Glory Is Worth the Wait
April 30, 2023 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Romans
Topic: Expository Passage: Romans 8:18–25
There’s no question we live in a broken world. If you ever begin to doubt it, just turn on the nightly news. It seems like there is a weather catastrophe somewhere every day from floods, to hurricanes, to tornadoes, to extreme temperatures. The political news isn’t any better. It’s so frustrating.
Violence and instability are tearing apart many communities. Sadly, the most precious members of our communities often suffer the most. The CDC estimates that 1 in 7 children “experienced child abuse and neglect in the last year.” It’s heartbreaking. Then there is untold suffering that is no one’s fault. Cancer, disease, decay, death, and untold sorrows abound everywhere.
What do we do with it all? The secular man can’t do much at all. It’s all meaningless and hopeless. He might hope we can improve the world through technology and education. But our best efforts can’t fix depravity, we can’t ultimately prevent death, and we can’t stop the forces of nature. Mankind has no ultimate solution for these problems.
But Christians can face every challenge with hope because our sovereign God has promised to fix everything that is broken. Our suffering will end, and we will enjoy a glorious new existence with Christ. Today’s text describes this great hope and how it enables us to navigate the sorrows and disappointments of life (read). This is a wonderfully encouraging, hope-filled passage. It begins with a potent assertion…
I. The Principle: Future glory outshines present suffering (v. 18).
Before we go on, we must ask, why Paul parks on future glory and present suffering in the middle of Romans 8? Remember that Romans 8 is all about God’s promise that he will certainly bring every one of his children to heaven someday. He will not lose one soul, and we will be glorified. So, Romans 8 is a hopeful, positive chapter.
But Paul understands that life in this world doesn’t always reflect this great hope, and he has mentioned this several times. Christ died in this world, and v. 10 says the Christian’s body is “dead because of sin.” Verse 11 says we will all die. And v. 17 says that Christians must “suffer with (Christ)” before we can enjoy our inheritance.
So, the question that inspires vv. 18–25 is, how does suffering fit within God’s plan to bring us to glory? How do we process our suffering? And why must we remain focused on future glory even as we suffer today? Verse 18 answers that we must always remember that future glory far outshines present suffering.
So, let’s think for a moment about present suffering. Paul acknowledges that life in this world is often very difficult. And he’s not saying this as a young gun who had never experienced much disappointment beyond burnt toast. No, Paul had suffered dearly for the sake of the ministry.
And we know that Paul is also concerned with the general difficulties of life that have nothing to do with persecution. That’s because vv. 20–22 say that all creation suffers, not just Christians.
We talked about this earlier. Our world is a harsh place. We endure natural disasters like earthquakes and violent storms. It’s often miserably hot or cold. Most importantly, our bodies are mortal. They are aging and moving toward death. All of this brings tremendous pain, disappointment, and grief.
The Bible never runs from this reality. It doesn’t promise health, wealth, and happiness to all who follow Christ, nor does it pretend that all is well. Rather, the Bible is very honest about our suffering because it has the tools to overcome it. The most important tool is the hope of future glory.
God assures us that future glory far outshines present suffering. In fact, present suffering is “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” It’s not even in the same class.
I should note that Paul is not primarily concerned with the amenities of heaven like the golden streets or the good food. Rather, Paul’s focus is “the glory that is to be revealed in us,” meaning the glory that we will reflect when we are fully conformed to the image of Christ. We will reflect God’s glory, and we will enjoy the blessing of his presence for all eternity. Life with God in heaven will be unimaginably wonderful, glorious, and good.
But the point of v. 18 is that this hope gives us the tools to confront suffering, keep hope through it, and persevere. Yes, life is often painful, but we know that someday the glory of our inheritance will overwhelm every memory of our suffering, and we know that the reward will be worth it all.
For example, I’ve always been fascinated to learn about what athletes must endure to compete at the highest level? It’s miserable. They must discipline every area of life, and the training is exhausting, painful, and intense.
I’ve watched many athletes get interviewed after winning an Olympic medal, or a national championship, but I haven’t heard a single one complain about the work. They may bring it up, but never with regret. No, they are glad they put in the work because the joy of winning it all, was worth the misery.
Similarly, when you reach heaven, you won’t be eager to complain about how hard it was down here. The first thing you say to Jesus won’t be, “Do you know what I sacrificed to get here? I hope this is worth it.” No, you will have overwhelming joy.
God assures us that this is so. Remember that when life gets hard, and your sorrows seem overwhelming. Life hurts, and it’s disappointing, but it’s not the end of the story. The glory will be worth the pain. Then Paul offers two witnesses to this fact.
II. Creation anticipates redemption (19–22).
Subhuman Creation: I must note that “creation” throughout this section, is the subhuman creation. We know this because this creation is distinct from the children of God, and it can’t be unbelievers because they aren’t looking for redemption. So, “the creation” is the animal world, plant life, and everything else God has made outside humanity.
