For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.
For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God.Romans 8:18-19 ASV
Despite the fact that Christians are beneficiaries of the blood of Christ, heirs of everlasting glory, and destined at last to live in that upper and better kingdom where all the problems of earth shall be solved in the light and bliss of heaven, there is a present and urgent sorrow that falls upon all of them by reason of the sufferings in the flesh.
Paul had revealed a moment before that the child of God might expect no exemptions but must suffer throughout the days of mortality; and therefore, by way of encouragement, he emphasizes as a motive for patience in such sufferings, their triviality, as compared with the ultimate glory of the children of God, a glory which they shall not merely see, but a glory in which they shall actually participate.
The time of such a glorification of the redeemed will be at the second coming of Christ and following the judgment of the final day.
Sufferings then belong to this present age, between the advents of our Lord. Glory belongs to the age to come. As Moffatt puts it, sufferings are a mere nothing when set against the glory that shall be revealed in us.
The main idea of Romans 8:18, obviously, is that the future glory transcends immeasurably the sufferings of this present state. All that follows tends to illustrate and enforce that idea.Charles Hodge
“For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the reveling of the sons of God.” (Verse 19)
The common interpretation of this verse, from which this writer differs, is represented by the following:
The creation (means) the whole world of nature, animate and inanimate.
Very extensive and learned dissertations are available to “prove” this viewpoint, the best of them, perhaps, being that of Hodge whose logic is persuasive and difficult of refutation.
In the early Christian church, this opinion was prevalent, and was the germ whence the extravagance of the Millenarians arose.
Before proceeding to what is here considered the correct interpretation of this verse, it should be pointed out that if the above view is taken poetically, or figuratively, to represent the “whole creation” now groaning beneath the consequences of the fall and anxiously awaiting the long expected day of redemption, then there would be no violence to the truth in such a view.
[@Ktisis] (as used in Romans 8:19,20,21, and 22), CREATION, has the same signification here as in Mark 16:15: “Proclaim the glad tidings to the whole creation,” that is, “all mankind;” and also Colossians 1:23, where a similar phrase occurs.
That the brute and inanimate creation is not here spoken of, but mankind, is evident from the hope of emancipation from the “slavery of corruption” held out in the 21st verse, and the contrast introduced in the 23rd verse, between the [KTISIS] and those possessing the first fruit of the Spirit.
Despite the preponderance of the commentators alleged to support the other view, there are, nevertheless, many of the most distinguished expositors who hold the view advocated here.
Hodge himself mentioned, as holding this persuasion, Hammond, Locke, Semler, Ammon, and others, who held that the word CREATION, as used here, means the race of mankind as distinguished from Christians.
CREATION in the language of St. Paul and of the New Testament, signifies “mankind”; especially the Gentile world, as the far greater part of creation.
According to some commentators, the words “we know that every creature groaneth” denote the whole creatures of God, animate and inanimate, which, as they were cursed for the sin of the first man, may by a beautiful rhetorical figure be represented as groaning together under that curse, and earnestly wishing to be delivered from it.
Nevertheless Romans 8:21, where it is said that “the creature itself shall be liberated from the bondage of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God”; and the antithesis, Romans 8:23, “not only they, but ourselves also,” show that the apostle is speaking, not of the brute and animate creation, but of mankind, and of their earnest desire of immortality.
For these reasons, and especially because of Mark 16:15, “Preach the gospel to every creature,” which means to every human creature, I think the words (creature and creation) in this verse and in the preceding three verses (this note was written on Romans 8:22), signify mankind in general, Jews as well as Gentiles.
See also Colossians 1:23 where the words signify every human creature.
If them, as assumed here, this verse is a reference to the unredeemed portion of humanity, which constitutes the overwhelming majority of all men, what is the meaning to be understood by the statement here that there is “an expectation” or longing and eager anticipation looking to the revelation of the sons of God?
Hodge downgraded such universal longings after immortality as insufficient to justify Paul’s words here; but it cannot be denied that there are deep and irrepressible longings in the human heart for something better than the poor years of agony and frustration on earth.
How eagerly do the men of science seek to hurl back the frontiers of death; how persistently do they strive to extend the human life-span; and how pitiful is the reaction of every man to the inevitable claims of the tomb!
That all such agony of frustration is indeed an “expectation” looking to the revelation of the sons of God appears reasonable enough, the greatest tragedy being that, for earth’s unredeemed billions, that expectation is but a subconscious thing, leading them to seek its fruition, not in the Lord Jesus Christ, through whom their most daring hopes might become reality, but in the futile and ineffectual devices which they themselves have contrived.
What a blessing a resurrection to immortality is, may be understood by this, that the earnest desire of mankind hath ever been to obtain that glorious endless life in the body, by which the sons of God shall be made known.