Romans 8:19
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
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(19) Nor is ours a merely isolated hope; we have our place—

“Mid onward sloping motions infinite,

Making for one sure goal.”

The whole creation is looking earnestly and intently for the same manifestation of glory as ourselves.

Earnest expectation—A single word in the Greek, and a very striking one. It means, literally, a straining forward with outstretched head, just as we might imagine the crowds outside a race-course straining over the ropes to catch a sight of the runners; an eager, intent expectation. The same word is used once again in the New Testament (Philippians 1:20).

Creature.—Creation, the whole world of nature, animate and inanimate.

Waiteth for.—Another strong word, “waits with concentrated longing and expectancy.”

Manifestation.—Translate rather by the ordinary word, revelation, as in the last verse (“glory which shall be revealed”). The Parusia, or Coming of Christ, is to be accompanied by an appearance of the redeemed in glorified form.



Romans 8:19

The Apostle has been describing believers as ‘sons’ and ‘heirs.’ He drops from these transcendent heights to contrast their present apparent condition with their true character and their future glory. The sad realities of suffering darken his lofty hopes, even although these sad realities are to his faith tokens of joint-heirship with Jesus, and pledges that if our inheritance is here manifested by suffering with him, that very fact is a prophecy of common glory hereafter. He describes that future as the revealing of a glory, to which the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared; and then, in our text he varies the application of that thought of revealing and thinks of the subjects of it as being the ‘sons of God.’ They will be revealed when the glory which they have as joint-heirs with Christ is revealed in them. They walk, as it were, compassed with mist and cloud, but the splendour which will fall on them will scatter the envious darkness, and ‘when Christ who is our life shall appear, then shall His co-heirs also appear with Him in glory.’

We may consider-

I. The present veil over the sons of God.

There is always a difference between appearance and reality, between the ideal and its embodiments. For all men it is true that the full expression of oneself is impossible. Each man’s deeds fall short of disclosing the essential self in the man. Every will is hampered by the fleshly screen of the body. ‘I would that my tongue could utter the thoughts that arise in me,’ is the yearning of every heart that is deeply moved. Contending principles successively sway every personality and thwart each other’s expression. For these, and many other reasons, the sum-total of every life is but a shrouded representation of the man who lives it; and we, all of us, after all efforts at self-revelation, remain mysteries to our fellows and to ourselves. All this is eminently true of the sons of God. They have a life-germ hidden in their souls, which in its very nature is destined to fill and expand their whole being, and to permeate with its triumphant energy every corner of their nature. But it is weak and often overborne by its opposite. The seed sown is to grow in spite of bad weather and a poor soil and many weeds, and though it is destined to overcome all these, it may to-day only be able to show on the surface a little patch of pale and struggling growth. When we think of the cost at which the life of Christ was imparted to men, and of the divine source from which it comes, and of the sedulous and protracted discipline through which it is being trained, we cannot but conclude that nothing short of its universal dominion over all the faculties of its imperfect possessors can be the goal of its working. Hercules in his cradle is still Hercules, and strangles snakes. Frost and sun may struggle in midwinter, and the cold may seem to predominate, but the sun is steadily enlarging its course in the sky, and increasing the fervour of its beams, and midsummer day is as sure to dawn as the shortest day was.

The sons of God, even more truly than other men, have contending principles fighting within them. It was the same Apostle who with oaths denied that he ‘knew the man,’ and in a passion of clinging love and penitence fell at His feet; but for the mere onlooker it would be hard to say which was the true man and which would conquer. The sons of God, like other men, have to express themselves in words which are never closely enough fitted to their thoughts and feelings. David’s penitence has to be contented with groans which are not deep enough; and John’s calm raptures on his Saviour’s breast can only be spoken by shut eyes and silence. The sons of God never fully correspond to their character, but always fall somewhat beneath their desire, and must always be somewhat less than their intention. The artist never wholly embodies his conception. It is only God who ‘rests from His works’ because the works fully embody His creative design and fully receive the benediction of His own satisfaction with them.

From all such thoughts there arises a piece of plain practical wisdom, which warns Christian men not to despond or despair if they do not find themselves living up to their ideal. The sons of God are ‘veiled’ because the world’s estimate of them is untrue. The old commonplace that the world knows nothing of its greatest men is verified in the opinions which it holds about the sons of God. It is not for their Christianity that they get any of the world’s honours and encomiums, if such fall to their share. They are unknown and yet well-known. They live for the most part veiled in obscurity. ‘The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.’ They are God’s hidden ones. If they are wise, they will look for no recognition nor eulogy from the world, and will be content to live, as unknown by the princes of this world as was the Lord of glory, whom they slew because their dim eyes could not see the flashing of the glory ‘through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.’ But no consciousness of imperfection in our revelation of an indwelling Christ must ever be allowed to diminish our efforts to live out the life that is in us, and to shine as lights in the world; nor must the consciousness that we walk as ‘veiled,’ lead us to add to the thick folds the criminal one of voluntary silence and cowardly hiding in dumb hearts the secret of our lives.

