THE ESCHATOLOGICAL TIME TEXTS IN ROMANS
By: Michael J. Sullivan Copyright 2008
1) And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand…” (Rms. 13:11-12)
I will begin with this text because it is the only time text Mathison attempts to deal with in Romans. He says of this text, “In Romans 13:11-12, for example, Paul declares that “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” and that “the day is at hand.” If Paul is using the term “salvation” here in the sense of deliverance from some kind of persecution, then the salvation that is near may be related to the judgment upon Jerusalem that was imminent when Paul wrote Romans. Luke has already written, “When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). Paul may be referring to the same thing.” (WSTTB?, p.200).
R.C. Sproul is a little more useful in his comments of (Rms.13:11-12). He argues as we do, that this text can “reasonably” be connected with other texts in Romans that do not have time texts within there immediate context, “…you are treasuring up for yourselves wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”… (Rom.2:4-6)…in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Rom.2:16)Paul refers to “the day of wrath” and “the day when God will judge the secrets of men.” Presumably both references are to the same “day.” Traditionalists see them as references to the yet future last judgment. Preterists like Russell interpret these references as they do all other references to the day of the Lord: this is the dark day of judgment that befell Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem.Though the above texts lack time-frame references, they may reasonably be linked to later references Paul makes in the same epistle: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand…” (Rom.13:11-12)
a. “knowing the time” (Greek kairos)
Strong’s defines kairos as, “a fixed and definite time, the time when things are brought to crisis, the decisive epoch waited for.” The “opportune or seasonable time” and “the right time.” It is used concerning the prophecies of an “at hand” and fixed “due time” of Christ’s sufferings and redemptive work upon the cross see (Mt.26:18; Rms.5:6; 1Tim.2:6). It is more than “curious exposition” indeed that Richard Pratt and Mathison uphold the time statements of an “at hand” “determined and fixed time” for the crucifixion, but then are willing to postpone the determined “fixed time” of the second coming which is described as being “at hand!” It is only a creedal bias that invents such notions and denies the sovereignty of God when an “at hand” second coming, judgment and resurrection is in view! Kairos is used in the new testament to describe the time of the second coming, judgment, the harvest/resurrection and thus the eschatological consummation and restoration of all things (Mt.8:29; 13:30; 21:34, 41; 24:45; Acts 1:7; 3:19; Heb.9:10; Ephs.1:10; 1Thess.5:1; 1Tim.6:14-15; 1Cor.4:5). “THE TIME” of Christ’s second coming to reward and render judgment of the dead is also described as “at hand” in (Rev.1:3; 11:18; 22:10; 1Pet.4:17, cf. vs.5, 7). Mathison is not in step with how this word is used in other eschatological texts which clearly are not discussing a minor coming salvation and judgment in A.D.70 but “THE TIME of consumation.” This is one reason why most reformed theologians understand (Rms.13:11-12) as the second coming but ignore the time text.
b. “the hour (Greek hora) already is to be aroused out of sleep,”(YLT)
Strong’s defines “hour” (Greek hora) as, “a twelfth part of the day-time, an hour, (the twelve hours of the day are reckoned from the rising to the setting of the sun).” It is clear that Paul is referring to Jesus’ teaching of the coming hour or the “last hour” in which He would reward and raise the dead and usher in the new creation on the last day in (Jn.5:25, 28; Jn.6; 1Jn.2:18; Rev.3:3; 11:13-18; 14:7, 15). This was the “hour” the disciples were to “watch” for and be ready for in (Mt.24). All ten virgins were asleep but only five were wise enough to discern the signs of the times and awaken out of sleep to see that the Day Star was arising and the sun/Son of righteousness would be shining from the east to the west. The other 5 were of the night and were thus caught unaware of what hour it was.
c. “for now our salvation (Greek soteria) is nearer (Greek egguteron) than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand (Greek ede).”
According to Mathison, if he is going to take the time texts in our passage as referring to A.D.70, he is ONLY willing to do so if “salvation” is understood in the sense of a physical deliverance from the persecutions of the Jews or a salvation from the wrath of the Roman armies. However, most reformed theologians understand “salvation” here as we do, in its totality. Especially since the definite artile “the” is placed before salvation – “the salvation.” The two Reformed Study Bibles I have, the SPIRIT OF THE REFORMATION STUDY BIBLE, and THE REFORMATION STUDY BIBLE state of “the salvation” in our text, “Here in the sense of future, final redemption (8:23).” What is puzzling is that R.C. Sproul and Keith Mathison are the editors of the above statement. But according to Mathison and Sproul since mello is a time text that should be honored and the time text in 13:11-12 can “reasonably” be applied to earlier chapters in Romans, then it should not be unreasonable to view Paul as teaching that “final redemption” or “salvation” was “nearer” “at hand” and “about to” take place in A.D.70! It is true of course that “salvation” can be used in referring to a temporal deliverance from enemies. But what happened in A.D.70 wasn’t just a physical deliverance/salvation resulting in the Christians fleeing from Jerusalem to Pella; BUT was at the same time involving in a salvation that forgave and cleansed the Church of sin. The “salvation” that Paul had in view here as “at hand” was all encompassing just as Peter’s understanding of an imminent salvation was (1Pet.1:9-10, 4:5, 7, 17). This was also the case with the writer to the Hebrews message concerning a “salvation” that they were “about to” inherit (Heb.1:14YLT). When we allow scripture to interpret scripture and analyze the hermeneutics and comments of Sproul and Mathison, it is more than “reasonable” to view the “at hand” A.D. 70 “salvation” here with the coming of Christ in 11:26-27 to take away the Churches sins or the “about to” come “final redemption” of 8:18-23!
