that I understood what God was saying. I discovered that I still needed to know the interpretation of the English words in order to apply them properly.
In other words, I needed more clarity. This was provided by the revelation of timing in 1991.
So by 1992 I had an inner double witness of Spirit and spirit, with the third witness of timing. At the same time, my wife became a double witness to the word as well. This is, of course, the real purpose of marriage as established in Genesis 2:24. When we learn to go beyond an Old Covenant marriage and into a New Covenant marriage, then we may experience what God had in mind from the beginning. (See my book, Old and New Covenant Marriage.)
It takes time to learn these things and to grow spiritually. As we learn, we are said to be still "weak," to use Paul's term. God has provided us with training tools during the time that "we do not know how to pray as we should." Our spirit always prays perfectly, and the Holy Spirit bears witness. But our soulish minds need time to learn. I have found in my own life that God has brought me to a new plane of development every ten years since 1971. Tongues in 1971, prophecy (English) in 1981-2, clarity in 1991-2, and then greater clarity in 2001 in order to conduct the many battles of spiritual warfare that were accomplished in that year.
In 2011, as I write this, it is apparent that God is putting together the two streams of the Spirit represented by quail and manna (Exodus 16). The quail is knowing the divine plan (Ex. 16:6). The manna is seeing the glory of God (Ex. 16:7). This is the balanced diet that brings us to the place of full spiritual maturity. This, I believe, is what God is doing in us now.