About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Future Glory (ch. 8:18-27)


In verse 18 Paul continues with talking about suffering.  He says that compared to the glorious future that will be seen in the Christian, all that he and the Roman believers are presently suffering means very little.  This statement means a lot coming from Paul, since his sufferings were very great. Paul speaks of the glory that will be revealed in us.  The glory he is speaking of is what is known as our "glorified body" that we will live in with Jesus for eternity.  At some point in history to come, we will be like Jesus presently is, in a body that will never ware out.  What this body will look like is somewhat debatable.  One might ask if the post resurrection body of Jesus was His glorified body.  From my vantage point that is the view of most Christians.  That being said, once Jesus passed through the clouds in Acts 1, we don't know if His body, as seen by the disciples, underwent any other further changes. 


Clearly, Jesus' post-resurrection and pre-ascension body was not the body He had before the crucifixion.  Jesus could just appear from place to place without having to walk.  In response to Thomas Jesus said that His body had flesh and bones.  Some suggest that Jesus didn't say flesh and blood, but flesh and bones, because His body had no blood in it.  I can't say that this was Jesus' reasoning for using this phrase, but, it seems logical that since blood is the life source of our human bodies, Jesus' post resurrection eternal body might not have blood in it.      


Paul's sentiment is simple.  All that he suffered in his earthly body pales by comparison to the glory he will experience throughout eternity.  This should be our sentiment as well, but it's often not.  Way too often we complain over just little irritations of life.  If we complain over those things, could we ever survive what Paul went through?     


In verse 19 Paul makes a point concerning creation.  He says that creation has been subject to bondage and decay.  It too is waiting eagerly for the day in which it will be liberated along with the children of God. 


God told Adam to have dominion over the earth in Genesis 1:28.  When Adam sinned, he died.  He apparently lost the ability to rule the earth as God wanted him to rule.  Many believe that Adam forfeited his job to rule the earth to satan. 


Along with the idea that creation is waiting for the day when the sons of God appear on earth, I believe that as that day gets closer, there will be birth pains seen in creation.  These birth pains are seen in earthquakes, climate change, violent storms, and other such things.  


In verses 20 and 21 Paul says that creation is frustrated.  You might not think of trees, animals, and all created things as being frustrated, but they are.  Paul says that creation is frustrated, but not by their own choice, but by the choice of the one who subjected it to frustration.  All of creation did not choose to live in the world of death and decay.  Adam made that choice.  Creation didn't.  The one who subjected creation to death and decay was God.  Notice the word "hope" in this verse.  Even though all creation is subject to this frustration, death, and decay, there is hope.  This hope will be realized at the end of this age when Jesus returns and makes all things new.  Creation will be recreated in what the book of Revelation calls the new earth.  Will this new earth look like the old earth?   It is hard to say, but I believe there will be differences.  If you understand the New Jerusalem as stated in Revelation coming down from heaven onto the new earth, it would create a different looking earth.  The New Jerusalem, if you understand it literally as I do, is a cube.  It's about 1500 miles long, high, and wide.  If it plops down on a ball shaped earth that would make the earth look different than it presently looks.  


In verse 22 Paul continues to tell us that all of creation is groaning, as if in labour pains. As I've already said, this accounts for the turmoil found in nature.  Earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters are probably examples of creation groaning in pain.  As it is with a woman ready to give birth, the birth pains come with more frequency closer to the time of birth.  So it is with creation.  More natural calamities will come on earth as the birth of God's new creation comes at the end of this age.  You can expect more earthquakes and natural disasters.    


In verse 23 Paul says that we as Christians groan inwardly, waiting for the redemption of the sons of God, the redemption of our bodies.  This will take place when Jesus returns to earth.  Paul is hoping for that day to come.  Here again, we see the word hope as we did in chapter 5.  There is nothing wrong with hoping for our better future.


Paul is groaning.  This tells me that things aren't always happy and joyful after giving one's life to Jesus.  We groan out of frustration, just like the rest of creation groans.  Some Christians believe that other Christians spend way to much time thinking of their blessed hope in the future.  They say that many of the songs and hymns sung about our future, whether on earth or in heaven, distracts us from our job at hand.  I don't see it that way.  If the Apostle Paul actually groaned for those days, and he was one very active man for the Lord, there is certainly nothing wrong with us groaning for those days.  There's nothing wrong with singing songs about heaven and our blessed hope.  In Philippians 1:20 to 26 Paul basically says that he'd rather be in heaven with Jesus than continue to live on earth.  If you understood Paul's living conditions on earth, you'd understand why he said that.  As the text states, the only reason why he wanted to stay was to do God's will among those whom God had called him to serve.  


