Mar 09

Present Suffering vs. Future Glory

This week in my LifeGroup we were talking about Christ’s redemption of “all things” (Col 1:20). In that discussion, we readily thought of those who trust in Christ as part of the redeemed, but that didn’t seem to be “all things.” We turned to look at Romans 8 and a fascinating passage about Christ’s redemption of creation and us.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19-21)

                We know from Genesis that God cursed creation in the aftermath of the fall. The “bondage to decay” that Paul mentioned covers the consistent death, disease, and destruction that we see around us. It also reminds me of the second law of thermodynamics (sorry, engineering major coming out). It states that a system will move to disorder over time. It is losing usable energy, decaying. An ice cube melting, iron rusting, and stars burning out are all examples of this type of decay. Theoretically, eons from now everything will be broken down to the point that it is unusable and all life would have ceased to exist. Thankfully, we will never see that day.

                Nevertheless, a fascinating concept is that creation will also be redeemed with humanity as part of “all things.” Christ will bring creation back to its proper and original relationship with himself by reversing the curse. In the book of Revelation, John talks about the New Earth as a perfect and sinless place. Right now, we see such beauty and wonder in everything from soap bubbles to sunsets, and the stars beyond. We can barely imagine what it will be like when creation is finally set free, and decay is gone forever.

                Here is where Paul’s writing mastery comes to life. He knows that we can quickly focus on physical things and imagine how beautiful the New Earth will be, but spiritual things are harder to grasp. Look at that last phrase, creation itself will be “brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Creation shares in our glory. Paul gave us a progression; the new universe will be so splendid that we can’t even imagine it. However, that universe shares in our glory because we will be so much greater. Moreover, our glory comes from God who adopts us as his children by redeeming our bodies. All praise and glory belong to him. The whole point of this section is not that God will make a masterful new creation, but that he will make a glorified new you!

This is where Paul’s theology meets everyday life. We suffer. Pain, hurt, and death are a constant part of this life, but they are here to make us ache for something greater. So great in fact is the next life that Paul says the two “are not worth comparing.” Sometimes we have to suffer, this week I visited with a dying father of one of our members two days before he went to be with his Lord. It’s never easy, and the pain is real for everyone involved, but the new life for that man is glorious beyond comparison to that frail and sickly body that he left. In every hard time, we should anticipate the day our glory is revealed as well.    

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