"And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know ... For we know in part and we prophesy in part" (1 Cor. 8:2, 13:9)

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Bible commentary on Rom. 8:19-22

"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" (NKJV)

Synopsis: the sons of God referred to in verse 19 are believers in Christ born of the spirit who owing to faithful completion of their sacrifice will receive the highest positions in the Kingdom of Christ. They will be revealed to the world when this Kingdom will start its reign over the earth. It will be the time in which the resurrected humanity will be subjected to the process of judgement in four elements: teaching, trying, correction and sentence (final decision). According to verse 21, everyone will literally receive 'freedom to glory' because the reign of Christ (and the sons of God with him) will provide humanity with favorable conditions towards the reform of character. Those who will take advantage of it and will successfully pass the last test will receive the gift of eternal life. The current time Paul calls "birth pangs" (verse 22) because humanity is during the creation process. In Eden Adam was created on God's likeness, but not on God's image. Therefore, "creation was subjected to futility ... in hope" (verse 20) because the current stage of 'futility' was envisioned in the Divine Plan, but at the same time it was calculated as a step towards creating perfect creatures on God's image manifested in Jesus Christ.

The main theme of the New Testament - and hence so often present in the Bible Commentary - is the calling to the (Col. 1:24). The winners of this calling will become co-aroused with Jesus and the heirs of God in His Kingdom (Mt. 20:20-23; Rom. 8:17; 1 Cor. 9:24-25, 12:12-13; Col. 3:15; 1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 20:4). Salvation, however, does not only apply only to Israel, as Jews in the times of Christ saw it, or only to Christians, as the majority of churches of Christianity would want it. The basic Biblical doctrine is that Jesus gave his life for all - Jews and non-Jews, Christians and Gentiles - for the whole world (Mt. 20:28; 1 Jn. 2:2). Therefore, it might be asked what will happen to those whom God has not called? What fate awaits them after death?

One of the fragments of the Bible that speak of the hope of the world in a most beautiful manner is the above cited Rom. 8:19-22. The basis for this hope is redemption. If our Lord had not sacrificed himself for us, death would mean a transition to eternal non-existence, without any hope, according to God's statement: "Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return" (Gen. 3:19 NKJV). We are, therefore, according to the statements of the apostle Paul, as well as Solomon's, subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20; Ecc. 1:14, 2:11). We are slaves of sin (Jn. 8:34), and our bodies age and die. "The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (Ps. 90:10 NKJV).

The future judgement of mankind

Paul declares, however, that our subjection to futility was foreseen by God "in hope". By sinning consciously, our forefather showed that he did not understand the sense of obedience to God. Jesus comes to testify about it; to show man what the truth is and what it means to follow it (Jn. 18:37; Rom. 5:18,19; see the lecture ). Adam's sin also showed what the whole New Testament teaches about: that the way to obedience leads through the faith which is trust to God - which not only knows that God exists but also trust Him in all circumstances. In this sense justification is from faith (Rom. 3:21-24).

This clearly shows that the sacrifice of our Lord has not yet been applied for the world because the world has no faith that leads man to learn the truth and to obey it. The consequence of this, however, is not eternal condemnation for non-believers - it would mean that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ was largely wasted. On the contrary, God foresaw the time when every person will have a full opportunity to take advantage of the redemption in Christ by learning the truth and its use. This will, in turn, require two things: firstly, that everyone not only believes in God and Jesus Christ, but also shows the readiness to obey, which - as we know thanks to the apostle Paul - will take place at the right time (Phil. 2:10,11); secondly, that everyone becomes familiar with the truth. Here, also the Word of God ensures us that this condition will be fulfilled and "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Is. 11:9; 1 Tim. 2:4).

Meeting the mentioned conditions will effectively place man in the conditions of trial that all humanity was subjected to in Adam. Our forefather was first instructed about the conditions of trial, and then tested. Similar will be the future trial when humanity will be instructed and tried. The purpose of this teaching and trying will be to bring man to full harmony with God and his rights, to "gather together in one all things in Christ", in the spirit of God and his son (Eph. 1:10). The final judgement of humanity will not therefore take as its basis the offenses committed currently, but our future actions taken in the period of judgement, already after the resurrection (Jer. 31:29,30; 1 Cor. 15:22).

The future judgement of humanity will, therefore, be a time of reform. This is also indicated by the apostle Paul in the fragment under scrutiny, saying that 'delivery from the bondage of corruption' will lead to "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21 NKJV). The Greek doksa occurs in the text of the original in the genitive case, so there is no question of "glorious liberty", as NKJV puts it, but rather of "freedom to/of glory". The resurrected humanity will have a full opportunity to return to unity with God and obtain moral perfection, so actually it will have full 'freedom [to obtain] glory' (Is. 26:9).

The conditions of trial

The terms of the final trial will be similar to the conditions that our forefather had. First of all, as the apostle Paul states in the fragment under scrutiny, we will be 'delivered from the bondage of corruption' (Rom. 8:21). Our resurrected bodies will not be burdened with death sentence or related consequences. There will be no more diseases and disability because their cause will be deleted: the sentence for disobedience issued against Adam and his offspring (Rom. 5:12). "And the inhabitant will not say, 'I am sick'; The people who dwell in it will be forgiven their iniquity ... Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. (6) Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing" (Iz. 33:24; 35: 5,6 NKJV).

Also, the conditions on Earth will be restored to resemble those in Eden. Their picturesque descriptions can be found in many Biblical texts, especially in the Old Testament (Is. 2:2-4, 35:1-10, 65:17-25; Rev. 21:3,4). It will be "the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21 NKJV). Physical conditions will be conducive in every respect, there will not be Satan, who will be imprisoned for this time, and all humanity will be instructed about the roads of God and at least externally it will become subordinated to Christ (Is. 11:9, 29:23,24; Phil. 2:10,11; 1 Tim. 2:3,4; Rev. 20:1-3). There will be no obstacle on the way to God (Is. 57:14; 62:10). "A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness ... Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. (9) No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it ... (10) And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away" (Is. 35:8-10 NKJV).

Meanwhile, as Paul puts it, "the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" (Rom. 8:22). Just as labor pain is the announcement of upcoming birth, so our suffering in connection with the experience of evil is the announcement of birth of the new man, shaped according to God's will in Christ. Our dealing with evil is an integral part of this process. "Who knows the power [meaning] of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. (12) So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps. 90:11,12 NKJV). The order, however, is different: Adam was first given to know the good and then the evil; his children first experience the evil to later experience the good (Ps. 90:15) in the Kingdom of Christ.

For this reason "the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). The Christ who as a ruler in this kingdom of God shall govern this process of experience with the good (Acts 3:19-21) is not a person but a group. It is not only Jesus who is the Head, but also the Church that is chosen in the Gospel Age and who will be his Body (1 Cor. 12:12,13,27, Col. 1:26,27). The return of Christ will therefore also mean the revelation of his resurrected Church in glory as the judges of the future (1 Cor. 6:2, Rev. 20:4-6; Col. 3:4).

Keywords: Rom. 8:19-22
Bible translations used in the commentary:
NKJV - New King James Version