For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8: 18–27)
There’s a drought in California right now. Over the past years there’ve been earthquakes, wildfires, famines, typhoons, hurricanes, and tornados. I the beginning it was not so. In the beginning it was all “very good.” All that God had made and done was pleasing in His sight. He delighted in His creation, and His creation delighted in Him. But “creation was subjected to futility” and “we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” and creation wasn’t a willing participant. But Adam and Eve turned their hearts away from God’s Word and then they ate, and the curse against Adam shows that not only Adam and Eve were affected, but so was creation: “Cursed is the ground because of you,” said the LORD God, “thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” In this way creation was subject to futility.
But it doesn’t stop with creation “out there” with the “lions and tigers and bears” or the “birds and the bees.” Creation in us groans. We who have “the first fruits of the Spirit”, that is, we who are baptized “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” Kids need braces. Eyes need glasses. Teeth need fillings. There’s a reason the medical industry, not just hospitals but also medical research, is one of the leading, driving forces of our economy. Our bodies groan. They snap, crackle, and pop. They get old and die.
We, like creation, wait for our deliverance. It’s what’s been promised to us in Christ Jesus. As Matthew tells us, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” He took on the groanings of creation—ours and the “out there” groanings too. He healed the sick, raised the dead. He calmed storms and made food plenty in desert places. He bore the curse levied on creation itself. He was the curse embodied: “For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” Creation groaned once again and hid its face when it saw its God hanging naked, dying, and then dead on the cross. Yet, He rose the third day. On that day He not only became “the firstborn among many brothers” as Paul says later in Romans 8, but “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
His death and resurrection restore creation for us now. We who don’t delight in God’s Word and certainly don’t delight in the groanings and tremblings of creation, are in a tight spot. But the Spirit intercedes for us. Since we’ve been baptized, He groans with us, in us, and for us, and all according to the will of God. We have hope amidst it all. The empty tomb of Jesus is that hope along with the font which joins us to that empty tomb. We don’t see it yet face to face. But then it wouldn’t be hope, and our hope doesn’t disappoint because Jesus is raised from the dead. And on the last day, when we all shall be raised from the dead, creation shall be restored and glorified, we too shall be restored and glorified even as Jesus is restored and glorified, and we shall see it and Him face to face.
Heaven isn’t the end for John tells us in Revelation, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’” “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” INI + AMEN.
The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us (LSB 514)
Jerusalem the Golden (LSB 672)
O God, You have prepared for those who love You good things that surpass all understanding. Pour into our hearts such love towards You that we, loving You above all things, may obtain Your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN.