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THEOLOGY > Future > New Heaven and New Earth > Subjected in Hope   


The Apostle Paul speaks of the current state of creation and the promise of a future salvation that will transform its current state:

For the creation waits with eager longing 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; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now (Rom. 8:19-22).

Twice in verse 20 Paul refers to a subjection. First, he speaks of a subjection to futility—a  bondage to corruption—that was inflicted on creation by God because of Adam’s sin (see: Adam’s Rebellion, Curses, and Subjected to Futility). Second, he reveals that the subjection is “in hope,” so accompanying the servitude to decay that characterizes creation is an optimism that renovation is ahead.

Creation has hope for a future state that will be unlike its present state.

According to Paul’s epistle there is an eschatological implication for the earth which labors under the curse: though subjected in “futility” the creation is subjected “in hope.” Despite the fact that the current creation is cursed, the point of Romans 8:19-22 is the eschatological theme. All of creation, in spite of current struggle and suffering, is moving toward a consummation. And the movement is filled with anticipation because the old will be replaced with the new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth.

In the midst of “the sufferings of this present time” it must be remembered that these miseries “are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). The best is yet to be, not in time but in eternity, for both men and creation. Together they share a common hope.

To use different terminology, where sin and its consequences abound grace does much more abound. Evil will not triumph—the future is not according to sin but according to God and His salvation. Every knee will bow before the Seed of the woman.

The hope of creation is Divine.

The affirmation that hope is Divine means that hope is from God. Hope is of God, which clarifies why God is called “the God of hope” (Rom. 15:13)—He is the One and the only One who can provide hope. Paul also speaks of Christ as “our hope” (I Tim. 1:1). Hope must be considered in terms of Theism, and only in terms of Theism.

Any optimism arising from within man is without foundation. In fact, from the perspective of man there is no hope, that is, there is no basis upon which to postulate hope. Scripture plainly affirms this fact when it speaks of the unbelievers as “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). In Romans Paul states that “hope that is seen is not hope” (8:24), indicating that hope resides outside the human dimension.

Not only is God the source for the believer’s hope, it is God who brings the hope to fruition.  And this materialization and personalization of hope is through the Lord Jesus; it is through Christ that the riches of God come to creation and to the believer: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). There is confidence in believing that creation has a glorious future “because of Him who subjected it in hope” (Rom. 8:20).

The One who subjected the creation in futility is the One who subjected it in hope. The salvation of creation is dependent on the Lord of creation who will initiate the consummation at His pleasing and reverse the ravages of the curse, or at least bring the curse to an end. The hope of creation and of the believer is Him.

Until the realization of the eschatological hope creation is waiting and groaning.

During the period from the Fall until the consummation creation is waiting and groaning; two quotes support this statement: “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19), and “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom. 8:22).

Creation “waits with eager longing” and “has been groaning”; in other words creation has been anticipating and yearning for the redemption that is ahead. With vivid personification creation is presented as understanding its predicament and desiring to be free from the bondage that enslaves it. The cry for deliverance is great.

The hope of creation is eschatological, meaning that creation’s hope is focused more on the future than the present.  Paul states it forcefully: “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Note the contrast here: in the present there is “suffering,” but in the future there will be “glory.” The future makes the present bearable.

For this eschatological salvation creation “waits with eager longing”; and throughout its history “the whole creation has been groaning” (Rom. 8:22) like a woman ready and yearning to give birth and bring an end to her pain.

When the hope is realized creation “will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21).

According to Paul’s epistle there are eschatological implications for the earth which labors under the curse: creation “will be set free.” There is a prediction: “set free,” and there is assurance that the prediction will come to pass: “will be”; therefore, legitimate hope resides in the life of the believer. With these words the believer is assured that salvation is ahead, that full and complete redemption will be realized.

The believer understands that the curse will be removed: “And there shall be no more curse” (Rev. 22:3). Thus, the last book of the Bible references the first book of the Bible: the “curse” of Genesis will cease when the declaration—“no more curse”—of Revelation takes place. The curse pronounced on the first earth will be terminated when the new earth comes to be. Creation will “be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). “Bondage to corruption” is the “curse,” and from this curse the creation will be delivered. The leader of the twelve apostles has commentary on this future event:

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire . . . the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved . . . the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved . . . the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (II Pet. 3:7-13).

Like the book of Revelation, the above verses are apocalyptic (see: Apocalyptic Literature). Surely the message of Peter is that the old will transition to the new, that is, the present age will give way to the coming age. The point of the passage is not the manner of transition but the fact of transition. The old will be “set free.”

It must be noted that the hope which is focused on the future and the coming renovation of creation is a hope that is focused on God. It has nothing to do with human optimism but is has to do with the revelation of what He will do—hope, faith, and confidence reside in God and His Word.

In these verses (Rom. 8:19-22) creation is personified,
with emphasis on the present condition of creation
and to the salvation that is coming for creation.

Two aspects are set forth:
the present state which is one of “futility”
and the coming state when creation “will be set free.”

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