Before closing this text, it should be noted that Paul uses two Greek words that John the Baptist used in (Mt.3:2-12). John had said that “even now (Greek ede) the ax is laid to the root of the trees” 3:10. Paul had said that the “hour” was “already” ede upon them to awake from sleep. The time of the kingdom’s “at hand” judgment and salvation associated with the harvest/resurrection was “now” or “already” imminently approaching from the time when some of them had first “believed” the preaching of John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ message of an “at hand” kingdom (Mt.3-4). The O.T. echo for the resurrection or awakening out of sleep here, is found in Daniel 12 of which James Jordan concedes took place in AD 70. He agrees with us that this was a corporate resurrection for the Church.
2) “but also on ours, to whom it is about to be reckoned—to us believing on Him who did raise up Jesus our Lord out of the dead,” (Rms. 4:24 YLT WEY)
Recently this text on justification has been hotly debated within reformed circles. Post A.D. 70, believers upon faith in Christ have been completely saved and justified – made righteous in God’s sight because we have fully come into the new covenant “world of righteousness” (2Pet.3). As we have just noted in our previous text, salvation was in the process of being received and inherited. The context of this passage is centered on the need for Christians to follow the faith of Abraham in being an “heir of the world” to come not through works of the law such as circumcision verse 13. Although no translations render mello in (Heb.2:5) as the “about to come world,” it should be, due to the imminence throughout the book. This was the “world” “heavenly country” and “kingdom” Abraham and the Christians were receiving and were “about to” inherit at Christ’s “at hand” and “in a very little while” return (Heb.10-12). These pre-A.D.70 Christian’s were “about to be reckoned” righteous, because according to Peter, they were ready to inherit the kingdom and a “world of righteousness” at Christ’s parousia (2Pet.1 & 3; 1Pet.4:7). Daniel was told that the atoning process making an end to sin and the brining in of everlasting righteousness for the Church would be accomplished at the “end” which in context is described as the abomination of desolation or when the power of the holy people (the temple) would be destroyed (Dan.9:24-27/12:1-7). Jesus clearly tells us that Daniel’s 70 week prophecy would be fulfilled in His “this generation” (Mt.24:15, 34/Lk.21:20-32). I agree with Mathison in seeing the “redemption” and “salvation” of (Lk.21:27-28/Rms. 13:11-12) as an A.D. 70 event, but Jesus and Paul understand these terms to be the consummative salvific and redemptive events for the Church in taking away her sin and reckoning her as completely righteous in His sight.
3) “But the death did reign from Adam till Moses, even upon those not having sinned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a type of him who is coming (or is about to come)” (Rms. 5:14 YLT).
Translations that have render the coming of Christ here as “was to come” instead of the “One who is coming” do a disservice to the text. The YLT comes the closest but should have rendered mello here as “of him who is about to come” as it usually translates mello within eschatological contexts. Here in (Rms.5:14), the context is involving an eschatological future coming of Christ who is the anti-type of Adam. It will be when the future hope of glory in verse 1-5 is realized and when they would be saved from a coming wrath in verse 10. Remember R.C. Sproul told us that this “wrath” as described in chapter 2 applied to A.D.70. Elsewhere in Paul’s theology when Christ is presented as the anti-type to Adam and issues of “the death” “the law” and “the sin” are presented, they are addressing Christ’s parousia (Rms.5-6; 1Cor.15). Mathison believes (Rms.5:12) teaches physical death for man and decay for the planet earth came through Adam’s sin and thus at Christ’s return He will reverse what Adam had brought upon the planet, “As Paul explains, death entered the world because of Adam’s sin (Rom.5:12). God’s entire work of redemption from the moment of the Fall onward has been aimed at reversing the effects of sin in man and in creation.” (WSTTB?, p.196). The immediate context of verse 12 is dealing with spiritual salvation described as “reconciliation” being given to the believer in verse 11. The phrase “…death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…” is discussing spiritual death not physical death or people would physically die when they “sin.” As I discussed before in Genesis, Adam died spiritually the day he sinned. Through Adam came the reign of spiritual “death” and “condemnation” in verse 18. This spiritual death and condemnation that came through Adam is countered by Christ through Him giving the “free gift” of the gospel which is “grace” in verse 15, “justification” in verse 16, a “reign of life” in verse 17, of which makes one “righteous” 19 before God. These are spiritual graces upon the heart of man undoing the reign of spiritual death and condemnation brought through Adam.
Verses 20-21 are important, “Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” When the Mosaic law entered the picture it did not make physical death any worse, but it did increase and magnify the power and reign of spiritual death and sin in the heart of man. This is most eloquently described by Paul in his struggle of what the law produced when it was brought upon his conscience in chapter 7. Saul and the self righteous Jew thought they were “alive” under the law but when they realized that the law could only magnify their sin and it could not completely take it away they “died” (7:9). Obviously Paul did not biologically die. The entire context of Romans is dealing with overcoming the spiritual death passed down through Adam which was magnified through the giving of Torah. This spiritual death was found in the corporate body of sin, death, and the flesh which Paul brings into and develops more in chapter 6. Fortunately some Pauline reformed theologians are beginning to see what we have in these terms. Paul is not addressing an individual resurrection of a physical “fleshly” corpse in Romans 6.