II. The unveiling of the sons of God.

That unveiling is in the text represented as coming along with the glory which shall be revealed to usward, and as being contemporaneous with the deliverance of the creation itself from the bondage of corruption, and its passing into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. It coincides with the vanishing of the pain in which the whole creation now groans and travails, and with the adoption-that is, the redemption of our body. Then hope will be seen and will pass into still fruition. All this points to the time when Jesus Christ is revealed, and His servants are revealed with Him in glory. That revelation brings with it of necessity the manifestation of the sons of God for what they are-the making visible in the life of what God sees them to be.

That revelation of the sons of God is the result of the entire dominion and transforming supremacy of the Spirit of God in them. In the whole sweep of their consciousness there will in that day be nothing done from other motives; there will be no sidelights flashing in and disturbing the perfect illumination from the candle of the Lord set on high in their being; there will be no contradictions in the life. It will be one and simple, and therefore perfectly intelligible. Such is the destined issue of the most imperfect Christian life. The Christian man who has in his experience to-day the faintest and most interrupted operation of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has therein a pledge of immortality, because nothing short of an endless life of progressive and growing purity will be adequate to receive and exemplify the power which can never terminate until it is made like Him and perfectly seeing Him as He is.

But that unveiling further guarantees the possession of fully adequate means of expression. The limitations and imperfections of our present bodily life will all drop away in putting on ‘the body of glory’ which shall be ours. The new tongue will perfectly utter the new knowledge and rapture of the new life; new hands will perfectly realise our ideals; and on every forehead will be stamped Christ’s new name.

That unveiling will be further realised by a divine act indicating the characters of the sons of God by their position. Earth’s judgments will be reversed by that divine voice, and the great promise, which through weary ages has shone as a far-off star,-’I will set him on high because he hath known my name’-will then be known for the sun near at hand. Many names loudly blown through the world’s trumpet will fall silent then. Many stars will be quenched, but ‘they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.’

That revelation will be more surprising to no one than to those who are its subjects, when they see themselves mirrored in that glass, and so unlike what they are here. Their first impulse will be to wonder at the form they see, and to ask, almost with incredulity, ‘Lord, is it I?’ Nor will the wonder be less when they recognise many whom they knew not. The surprises when the family of God is gathered together at last will be great. The Israel of Captivity lifts up her wondering eyes as she sees the multitudes flocking to her side as the doves to their windows, and, half-ashamed of her own narrow vision, exclaims, ‘I was left alone; these, where had they been?’ Let us rejoice that in the day when the sons of God are revealed, many hidden ones from many dark corners will sit at the Father’s table. That revelation will be made to the whole universe; we know not how, but we know that it shall be; and, as the text tells us, that revelation of the sons of God is the hope for which ‘the earnest expectation of the creature waits’ through the weary ages.

Romans 8:19. For the earnest expectation, &c. — “This and the following verses,” says Dr. Doddridge, “have been generally, and not without reason, accounted as difficult as any part of this epistle. This difficulty has perhaps been something increased, by rendering κτισις creation in one clause, and creature in another. To explain it as chiefly referring to the brutal or inanimate creation, is insufferable; since the day of the redemption of our bodies will be attended with the conflagration which will put an end to them. The interpretation, therefore, by which Dr. Whitby and others refer it to the Gentile world, is much preferable to this. But, on the whole, I think it gives a much sublimer and nobler sense, to suppose it a bold prosopopœia, by which, on account of the calamity sin brought and continued on the whole unevangelized world, it is represented as looking out with eager expectation, for such a remedy and relief as the gospel brings; by the prevalence of which human nature would be rescued from vanity and corruption, and inferior creatures from tyranny and abuse. If this be allowed to be the meaning of these three verses, the gradation in the twenty-third will be much more intelligible than on any other scheme that I know.” The paragraph is understood in nearly, if not altogether, the same sense by Locke and Macknight, who advance divers convincing reasons to show that it is the true mode of interpretation; which accordingly is here adopted. The earnest expectation — The word αποκαραδοκια, thus rendered, as Mr. Blackwall observes, signifies the lifting of the head and the stretching of the body, as far as possible, to hear and see something very agreeable, or of great importance. It is therefore fitly used here to denote very great earnestness of desire and expectation; of the creature — That is, of mankind in general, which the word κτισις, in the language of Paul and of the New Testament, frequently signifies, and especially, says Locke, the Gentile world. See Colossians 1:23; Mark 16:15; compared with Matthew 28:19; waiteth Απεκδεχεται, looketh for, as the same word is translated, Php 3:20); the manifestation Αποκαλυψιν, revelation; of the sons of God — That happy time when God shall appear more openly to avow them, and that reproach and distress shall be rolled away, under which they are now disguised and concealed. “Though the Gentiles in particular knew nothing of the revelation of the sons of God, the apostle calls their looking for a resurrection from the dead, a looking for that revelation; because the sons of God are to be revealed, by their being raised with incorruptible and immortal bodies. Further, it is here insinuated that the pious Gentiles comforted themselves under the miseries of life, by that hope of immortality, and of the resurrection, which they entertained. At the fall, God declared his purpose of rendering the malice of the devil, in bringing death on the human species, ineffectual, and therefore gave mankind not only the hope of a future life, but of the resurrection of the body, as the apostle intimates, Romans 8:21. And that hope, preserved in the world by tradition, may have been the foundation of the earnest desire of the Gentiles here taken notice of.” — Macknight. Or rather the passage, as Doddridge observes, is to be considered as a prosopopœia, as is observed on Romans 8:19.

