Romans 8:21 — Creation Delivered
One of the most perplexing contexts in the book of Romans is found in chapter 8. In this section Paul suggests that the “whole creation” anticipates a deliverance from the bondage of corruption (vv. 21, 22).
The key question is this: in what sense will the “creation” be delivered from corruption? Is the language literal or figurative?
Those of the premillennial persuasion use this context to argue that the entire material creation will be restored at the time of Christ’s return to earth — when he allegedly establishes his millennial kingdom (see Robert Shank, Until — The Coming of Messiah and His Kingdom, p. 23).
But we must remember this: no interpretation can be placed upon an obscure passage which makes it contradict other Bible teaching.
Premillennialism contradicts the Scriptures in numerous ways (see the author’s booklet, Premillennialism — A System of Infidelity). There will be no millennial reign of Christ upon the earth. The earth will not be restored at the time of the Lord’s return; it will be destroyed (see 2 Peter 3). This context cannot be viewed within a premillennial framework.
What then does this context mean? The most reasonable explanation seems to be this. Paul, in these passages, has personified the creation. He has figuratively ascribed emotions to the material creation. He represents it as longing for deliverance as a prelude to that time when its purpose shall have been accomplished.
When God’s redemptive plan is brought to fruition, earthly affairs are ended. The righteous will obtain their reward in “the new heavens and the new earth” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1), which is heaven itself.
This type of argument is not without precedent in the Scriptures. In Psalm 114, the inspired writer describes the deliverance of Jehovah’s people from Egyptian bondage. In conjunction with that glorious event, various elements of the creation are depicted as cooperating with, and rejoicing at, Israel’s freedom. The sea saw it and fled, the mountains skipped as rams, the hills frolicked like little lambs, and the earth trembled.
The Old Testament is replete with this type of symbolism (cf. Psalm 96:12; 98:8; Isaiah 35:1; 55:12). No one contends that the language in these verses is literal. Romans 8:19-23 is likely to be interpreted in a similar light.
Thus, block off this section in Romans 8, and in your margin make this comment: Personification — in anticipation of the fulfillment of earth’s purpose; cf. Psalm 114.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.