Romans 8:18 (part 1)
Christianity Sees Three Worlds
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
The truth of this verse was hammered out on the anvil of experience in Paul’s life. He knew what he was talking about. Paul had learned the meaning of suffering. He had been in prison often, received 39 stripes five times, beaten with rods thrice, stoned once, shipwrecked twice, always living under the threat of death, and much more (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
Paul also had experienced the glory, God’s splendor and majesty. On the road to Damascus, Paul saw the risen Christ, and was blinded by the sight (Acts 9:3-8). Later, he was caught up into third heaven, Paradise, and there heard things so awesome that he was forbidden to repeat them (2 Corinthians 12:2-4).
The Apostle had experienced suffering; he had also been given samples of the glory. Paul knew suffering, and he knew glory; to him there was no comparison between the two. Our text gives us his assessment of these matters.
Romans 8:18a (Holman) For I consider…
Paul reached the right conclusion because he had a proper worldview. He could “consider” things rightly. He had an advantage over lost people because he had a proper perspective about time, space, and the world. This is one of the distinct privileges of being a Christian. Only believers can truly understand history.
Believers know God personally and miraculously created the world from nothing. We also know all human problems stem from our rebellion we began in the Garden of Eden. We know people are depraved, in need of Divine redemption. The world, however, flounders in nebulous hunches of evolution and sees people as nothing more than advanced animals trying to overcome animalistic tendencies.
Believers know history is headed for a climax. God rules in human affairs and will eventually send His Son Jesus back to earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Lost people do not understand this. They ponder the possibility of total annihilation from nuclear war (there might be nuclear war, but there will not be total annihilation). And if there is no nuclear war, they believe the world will grind on, endlessly repeating its historical cycles. At best this is a grim, fatalistic attitude.
Believers know there are two other worlds besides the one that we live in. There is a place of punishment called Hell, and a place of reward called Heaven, but unbelievers live as if this were the only world. They exaggerate the importance of matters close at hand, and downplay considerations that deal with the other two worlds. They live for this world only. Christianity calls for us to expand our vision. It requires people to look up and see beyond the limits of this physical world.
Lost people scoff at this Christian perspective. In fact, even believers often find themselves being duped by the world’s outlook. We hate to be considered ignorant or unlearned. May God grant us grace to wear with honor the world’s badges of shame. Scorn from evil people is as valuable as praise from the good.
We have nothing to apologize for. Theirs is the perspective of despair and hopelessness. Look at the world around us. It is in shambles. Everything seems to be falling apart. Its philosophies are not doing society one ounce of good.
This is no time for Christians to be retreating from what we know to be true. The world needs our message now more than ever before. Ours is the only outlook that makes sense and brings order to the chaos. We see a method in the madness.
Only Christians can tell people of a better world and way. Only Christians have the best always yet to come. Only Christians have a perspective that can make suffering more than merely bearable. Everyone has to tolerate troubles and endure afflictions, but only believers have a perspective that allows them to overcome and live victoriously despite difficulties. Along with Paul, we can rightly “consider.”
Romans 8:18b …that the sufferings of this present time…
Paul wrote in an era when Christians suffered persecution for their faith. The first readers of this epistle were in trouble, living on the verge of an outbreak of persecution. It is important we remember this fact as we analyze Paul’s words.
He was writing to Christians who were suffering, but he made absolutely no hint they should expect relief soon. He did not leave even the slightest suggestion that circumstances in Rome were going to get better tomorrow or the day after.
The Bible does not say things will get better in a year or two. It rather talks of “wars, and rumors of wars.” There is not going to be a panacea here on earth. “Evil people and imposters will become worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 TM 3:13). Hitler will neither be the last nor the worst of his kind. Even now, deaths occurring in our own land through abortions are eclipsing his holocaust.
Nowhere does the New Testament tell believers to expect safety and ease in this world. The universal message of Scripture is; there are troubles aplenty for Christians in this life. We have no permanent home here. We are misfits and aliens.
We need to be realistic about affliction. Nothing is to be gained by denying the fact of our suffering. The suffering is real and, unless God sends an Awakening, will worsen.
Things are not necessarily going to improve tomorrow. Increased culture and education do not forecast things getting easier for Christians. In fact, it can make things worse, especially when schools teach history with no God in it, and sex with no accountability to God. The basic philosophy of many is; we have advanced to the point that we do not need God. Therefore, we do not need churches, either.
Regarding freedom of worship and expression, America took us to the very edge of the millennium. But the bubble could pop. Camelot may end. We could easily return to reality, where the world spews venom on the church of Jesus.
Our problems are here to stay. Thus, victory will not be ours if we try to avoid all difficulties. Relief is found in learning how to deal with the difficulties that will inevitably come our way. We must learn to face our troubles directly.
Once we see them for what they are, we have at least two resources available to us. One, we can call on the Lord for help. Two, we can learn not to focus exclusively on our afflictions. This last thought returns us to our text.
Romans 8:18c …are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be
revealed to us.
Gazing at bright prospects ahead helps us reconcile ourselves to present burdens. The Christian life must ever be lived with one eye on the future. For believers, the best is always yet to come.
Heaven is not only the removal of all things negative, but also the addition of something very wonderful. We are not only going to leave suffering behind, we are going to be given glory in its place. As Martin Lloyd-Jones neared death, he told his family, “Do not pray for healing. Do not hold me back from the Glory.”
When we leave this body of sin, a new world of splendor will open to us. The clouds and our atmosphere will be rolled back as a curtain. The blackness of outer space will serve as a stage for the appearance of glory. The darkness of the universe will be a backdrop to complement, outline, and highlight God’s splendor.
For believers, this is a certainty. Nothing can keep it from happening. This is cause for rejoicing. There is even better news. We will not only see Christ’s glory, but also share it. It will be revealed to us, come to us, enter us, and shine from us.
God’s majesty will shine through us to the amazement of us and all who see us. This will be reality for all who know Jesus. His glory will someday be ours.