Paul's Epistle to the Romans, The Blessing of Hope

 (27) The Blessing of Hope
Romans 8:18-25

Scripture


18 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.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.


The Blessing of Hope

18 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.

The verse can be restated this way: “If the suffering we presently endure brings great hardship, cruel and unusual punishment, severe persecution, or even death itself, none of these evils can compare with the heavenly bliss that is awaiting those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The greatest shame we may endure for Christ here on earth will be a mere trifle when He calls us forth and publicly acknowledges us before the hosts of heaven. Even the excruciating pain of the martyrs will seem like pinpricks when the Savior graces their brows with the crown of life. Elsewhere Paul speaks of our present sufferings as light afflictions which are only for a moment, but he describes the glory as an exceeding and eternal weight—“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). If we could only appreciate the glory that is going to be ours, we could consider the sufferings along the way as trivia! I suppose no person, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, ever suffered as Paul suffered. Paul was beaten, he was stoned, and he was dragged outside the city and left for dead. That was only a part of what he went through. After reading about the terrible afflictions, which the Apostle Paul endured, it may seem hard for us to understand how he could speak of them as light affliction. In one sense, they were not at all light. They were bitter and cruel. However, the explanation lies in the comparison, which Paul makes. The afflictions viewed by themselves might be heavy, but when compared with the eternal weight of glory that lies ahead, they are light. Our sufferings and glory are closely identified with Christ’s sufferings and glory. If we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him; but if we deny Him, He will deny us. “If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). In addition, the light affliction lasts only a moment, whereas the glory is eternal. The lessons we learn through afflictions in this world will yield rich fruit for us in the world to come.

19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

Paul personifies the whole creation (that is, all that God has created) as eagerly looking forward to the time when we will be revealed to a wondering world as the sons of God. This will be when the Lord Jesus returns to reign and we return with Him. That will take place at the beginning of the Millennium (Christ’s thousand-year earthly reign). At that time, the curse will be lifted and the earth will be restored to how it was before sin entered the world.

When He comes, He will be revealed in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. There will be no doubt that it is He, for according to Revelation 1:7, “and every eye shall see Him…and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him.”  He will come in the clouds and great glory; and we (the bride of Christ, the true church) will come with Him. I am not referring here to the Rapture, but to the Second Coming (the Revelation). Jesus comes first for His church, in the Rapture; then He will come in great glory in the Revelation, with His church, “and every eye shall see Him.” Jude speaks of His coming with ten thousands of His saints (Jude 14). Paul says that creation eagerly waits for this event to happen. The word creation means all of God’s creation below the human level. Creation must be restored, because sin brought distortion, not only to humankind, but also to the universe in which he lives.

So great is this glory that the material world (the creation of earth, the animal kingdom, etc.) itself is pictured as standing on tiptoe with expectancy, longing for and looking to the glory that is about to be revealed when the children of God shall be manifested (visible) in the likeness of their Lord. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 Jn. 1:1-3). Paul wants us to look at the wonderful love that brought us into the family of God. Love could have saved us without making us children of God. Nevertheless, the manner of God’s love is shown in that he brought us into His family as children. 

Now as we walk about from day to day, the world does not recognize us as children of God. The people of the world do not understand us or the way we behave. The world did not understand the Lord Jesus either when He was here on earth. “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.” Since we have the same characteristics as the Lord Jesus, we cannot expect the world to understand us, either. However, understood or not, now we are children of God, and this is our guarantee of future glory.

We are already the sons of God, but the world does not recognize us or appreciate us as such. Yet the world is looking forward to a better day, and that day cannot come until the King returns to reign with all His saints. “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own” (JBP).

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;

Creation originally was not cursed; it was good. It was not subjected to futility; it was perfect. Nevertheless, today, creation is cursed; it is not in its original state, and it is not how it will be someday. When Adam sinned, his transgression affected not only humankind, but also all of creation, both animate and inanimate. Even the ground is cursed. Remember, God said to Adam, “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread…” (Gen. 3:18-19). Man is condemned to exhausting labor in order to make a living. However, it should be noted here that work itself is not a curse; it is more often a blessing. It is the sorrow, toil, frustration, perspiration, and weariness connected with work that is the curse.