“the concrete mode of existence of sinful man, can sometimes be identified with sin as the ‘body of sin’ (Rom.6:6), the ‘body of flesh’ (Col.2:11), the ‘body of death’ (Rom.7:24). Accordingly, the life from Christ by the Holy Spirit can be typified as a ‘doing away with the body of sin’, ‘putting off of the body of the flesh, ‘putting to death the earthly members’, ‘deliverance from the body of this death’ (Rom.6:6; Col.2:11; 3:5; Rom.7:24)… All these expressions are obviously not intended of the body itself, but of the sinful mode of existence of man. (Holland, ibid, p.90 emphasis MJS).
Quoting T.F. Torrance,“in his death, the many who inhered in him died too, and indeed the whole body of sin, the whole company of sinners into which he incorporated himself to make their guilt and their judgment his own, that through his death he might destroy the body of sin, redeem them from the power of guilt and death, and through his resurrection raise them up as the new Israel” (Holland, ibid, p.91)This corporate view of the “body of sin” is also shared by F.F. Bruce,“This ‘body of sin’ is more than an individual affair, it is rather that old solidarity of sin and death which all share ‘in Adam”, but which has been broken by the death of Christ with a view to the creation of the new solidarity of righteousness and life of which believers are made part ‘in Christ.’” (Holland, ibid, p.91, emphasis MJS)
Holland feels that T.W. Manson has come the closest to the truth, “He questioned the traditional assumption that in the phrase ‘body of Sin’ the term ‘of Sin’ is a genitive of quality; he argued that it ‘does not yield a very good sense’. He took it to be a possessive genitive, and said, ‘It is perhaps better to regard “the body of sin” as the opposite of “the body of Christ”. It is the mass of unredeemed humanity in bondage to the evil power. Every conversion means that the body of sin loses a member and the body of Christ gains one’” (Holland, ibid, p.91, emphasis MJS)
And developing the corporate body motif some more commenting on (Roms.6:6),“Also, in 6:6 Paul refers to ‘putting off the old man’. Once again this has traditionally been seen as a reference to the sinful self that dominated the life of the believer in the pre-converted state. However, the same terminology is used in the Ephesisans 2:15 where Paul says ‘to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace’. He then goes on to say in 4:22-23, ‘put off your old self (anthropos – man), created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’The exhortation is parallel to that in Romans 6:6ff. Thus, the new man, which Paul exhorts the Romans to put on, is corporate, for ‘the new man’ in Ephesians is the church, and the two who have been united to form this new man are the believing Jews and the believing Gentiles. This corporate understanding is further supported by Colossians 3:9-15:…” The realm where distinctions are abolished (here there is no Greek or Jew, v.11) is clearly corporate. This is indicated by two considerations. First, ‘here’ is clearly the realm where all distinctions are abolished, and this is the new man. Second, the meaning of the one body into which they were called (v. 15) is obviously corporate. These descriptions of corporateness are in the context of the description of the old and new self (vv.9, 10). The rendering of anthropos as self by the NIV and sarx as flesh in the AV has inevitably promoted the individualistic understanding and confused the mind of the English reader. Furthermore, that Paul’s exhortation is corporate is shown in that he appeals to them, “as God’s chosen people clothe yourselves’ (v.12). Thus, identifying the imagery of the old and new man as being corporate, and appreciating that it is part of the description of the ‘body of Sin’ in Romans 6:6, along with the other considerations we have presented, establishes a corporate meaning for the term the ‘body of Sin’.” (Holland, ibid, pp.95-96).
Holland, I believe is correct in seeing a corporate understanding of these Pauline terms and phrases and I would agree with him that Paul has a “system of theology” that he draws on when he uses certain words, terms, and phrases throughout his various writings: “Also, it seems quite inconceivable that a man of Paul’s intellectual caliber should be so haphazard as to be indifferent to these alleged inconsistencies. At Paul’s instruction, his letters were being passed around the churches (Col. 4:16). Was he not concerned with consistency?” (Holland, ibid, p.107, emphasis MJS) “Consistency” and “Scripture interpreting Scripture” is what I am seeking to do in order to lay the foundation for what the “creation” and the “redemption of the body” is in chapter 8. Paul’s theme’s of being in a corporate body, whether in “Adam” or “Christ” in (Roms.5-6) and (1Cor.15) and being raised in the likeness of Christ or experiencing deliverance from “law” (Adam in the garden) or “THE law” (Israel groaning under the Mosaic law) in (Roms.5 – 8 & 1Cor.15) has nothing to do with a casket resurrection from biological death for believers. This is a soteriological resurrection from the spiritual death inherited from Adam.
4) “for if according to the flesh ye do live, ye are about to die; and if, by the Spirit, the deeds of the body ye put to death, ye shall live;”( Roms. 8:13 YLT)
We remain in the contrasts between being in Adam or in Christ, or under the old-covenant Mosaic law pursuing righteousness, or pursuing a righteousness under the new-covenant of grace in Christ. “Flesh” here is not referring to our physical bodies, but to a sinful mode of existence under the Mosaic old-covenant law. Paul’s point is, that if you are seeking to be justified by the law, “you are bout to die” because there is an imminent judgment and wrath coming that Sproul taught us was coming in A.D.70 back in chapter 2.
