Following is an English transcript of what I shared this morning from Romans 8:18-30.
Let’s read Romans 8:18-25.
‘Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)’ (NLT)
In this section, we are considering the coming promises and blessings of heaven. We understand that things on earth are and will be difficult. In this life we will have troubles of various kinds, but we have a present hope and a future hope to encourage us in our struggle.
Paul notes that all of creation is groaning under the curse given to Adam and Eve in the beginning. God created a perfect earth, but it was soiled with sin and further spoiled by the curse. Since that time, the sin and selfishness of man has further ravaged the earth.
Today, we can easily see the effects that man’s sin and selfishness have on the planet. We see pollution and destruction on a global scale. The cycles of nature are being put off-balance. Scientists are looking for ways to battle global warming, the melting of the ice caps, the extinction of animals, the annihilation of natural resources such as forests and even coal and oil reserves. Beyond that, we also have a worldwide pandemic in place; scientists predict that this is the first of more worldwide pandemics to come as a result of the global nature of man’s lifestyle.
With just this small glimpse, we can see the pain that nature is in. The whole earth is groaning under the effects of sin. The elements of nature are crying to be released from the curse man has brought. This is a metaphor of the earth longing to be made whole and perfect again as God originally designed.
Let’s read 2 Peter 3:7-13.
‘And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.’ (NLT)
There are many prophecies of the end times. This one in 2 Peter gives us a clear picture of how God will deal with the destruction that sin has had on mankind and on the planet. In a way God chooses, He will cause all of creation to melt away, burned away by a fire hotter than any in our imagination. Everything will be burned away, even the stars and planets in outer space.
This prophecy is given in other places in scripture. Some places speak of the universe being folded up like an old rag and tossed away. Other places say it will be rolled up like old paper and burned. This is the end of time.
Peter asks us what sort of people we should be, knowing the earth will burn up? Should we not endeavor to live holy, godly lives as we wait for the new heavens and the new earth? The Book of Revelation gives us some descriptions of the end of time and the beginning of eternity for mankind.
Let’s read in Revelation 21:1-8.
‘Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”’ (NLT)
The next part of this chapter describes the city called New Jerusalem, which is the city where God will rule from. It’s a very beautiful place.
Let’s read verses 22-27.
‘I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light. The nations will walk in its light, and the kings of the world will enter the city in all their glory. Its gates will never be closed at the end of day because there is no night there. And all the nations will bring their glory and honor into the city. Nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.’ (NLT)
Those who are born again and washed clean by the blood of Jesus have access to this city. Anything that is of sin will be kept out forever. It will be a perfect city forever.
Let’s continue reading in Revelation 22:1-7.
‘Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations. No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Then the angel said to me, “Everything you have heard and seen is trustworthy and true. The Lord God, who inspires his prophets, has sent his angel to tell his servants what will happen soon. ” “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.#22:7 Or scroll; also in 22:9, 10, 18, 19.”’ (NLT)
There will be no tears in heaven, no sorrow, no sickness, no sin. All those who found new life on earth will continue this new life in heaven. Nothing cursed will enter heaven. All things will be made new. We read in 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 and other places that those in heaven will have new bodies. There we will be with other believers, worshipping the Lord and serving Him forever in peace and perfectness.
In the beginning, God made man to serve Him, to work in the garden of Eden, to care for the animals, and to subdue the earth. In Revelation and other places, we read that we will be occupied with work and other activities in the new earth and the new heaven. We don’t know what all that will be, but there will be plenty for us to do.
How would your life be different if everything on earth were naturally perfect? How would your life be different if you did not have to deal with anything related to sin, selfishness, suffering, or death? We can only imagine.
And so we groan for the release from this body and this earth. As Paul speaks of in Romans 8, we work and struggle now in this body and in this time, but we have a hope in Jesus for the future. As Jesus said many times and as the Apostles repeated, those who endure to the end will be saved and will experience this glory.
