For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. (Romans 8:18-22, N.K.J.V., emphasis mine)
I purposely placed each use of the word “creation” in boldface type because I want to draw your attention to that topic. You see, these verses teach us something very important about creation. They teach that all of creation got swiped hard by Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden. Putting it another way, sin didn’t just do a number on the human race; it did a number on creation itself.
We must be careful not to read into Genesis chapter 3 that God actually cursed Adam. You won’t find that in the chapter. But what you will find is that God cursed the serpent (v.14) and the ground (v.17). Concerning the ground, He said to Adam “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, and you shall eat the herb of the field” (v.17-18). For the record, the fact of the ground being cursed by the Lord is repeated in Genesis 5:29.
No doubt Adam came to understand all too well that the earth’s soil was now cursed. But did he understand the full scope of the effects of his sin? Did he understand that it wasn’t just the dirt underneath him that would now be made to “groan” but all of creation itself?
It is interesting that the earth’s creatures were not originally designed to eat each other. Genesis 1:30 clearly states that the creatures all ate herbs, as did Adam and Eve (1:29), before sin entered the picture. The Bible doesn’t come right out and say exactly when the creatures started killing one another, but many believe that it wasn’t until after the flood of Noah. If this understanding is correct, it would explain why the creatures aboard the ark didn’t kill each other.
What we do know is that it was God’s post-flood instructions to Noah that made it “legal” for humans to kill and eat animals. God said, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs” (Genesis 9:3). Not coincidentally, that’s also when a fear of humans settled upon all creatures (Genesis 9:2).
And so, the creatures of the earth got caught in the avalanche of the effects of Adam’s sin upon all creation. Not only did the human race become an unholy mess, so did the animal kingdom. As one writer has put it: “Look out the window. When you see the bird after the worm, the cat after the bird, and the dog after the cat, that gives you a little better understanding of the morning news.”
Nevertheless, you’ll notice that our text passage from Romans speaks of a glorious time when the “futility” to which creation has been subjected will be lifted and creation will be delivered from its “bondage of corruption.” When will this time be? The passage describes it as the time of “the revealing of the sons of God.” Okay, so when will that occur? It will take place at Christ’s Second Coming, at the end of the prophesied seven-year Tribulation period that is scheduled for this world’s future. At that Second Coming, Christ will establish His 1,000 year reign upon this earth.
Jesus will rule from the city of Jerusalem, and at the start of His reign, He will miraculously restore the earth and its creatures to something akin to their pre-sin state. Isaiah 35:1 talks about the desert blossoming as a rose and the wilderness and wasteland being made glad. Furthermore, Isaiah 11:6-8 talks about the wolf dwelling with the lamb, the leopard lying down with the young goat, the young lion lying down with the calf, the bear and the cow grazing together, the lion eating straw like an ox, and a child being able to play near the hole of a poisonous snake without fear of being harmed. What an incredible age it will be!
William MacDonald has given us with some excellent words on all this. In his commentary thoughts on Romans chapter 8, he writes:
When Adam sinned, his transgression affected not only mankind, but all creation, both animate and inanimate. The ground is cursed. Many wild animals die violent deaths. Disease afflicts birds and animals as well as fish and serpents. The results of man’s sin have rippled like shockwaves throughout all creation…We live in a sighing, sobbing, suffering world. The whole creation groans and suffers pain like that of childbirth. Nature’s music is in the minor key. The earth is racked by cataclysm. The blight of death is on every living thing…Creation looks back to the ideal conditions that existed in Eden. Then it surveys the havoc that was caused by the entrance of sin. Always there has been the hope of a return to an idyllic state, when creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption to enjoy the freedom of the golden era when we as God’s children will be revealed in glory.
I don’t know about you, but I’m like creation in that I long for this coming age. I wouldn’t call myself an environmentalist in the way the word gets used politically, but I am certainly full on board with Jesus restoring all of creation, including the creatures of the earth, to a pristine, peaceful state. The old saying, “It’s a jungle out there” will no longer apply then, and the term “animal kingdom” will be trumped by the term “Christ’s kingdom.” And, as a Christian (one of “the children of God”), I’ll be there to see it all and enjoy it.