Yes, Paul describes this creation as if it has human thoughts and emotions. It doesn’t, and Paul knows that. Rather, like many authors and poets before and after him, Paul is creating a compelling image by picturing creation as longing for glory. This is because it’s not just people who suffer; rather, all creation is subject to the…
Curse and Corruption: This story begins at the very beginning. Genesis 1:31 concludes the creation account by saying, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” However, when Adam sinned, he didn’t just bring the curse on himself. Rather, God told Adam in Genesis 3:17–18, “Because you have…eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you.’” Creation has never been the same.
Verse 22 says it became a “slave to corruption.” Everything changed that day. The animal world became violent as some became carnivores and others became parasites. Weeds began to compete with the farmer and his crops. The weather changed as well, and everything began to decay.
As a result, the world is now a violent place filled with suffering and death. We must remember often that this is not how God originally made it. Sin has brought terrible corruption on all creation.
Frustration: So, v. 20 says, “Creation was subjected to futility.” Paul is probably drawing here on the concept of “vanity” or “frustration” that is at the center of Ecclesiastes. Creation has become vain or futile in the sense that it doesn’t function as it was intended, and it can’t fulfill its original design.
Maybe you’ve been frustrated this spring with all the weeds in your yard. There’s so many of them, and they keep coming back. God says you are not the only one that is frustrated. The ground, the plants, and everything else is frustrated by the curse. As a result, notice the conclusion in v. 22.
Groaning: This verse pictures creation as “groaning” for that day. The terms Paul uses normally refer birth pangs. If you’ve ever been in a Labor & Delivery room, you know that it’s a graphic image. Paul is saying that creation faces excruciating pain as it endured the effects of the curse.
Hope: But birth pangs is a brilliant image in this context because birth pangs have a wonderful purpose and they bring great hope. That’s because your baby is coming!
Similarly, the creation is suffering terribly under the curse, but this suffering is not meaningless. Someday suffering will give way to glory! All creation will be transformed.
Verse 19 says this hope is rooted in “the revealing of the sons of God.” That’s the same thing as “the glory that is to be revealed to us” in v. 18. Verse 21 also mentions “the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
So, as I already mentioned, the fundamental hope of this passage is God’s promise to glorify his children. Right now, we are a long way from glory, but God is slowly conforming us to the image of Christ. And someday, we will see Christ face to face, and 1 John 3:2 says, “We will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”
We won’t become gods because we will never take on God’s attributes of greatness such as omnipotence or omniscience. But we will be perfectly righteous. Our bodies will be “very good,” in fact better than Adam and Eve’s bodies were originally. It’s hard to imagine when you look at us now, but we will reflect God’s glory in a way that nothing else in creation, including the highest angels, has ever been able to do.
It’s going to exciting! And it won’t just be exciting for us. Rather (v. 19), “The anxious longing…” Paul uses two phrases, “anxious longing” and “waits eagerly” to picture creation’s excitement. The idea is well reflected in the J. B. Phillips paraphrase of the NT. He says, “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.”
Creation can’t wait to see the glory we will enjoy when we become like Christ. It’s going to be an awesome sight. But creation is also eager because (v. 21) all creation “will be set free from its slavery to corruption.”
We sometimes think that at the end of time God will eradicate his first creation and start over, but Paul says that God will instead fix and perfect his original creation. “Joy to the World” says that the effects will extend, “Far as the curse is found.” Every consequence of the curse will be cured.
Some people won’t know what to talk about in heaven because they won’t be able to complain about the weather, their sore back, or their lawn. They’ll have to come up with a whole new set of conversation topics because everything will function perfectly.
And going back to Paul’s main point, all the “sufferings of this present time” will fade away. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev 21:4). It’s going to be a great day when God restores his creation.
Remember that Paul’s purpose is to demonstrate why future glory outshines present suffering. His first proof of the greatness of our coming glorification is that it’s not just the hope of Christians; it is the hope of all creation. Our glorification will be the key that will bring the transformation of the entire universe. “The sufferings of…” Don’t be discouraged, and don’t be overwhelmed by the sufferings of this life. Glory will be worth it all. The 2nd witness to the fact that future glory outshines present suffering is…
III. The saints anticipate redemption (vv. 23–25).
This one only makes sense. More than subhuman creation longs for deliverance, “we ourselves” (Christians) are “waiting eagerly” for our full adoption and redemption.
This language may be surprising. Haven’t we already been fully adopted and redeemed. How can someone be partially adopted? The simple answer is that you can’t, and we weren’t. The moment you get saved, God fully adopts you into his family because he has fully paid the price for you sin.
But while we are full members of God’s family, God has not yet given us our full inheritance. That’s obvious if you look at yourself, and you look at me. We suffer in this world, we are a long way from perfection. Therefore, we long for the day when we will receive our fully inheritance. And Paul says that our longing only grows because we have “the first fruits of the Spirit.”
First Fruits: The image of first fruits is not hard to grasp if you’ve ever done and farming or gardening. You work to prepare the soil and to plant your crops. Then you patiently wait and watch the plant and then the fruit mature.