 Man was cursed, the land was cursed, and in addition, many wild animals die violent deaths. Disease afflicts birds and animals as well as fish and serpents. The results of man’s sin have rippled like shockwaves throughout all creation. Therefore, as Paul explains, the creation was subjected to futility, frustration, and disorder, not by its own choice, but by the decree of God because of the disobedience of the first man, Adam. Tornados, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and drought are just a few evidences of the destruction caused by nature year-after-year. Although he Lord brought this about, He did it in hope, that is, with a definite hope for a future day when the frustration will be removed.

The writer of Ecclesiastes observed, “There is nothing in this life (apart from Jesus Christ) which provides lasting significance to life. If the hand of God were today removed from His creation, all that existed would be found pursuing a course of ultimate frustration.”

Him who subjected it in hope can only mean God, for only God can subject His creation in hope.

The words in hope may also be connected with the next verse: in hope that creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

21 because in hope that creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

The word because could instead be translated “that.” It tells of the connection between bondage and futility. Apart from God, creation is meaningless; it is plunging headlong into decay and death. However, God promises that even creation will one day be delivered from bondage to liberty. There will be no more death. Creation looks forward to the Millennium when humanity has been redeemed, and glorified, and will never again have to face God’s curse. The whole creation is promised liberty and glory when Jesus delivers this entire universe from the curse that grips it now. What a day that will be!

Creation looks back to the ideal conditions that existed in Eden. Then it surveys the havoc that was caused by the entrance of sin. Always there has been the hope of a return to an idyllic state, when creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption to enjoy the freedom of that golden era when we as God’s children will be revealed in glory.

Man has a dying body. As someone has said, “The moment He gives us life, He begins to take it away from us.” Moreover, there is death and decay out yonder in nature. Go out in the beautiful forest, and there you will see a tree lying dead, corrupt, rotting. That is nature. Moreover, you can catch the stench from the rotting bodies of dead animals.

22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.

We know—the continuing state of knowledge that grows out of perception.

The pain with which the whole creation groans is not death pains but birth pains. The whole creation groans and suffers pain like that of childbirth. Paul is not talking about believers here; he saves that for the next verse. Here, he alludes to the sorrow of nature. He thinks of the suffering of animals—the weak devoured by the strong—of the ruthless destruction of plant life, and of natural disasters of all kinds. The earth is racked by catastrophe. The blight of death is on every living thing. Paul has in mind the Jewish expectation of a coming Messiah, but he knows that a time of distress will come before that messianic age (that begins with the Second Coming of Christ). Both humankind and the rest of God’s creation will share in these birth pains as they anticipate together the joy that follows the pain of birth.

Groans and labors with birth pangs refers to Adam’s Fall, which has caused misery from then until now. The whole created world in all of its parts is crying for release from pain, as a woman cries in childbirth, but it does so with hope for that which will give meaning to all the pain and turn it into joy. The present sufferings of creation are the “birth pangs” of the new age that is coming in the future, the Millennium. From the Fall until now, creation has been groaning over the pointlessness of having been made subject of a curse. It eagerly looks forward to the time the curse will be lifted. Browning wrote: God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world.

The Christian knows that that is not true. God is in His heaven alright, but all is not right with the world.

23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

While the creation groans for the coming of the Messiah, the believer also groans for that glorious day. The reason for why we groan is given in this verse—not only us who have the firstfruits of salvation, the indwelling of the Spirit of God, we groan, and if we who have God’s best groan and labor, then it’s no wonder that the other members of God’s creation groan and labor under the curse. We are said to have the firstfruits of the Spirit. That is, the indwelling Spirit Himself is the first installment (firstfruits) or down payment on the eternal glory that awaits both the believer and God’s creation. This provides the guarantee of our eternal inheritance. Just as the first handful of ripened grain is a pledge of the entire harvest to follow, so the Holy Spirit is the pledge or guarantee that the full inheritance will be ours.

The Holy Spirit is also the guarantee of the coming adoption, the redemption of the body“who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14). In one sense we have already been adopted, which means that we have been placed into God’s family as sons. However, in a fuller sense our adoption will be complete when we receive our glorified bodies. That is spoken of as the redemption of our body. Our spirits and souls have already been redeemed, and our bodies will be redeemed at the time of the Rapture.1 Thessalonians 4:13–18, is where we are given that promise.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
Christians sorrow, but it is not the hopeless sorrow of the world. Jesus is coming again, and that means reunion and eternal rejoicing!

