“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” —Romans 8:19-22
Here, the apostle presents a rather poetic expression of the incredible greatness of the glory to come; this glory that can in no way be compared or diminished by the sufferings mentioned in the Romans 8:18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
The “creature” (Romans 8:19) can, and probably should, be translated “creation,” referring to the whole created universe. This is the same Greek word (κτισις) used in Romans 8:20, 21, & 22. This “creation” refers to the world and its creatures, both of whom Adam had dominion over, but since Adam’s fall, the creation “was made subject to vanity, not willingly” (Romans 8:20). It became “without form and void” (Genesis 1:2) through the fall of man, subject to the curse of sin; and though the plants and animals are living things, they do not have reason, nor was a willing rebellion employed by the plants and animals to bring them to the condition in which they now exist; that is, it was not by their own doing that the curse was upon them, “for as in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22).
Yet, when the Lord Jesus returns, and those who God has saved in Christ are glorified, there will be new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3; Revelation 21). It is written in Isaiah 65:17, 25,
17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind….
25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
The creation will be delivered from its bondage of corruption when Christ returns unto “the glorious [liberation] of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Liberated from what? Why, from these mortal bodies, of course, as it is written, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).
“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22). This verse can be translated, “For we know that every creature sighs together and labors in birth pains together until now.” And though we can translate this verse as “every creature,” the phrase “whole creation” is also an excellent translation from the three Greek words, πασα η κτισις.
Are these groans literal? Do we hear plants, grass, and trees groaning? Are we groaning with them? No. It is a rather poetic expression of the anguish that all of creation is experiencing until the return of Christ. Since the fall, the planet has been in anguish and continues with increasing frequency and intensity just like labor pains in child birth; and will do so until the second coming of the Lord.
There is great hope, however, because of the words “until now” in this verse of scripture. This anguish and travailing pain has been going on for some 6,000 years “until now.” Our sufferings (Romans 8:18) cannot compare with the eternal weight of glory; and not only that, those sufferings are light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).
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Read the previous article in this series, “The Sufferings of the Children of God“ (Romans 8:18).