5) “For I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory about to be revealed in us;” (Roms. 8:18 YLT, NRSV, WEY – “…which is soon to be manifested in us.” )
The majority of Reformed and Evangelicals understand Romans 8 along with (2 Pet.3 & Rev.21-22) to be teaching the physical planet’s renewal and our corpses being united to our spirits at Christ’s return at the end of time. However, as I have already pointed out, Reformed theologians and Evangelicals have already conceded that the passing of the “world” or “heavens and earth” in such texts as (Mt.5:17-18 – Brown; Mrk.13:31 – Fletcher; 2Pet.3 – Owen, Lightfoot, Sproul, DeMar; Rev.21 – Kenneth Gentry, James Jordan) are referring to the passing and destruction of the temple and the old-covenant Mosaic system and not the planet. And yes, even here we have some Reformed theologians conceding to a preterist understanding of the creation in Romans 8. Reformed theologians John Lightfoot and John Gill had a non-planetary interpretation of the “creation” groaning in (vss.19-22). For these interpreters the text was not dealing with rocks, trees, and squirrels, but the heart and mind of man. Therefore, I will now seek to build upon some of their good observations but first I must build the proper context to arrive at what the “creation” is in this chapter.
a. “…the sufferings of this present time…” The present time (Greek kairos) of sufferings described by Paul in our text is once again, a very specific and fixed eschatological last days suffering that would occur at the end of the old-covenant age before the new would be consummated. Paul is being consistent with what the prophets and Jesus had taught concerning the groanings and sufferings of the eschatological “birth pains” in verse 22 that would precede the coming of Christ and the inheritance of the kingdom (Mt.10:17-23; 23:31-36; 24:8-9, 12). Remember Jesus said the full measure of this suffering and the vindication from it would occur in His “this generation” time period. Although I can empathize with R.C. Sproul Jr.’s preoccupation with him loosing his hair and weight gain in the forward (WSTTB?, ix), his appeal to Rmans 8 for this kind of “suffering,” and “groaning” just isn’t contextually honest. The groanings and sufferings involved in Romans 8 are not dealing with me or you loosing our hair, people getting cancer, dealing with disabled children, and squirrels groaning because they often get hit by cars and long for a better day! However, anyone interested in “context” can see the previous chapters are dealing with groaning under the weight and condemnation of the spiritual death that resulted through Adam breaking law in the Garden and its effects being magnified through Israel’s “the law” Torah. Christ through His redemptive work upon the cross and His parousia in A.D.70 has set us free completely from the curse of this evil trinity – “the sin,” “the death,” and “the law.”
We should look for some of the same motifs elsewhere in Paul’s writings to help us better understand Romans 8. In (2Cor.3-6), Paul discusses: the law, a new creation, groaning, and sufferings. This suffering and affliction was only for a “moment.” According to Paul, this transformation process of receiving the new-covenant “glory” with its “life” being worked out in the believers would be reached and realized when the old-covenant glory of the law would fully pass in A.D. 70. In (2Cor.5 – 6) the “groanings” of the church as God’s new creation or covenant community were longing to be “clothed” with their “eternal” house or “heavenly dwelling.” Paul is not finished in his covenant contrasts that he started in chapter 3 of the two glories of the old and new covenants. Here in chapter 5 he continues with that theme but it is now described as a contrast of temples or houses. The Corinthian’s, covenantally speaking, were still apart of the old-covenant dwelling/system groaning to be completely free or clothed upon further with their glorious house from heaven. Being clothed with garments of righteousness/praise/wedding garments, a House/New Temple/New Jerusalem/New Creation, etc. are eschatological equivalents in Scripture. Therefore, in chapter 6 when Paul quotes Ezekiel 37 and states that the church, as a corporate entity, is the new-covenant millennial temple predicted by the prophets, we are to contextually understand in the previous chapter that this is what the Corinthians were groaning for the completion of. Revelation states that “shortly” the new-covenant New Jerusalem/Bride/Temple would come out of heaven to earth thus clothing the Church with the righteous wedding garments and house from heaven (Isa.52:1ff.; Isa.61:10; Mt.22:1-14; Rev.19-21).
b. “the glory about to be (Greek mello) revealed in us” (verse 18) Gentry, Sproul, and Mathison believe mello should be translated as “about to be” communicating an imminent A.D.70 time of fulfillment in the book of Revelation, “Nevertheless, when used with the aorist infinitive –as in Revelation 1:19—the words predominant usage and preferred meaning is: ‘be on the point of, be about to.’ The same is true when the word is used with the present infinitive, as in Rev.3:10. The basic meaning in both Thayer and Abbott-Smith is: ‘to be about to.” Mello is here used in the present active and followed by the aorist infinitive. Therefore, other translations are more consistent than our partial preterist opponents in developing imminence in Romans.
