Romans 8:22-23

Nature Wants Jesus to Return

Prepared by Dr. John Marshall

Romans 8:22 (Holman) For we know that the whole creation has been

groaning together with labor pains until now.

Remember, Paul is speaking poetically. He is personifying Nature, saying if it could express itself, humans would be deafened by its groans. If Nature could reason, it would have a deep inner sense of misery.

Nature suffers pain due to people’s sins. Our sin placed a burden on all of creation. Adam and Eve, immediately after their sin, ripped fig leaves off a tree (GN 3:7). Later, God had to slaughter an animal in order to clothe the sinful couple (GN 3:21). When Pharaoh hardened his heart, disease smote horses, donkeys, camels, oxen, and sheep (EX 9:3). The people of Noah’s day sinned, but Nature drowned along with them in the Flood.

Humans are the sinners, but Nature as we know it is headed for a total purging by fire (2 P 3:7). All this has befallen Nature, though it is innocent.

A criminal sent to prison can illustrate this. His wife, totally innocent of wrongdoing, also suffers. She loses his income, and is separated from him. She has to explain embarrassment to her children, and experience shame in a condemning society. The court did not sentence her – she committed no crime – but she nevertheless suffers for the evil of another.

Nature and people were to live in harmony, but “Nature, with its melancholy charm, resembles a bride who, at the very moment when she was fully attired for marriage, saw the bridegroom to whom she was to be united die on the very day fixed for the wedding. She still stands with her fresh crown and in her bridal dress, but her eyes are full of tears” (Schelling).”

Nature has every right to weep. She is subjected not only to pain, but also to shame. The creation was meant to please God, but sinners perverted it. Nature is forced to do ungodly things against her will. We ingest food to provide energy for our evil deeds. Light of day is used to make evil plans; the cover of night is used to hide our sins. The atmosphere is coerced to carry a swearer’s profanity and a liar’s falsehood. Grapes were consecrated for use in the Lord’s Supper, but are desecrated when people become drunk.

God gave us trees in Eden to bless us. We repaid Him by taking one of them and nailing His Son to it. These things embarrass Nature. She is humiliated by the way we treat her in the presence of her Maker. No wonder the creation groans and travails.

A beast spoke only one time. Appropriately, its words were a complaint about the way a man was treating him (NB 22:28).

Romans 8:23a And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit

as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves,…

Nature is not groaning alone. Believers share her suffering. Christ-followers have an inner longing that causes us to moan. We have had a taste of something that makes us want more.

The first fruits of the crop are a harbinger assuring us the whole crop will be harvested. The Holy Spirit in us is an earnest, a pledge of more to come. His presence within us is the first gift of a full inheritance, an initial installment of the full glory that awaits us.

No farmer would ever be satisfied with first fruits only. The beginning yield makes us desire the full harvest. The first portions of a harvest whet our appetite. Even so, believers have tasted the glory, and when we compare it to our present state, it causes us to groan for the full revealing of it in us.

Romans 8:23b …eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our

bodies.

We groan because we have a problem with our bodies. We children of Heaven wear the flesh of Earth. Our spirits belong in Glory, but are chained to a decaying body. Our flesh remains an annoying inlet of temptation and an aggravating outlet of sins.

Our bodies hinder us. They are subject to exhaustion, pain, tension, lust, and aging. Christians get as sick as unbelievers do. Pain is equally intense to the saved as well as the lost. Even the holiest among us grow old.

This dilemma of our bodies affects our attitude, and depresses us. The physical is a chain that binds our spirit, and can drag us down.

We sorrow because a part of us is not yet delivered from bondage. As long as a part of us is under the yoke, the rest of us suffers sympathy pains.

If we were free citizens, but our loved ones were enslaved, we would do all we possibly could to gain their freedom. Their bondage would grieve us. Even so, our spirits groan until our bodies are set free.

John Barry Meachum was one of the greatest men ever to live in the mid-Mississippi valley. He was a powerful Baptist preacher who captivated St. Louis for over a generation. John was born a slave in Virginia in 1789. His parents, Thomas and Patsy, were deeply religious. Thomas was a Baptist preacher. When John was 14, his family was ripped apart—Mother and children taken to Kentucky; the father forced to remain in Virginia.

Nine years later, John, who was not yet a Christ-follower, was able to buy his freedom due to working in saltpeter mines. The 23-year-old Meachum immediately returned to Virginia to purchase his father’s freedom that he might be reunited with the family.

When the old preacher learned he was a free man, he began singing songs of joy. He repeatedly hugged his son, and then confronted John, saying, “You have given me a gift of freedom, now let me give you the gift of salvation.” Within a month, John became a Christian.

Thomas had been separated from his wife for nine years, and John was yearning to purchase the freedom of his own wife and children. The two men returned to Kentucky, but upon arriving there, learned to their consternation that their families were gone.

The master had moved away. John tracked them to what was then the heart of the American wilderness, St. Louis. He arrived with three dollars, two of which he had to spend to cross the ferry.

Nevertheless, he soon became a successful businessman and purchased the freedom of his family. Through the years he earned a fortune in St. Louis, but gave it all away purchasing freedom for his people.

John Barry Meachum could never be satisfied only with his own freedom. He wanted liberation for all. Even so we long for the time we shall be totally delivered from every vestige of bondage.

In creation, God began with the human body. At the consummation, God will end with the human body. When our bodies are redeemed, the fact we truly were adopted will be proven to all. God will publicly reveal which ones are His children. “The deed of adoption, which is now written, signed, and sealed, will then be recognized, proclaimed, and published” (Henry).

Our earthly experience in ways parallels that of Jesus. His glory was veiled in this life. People viewed Him as a carpenter. Only occasionally were they able to see His true identity. The same is true of us. Occasionally something occurs that reveals what we are, but the ultimate revelation will take place in the future.

Our bodies are going to be redeemed. They will no longer be subject to aging and its accompanying complications. The two heavenly messengers that sat in the sepulcher of Jesus had existed before Adam, but to the women they seemed as young men. And if those same two angels came to earth now, they would still look young. This is merely a glimpse of what awaits us. The glory is coming. We await the time, groaning within.