Notice that Paul says that Christians have the first fruits of the Holy Spirit.  The word "firstfruits" tell us that there are second fruits.  These second fruits are what Paul is looking forward to.  The Holy Spirit is in fact a deposit of better days to come.  We don't have all that God has for us now, but there will be a day when we do have all that God has for us, and that is what has been traditionally called "the blessed hope of the church".   


I would suggest that many Christians aren't groaning as we see Paul groaning here.  They don't groan because they are too much in love with this world.  If you love this world, why would you groan for something better in the future?  Actually, if you don't groan now, that tells me that you don't believe you do have a better future.     


Note also in verse 23 that Paul speaks of the adoption as sons of God takes place when our bodies are redeemed.  That means when our bodies are transformed into heavenly bodies, like Jesus' heavenly body, we will be God's adopted sons.  Sonship here is linked to our glorified bodies, and not before.  In one sense of the word we are now presently sons of God.  The Bible makes that clear.  That being said, the full realization, the full extent, of sonship will be realized at the end of this age when our bodies will become like Jesus' new glorified body.  We need to understand that with all aspects of salvation, salvation is progressive.  It comes to us in stages.  That is to say, we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.  All three of these stages of salvation are clearly seen in the Bible.       


In verse 24 Paul says that we were saved for this hope.  Our salvation is therefore clearly tied to that which we hope for, that is, the redemption of our bodies.  Hope is important for a Christian.  We do hope for the future glory to come, and there is nothing wrong with hope, even though hyper-faith preachers suggest otherwise.  They claim that hope is a lack of faith.  That may be true if you think of hope in a worldly sense.  It isn't true if you think of hope in a Biblical sense.  Worldly hope is expressed when someone buys a lottery ticket.  They hope to win even though the odds are against them.  Biblical hope is an anticipation of something that is assured them.  From what Paul says here, hope is a major factor in our salvation.    


In verse 25 Paul continues on with hope.  He introduces the word "patiently".  Even though Christians suffer a measure of frustration, we do have patience, or at least we should have patience, as we wait for that which we hope for.  The Holy Spirit can help us with hope.  We simply wait patiently amidst our frustration for better days to come.          


We've noted that Paul is groaning because of the bondage that he and all creation is suffering.  He says that despite the fact that he groans he has hope for a better future.  Here he states that he is waiting for the better future.  I think there is something here for us to learn.  Groaning alone leads to despair and even depression, yet, groaning mixed with hope and patience does not lead us to despair or depression.                  


Paul has told us that creation is groaning and that we as Christians groan as well, as we await the redemption of our bodies.  In verse 26 and 27 he tells us that the Holy Spirit groans inside of us as well.  His groans cannot be expressed in words.  The important point to be made here is that the Holy Spirit helps us by interceding for us when we donít know how to pray properly.    This is another important reason why we need to live by the Spirit.   Some Pentecostals suggest that this groaning is speaking in tongues.  I don't see that.  Tongues are words.  The text states that these groans can't be put into words.  I believe from time to time I experience these groans, especially in light of the fact some of my loved-ones aren't saved. 


Paul says that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. We don't know what to pray for, so He prays for us.  The text says that he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit.  I believe the word "he" in this instance refers to God the Father.   The NIV states that "he who searches sour hearts Ö"  Allow me to suggest that the Greek text doesn't actually say it that way.  I believe the Greek text states that God does not search out hearts, but the heart of the Holy Spirit.  God searches the heart and mind of the Holy Spirit because as the text states, the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God He knows the will of God and prayers on out half accordingly.            


This is how the New Living Bible puts this verse.  It's certainly not a word for word translation of the Greek text.  It's actually more of a commentary on the text, but, I believe what it says is correct.  "The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness.  For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts, knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will."          


Paul says that we don't know what to pray for.  Many people generalize these words and understand our lack of clarity in prayer to be in various circumstances.  If you understand our lack of ability in prayer in context, it appears to me that there is one specific thing that Paul might have had in mind concerning that which we don't know what to pray for.  The context is this.  Paul is suffering.  He'd rather be in heaven with Jesus.  He's hoping for a blessed future.  He's caught between his present suffering that is clearly God's will and the blessed hope of the future.  He doesn't know how to pray.  Should he pray that God gets him out of his present suffering?  Should he pray for death so he can be in heaven?  Should he keep hoping?  There might well be many hopes.  Since he doesn't know what to pray for in his particular state of suffering, the Holy Spirit will pray to God on his behalf.   


I grew up in an Evangelical church where I often saw my parents' generation groaning in prayer around an altar.  My generation of Evangelicals seems to have forsaken this.  I've heard some of my generation say that this groaning was just put on.  It was their tradition, but I can't see that.  I don't think what I saw could be just made up.  I think it was real.  These people were groaning in prayer for specific reasons.  We would do well to seek Jesus about this matter for ourselves.       


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