Once again in using the analogy of Scripture, Peter addresses the same “suffering,” “glory,” and “revealing” as Paul does and in the same time frame (1Pet.5:1; cf. 4:5, 7, 17). Again no comments from our opponents on this text in connection with (Rms.8:18) “…a participant in the glory about to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you: (HCSB). “…who also am a fellow partaker of the glory which is about to be unveiled;” (WUESTNT). “…a fellow-elder, and a witness of the sufferings of the Christ, and of the glory about to be revealed a partaker,” (YLT).
c. “For the earnest expectation of the creation (Greek kitisis) 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;” (verses 19-20). John Lightfoot correctly understood the creation (Grk. kitisis) here, to refer to the mind and heart of man and had nothing to do with planet earth groaning – not even poetically. Of the “earnest expectation of the creature” and the “whole creation groaning” Lightfoot understood these terms to mean the world of the gentiles and not the rocks, trees, and squirrels citing the use of kitisis in (Mrk.16:15/Cols.1:23). Of the “vanity” of the creation in verse 20 he writes,
“…this vanity is improperly applied to this vanishing, changeable, dying state of the creation. For vanity, doth not so much denote the vanishing condition of the outward state, as it doth the inward vanity and emptiness of the mind.” The Romans to whom this apostle writes, knew well enough how many and how great predictions and promises it had pleased God to publish by his prophets, concerning gathering together and adopting sons to himself among the Gentiles: the manifestation and production of which sons, the whole Gentile world doth now wait for, as it were, with an out stretched neck. John Gill agrees, “This designs the vanity and emptiness of the minds of the Gentiles, who were without God and Christ, and the Holy Spirit, without the law and Gospel, and grace of God; also the vain conceits they had of themselves, of their wisdom, knowledge, learning, and eloquence; likewise their vain philosophy, particularly their gross idolatry, their polytheism, or worshipping of many gods; together with their divers lusts and vices, to which they were addicted, to such a degree, that they might be truly said to be made subject thereunto, being under the government of these things, slaves unto them, and in such subjection, as that they could not deliver themselves from it;…”
Lightfoot, Hammond, and Gill understand the “creation” to be referring to Gentiles and “…Crellius (Comm., Para.) explains it as a reference to regenerate Christians and Le Clerc (Supp., NT) refers it particularly to Gentile Christians.” There of course is lexical evidence for this interpretation, “after a rabbinical usage (by which a man converted from idolatry to Judaism was called),” “Refers specifically to mankind as God’s creation,” “Man as Creature and the New Creation.” So the Jews considered themselves to be a “new creation” under Torah and their gentile proselytes were likewise referred to as such. But Paul has the boldness to declare both needed to become a “new creation” by placing their faith in Christ (2Cor.5:16-19). In this way the “world” was being reconciled to God through the great commission which does not necessitate a global commission before Christ can return per Mathison’s futuristic postmillennialism, but was rather achieved locally by A.D.70 (Mt.24:14/Rms.10:18 – oikumene; Mk. 13:10/Rms.16:25-26 – ethnos; Mk.16:15/Cols. 1:5-6 – kosmos; Mk. 16:15/Cols.1:23 – kitisis; Acts 1:18/Rms.10:18 – ge). But the reader responds, “Isn’t this passage going back to Adam’s sin which affected the literal globe (Gen.3:17-19)?” I believe Lightfoot was mistaken to apply Paul’s words here, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;” to God’s judgment of the gentiles at the tower of Babel in (Gen.11). The text is clearly taking us back to (Gen.3). But the “creation” is referring to man’s heart and mind being subjected to the futility of sin through Adam’s rebellion. There is no evidence here that this is the first time a “thorn” had ever been around on the earth! The point is that Adam is now going back to the “dust” from where He was originally formed (in Eden) and would no longer enjoy the plush Garden presence of God where He had been earlier placed by God. This area of the “dust” was not as fruitful and lush as the Garden and God cursed it as He had “increased” the woman’s pain in child birth. I see this passage the same way I see God turning the ground of Israel into a hardened desert when she sinned, to communicate the sinful condition of their heart (Deut.28). Thus they were exhorted to “break-up the follow ground of your heart” etc. through repentance. Then God would send rain upon their land and hearts (cf. Jms.5).
d. “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.” (verses 21-22)
Lightfoot, unlike our opponents, correctly understood Paul’s phrase “bondage of corruption” and “the whole creation groaneth together,” in verses 21-22 again, not being a reference to the elements of planet earth poetically groaning from the decay and corruption of the second law of thermal dynamics, but rather, man groaning from the “corruption” found in his heart and mind from sin, citing (2 Pet.1:4; 2Cor.11:3; 1Cor.15:33). He summarizes verse 21 as,
“The Gentile world shall in time be delivered from the bondage of their sinful corruption, that is, the bondage of their lusts and vile affections, (under which it hath lain for so long a time,) into a noble liberty, such as the sons of God enjoy.” If it be inquired how the Gentile world groaned and travailed in pain, let them who expound this of the fabric of the material world tell us how that groaneth and travaileth. They must needs own it to be a borrowed and allusive phrase. But in the sense which we have pitched upon, the very literal construction may be admitted.” (Lightfoot, ibid., pp.158-159).
Again the lexical evidence is present to interpret “corruption” and “decay” here as an ethical and moral decay of man’s heart and mind and not referring to the elements of the planet earth. John Gill comments on the labor pains of our text,
“As a woman with child, ready to bring forth: for it is added, and travaileth in pain together until now; regeneration is owing to the grace of God, which is compared to “seed,” of which men are born again; the means of conveying it is the Gospel, and ministers are the instruments of begetting souls to Christ, and who travail in birth till Christ be formed in them: now the Gospel being carried by the apostles into the Gentile world, and being succeeded there, it was like a woman big with child, ready to bring forth many sons to God; for as it was prophesied, so it came to pass, that “more are the children of the desolate, than the children of the married wife,” #Isa 54:1; and these births were attended with pain. The apostles preached the word with much contention, and the Gentiles received it in much affliction, though with the joy of the Holy Ghost; as a woman rejoices when a man child is brought forth, though the birth has been attended with pain and labour. This was an united groan, and travail of all the converted Gentiles in the several parts of the world, together with the ministers of the Gospel, earnestly desiring more instances of conversion among them; and this vehement desire had appeared “until now,” from the first time of the preaching of the Gospel among the Gentiles, to the writing of this epistle;…” (Gill, ibid.).
