Rev. Philip Meyer, Pastor Emeritus
Soli Deo Gloria!
Throughout this part of his letter, Paul has been speaking of our new life in Christ. We are the children of God because we have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. He will give eternal life to our mortal bodies. We are the heirs of Christ. Heaven is ours, a gift of God's grace. God the Holy Spirit dwells in us to assure us of this. While presenting a glorious picture Paul also says that we must suffer with him in order to be glorified with him [8.17].
Our reading begins with an idiom of financial comparison. On one side of the ledger is the glory of eternal life with Christ and all that it implies, and on the other side of the ledger are the sufferings of this present time, our life here on earth. To put it simply, the two sides don't balance. The glory of eternal life is overwhelming, so much so that what we suffer in this world can't be held up to what lies ahead. When our Lord comes again on the last day, he will restore everything, our bodies that have died because of sin and the very creation itself. This vision stirs our hearts with eager waiting, but we live with the reality of a fallen world full of suffering.
Henry F. Lyte wrote the hymn, "Abide with me," appropriately sung at Christian funerals and at the end of the day. In it are these words, "Change and decay in all around I see." [LSB 878.4] This present age is full of conflict, destruction, and death. The Tempter is still at work in this present age. Our lives are full of tears and woes, our hearts pleading for an end to sin and its power.
When it began, God's creation was perfect, or, to use the words of Genesis, "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good." [Gen. 1.31]. When our first parents fell into sin everything changed with regard to man and God, and the creation itself was affected by the rebellion of our first parents. The hymn writer calls it "The shattered bliss of Eden" [LSB 572]. Indeed, perfection, was "shattered," as one would take a hammer to a beautiful piece of glass crystal.
Adam and Eve were cast out of Paradise because of sin, and the curse of sin was placed upon them. We have participated in the sin of Adam and Eve and we have added our own to an incalculable list. No longer was the creation perfect even though it was not active in Adams's sin, but sin changed our relationship to the whole of creation. Mankind was broken by sin and creation was drawn into it. This creation, brought about solely by the power of the Word of God, shall not be saved. God who created it by his almighty Word and sustains it by that same Word shall end it in the blink of an eye by his Word.
"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" [Romans 8.20-21]. The word for futility means "Aimlessness, the inability to reach a goal or achieve results" [Rienecker, p. 366]. It is so because God himself has so ordered it. The creation marred by man's sin cannot continue forever. God will make it anew.
The dream of living in a perfect world, a utopia, lies deep within all people, even non-Christians. It reflects the reality of what sin has destroyed. Only in Christ does real hope exist because only Christ has redeemed us, body and soul. We have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Eden will be restored only in Christ. Man cannot fix this fallen creation no matter how hard he believes that he can. God has subjected it to futility and only God can restore it.
We live an "already but not yet" existence in this futile world. Our bodies get old, suffer increasing difficulties, and forfeit life because of sin. That which is sinful must pass away so that our full redemption is accomplished. There is the suffering of this present age in us. Many times it is an extremely painful reality that this life will not continue as it is. Neither shall the creation continue as it is. The image of a woman in childbirth is apt. The creation suffers as do we. Groaning and much pain are the manifestations of what is happening. We do indeed suffer in many ways. Heartache, loneliness, rejection, and failed relationships characterize our lives, to say nothing of the physical suffering many endure on a continual basis. We want it to be over. It is hard. We want the peace of Eden restored.
Yet, Paul says that all of this change and decay does not diminish our hope. We have a glorious hope! Even the creation itself echoes this hope for renewal. It strains forward earnestly scanning the horizon for our glorious release from sin. We wait as those who know that our God is the God of the living and not the dead. He who loved us to the death and rose again from the dead guarantees us our release from all sin. Someone paraphrased it this way, "the creation stands on tip toes" to see the blessed result. The creation, too, is "Waiting Eagerly."
Christ's resurrection forms the bedrock of our hope. His resurrection is the Father's "Yes!" to us and to his creation.
O, where is your sting, death? We fear you no more; Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden's door.
For all our transgressions His blood does atone; Redeemed and forgiven, we now are His own. [LSB 480.4]
Not only are we made new in our souls in Holy Baptism, but our bodies also will be restored in perfection at the resurrection. On that day the creation will also be restored. The Apostle John describes it Revelation 21:
2 And I 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 the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:3–4; ESV)
There the holy Christian Church, all the saints of God, living and dead, those who have confessed Christ's holy name, will be reunited in a vision so stunning that words fail to describe the glory. You and I wait eagerly for that glory which will be revealed in us when our new and glorified bodies, without the disease of sin, will be raised and reunited with our purified souls to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. On that glorious new day, the day of the new Creation, all will be restored as God intended. On that day all will be made new, pure and undefiled, never to suffer the effects of sin, never to die again. We shall live in Eden's holy orchard.
Paul goes on to say in the verse following our reading that we are saved by faith in this hope:
"For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." [8.24]
As we wait in faith, we take comfort that our lives are hidden with Christ in God [Rom. 6.4; Col. 3.3]. God has not abandoned us but still abides with us in ways invisible to the world. In his Word and Sacraments he sustains our hope in what he has promised. Especially in the Holy Supper Christ feeds us with his body and blood so that we do not grow weary or faint on the way. As you are dismissed after the distribution these words of blessing are placed into your ears and into your hearts:
"The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting. Depart in peace"
Body AND soul point you to Paradise restored, that place we eagerly await, as does the very creation itself.
So we look beyond this sinful world to that which Christ has won for us, that is, Eden restored, the creation perfected, and perfect peace and harmony, remembering that the sufferings of this present time are not of equal value compared to what God has placed on the other side. There stands eternal holiness, righteousness, and freedom from the bondage of sin. The creation itself will be restored to its original perfection, and we shall live forever with all the saints and angels in that blessed perfection. Until that day we are "Waiting Eagerly," ever on the lookout for that great and glorious day. And so we pray with the Apostle John:
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev. 22:20; ESV)
In the Name of the Father and of the ☩ Son and of the Holy Spirit.