8:18-25 The sufferings of the saints strike no deeper than the things of time, last no longer than the present time, are light afflictions, and but for a moment. How vastly different are the sentence of the word and the sentiment of the world, concerning the sufferings of this present time! Indeed the whole creation seems to wait with earnest expectation for the period when the children of God shall be manifested in the glory prepared for them. There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which has come upon the creature by the fall of man. There is an enmity of one creature to another. And they are used, or abused rather, by men as instruments of sin. Yet this deplorable state of the creation is in hope. God will deliver it from thus being held in bondage to man's depravity. The miseries of the human race, through their own and each other's wickedness, declare that the world is not always to continue as it is. Our having received the first-fruits of the Spirit, quickens our desires, encourages our hopes, and raises our expectations. Sin has been, and is, the guilty cause of all the suffering that exists in the creation of God. It has brought on the woes of earth; it has kindled the flames of hell. As to man, not a tear has been shed, not a groan has been uttered, not a pang has been felt, in body or mind, that has not come from sin. This is not all; sin is to be looked at as it affects the glory of God. Of this how fearfully regardless are the bulk of mankind! Believers have been brought into a state of safety; but their comfort consists rather in hope than in enjoyment. From this hope they cannot be turned by the vain expectation of finding satisfaction in the things of time and sense. We need patience, our way is rough and long; but He that shall come, will come, though he seems to tarry.For the earnest expectation - ἀποκαραδοκία apokaradokia. This word occurs only here and in Philippians 1:20, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope," etc. It properly denotes a state of earnest desire to see any object when the head is thrust forward; an intense anxiety; an ardent wish; and is thus well employed to denote the intense interest with which a Christian looks to his future inheritance.

Of the creature - τῆς κτίσεως tēs ktiseōs." Perhaps there is not a passage in the New Testament that has been deemed more difficult of interpretation than this Romans 8:19-23; and after all the labors bestowed on it by critics, still there is no explanation proposed which is perfectly satisfactory, or in which commentators concur. The object here will be to give what appears to the writer the true meaning, without attempting to controvert the opinions of critics. The main design of the passage is, to show the sustaining power of the gospel in the midst of trials, by the prospect of the future deliverance and inheritance of the sons of God. This scope of the passage is to guide us in the interpretation. The following are, I suppose, the leading points in the illustration.

(1) the word "creature" refers to the renewed nature of the Christian, or to the Christian as renewed.

(2) he is waiting for his future glory; that is, desirous of obtaining the full development of the honors that await him as the child of God; Romans 8:19.

(3) he is subjected to a state of trial and vanity, affording comparatively little comfort and much disquietude.

(4) this is not in accordance with the desire of his heart, "not willingly," but is the wise appointment of God; Romans 8:20.

(5) in this state there is the hope of deliverance into glorious liberty; Romans 8:21.

(6) this condition of things does not exist merely in regard to the Christian, but is the common condition of the world. It all groans, and is in trial, as much as the Christian. He therefore should not deem his condition as especially trying. It is the common lot of all things here; Romans 8:22, But,

(7) Christians only have the prospect of deliverance. To them is held out the hope of final rescue, and of an eternal inheritance beyond all these sufferings. They wait, therefore, for the full benefits of the adoption; the complete recovery even of the body from the effects of sin, and the toils and trials of this live; and thus they are sustained by hope, which is the argument which the apostle has in view; Romans 8:23-24. With this view of the general scope of the passage, we may examine the particular phrases.

(The opinion which is perhaps most generally adopted of this difficult passage, is what explains κτίσις ktisis of the whole irrational creation. According to this view, the apostle, having adverted to the glory that awaited the Christian, as a ground of joy and comfort under present sufferings, exalts our idea of it still higher by representing the external world as participating in, and waiting for it. "This interpretation is suitable to the design of the apostle. Paul's object is not to confirm the certainty of a future state, but to produce a strong impression of its glorious character. Nothing could be better adapted to this object, than the grand and beautiful figure of the whole creation waiting and longing for the glorious revelation of the Son of God, and the consummation of his kingdom." Hodge. In the original it is the same word that is rendered alternately "creature" and "creation."

And the meaning of the passage depends, in great measure, on the sense of this single word. Generally speaking, it signifies anything created. The particular kind of creation is determined by the context alone. Of course, whatever sense we may attach to it, must be continued throughout the whole passage, as we cannot suppose the apostle uses the same word in two different senses, in one place, without any intimation of the change. To what then does κτίσις ktisis refer? It is maintained by those who adopt the view noticed above, that it cannot refer to angels, either elect or fallen, since the former have never been subject to the bondage of corruption, and the latter are not waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God; that it cannot allude to wicked people, for neither do they anxiously look out for this manifestation; that it can no more refer to saints or renewed people, since these are expressly distinguished as a separate class in Romans 8:23; and that, therefore, it must be understood of the whole manimate and irrational creation.