In context, the “revealing of the sons of God” in verse 19 is equivalent to the time frame of being “glorified together” or having that “glory about to be revealed in them” of verses 17, 18 and “eagerly awaiting the adoption” and “redemption of the body” in verse 23. Once again this is not the rocks, trees, oceans, fish, and animals groaning for the things that the Roman Christians were “about to” receive! The text and context coming into chapter 8 is addressing an intelligible creation of men under either the old-covenant law or under the creation of men “in Adam” longing and looking for this redemption and adoption to be consummated. The immediate context also bears witness that Paul is dealing with the groaning from bondage and death that the “law” brought through Adam and then was magnified through Israel’s “the law” which produced “the death.”
Paul has already eloquently described this “bondage” and struggle in chapter 7 and in chapter 8 it is Christ Jesus through the law of the Spirit of life which sets men free from the law of sin and death in verse 2. “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (verse 7). And again, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father” (verse15). The “bondage” is bondage under spiritual death that makes it impossible to please God, brought through Adam and Satan and magnified through the giving of the law at Sinai that is the issue here (Gal.4:24; 5:1; Heb.2:15). Contextually, the other possibility is that the “creation” “groaning” in “birth pains” is Israel who in and of herself could only bring forth “wind” and no salvation to the gentile world (Isa.26:18). However, the remnant of Israel (the Church) does deliver forth salvation to the world through a “momentary” suffering process and practically effortlessly (Isa.66:7-8). The other term that indicates this could be the creation of Israel groaning for what the Christians (gentile or Jewish) have, is the object of what is being groaned for – her “adoption” promises. In the very next chapter Paul specifically identifies his Israelite brethren according the flesh as pertaining the promises of “adoption” – “For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;” (Rms.9:3-4). So two groups are “groaning” for the fulfillment of the “adoption” promises to have God reveal who are His true children and thus would inherit His kingdom and new creation. The “birth pains” of Israel or time of testing and trial would only be for a “moment” and bring forth the “glory” of the new covenant promises, while the testing, groaning, and labor of the wicked among Israel in the tribulation period, would lead to intense suffering wrath and judgment (Mt.24:8f.; 1Thess.5:3; 1Pet.4:17-18; 2Cor.4:17-5:5/Rev.12/Rev.21). The then present old-covenant Jerusalem from below was producing illegitimate children. Apart from Christ, they were not of the promise and therefore left in bondage while the new-covenant Jerusalem from above was producing children through the power of the Holy Spirit and the gospel (Gal.4). The old-covenant creation was groaning out of pure bondage to the law, while the new-covenant creation had been (and were in the process of being) set free through the work of Christ on the cross and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. But in order to fulfill the Day of Atonement law and typology, they still needed Christ to appear out of the heavenly Temple “a second time apart from sin” (Heb.9:26-28/Rms.11:26-27) to complete their salvation/redemption/adoption and freedom process.
Commentators are divided on who it was that “subjected” the creation of man here to futility. Some say Adam, some the Devil, and others God. Ultimately it was God’s sovereign decree and plan to subject both Adam (man “in Adam”) and Israel (as a corporate Adam) to “futility” or “vanity” in order that He and man “in hope” might ultimately bring His progeny to a better place of “eternal life” “in Christ.” God ordained in His sovereign counsel and redemptive plan to have Adam and Israel fail in order to serve in God’s overall plan to give man something far better than Adam or Israel ever had. No doubt it was not Adam’s will to be cast out of the garden and had there not been an angel sent to guard him from coming back in he surely would have tried. So it was with Israel, when she disobeyed and was sent out of the land into exile, she did not go willingly but “unwillingly.” God would instruct man through giving Adam and Israel “law” and “the law” that no matter how hard he tried, he could only break God’s law and needed one to stand in his stead that could obey God perfectly and impute His righteousness to their account.
Romans 8 & the Olivet Discourse compared
It should be clear that Paul’s eschatology in Romans 8 is Jesus’ eschatology in Lk.17 and the Olivet discourse. The same spiritual realm of fulfillment being “in” or “within” man along with the same imminent time frame for fulfillment and consummation are discussed by both Paul and Jesus:
|Romans 8||Olivet Discourse & Lk.17|
|Present sufferings (vss.17-18)||Suffering to come (Mt.24:9)|
|Will receive & share in Christ’s glory (vss.17-18)||Christ comes in glory (Mt.24:30)|
|Glory will be “in” them (vs.18)||Kingdom will be realized “within” (Lk.17:21-37)|
|Redemption & salvation – resurrection (vss.23-24)||Redemption & salvation – resurrection (Lk.21:27-28; Mt.24:13, 30-31)|
|Pains of childbirth (vs.22)||Birth pains of the tribulation (Mt.24:8)|
|This was “about to” take place toward the end of their generation (vs.18)||This would all happen in their “this generation” (Mt.24:34)|
The redemption of the body (singular) is dealing with the Church – the Body of Christ. Mortal bodies (plural) are identified covenantally with what corporate body they are in – in Adam (body of sin, body of death, flesh) or the Body of Christ – the Church. Being “mortal” or “weak” and the like phrases, are referring to the weakness and futility of the law to purge the conscience of dead works and bring about salvation and justification. Our interpretation of Romans 8 is consistent with Paul’s theology of imminence throughout the book. Obviously, Mathison, Gentry, and Sproul have a creedal and career guarding “a priori” controlling their exegesis of imminence in Romans 8! This was a redemption and glory that was “about to be” revealed “in” them. The “redemption” and “adoption” promises belonged to Israel (Rms.9:4) and until her promises were fulfilled and that first old-covenant heaven and earth passed away (Mt.5:17-18), there could be no salvation and resurrection for Paul as an Israelite, let alone the Gentiles (Rms.11).
