You hear about another natural
disaster or the war between Israel and Palestine, and cannot help but wonder how close are we really to the end of times, the day of Jesus’ return. The truth is that no one, not even Jesus Himself, knows when God the Father is going to send Him back to get us (Matthew 24:36-44). Not only will we see the effects of sin get worse and worse as we move towards the end of the earth, but we will also see the earth itself crying out. As we study that “all creation groans” (Romans 8:19-23), this will be a joyful reminder that we are on the verge of something wonderful.
What Does ‘All Creation Groans’ Mean?
My sister-in-law is pregnant right now and due with our sweet baby niece in July. We know that the delivery is upon us, but with the exciting anticipation also comes some natural nerves about the pain and unknown of the future baby delivery. However, she and my brother-in-law are not focused so much on the struggle to come, but rather on the gift of meeting their daughter after the birth.
Romans 8:19-23 says, “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.”
The image of creation’s pain, that it’s waiting for something, is even stronger in the Common English Bible translation: “The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters.”
Normally, when a woman gives birth, there is a process of pain. Contractions begin signaling the coming of the child. These start out lighter and further apart and then happen more frequently with a higher level of affliction. When I think about the part of the verse above, “Groaning as in the pains of childbirth,” I imagine how we occasionally see natural disasters and then they seem to become more frequent. As we view the contractions of creation, let us do as a woman giving birth does and take warning. No one knows the day or time in which God is going to tell Jesus to get us, just like no one really knows when a baby is going to come. He is coming like a thief in the night. This means that we will not expect him at all.
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodieswill be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” 2 Peter 3:10.
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” 1 Thessalonians 5:2.
As we look around the world and hear of forest fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes, and more, it reminds us that the earth is sickened by the result of our sins. As the world cries out it is the fulfillment of the Biblical prophecies that the world will get worse as we move closer to the end of times.
What Is the Context of Romans 8?
Romans 8:1-17 starts by discussing living by the Spirit and not our flesh. Romans 8:18-30 talks about the current struggles the lead to the coming glory of God. The outward sufferings should be a reminder that the Spirit helps us and prays for us. Even in our great difficulties, the Lord is working for our good and His glory! The chapter finishes with verses 31-39, encouraging us that we are more than conquerors.
Matthew Henry shares, “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.”
What Causes All Creation to Groan?
The sinful state of the world can cause creation to groan, but ultimately God is allowing the earth to “cry out.” This is not necessarily a direct punishment, but rather the overall fulfillment of Genesis 3:17b-18, which says, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from itall the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” The earth is cursed from sin. Just like a disease, the world is going to become increasingly more infected by sin.
Larry Murray from Crosswalk shares, “All of creation worships God. (Psalm 19:1-4, Psalm 148:5-13) So why does creation have to pay for the sins of humanity? Unfortunately, creation is in the earth and under the curse of sin. (Genesis 3) The end-time earthquakes in Matthew 24:7-8 are meant to be interpreted as “the beginning of the birth pains.” That is, they are a wake-up call to this oblivious world that God’s kingdom will soon be born; so be alert and prepare to meet Jesus Christ.”
Why We Don’t Have to Despair about Creation’s Groans Forever
Just like my sister-in-law is not despairing over the delivery of her baby, but focusing on the joy of the new life, we can have hope in desperate times. John 16:21 says, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”
These earthly groans are difficult and not celebrated, but the fulfillment of prophecies of old bring confident assurance that Jesus is coming and that this broken earth will be remade. There will be a new heaven, a new earth. There will be no more pain, no more tears for those who accept Jesus as Lord. The earth will be new and sin will no longer have its hold on creation.
A Prayer for When Disaster Strikes
I love the beginning of this beautiful prayer by Amy Green from Crosswalk:
“Father God, Your word tells us that all of creation is groaning, waiting to be redeemed. We know the end of the story—one day, you’ll answer the cries of our hearts and of this broken world and make all things new. Every sad thing will be undone, and we’ll be with you forever in perfect peace.”
Amen to that! As you recognize the groans, may it remind you to share the gospel and prepare for the return of Christ. Pain may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Joy is on the way and we can share in that hope today.