As believers, we await the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body. Though we may today be attacked by physical pain, surrounded by financial distress, discouraged by failing health, nevertheless we know that because we possess the Holy Spirit as our down payment, God will certainly redeem our bodies as He has already redeemed our souls. As the sons of God, we will one day be clothed with immortal and incorruptible bodies. “Who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil 3:21). Christ will transform the earthly “lowly body,” a term pointing to the weakness or humble status of the mortal body rather than its sinfulness. Then this glorified body of the believer will conform or become similar in form to Christ’s Resurrection body. “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). It has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we do know that when Christ is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. This does not mean that we will be physically like Jesus in heaven. The Lord Jesus will have His own definite appearance, and will bear the scars of Calvary throughout eternity. Each of us, we believe, will have his own distinct features and will be recognizable as such. The Bible does not teach that everyone will look alike in heaven. However, we will be morally like the Lord Jesus Christ. We will be free from the possibility of defilement, sin, sickness, sorrow, and death. Now, how will this marvelous transformation be accomplished? The answer is that one look at Christ will bring it to pass. For we shall see Him as He is. Here in life, the process of becoming like Christ is going on, as we behold Him by faith in the word of God. Then the process will be complete when we see Him as He is, for to see Him is to be like Him. This new spiritual body will be a wedding garment suitable for heaven.

This verse is devastating to those who propose the theory that the mark of a Christian is a perennially smiling face. They contend that a Christian should be a cross between a Cheshire cat and a house-to-house salesman. A Christian should grin—at all times. Smile your troubles away is good for a course on congeniality, but it is not the Christian method.

24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?

This verse does not imply that salvation comes because we hope for it. The teaching of Paul, as well as Scripture in general, declares that we are saved by faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Grace is what God does for man, not what man does for God or for himself. Salvation is God’s greatest gift and man’s greatest need.

We did not receive all the benefits of our salvation at the moment of conversion. From the outset, we looked forward to full and final deliverance from sin, suffering, disease, and death. If we had already received these blessings, we would not be hoping for them. We only hope for what is in the future. The words this hope refers to is that ingredient which is inseparable from salvation and a natural accompaniment to it. Hope can never be divorced from salvation because salvation is the ground of our hope. But hope that is seen is not hope.

Things will not go on forever as they are now. God’s marvelous grace, that brings salvation, will deliver us from the corruption of sin and death, even in the body. These bodies will be changed if we are living when the Rapture takes place. If we die and the flesh returns to dust, these bodies will be raised incorruptible and we will be like the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Titus 2:11-14, the grace of God that brings salvation teaches us to look for “that blessed hope” and the glorious appearing of our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us, so that He might redeem us and make unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. Yes, in hope we are saved.

25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

The attitude of hope is a distinctive Christian characteristic. It implies that there is more in store for the Christian than anything he has today. Our hope for deliverance from the presence of sin and all its damage to our lives is based on the promise of God, and is therefore as certain as if we had already received it. Therefore, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. This expression of patience is a fitting conclusion to this chapter which deals with the provision of assurance.

Looking to a future redemption of the body provides opportunity for our faith to grow and mature. Consequently, the virtue of patience is developed in addition to hope and faith. Therefore, although we are assured of eternal heirship, nevertheless we develop patience in waiting for the coming of the Lord.

You see, faith, hope, and love are the vital parts of the believer’s life. There would be no hope if they were all realized. Someday, hope will pass away in our attainment of glory. In fact, both faith and hope will pass away in the glory that will be revealed in us. Only love abides.

The redemption of the body is the final step of salvation, and we were saved in anticipation of that. The redemption of the body has not yet occurred, but we are to eagerly anticipate it and patiently wait for it, while we may experience suffering in the present.


Special Notes

Glory refers to the state of blessedness into which believers are to enter through being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Revealed in (as well as to and through) us, refers to the salvation and glory that can be seen in believers as they progress through sanctification to be more like Jesus. In addition, it looks forward in time to the resurrection of the body (v. 23), and the subsequent complete Christlikeness which is the believers eternal glory. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Phil.3 20-21). When the Lord Jesus comes from heaven, He will change these bodies of ours.