It is further argued, that every part of the context may be explained consistently with this view. The passage is supposed to present a very bold and beautiful instance of the figure called prosopopoeia, by which things inanimate are invested with life and feeling, a figure which is indeed very common in Scripture, and which we need not be surprised to find in this place, amid so much that is grand and elevating; Joel 1:10, Joel 1:20; Jeremiah 12:4; Isaiah 24:4, Isaiah 24:7. According to this interpretation of κτίσις ktisis then, the general sense of the apostle may be thus given. The whole irrational creation is interested in the future glory of the sons of God, and is anxiously waiting for it. For then the curse will be removed from the very ground, and the lower animals relieved from oppression and cruelty. The very creation, on account of the sin of man, has been subjected to the curse, and has become "vain" or useless in regard to the original design of it, having been made subservient to the evil purposes and passions of man.

This state of subjection to vanity is not willing, but by restraint. Violence is imposed, as it were, on external nature. But this shall not continue. There is hope in the heart of the subject world, that ὅτι hoti it shall be delivered from this bondage, and participate in the liberty of the children of God. This representation may seem strange and unusual, but "we know" certainly, adds the apostle, that it is so; that "the whole creation πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις pasa hē ktisis, groaneth and travaileth in pain throughout every part. Even we, who are saints of God, and have been favored with the earnests of future bliss, feel the general oppression, and groan within ourselves, while we wait for the period of deliverance, in which the very body shall be ransomed from the grave and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.)

Of the creature - The word here rendered "creature" κτίσις ktisis, occurs in the New Testament nineteen times, and is used in the following senses:


19-22. For, &c.—"The apostle, fired with the thought of the future glory of the saints, pours forth this splendid passage, in which he represents the whole creation groaning under its present degradation, and looking and longing for the revelation of this glory as the end and consummation of its existence" [Hodge].

the earnest expectation—(compare Php 1:20).

of the creature—rather, "the creation."

waiteth for the manifestation—"is waiting for the revelation"

of the sons of God—that is, "for the redemption of their bodies" from the grave (Ro 8:23), which will reveal their sonship, now hidden (compare Lu 20:36; Re 21:7).

The apostle Peter, speaking of the Epistles of our apostle, in 2 Peter 3:16, saith, that there are some things in them hard to be understood; and some think, by reflecting upon some particular passages in that chapter, he doth more especially respect this context; there is indeed a great deal of obscurity in it.

The creature: this word is four times used in this and the three following verses, only in Romans 8:22 it is rendered creation; that is the subject of which all that followeth is predicated. One main question therefore is this: Of what creature the apostle here speaks? Divers answers are or may be given; I will fix upon two only.

1. By the creature, or the creation, ,{ and, Romans 8:22, the whole creation, or every creature} is meant all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, and especially the latter: see Mark 16:15; there Christ gives it in commission to preach the gospel to every creature; it is the same word. And in 1 Peter 2:13, they are commanded to submit themselves to every ordinance of man: in the original it is, to every human creature, the same word which is in the text before us: he means the Gentile or heathen magistrates in authority over them. In the Scripture the Gentiles are sometimes called the world, Romans 11:12,15, and sometimes the creature, or the creation.

2. By the creature is meant the whole world with all the creatures therein, or the whole frame and body of the creation.

The creature in this sense, by a prosopopoeia, is here spoken of as a rational person; it is usual with the Spirit of God, in Scripture, to fasten upon unreasonable creatures such expressions as are proper only to those that are reasonable: see Psalm 96:11,12 Heb 2:11 Jam 5:4. So here the creature (in this sense) is said to expect, wait, &c.

Waiteth; the expectation of the creature expecteth: a Hebrew pleonasm: it expecteth with the head lift up or stretched out, Philippians 1:20.

The manifestation of the sons of God; i.e. the time when the sons of God shall be manifested. The Arabic interpreter puts the word glory into the text, and reads the word thus, The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the glory of the sons of God; their glory for the present is hidden, but it shall be discovered and manifested, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The creature, in the sense of the word as above, waiteth for this, because then it shall be restored to its primitive liberty and lustre, at that time there will be a restitution of all things, Acts 3:21. But those who understand the creature in the first sense, do put a quite different interpretation upon this last clause; and that is, that the Gentile world are now earnestly expecting and waiting to see what the Jews will do, whether they will discover themselves to be the sons of God, or not, by their receiving or rejecting Christ.

For the earnest expectation of the creature,.... Some by the creature understand the universe, all created beings animate and inanimate, which having suffered much by the sin of man, are introduced by a rhetorical figure, as waiting for deliverance and a restoration to their paradisiacal estate; but some part of the world is manifestly distinguished from them, Romans 8:23, others think that angels are here meant, who being obliged to minister to sinful men, are represented as groaning and longing for the time when all the children of God shall be brought in, that they may be dismissed from their service; but what is said of subjection to vanity, of the bondage of corruption, and of their groaning and travailing in pain, can never agree with such happy spirits: others suppose that men in general are designed, being by sin brought into a state of bondage and corruption, subjected to vanity, attended with troubles, and liable to death, and so groan under their present miseries for deliverance; but to desire anything of a spiritual nature cannot be ascribed to men in general; and besides, as before observed, some persons are distinguished from them, Romans 8:23, others have been of opinion, that the new creature, or renewed persons, are here intended, who being burdened with indwelling sin, groan under it, long for deliverance from it, and are waiting for the heavenly glory; but these cannot be said to be in a state of bondage to corruption, for they are freed from the dominion of sin, and are become the servants of righteousness. It is best of all by "the creature" to understand the Gentile world. "The creature" here, and "the whole creation", Romans 8:22, must be the same; now the phrase , "the whole creation", or "every creature", as it may be rendered, signifies the nations of the world, in distinction to the Jews; see Mark 16:15; compared with Matthew 28:19 and answers to "the creatures"; by which name the Jews often in their writings call the Gentiles, to distinguish them from the Israelites. Take two or three instances, as follow,