Let’s continue reading in Romans 8 verses 26-28.
‘And 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. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ‘ (NLT)
These are well-known verse that are often quoted when someone is struggling through a difficult experience. Verse 28 is especially popular to quote when someone suffers a loss of some kind. While there is truth in that application, the context goes somewhat deeper.
First we want to notice in verses 26 and 27 that the Holy Spirit is a crucial part of our victory. We have our weaknesses and our sufferings. Sometimes they are so great, we can’t even put them into words. This would be overwhelming were it not for the power and assistance of the Spirit on behalf of believers.
Notice that this aid is specific to the saints. God’s Spirit is especially employed with empowering, enabling, and blessing God’s children. We cannot have the hope of His help if we are wandering through life outside of God’s plan.
What does it mean that all things work together for good? Well, we can be sure from this chapter, as well as from many other passages, that this life has its troubles. This promise does not mean that we will experience only good things. Thus, we should not be disappointed or discouraged when we meet troubles.
James 1:2-4 says, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.’ (NLT)
Difficulties turn out to be blessings for the Christian because of the positive effect they can have in refining us into the likeness of Jesus. This is one meaning of Romans 8:28. We can know that God takes whatever dark times His children may face and uses those difficulties for His children’s good.
This is what it means when it says, “to those who love God and who are called to accomplish His purposes.” If you know the story of Job, you know he suffered more than most any man has ever suffered. Why? Well, we can see that it worked out for Job’s good in the end. He learned to know God in a much better way. His faith was strengthened, and he gained wisdom. But the greatest reason was that God was glorified. Job’s life and suffering accomplished that purpose of God.
So what is the good that comes from troubles for the believer? We can be exercised and strengthened. We can be refined, removing more impurities of the flesh and coming out as gold into the image of Jesus. We can be a lesson to others, as Job was. And we can glorify God in ways we may never see in this life. But it all works for good in God’s sovereign plan.
Another aspect of verse 28 is much larger and flows into verses 29 and 30.
Let’s read Romans 8:29-30.
‘For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.’ (NLT)
Some people have read these verses and mistakenly believed that God has picked only certain people to be saved. This false teaching is called Predestination. The belief claims that God has chosen those He wanted to save, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.
This is a truly foolish belief because it closes its eyes tightly to the whole rest of Scripture. We can easily see in the Book of Romans alone that God calls all men to salvation, and it is our choice whether we choose to follow the Lord or to follow our own way.
This is the choice given to the first man and woman, and it is the choice that we can see throughout the whole history of God’s people. In fact, we have the record of when God’s chosen people of Israel rebelled various times. How did God respond? Were they automatically saved because He had chosen their nation?
No, God always punished sin and rewarded obedience. So what do these verses mean?
These several verses can be better understood when applied to a group of people. Just as we know God chose the nation of Israel to be His special people and called them to serve Him, we also know that God has called the Gentiles and all people to accept salvation through the lordship of Jesus Christ.
This is the message of the gospels. This is the message of the Book of Romans. God is calling all men everywhere to repent. And those He called, He decided ahead of time must be conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. In other words, those He called walk and talk and love just as Jesus did.
One element of the false teaching of Predestination is that those who are predestined cannot lose their salvation. Again, this is a foolish belief because the whole story of the Bible calls God’s people to holiness and obedience and clearly warns of judgment and destruction for those who disobey.
Those who are destined for the glories of heaven that we looked at earlier are those who live like Jesus. How did Jesus live? He was in complete obedience to God in every detail, and He loved and served others with His whole life. Those who love and obey God in this way will be justified, and those who are justified through Jesus will be glorified with Him in eternity.
Let’s read Philippians 2:12-16 in closing.
‘Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. ‘ (NLT)
This is the message of the kingdom of God. Let us live in fear and reverence, obedience and love. Let us keep our eyes on Jesus and the hope of glory to come.