What Is the Meaning of Romans 8:19?
Romans 8:19 is one of the most amazing passages in the Bible. It addresses the purpose of creation and humanity. What does Romans 8:19 mean?
Romans 8:19 says, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”
As we begin focusing on the meaning of this verse, let’s first look at the “earnest expectation” that the creation is “eagerly” awaiting. The Greek word translated “earnest expectation” is apokaradokia, which means “anxious and persistent expectation” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
The Greek word translated “creation” in Romans 8:19 is ktisis, meaning “a framing, founding . . . the act of creating . . . the material universe . . . a created thing, a creature” (billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/ktisis).
We have to explore a bit deeper to understand exactly what that means.
The material world personified
But how could the physical creation eagerly wait for something? Paul is obviously using a metaphor.
In mankind’s earliest days, Adam and Eve lived in a garden in Eden that had abundant water and seemed to prolifically grow every type of food-producing tree (Genesis 2:8-10). All was good for both man and the earth. When God walked on the earth with Adam and Eve, the earth was a well-ordered and beautiful paradise.
But then the first humans foolishly rejected God’s instruction and heeded the voice of the serpent (Genesis 3:1-6). Adam and Eve sinned.
Although both Adam and Eve were punished for their errant conduct, we notice that because of Adam’s sin, God told him: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you . . . In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19). (For more insight on this curse, read “Agriculture Without God’s Blessings.”)
Here we see that the ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin. Food to sustain human life became harder to grow because the soil was under a curse.
When God worked with the ancient Israelites, He promised them abundant crops—a reprieve from the curse of the ground—if they would obey Him (Deuteronomy 28:1, 4).
One of God’s commands was that the land was not to be worked during the seventh year. As Leviticus 25:4 explains: “In the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a sabbath to the LORD. You shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard.”
If the people would obey His commands, God promised that in the sixth year the land would produce enough for three years (Leviticus 25:21).
Unfortunately, Israel disobeyed God’s laws, including the land Sabbath. As a result, God destroyed the nation and scattered the people among other nations. Commenting on this punishment, Leviticus 26:34 says, “Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.”
Mankind throughout history has rejected God’s instructions to avoid polluting the land through sin (Numbers 35:33). Through greed, human beings have polluted and destroyed this beautiful planet we were placed upon to “tend and keep” (Genesis 2:15).
Eventually, humans will have to pay for their disrespect of the land. Revelation 11:18 tells us that when Christ returns, He will “destroy those who destroy the earth.”
The material world to rejoice
When Christ returns to rule the earth for 1,000 years, the curse that has been upon the ground will be lifted. The ground will once again produce abundant crops.
Amos 9:13 describes this time: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.’”
Describing the reaction of the personified earth to this amazing change, Isaiah 55:12 says, “The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
The material creation is metaphorically awaiting this wonderful future when it will be restored to the beauty, order and productivity it enjoyed before Adam and Eve sinned.
To learn more, read “Paradise on Earth: Fleeting Dream or Coming Reality?” and “The Kingdom of God: An Earth Transformed.”
The revealing of the sons of God
As wonderful as the change of the material world will be when Christ returns, the most significant event at this time will be “the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).
As King David noted: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:4-6).
We humans have a privileged position among life in the material world. Through the calling of God, we have the opportunity “to become children of God” (John 1:12). Those who respond to God’s calling in this age will receive glorified spiritual bodies when Christ returns (1 Corinthians 15:50-53; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 3:4; Hebrews 2:10).
The birth of the children of God into God’s family will begin a period the Bible calls “the times of restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). This will include the physical creation being restored to the former beauty it had before sin entered humanity.
And Romans 8:23 explains that God’s called and chosen people today “groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting” for this restoration.
That is the powerful and inspiring meaning of Romans 8:19.