"let your commerce (say they (g)), &c. be in a peaceable manner, , "with the creatures"; what do "the creatures" say concerning him? such an one, blessed be his father who taught him the law, blessed be his master who taught him the law; woe , "to the creatures", because they learn not the law; such an one who hath learned the law, they observe how beautiful are his ways, and how well ordered his works; of him it is written, saying, "and said unto me, thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified", Isaiah 49:3;''

where the creatures and the Israelites are evidently distinguished from one another: again (h),

"woe , "to the creatures", who know not, nor have they any regard for the service of their Creator; for it is a tradition, (says R. Isaac,) that "Bath Kol", or a voice, goes out every day from Mount Horeb, and says, woe , "to the creatures", because of the service of their Creator.''

And a little after,

"if "the creatures", knew the love with which the holy blessed God loves Israel, they would roar like young lions to follow after him.''

Once more (i),

"all the prayer , "of the creatures", is only for the earth; Lord let the earth be fruitful, Lord let the earth prosper; all the prayer , "of the Israelites", is only for the house of the Lord, Lord let the house of the sanctuary be built.''

Now what "the creature", the Gentile world, is represented as earnestly waiting, and wistly looking out for, is

the manifestation of the sons of God; which is made first at their conversion, and afterwards openly and more fully at the appearance of Christ in the resurrection morn. There is a manifestation of the sons of God, at conversion. They that are the sons of God, are his sons before by divine predestination, and through the covenant of grace; as such they were given to Christ; and under this character, and as standing in this relation, he assumed their nature, and died for them, in order to gather them together; and indeed, this previous relation is the ground and foundation of the Spirit of Christ being sent down into their hearts, to manifest their adoption to them; for before conversion, it is not manifested, neither to themselves nor others, but then it is in some measure made known. This may in a particular manner be applied to the Gentiles, and God's elect among them. They were the sons of God before they were manifested as such; they are spoken of in prophecy as in that relation; see Isaiah 45:11; and seemed to be designed chiefly, if not altogether, by "the children of God scattered abroad", in John 11:51. These were not known, nor looked upon by the Jews, to be the children of God; but when the Gospel came in among them, as the power of God, it manifested them to be such: so that where it was formerly said, "ye are not my people", there it is said, "ye are the sons of the living God", Hosea 1:10. But the full manifestation of the sons of God will be in their glorification at Christ's second coming; when they shall be openly taken into God's family, and shall be owned by Christ in this relation, before angels and men; they will appear in themselves otherwise than now they do; they will be put into the possession of the inheritance they are adopted to, and will have that honour and dignity which belong to their character actually conferred on them; so that they shall appear, not only to themselves, but to all the world, to be what they are: now this, in the whole compass of it, the Gentiles might be said to be in earnest expectation of, and waiting for. They may be said, in some sense, to expect and wait for the manifestation of the Son of God himself, the Messiah, who is called "the desire of all nations", Haggai 2:7, for it was promised, that "to him should the gathering", Genesis 49:10, or, as some read it, "the expectation of the people", or "nations be": they also waited for his law, his doctrine, the everlasting Gospel, Isaiah 42:4, and when that was come among them, and became the power of God to the salvation of many of them, this raised in them an earnest expectation of many, of multitudes of the sons of God being manifested among them, according to several prophecies of the Old Testament, which largely speak of this matter; and they continue to wait for the bringing in of the fulness of them in the latter day, and for the ultimate glory, which all the sons of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, shall enjoy together.

(g) F. Bab. Yoma, fol. 86. 1.((h) Zohar in Exod. fol. 2. 3. (i) Bareshit Rabba Parash. 13. fol. 11. 3.

{21} For the earnest expectation of the {u} creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

(21) Fourthly, he plainly teaches us that we will certainly be renewed from that confusion and horrible deformation of the whole world, which cannot be continual, as it was not this way at the beginning: but as it had a beginning by the sin of man, for whom it was made by the ordinance of God, so will it at length be restored with the elect.

(u) All this world.