6) “…nor things about to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rms. 8:38 WUESTNT).
As discussed already, these Christians were going to be facing some serious opposition, persecution, and “sufferings” in the immediate future. This was Paul’s point in quoting Ps.44 just earlier – them being as lambs to the slaughter as a description of the “things about to come.” Paul was “filling up” the sufferings which were lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His Body the Church (Cols.1:24). The “filling up the measure” and rendering vengeance and wrath upon the persecutors of Paul and the other apostles and prophets of the early church was rendered in the judgment of AD 70 or in “this generation” (Mt.23/1Thess.2:14-16/2Thess.1:6-7). And yet none of these momentary severe persecutions could separate them from, or compare to God’s love and the gift of eternal life!
7) “For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth.” “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” (Rms. 9:28; 11:25-27)
There is obviously a great debate between Amillennialists and Postmillennialists on the salvation of “all Israel” in Romans 11:25-26 even among two of our opponents–Gentry and Strimple. Postmillennialist’s such as Gentry and Mathison argue “all Israel” is referring to a mass conversion of ethnic Jews before Christ comes and Amillennialist’s understand “all Israel” to be addressing the salvation of the church as the new Israel of God taking place now. As usual, the truth is found in between the two positions. But lets add a third element of truth to the scenario and for the sake of argument, let’s grant Romans 11 is dealing with the salvation of ethnic Jews and throw in the preterist interpretations of Postmillennialists and partial preterists James Jordan and Gary DeMar whom believe this passage was fulfilled by A.D. 70,
“It occurred to me that perhaps Romans 11 predicts an event that was future to Paul, but not future to us; to wit: that Romans 11 predicts a conversion of many Jews to Christ just before the destruction of Israel in A.D. 70. The more I thought about it, the more sense this interpretation made.
As I shared my thoughts with several theologian-friends, I found that others had begun to think along the same lines. I was encouraged to write up my new thoughts and publish them in this newsletter. I have been reluctant to do so, however, because so many other friends have strongly propounded the futurist view of Romans 11. Finally, however, I have been persuaded to share my thoughts with a wider audience.” 
“Genesis 46 provides a list of only 70 actual blood descendants of Abraham who went into Egypt. Thus, from the very beginning, the Israelites were defined by covenant, not by blood and race.” (ibid.)
“What this means is that very few Jews at the time of Christ had any of Abraham’s blood in them. They were a nation formed by covenant, not a race formed by blood. To be sure, Jesus Himself was a true blood descendant of Abraham, and His genealogy is important for theological reasons, but few other Jews could trace their genealogy to Abraham. What I seek to establish by this survey is this: With the passing away of the Old Covenant, there is no longer any such thing as a Jew in the Biblical sense, unless by “True Jews” we mean Christians. There is no covenant, and therefore there is no nation, no “race.”
What, then, are modern Jews? Modern Jews are people who choose to think of themselves as descendants of Israel. Most modern Jews are not semites, but are descended form Eastern European tribes that converted to Judaism in the middle ages. Arthur Koestler’s ‘The Thirteenth Tribe’ provides much information about this. Modern Jews do not worship the God of the Old Testament. They are either secular humanists, or else Talmudists, and the Talmud has no more relation to the Old Testament than does the Quran or the Book of Mormon. Like the Quran and the Book of Mormon, the Talmud and Mishnah are designed to add to and reinterpret the Old Testament in such a way as to obliterate completely the revelation of God through Jesus Christ (compare Luke 24:27). The “God” of Judaism is as much a fiction as the “God” of Islam and the “God” of Mormonism.” (ibid., emphasis added).
Gary DeMar agrees,
“Two-thousand years have passed since Romans was written. The Jews have had plenty of time to be “jealous” (Rom. 11:11). The Jews in Paul’s day were jealous. That’s why Jews were persecuting the church; (4) salvation of those Jews who survive the Great Tribulation. This becomes a debate over when the GT took/takes place. A remnant of Jews was saved prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, therefore, the GT is a past event; (5) the remnant of Jews living during the period of covenant transition until the time Jerusalem was judged and the temple destroyed. This interpretation makes the most sense given the time indicators in the passage.1. Paul is describing the remnant in his day (11:5) in the same way that Elijah was describing the remnant in his own day (1 Kings 19:10).
- “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin” (Rom. 11:1).
- The remnant is alive “at the present time” (11:5), that is, in Paul’s day. It’s this remnant that Paul hopes to save through the preaching of the gospel, many of whom have already been saved (cf. Acts 2:5–12, 37–41).
2. There is no mention of a future tribulation or an “after the rapture” period in Romans 9–11.3. Paul wants to save “some” of his “fellow-countrymen” (11:14).
