Romans 8:19-21

Nature Awaits the Second Coming

Prepared by Dr. John Marshall

Romans 8:19 (Holman) For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation

for God’s sons to be revealed.

This refers to Nature, the non-human world around us. The glory to be revealed in us is so wonderful that all of Nature is longing for that day. The glory must be unspeakable if insensible creatures are anxious for it.

In this vivid poetic imagery, Paul personified Nature, as we often do. For instance, people speak of the Mississippi River almost as if it were a person. They speak of its personalities, and call it “Old Man River.”

Similarly, Paul spoke of our created order, saying it yearns for a better day, a different era. Thus the question, “Why is Nature eager for a change?”

Romans 8:20a For the creation was subjected to futility—not

willingly,…

“Subject to futility” means Nature is no longer allowed to do all it was originally meant to do. This failure, however, is not due to its own desires or inherent shortcomings. Rather, it is a consequence of Adam’s sin.

As Earth’s supreme inhabitants, our Fall radically affected our realm. The ground was cursed due to Adam’s sin. “The Lord said unto Adam, “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow” (GN 3:17b-19a).

A curse was placed on the ground not to punish Nature, but to punish us. Due to sin, we lost Paradise. We have not been allowed to enjoy our environment to the full extent God originally intended.

We became estranged from God, who was meant to have dominion over us. He punished us by estranging us from what we were meant to have dominion over. Nature would henceforth be a rough home for us. Food would be extracted from earth by pain and sweat. In other words, our “sin put the thorns on the roses” (McBeth).In Eden, there was at first complete harmony between people and their world. But now, Nature has gone wild. Instead of a submissive servant, as God originally intended, Nature has often been an antagonist of humans.

It seems to enjoy taunting us. In the 1800s, millions died of famine in Asia, but wheat was so abundant in Western America that people burned it as fuel. The same clouds that bring refreshing rains to crops bring tornados to destroy storehouses and homes. Nature seems totally unconcerned about the fact her offspring cause us to cringe. Hurricanes, volcanoes, avalanches, hailstones, famines, epidemics, deserts – these all strike terror in our hearts.

We have to struggle against our own environment, and can blame no one but us for it. Due to our sin, Nature never stops encroaching, and must be constantly subdued. Lawns have to be frequently mowed. Forest fires must be fought to save cities. Fields must be regularly plowed to stop weeds.

Rivers have to be constantly dredged. At my hometown, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, a large sea wall holds back the Mississippi River. The wall looks impressive, but when the river level gets quite low, you can see the old wall, which eventually proved inadequate. The river sinks down as if only to taunt, “I conquered your first wall; I will conquer your new wall.” Creation lost its original purpose. It has been made subject to futility.

Romans 8:20b … but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope. . .

God will not let the curse against creation last forever. The oppression of Nature will only be temporary. There will be an end to the trouble.

It is only logical to believe there is hope for Nature to be restored to its original purpose. It was not to blame for its curse, and since God made a way possible for guilty sinners to have hope, then surely innocent Nature should have hope. This is good news, because the poor creation is suffering more than just subjection to futility. Nature has other problems.

Romans 8:21a . . . that the creation itself will also be set free from the

bondage of corruption…

Nature is shackled in a bondage to corruption, subject to constant decay, disease, and death. Nature can be very ferocious, but also fragile.

Death put its stamp on all of creation; every creature lives in terror of it. Beauty always fades, loveliness always dissipates. Nature is ever dying. “The slime of the serpent is on it all” (Spurgeon).

Our sin is terrible, casting a grey shadow over the entire universe. Our evil caused bondage to corruption in Nature. Winter itself is an adequate testimony to the far-reaching consequences of our sins. The ugliness of our sin is imprinted in wilting flowers, leafless trees, and barren fields.

The bondage to corruption is so deeply ingrained that Nature even fights against its own self. It is suicidal. Lightning destroys trees, Frost kills the offspring of summer, Boll weevils destroy cotton, ticks carry diseases that decimate cattle, and kudzu (“yard-a-night”) can suck life out of a forest.

Since much of this adversely affects us, we have to try to undo what our sin caused. We are ever trying to fight Nature’s bondage to corruption.

We combined chemicals to invent fertilizers, and disinfectants. We might retard the corruption, but cannot stop it. We use deodorants, but whether we stick it, roll it, spray it, or powder it, the bacteria that cause odor return. Brush your teeth, floss them, chew gum, use breath fresheners, and throat sprays all you want. But eventually you will be a victim of bad breath bacteria. And if this is not enough to convince us, let’s take off our shoes; there will suddenly be a lot of miserable people here because of the odor.

Nature’s bondage to corruption is everywhere. Everything in Nature either has a parasite or organism that preys on it inwardly and/or a natural foe that pursues it. The creation attacks its own self and is accurately described as being “raw in tooth and claw.” I fear the words “God’s in His heaven—All’s well with the world” are unrealistic. Another author may better define reality–“Change and decay in all around I see.” Let’s not end on this sad note. We have a more pleasing thought for Nature’s future.

Romans 8:21b …into the glorious freedom of God’s children.

We do not know what role God’s creation will play in the glorious future, but we know everything will be perfect. A drastic change in the external world will occur. Heaven and earth will be purged with fire (2 P 3:7) and replaced by a new heaven and new earth (2 P 3:13).

“The wilderness and the dry land will be glad; the desert will rejoice and blossom like a rose” (Isaiah 35:1). “The wolf will live with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the goat. The calf, the young lion, and the fatling will be together, and a child will lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young ones will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. An infant will play beside the cobra’s pit, and a toddler will put his hand into a snake’s den. None will harm or destroy another on My entire holy mountain, for the land will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the sea is filled with water” (Isaiah 11:6-9). We cannot say for sure how much of this is poetic or literal, but one thing is sure, Nature will enjoy harmony when Jesus comes again. For Christians, Paradise will be restored. We will someday receive again what Adam lost due to sin.