There is nothing vile or evil about the human body in itself. The evil lies in the wrong uses to which it is put. However, it is a lowly body, a body of humiliation. It is subject to wrinkles, scars, age, suffering, sickness, and death. It limits and cramps us! The Lord will transform it into a body of glory. The full extent of the meaning of this we do not know. However, we do know that it will no longer be subject to decay or death, to the limitations of time or of natural barriers. It will be a real body, yet perfectly suited to conditions in heaven. It will be like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus.

waits—to remain in readiness or expectation. In Scripture, the word “wait” normally suggests the anxious, yet confident, expectation by God’s people that the Lord will intervene on their behalf. One example is waiting for answers to prayer—“Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day” (Ps. 25:5). God wants to show you His ways, teach you His paths, and lead you in His truths. The Word of God and prayer always go together, so spend time in His Word. If you ask Him sincerely, He will answer you clearly. Waiting, therefore, is the working out of hope.

Futility refers to the inability to achieve a goal or purpose. Because of Man’s sin, God cursed the physical universe (Gen. 3:17-19), and now no part of creation fulfills God’s original purpose.

Hope—confident expectancy. In the Bible, the word “hope” has two meanings:
1. The act of hoping“Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. (1 Cor. 9:10). That is, of being rewarded. It is only natural and right, but more than that, it is scriptural that one should expect profit from his labors.
2. The thing hoped for—“because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5). In this verse, hope does not mean the attitude of waiting or looking forward to something, but rather it refers to that for which a person hopes. Here it means the fulfillment of our salvation when we shall be taken to heaven and will enter into our eternal inheritance. Hope does not arise from the individual’s desires or wishes but from God, who is Himself the believer’s hope: “My hope is in You” (Ps. 39:7). Genuine hope is not wishful thinking, but a firm assurance about things that are unseen and still in the future.
Hope distinguishes the Christian from the unbeliever, who has no hope—“that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Eph. 2:12). Paul speaks of the misery and unhappiness of the lost. Being without Christ, we were all at one time: without rest (Mt 11:28); without life (Jn 14:6), without light (Jn 8:12); without salvation (Acts 4:12); and without peace (Col 1:20). Without a doubt, a Christian is one in whom hope resides.

Firstfruits - the firstborn of the flocks and the first vegetables and grains to be gathered at harvest time. The Hebrew people thought of these as belonging to God in a special sense. They were dedicated or presented to God on the day of the firstfruits, a part of the celebration of PENTECOST (Num. 28:26; 2 Chr. 31:5).

Adoption—an expression used by St. Paul in reference to the present and prospective privileges of Christians. Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5. He probably alludes to the Roman custom by which a person not having children of his own might adopt as his son one born of other parents. The relationship was to all intents and purposes the same as existed between a natural father and son. The term is used figuratively to show the close relationship to God of the Christian. Gal. 4:4, 5; Rom. 8:14-17. He is received into God’s family from the world, and becomes a child and heir of God.

Perseverence— the steadfast effort to follow God’s commands and to do His work. The New Testament makes it clear that faith alone can save. But it makes it equally clear that perseverance in doing good works is the greatest indication that an individual’s faith is genuine (James 2:14–26). Indeed, perseverance springs from a faithful trust that God has been steadfast toward His people. Through persevering in God’s work, Christians prove their deep appreciation for God’s saving grace (1 Cor. 15:57–58).As a result of perseverance, the Christian can expect not only to enhance the strength of the church, but also to build up strength of character (Rom. 5:3–4). In short, Christians can expect to become closer to God. They learn that they can persevere primarily because God is intimately related to them (Rom. 8:25–27) and especially because they have the assurance of a final reward in heaven (1 John 5:13).


Summary

Paul contrasts the sufferings of the present with the glorious hope for the future. Paul had suffered greatly for the sake of the gospel. Yet he acknowledged that those sufferings were nothing compared to the future glory he anticipated. God’s children will participate in the glory of Christ, and they will experience complete conformity to Christ. The suffering we experience or see in our world does not discourage us, because we have hope. The presence of God’s Spirit within, assures us that the best is yet to come. The Jews celebrated the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost by dedicating the firstfruits of the wheat harvest to the Lord (Lev. 23:15–21). Believers have received the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit as God’s down payment or guarantee that we will be eternally with Him.

 

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