Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

THEOLOGY > Future > New Heaven and New Earth > Subjected to Futility 


Genesis records the succession of curses placed on Satan, the woman, and the man, curses that constitute the punishment by God upon each of them for their involvement in the Fall. Additionally, these were comprehensive curses that extend to all of creation. Not only do the three named—Satan, woman, and man—suffer and labor under the curse, but all of creation is affected. While originally the description of creation was that it was very good (see: A Very Good Creation), very quickly the description changed to cursed (see: Curses). According to Paul “the creation was subjected to futility” (Rom. 8:20; “vanity” in KJV).  Consider two words: “futility” and “subjected.”

First, the Greek word translated “futility” is mataiotēs, a word appearing three times in the New Testament (Rom. 8:20; Eph. 4:17; II Pet. 2:18) and indicating “folly,” “vanity,” uselessness,” or “futility.” In Ephesians the reference is to the Gentiles who walk “in the futility of their minds,” which results in darkened understanding and alienation from the life of God; and in II Peter the reference is to false teachers who speak “loud boasts of folly” (ESV; “great swelling words of emptiness” in NKJV).

In the Septuagint mataiotēs is used to translate the Hebrew word that occurs 38 times in Ecclesiastes and is usually translated “vanity” in the English versions. Even the wise man, in anticipation of the Apostle, characterized everything as “vanity of vanities”; he said “all is vanity” (Eccles. 1:2).

“Vanity,” or “futility,” is a fit word to describe the current state of creation. The word speaks of imperfection—that which was “very good” is now no longer good but is very bad (see: Original Creation). An alien condition, contrary to its initial state, has come to be true; it is a state of loss, of suffering, of judgment.

The current state of creation is also spoken of as being in “bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21), meaning that creation is a slave to decay. The trend is not in the direction of wholeness and improvement as evolution predicts and even guarantees the future of creation to be, but the trajectory is decidedly negative as creation rushes toward greater putrefaction. The realization of utopia is illusive and will not materialize. 

Alone and without outside input creation’s long term prognostication is not good, unless it can free itself from servitude to decomposition. And of course creation has no such ability, therefore, it is doomed to ruin. Intervention must be from without, that is, from above—the  Supernatural must reorder the natural.

Second, consider the word, “subjected,” and the fuller wording, “was subjected.” Something was done to creation—it was subjected—and it was done by Someone greater than creation. Creation is not autonomous in any sense of the word, therefore, creation was and is absolutely passive: something “was” done to it. Creation does not operate independently of the Creator; rather, it responds to and obeys His command.

Creation is not without supervision or control, the proper word is Sovereignty (see: God is Sovereign). Creation is not developing according to the dynamic forces of chance that are operating in a closed system, rather creation is dependent on Him and susceptible to Him who is outside of the system and who created the system. The development of creation and the destiny of creation are not random in their occurrence.

The state that came to be true of creation was placed upon creation by the Maker of creation. Adam’s sin in Eden (see: Adam’s Rebellion) was against God and brought upon himself and all of creation a curse from God. The curse was not the result of a sin, or flaw, in creation, but it came upon creation as an consequence of Adam’s sin. This is the affirmation of Paul through his statement: “creation was subjected to futility.” This was the doing of God, who does with His creation what He pleases.

Paul adds that from the perspective of creation the subjection of creation in futility was “not willingly.” Again Paul is giving emphasis to the fact that the current state of creation was visited upon creation; to use personification, it was not creation’s desire nor wish. The lesson to be discerned is that when sin appears, there are consequences; and judgment follows evil actions.

Creation’s present condition is a condition of sin, a situation characterized by folly, emptiness, uselessness, and vanity—a creation of “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18). Creation is like the life of a depraved Gentile whose thinking is of no value (Eph. 4:17), or like the empty  words of a false teacher that are full of folly (II Pet. 2:18). Creation is now an imperfect creation, characterized by decay and death, constantly manifesting evidences of the profound and deep-seated disintegration that characterizes its condition.

So the “futility” of creation means that in its present state creation is not what it was intended to be and is deserving of current judgment and is destined for future judgment. But in the midst of impending judgment, creation is waiting and groaning, longing for redemption. The curse is not without end, for the curse will be removed (Rev. 22:3).

This curse that is upon the earth has immediate and devastating long-term consequences for the struggle to survive. Against this perspective the believer can approach the fact of natural evil and seek to have some understanding of its origin and its existence—natural evil is because of moral evil. The world is one of natural disasters: earthquakes tornadoes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, heat, cold, and more—all contributing to the miserable state of man’s existence. Natural calamities are really periodic judgments by God upon creation because of sin—the earth has been and is subjected to futility.

The forces of nature are the forces of evil, not necessarily the forces of a personal evil, but the forces of the consequences of the evil that appeared in Eden. If Adam had not sinned there would be no thorns and thistles, and no destructive events in nature, no suffering and loss of life. The upheavals in nature occur and the destructive history of nature exists because the rebellion of Adam is a fact of history. Natural evil is historical because moral evil originated in a historical event.

Note: Following are the curses pronounced by God.

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the day of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”

To the woman He said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:14-19).

Return to: New Heaven and New Earth; Next Article: Subjected in Hope

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.