It’s an exciting day when you the first fruits are ripe. You finally get to enjoy a taste of your hard work, and that taste assures you that you didn’t fail and that more is coming.
Similarly, the Christian life involves a lot of patient waiting. Our bodies aren’t perfect, and we fight sin constantly. Sometimes we begin to wonder if we are doing something wrong, and if we will make it. Will I ever receive my full inheritance?
God understands, and one reason he gave us the Holy Spirit is to assure us that our full inheritance is coming. He is the “first fruits” of our inheritance. Ephesians 1:14 calls him “the pledge of our inheritance.”
So, the point is that every experience of the Spirit’s ministry is a small taste of the glory we will one day enjoy. Every godly passion, every step of faith, every illumination of Scripture, every conviction of sin is a foretaste of our coming glory. And every taste should assure us that even more is coming.
So, make sure that you notice what the Spirit is doing. Take time to appreciate the blessing of his ministry and draw assurance from it. But don’t just notice and give thanks. Notice that the Spirit’s present ministry is not a full-course meal that should leave us feeling satisfied. Rather, the indwelling Spirit is more of an appetizer who creates a longing for more.
Groaning in Hope: Paul says, “Having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves.” This is the same verb Paul used in v. 22 for the groaning, specifically the birth pangs. of creation. It’s not just creation that suffers under the curse; we do to. But we groan in hope of something far better—the full inheritance of our redemption and adoption.
I was listening to a pastors’ podcast on Friday, and the participants noted that even conservative pastors don’t use heaven and hell to motivate people nearly as much as our forefathers did. Instead, following the lead our culture, we appeal to the here and now. We groan for God to heal our relationships, make us feel good about ourselves, and help us reach our dreams.
But God says in v. 23 that one of the purposes of the indwelling Spirit is to create within me a holy dissatisfaction with my life in this world. As I experience a taste of glory through the Spirit’s ministry, I shouldn’t become more consumed with this world or more at home in it. Instead, he is the appetizer that should make me hungry for heaven.
Do you groan and wait eagerly for heavenly glory? Is glory constantly on your mind? Do you pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Do you see your faith primarily as an avenue to a better life today, or as preparation for heaven?
We should love coming together as a church. We should love hearing from God’s Word as his bride, and we should love singing together. But do you ever think, “Man, I can’t wait to sing with the entire bride of Christ in the Lord’s presence? The appetizer is great, but I can’t wait for the main course.”
Someday, you will be like Christ. You will share in his glory. Every desire will be pure. You will not need to resist any passions or will any thoughts. Even your body will share in the glory of Jesus. Be content with where God has you today and be fully engaged in what he has for you right now. But also groan for your full redemption because it will be awesome.
Praise the Lord for that, but one of the great attributes of Scripture is God’s perfect understanding of the human condition and his patience with it. Paul has made a great point, but he understands that living by faith in hope of eternity is hard for frail creatures like us. We are so easily consumed with the here and now. Therefore, v. 24 drives home the reality that we are…
Saved in Hope (v. 24): Yes, the gospel and the Christian life make a wonderful difference in my life today, yet Paul can say in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Without glory, our faith is a waste of time.
The gospel is not about achieving your best life now; rather, our gospel is a gospel of hope. We don’t believe on Christ fundamentally for what we get today but for what we get in heaven. And we don’t obey Scripture, read the Bible, go to church, and do ministry because they make us feel good. We do these things because they bring us one step closer to glory.
That’s simple, but it is so other worldly. I listen all the time as Christians talk about their faith fundamentally based on what it gives today. I listen as they make decisions consumed with convenience, happiness, and fulfillment. It’s so easy to do. So, listen to God. “In hope we have been saved…Hope that is seen is not hope.” Keep your eyes on heaven. Then, v. 25 challenges you to…
Persevere in Hope (v. 25): Paul’s Greek term pictures both patience and perseverance. That’s a great conclusion to this passage. When I was in college at Northland, they had a 5-mile loop, and I used to love running it. It was a beautiful run through the North woods.
But you get tired after a while, and you begin to long for the finish line. When that happens, you have two choices. You can quit or really slow down or you can put your head down and finish strong.
We should long for heaven, but we also must live in the moment. You are on this earth because God has something for you to do. Younger saints tend to get distracted by al the scenery, but older saints tend to give into exhaustion and quit. Are you walking to the finish line, or are you pressing to the end? Put your head down and run. Keep growing in godliness. Be useful to the ministry. Press eagerly to the very end.
Of course, I don’t want to take for granted that everyone here has a secure inheritance. Jesus warned that more people are on the path to hell than are on the path to heaven. And we’ve seen today that no amount of beauty on your present path can compare to the glory of heaven. It’s certainly not worth eternity in hell. So, please don’t leave without knowing that your sins are forgiven in Christ. You are truly redeemed and truly adopted into God’s family. Come to Christ and be saved. Then join us on the narrow way that leads to life!
More in Romans
May 28, 2023Almighty, Unfailing Love
May 21, 2023God’s Best Good for You
May 7, 2023The Spirit’s Help