Romans 8:19. Γάρ] introduces, from the waiting of the creation (to whose groaning that of Christians thereupon joins itself in Romans 8:23) for this glorious consummation, a peculiar confirmation, couched in a poetic strain, of the fact that the ἀποκάλυψις τῆς δόξης is really impending; and thus lends support to the comforting certainty of that future manifestation, that is, to the element involved in the emphatically prefixed μέλλουσαν; comp. Calovius, Fritzsche, de Wette, Krehl, Reithmayr, and Bisping. From Origen and Chrysostom down to Hofmann, there has usually been discovered here a ground assigned for the greatness of the glory. But this is neither consistent with the emphatic prominence of μέλλουσαν, nor with the subsequent ground itself, which proves nothing as to the greatness of the δόξα, but stands to the indubitableness of the latter, otherwise firmly established and presupposed, in the relation of a sympathetic testimony of nature. Least of all can γάρ introduce a ground of the apostle’s belief for his own λογίζομαι κ.τ.λ. (van Hengel). According to Philippi, what is to be established is, that the ΔΌΞΑ is not already present, but only future, which, however, even taking into account human impatience, was quite self-evident. For the nearness of the δόξα (Reiche), just as before it was not expressly announced in the simple ΜΈΛΛΟΥΣΑΝ, the sequel affords no proof, since the element of speediness is not expressed.

Ἡ ἈΠΟΚΑΡΑΔΟΚΊΑ] The verb ΚΑΡΑΔΟΚΕῖΝ (Xen. Mem. iii. 5, 6, frequent in Euripides) strictly means: to expect with uplifted head, then to expect generally, to long for (Valck. ad Herod. vii. 168; Loesner, Obss. p. 256 f.); and καραδοκία means expectatio (Proverbs 10:28; Aq. Psalm 38:7). The strengthened (Vigerus, ed. Herm. p. 582; Tittmann, Synon. p. 106 ff.) ἀποκαραδοκεῖν (Joseph. Bell. Jud. iii. 7. 26; Polyb. xvi. 2. 8, xviii. 31. 4, xxii. 19. 3; Aq. Psalm 36:7; Alberti, Gloss, p. 106 ff.) and ἀποκαραδοκία (only elsewhere in Php 1:20) is the waiting expectation (not anxious expectation, as Luther has it) that continues on the strain till the goal is attained. See especially Tittmann, l.c.; Fritzsche in Fritzschior. Opuscul. p. 150 ff. Without warrant, Loesner, Krebs, Fischer, de vit. Lex. p. 128 f., and others, including Rückert, Reiche, and van Hengel, have refused to recognise the strengthening element of ἀπό, already pointed out by Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia, although Paul himself gives prominence to it repeatedly in ἈΠΕΚΔΈΧ. (comp. Romans 8:23; Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Php 3:20).

Τῆς ΚΤΊΣΕΩς] Genitive of the subject. The waiting of the ΚΤΊΣΙς is with rhetorical emphasis brought into prominence as something independent. See Winer, p. 221 [E. T. 239]. Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς means—(1) actus creationis; so Romans 1:20, corresponding to the classic usage in the sense of establishment (Pind. Ol. 13. 118; comp. 1 Peter 2:13), founding (Polyb., Plut., and others), planting, etc.—(2) The thing created, and that (a) where the context supplies no limitation, quite generally like our creation, Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; 2 Peter 3:4; Jdt 16:14; Wis 2:6, al.; and (b) where the context does limit it, in a more or less special sense, as in Mark 16:15, Colossians 1:23 (of that portion of the creation, which consists of mankind), Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 4:13 (of every individual creature); comp. Romans 1:25, Romans 8:39; also καινὴ κτίσις in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15. Since, then, the absolute Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς must receive its limitation of sense simply from the connection, the question is, What does the text in our passage exclude from the meaning of Τῆς ΚΤΊΣΕΩς? There are plainly excluded not only the angelic and demoniac kingdom (see Romans 8:20), but also Christians collectively, as is clear from Romans 8:19; Romans 8:21; Romans 8:23, where the Christians are different from the κτίσις, and even opposed to it, so that they cannot be regarded (according to the view of Frommann) as forming a partial conception, embraced also in the κτίσις. But is the non-Christian portion of humanity to be excluded also? If not, it must be meant either along with something else, or else alone. If the former, then Paul, seeing that irrational nature at any rate remains within the compass of the idea, would have included under one notion this nature and the Jewish and heathen worlds, which would be absurd. But if non-Christian humanity alone be meant, then—(1) we should not be able to see why Paul should have chosen the term κτίσις, and not have used the definite expression ΚΌΣΜΟς, which is formally employed for that idea elsewhere in his own writings and throughout the N. T. Besides, the absolute κτίσις nowhere in the entire N. T. means non-Christian mankind (in Mark 16:15 and Colossians 1:23, ΠΆΣῌ stands along with it); and, indeed, ΠᾶΣΑ Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς (Mark) and ΠᾶΣΑ ΚΤΊΣΙς (Col.) mean nothing else than the whole creation and every creature, and in these cases it is purely the context that shows that created men are meant, while at the same time it is self-evident ex adjuncto (for the discourse concerns the preaching of the gospel to the κτίσις) that Christians are not to be understood. (2) The hostile attitude of the then existing ΚΌΣΜΟς towards the Christian body would cause the assertion respecting it of a sympathetic and, as it were, prophetic yearning for the manifestation of the children of God to seem a curious paradox, which, moreover, as a truth, in the case of the Jews and Gentiles, would rest on quite a different foundation, namely, the expectation of the Jewish Messianic kingdom, and on the other hand, the yearning dream of a golden age. (3) Again, the expressions in Romans 8:20 are of such a character, that they in no way make us presuppose in the writer such a conception of humanity subjected through sin to the ΘΆΝΑΤΟς as Paul had, but allow us just to think of the ΚΤΊΣΙς as having fallen a prey to the lot of mortality, not by its own free action, but innocently, and by outward necessity; the apostle would not have left the ΘΆΝΑΤΟς unmentioned. (4) Further, the hope of attaining to the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21) was only left to the ΚΌΣΜΟς, in so far as it should be converted to Christ; but Romans 8:21, in point of fact, merely asserts that on the entrance of that glory the ΚΤΊΣΙς is to be glorified also, without touching, in regard to mankind, on the condition of conversion—which assuredly Paul least of all would have omitted. (5) Finally, Paul expected that, previous to the entrance of the Parousia, the fulness of the Gentiles and all Israel would become christianized (Romans 11:25-26), and had to shape his conception, therefore, in such a way as to make humanity, taken as a whole, belong to the ΥἹΟῖς ΘΕΟῦ when the manifestation of the kingdom should appear. And as to that, Romans 8:21 decidedly forbids the connecting of the notion of mankind with Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς.

There remains, therefore, as the definition of the notion of Ἡ ΚΤΊΣΙς in accordance with the text: the collective non-rational creation, animate and inanimate, the same which we term in popular usage “all nature” (comp. Wis 5:18; Wis 16:24; Wis 19:6), from which we are accustomed to exclude intelligent beings. In view of the poetically prophetic colouring of the whole passage, the expressions of waiting, sighing, hoping, of bondage and redemption, excite the less surprise, since already in the O. T. instances of a similar prosopopoeia are very common (Deuteronomy 4:34; Psalm 19:2; Psalm 68:17; Psalm 98:8; Psalm 106:11; Romans 8:19. First testimony to this glorious future: creation sighs for it. In some sense the hope and promise of it is involved in the present constitution of the world. For a fine speculative interpretation see E. Caird’s Evolution of Religion, ii., 124 f. In Paul, however, the spirit of the passage is rather poetic than philosophical. Its affinities are with Genesis 3:17, where the ground is cursed for man’s sake: he conceives of all creation as involved in the fortunes of humanity. But this, if creation be personified, naturally leads to the idea of a mysterious sympathy between the world and man, and this is what the Apostle expresses. Creation is not inert, utterly unspiritual, alien to our life and its hopes. It is the natural ally of our souls. What rises from it is the music of humanity—not apparently so still and sad to Paul as to Wordsworth, but with a note of hope in it rising triumphantly above all the pain of conflict. ἀποκαραδοκία (Php 1:20) denotes absorbed, persistent expectation—waiting, as it were, with uplifted head. ἡ κτίσις is the world and all that it contains, animate and inanimate, as distinguished from man. τὴν ἀποκ. τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ θεοῦ: cf. 1 John 3:2. With the revelation of the sons of God humanity would attain its end, and nature too.

19. For the earnest expectation, &c.] The connexion of thought is: “A glory is to be revealed for us, the children of God; and so real and momentous is that glory, and its revelation, that it is intently expected by ‘the creature.’ ”—“The manifestation of the sons of God:”—more lit., and better, (as referring back to the word “revealed,” Romans 8:18,) the revelation, &c.

The Expectation of the Creature

The remarkable passage, Romans 8:19-23, demands a few preliminary general remarks. Among the many explanations of its meaning, two are the most representative and important. Of these (A) takes the passage to refer to the vague but deep longings of mankind for a better future; (B) to the longings, in a certain sense, of “creation” as distinguished from man, for a coming glory. According to (A) the doctrine is that humanity, outside the pale of the believing Church, shews in many ways its sense of weariness and aspiration; that this is an unconscious testimony to the fact of a glorious futurity; and that this futurity will be realized at the Consummation, when (not indeed all mankind, but) all from all mankind who shall have believed, will inherit the glory prepared for God’s children. According to (B) the doctrine is that the non-intelligent universe has before it a glorious transformation; that this is to take place when the saints “appear with Christ in glory;” and that in some sense there is a longing for this in “mute and material things.”

The decision lies in the true meaning here of the word rendered “Creature” and “Creation”—the same word in the Greek.

Now certainly in one remarkable text (Mark 16:15,) that word means mankind; so too Colossians 1:23, (where render, “in all the creation under heaven.”) And the peculiar intensity of the language of thought and feeling here (“earnest expectation,” “hope,” “groaning and travailing,”) makes it certainly difficult to apply it, in so dogmatic a passage, to “rocks and stones and trees.” The longings, however vague, of human hearts are certainly suggested at the first thought.

But, on the other hand, there are many well-known places (e.g. Psalm 98:7-8; Isaiah 35:1; Hosea 2:21;) where rejoicing, or even prayer, is represented as uttered by inanimate things. The whole tone of Scripture makes it certain that this is purely figurative; a reflection, as it were, of the feelings of conscious beings; for Revelation recognizes no “soul of the world.” But the language of such passages is a fact, and throws some light on this passage;—though this differs from those in respect of its dogmatic character.

And again, the “Creation” here is said to have been “unwillingly” (Romans 8:20) “subjected to vanity,” i.e. to evil. Now the doctrine of sin, so fully expounded in the previous chapters, forbids us to refer this to the unrenewed human heart, in which the perverted will is the secret of all transgressions.

On the whole, notwithstanding serious difficulties, it seems necessary to take the word “Creation” here to mean what we popularly call “Nature.” Thus the passage reveals that, in some sense, a future of glory, a transfiguration, awaits “Creation;” and the shocks and apparent failures in the present universe are, in a figure, taken to be this (absolutely impersonal) “Creation’s” longing and expectancy. We learn also that this transfiguration will not come till the final glorification of the saints; i.e. till the eternal state. Our best comment will be, then, 2 Peter 3; where we find (1) that the “Day of the Lord” (i.e. of resurrection and judgment) will be attended with the fiery dissolution of the present frame of things; and (2) that then, in modes absolutely unknown to us, there will be, as it were, a resurrection of the “heavens and earth;” or, to keep close to Scripture, “new heavens and a new earth.”

There is ample Scripture evidence (Psalm 102:26; Isaiah 51:6; Matthew 24:35; &c.) that “all these things must be dissolved.” The resurrection of Creation will be indeed as from a tomb. And who shall describe “the body that shall be” of that New Universe? Or who shall reconcile with eternity the idea of materiality, even when that idea is refined to the utmost? But we believe, in our own case, that “body” as well as “spirit” will live for ever, in a state at present inconceivable. A Universe in some sense material may therefore also be to last for ever, by the Divine will.

Note meanwhile that St Paul nowise dilates on this prospect. It is mentioned by the way, to vivify the idea of the greatness of the glory of the saints in their final bliss.

earnest expectation] Lit. waiting with outstretched head; a single and forcible word in the Gr. See previous note for remarks on this and like words as in this passage.

creature] Better, in modern English, creation; and so through the passage.

waiteth for] The Gr. word again is intense; almost q. d., “is absorbed in awaiting.”

the manifestation, &c.] i.e. the “glorification together with Christ;”

“the revelation of glory upon them,” (Romans 8:17-18.) They shall at length be “manifested” to one another, and to the universe, in their true character as the children of the King Eternal.

Romans 8:19. Ἀποκαραδοκία. This term denotes the hope of the coming event, and the effort of the mind, which is eagerly panting for [gaping for] it. The expectation of the creature, that is, the creature waiting, or expecting. Luther on this passage in Post. eccl. calls it, das endliche Harren, final waiting.—τῆς κτίσεως, of the creature) The creature here does not denote angels, who are free from vanity [weakness]; nor men of every kind, provided only they are men, although not even the weakest men [those most under bondage to vanity] are excluded, who, although in the bustle of life they consider vanity as if it were liberty, and partly stifle, partly conceal their groaning, yet in times of sobriety, quietness, sleeplessness and calamity, they have many sighs, which are heard by God alone; nor are the virtuous Gentiles excluded; but believers are expressly opposed to the creature. As to the rest, all the visible creation [the whole aggregate of creatures: “creaturarum universitatem”] without exception is intended (as κτίσμα in Macarius everywhere denotes the visible creation [creaturam], Homil. 6 § 5, etc.), and every kind of creature according to its condition (captu) [Romans 8:39; Romans 1:25]. As every creature stands in its relation to the sons of God, so, in this passage, the things predicated of the former stand in relation to the things predicated of the latter. The wicked neither desire, nor will obtain liberty. Disadvantages have redounded to the creature in consequence of [from] sin; reparation will accrue to the creature in consequence of [from] the glory of the sons of God.—υἱῶν) τέκνων, Romans 8:21.—ἀπεκδέχεται) Ἀπὸ in this compound verb signifies the waiting for a thing hoped for in consequence of the promise. The same word is in Romans 8:23 and in like manner ἀποκαραδοκία above.

Romans 8:19Earnest expectation (ἀποκαραδοκία)

Only here and Philippians 1:20. From ἀπό away κάρα the head, δοκεῖν to watch. A watching with the head erect or outstretched. Hence a waiting in suspense. Ἀπό from, implies abstraction, the attention turned from other objects. The classical student will recall the watchman in the opening of Aeschylus' "Agamemnon," awaiting the beacon which is to announce the capture of Troy.

Creature (κτίσεως)

The word may signify either the creative act (as Romans 1:20), or the thing created (Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 4:13). See on 1 Peter 2:13. Here in the latter sense. The interpretations vary: 1. The whole unredeemed creation, rational and irrational. 2. All creation, except humanity. The point of difference is the inclusion or exclusion of humanity. The second explanation is preferable, the non-rational creation viewed collectively, animate and inanimate. Equivalent to all nature.

Waiteth (ἀπεκδέχεται)

Only in Paul and Hebrews 9:28. The whole passage, with the expressions waiting, sighing, hoping, bondage, is poetical and prophetic. Compare Psalm 19:2; Isaiah 11:6; Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 55:12; Isaiah 65:17; Ezekiel 31:15; 37.; Habakkuk 2:11.

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