- He is speaking of the present.
- What help is Paul’s “ministry” (11:13) going to be more than 2000 years in the future?: “So these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy” (11:31).
4. Save them from what? Save them from the coming judgment upon Jerusalem that took place in A.D. 70.”
Romans 9-11 is not addressing so called “Jews” let alone a mass conversion of them within the nation of “Israel” in our day or in the near or distant future! With the “soon” passing of the old covenant in A.D.70 (Heb.8:13), there is no covenantal prophetic literal and national “Israel” in the Scriptures. All of Israel‘s promises were fulfilled when all of the law and the propehets of Israel‘s scriptures were fulfilled in A.D. 70. This in and of itself makes Mathison’s attempts at something finally resembling exegesis in his chapter totally pointless. The unique contextual setting for Romans 9-11 is that national and ethnic Israelite’s or Jews whom are currently under the old-covenant are present throughout. But the problem for Postmillennial and Dispensational authors, who take this position, is that the old covenant must still be in force and unfulfilled. We would likewise agree with elements of truth found within the Amillennial school in that how “all Israel” is “saved” 11:25-27 is referring to the believing remnant which is the church comprised of gentiles and believing Jews. The hardened state of the Jews, a brief future salvation for some of them, and the great commission before Christ returns in the book is considered a “short work upon the land” and is not to be stretched out for thousands of years post A.D. 70 per Mathison. Hermeneutically and logically, if R.C. Sproul can “reasonably” take the time texts in Romans 13:11-12 and apply them to the A.D.70 “wrath” of Romans 2, then why can’t we take the time texts throughout Romans and apply them to the “salvation” of Israel and Christ coming out of Zion to forgive His people from their sins in 11:26-27? Remember, Mathison’s subject is supposed to be to develop the eschatological time texts of the New Testament and he once again fails miserably at addressing this topic throughout his chapter let alone here in Romans. He fails to harmonize his futuristic interpretation of Romans 11 with the imminence throughout the epistle.
We agree with both Strimple and Gentry that the resurrection in Romans 11:15 is both the general resurrection at the last day, “That is, Resurrection Day…” and it is also, “…a metaphor for radical spiritual transformation.” And when we combine what these men have said with other “orthodox” Reformed views of men such as Jordan and DeMar, we see this “salvation” and Last Day resurrection occurred by A.D. 70.
8) “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.” (Rms. 16:20)It is more than telling that Mr. Mathison does not address the “crushing” of Satan “shortly” since Paul is addressing (Gen.3:15). Where is any discussion of this text in his sections on the “Restoration of Creation,” “The Nearness of the End,” or “The Destruction of Death and the Devil,” (WSTTB?, pp.195-197, 200-203)???
Obviously Mathison is having a hard time reconciling this text with his partial postmillennial preterism. The crushing and judging of Satan and his allies in a “shortly” “at hand” time period corresponds well with the same time period discussed throughout Revelation (Rev. 1:1, 19:17-21, 20 20:10, 22:10-12). It is difficult for me to understand how Mathison can take the judgment upon the churches enemies in 1 & 2 Thessalonians as being “punished with everlasting destruction” with Christ coming in A.D.70 and yet not have Satan involved or the lake of fire being cross referenced here as most evangelicals and reformed theologians do. Satan was bound during the millennium so that he could no longer deceive the “nations” (Rev.20:2-3). Paul says the victory of the gospel through the great commission had been made known “to all nations” (Rms.16:25-26). Therefore, the “crushing” (Gen.3:15) and judging of Satan along with the “restoration of creation” would “shortly” take place according to Paul and John. We don’t need Satan around to have “evil” and wars in the world today. James says wars come from the hearts of unregenerate men (Jms.4:1). As I discussed in my Genesis material and brief critique of Snoke, “evil” was in the world before the fall and God has ordained that it continue that He might demonstrate the power of His sovereign rule and grace through the Church!
Summary of the time texts in Romans.
We found no evidence throughout Romans that the time texts should not be taken literally or that somehow they got postponed because of God’s longsuffering in the great commission as pathetically defended by Richard Pratt. Just the opposite is true, because the sign of the great commission had been fulfilled during the time Paul wrote (Rms.10:18; Rms.16:27-28) the “glory” “redemption of the Body” and “salvation” for the Church along with the crushing of Satan was “about to” take place in an “at hand” and “shortly” time frame. The “time” of these redemptive events was “fixed” within the determinative will and plan of a sovereign God. The covenant promises of God in Romans made to Israel (not divorced from the Church) are connected to the A.D.70 time frame references and were thus “irrevocable.”
 R.C. Sproul, The Last Days According To Jesus When Did Jesus Say He Would Return? p.99, Baker pub. 1998. Emphasis MJS
 R.C. Sproul, Editor, Keith Matheson Associate Editor, THE REFORMATION STUDY BIBLE, p.1636 Ligonier Ministries, 2005, emphasis added
 Sproul, Last Days According To Jesus, ibid, p.139-140 emphasis added.
 John Lightfoot, COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM THE TALMUD AND HEBRAICA, Volume 4, p. 157, Hendrickson pub., emphasis added.
 Online Bible Software, John Gill’s Expositor, ibid. So disturbing was Gill’s non traditional way of understanding (Rms.8:20-22), the editor has to add, “(The whole creation was brought under a curse because of Adam’s sin. This curse will be removed in the eternal state when Christ will restore the creation to the way it was in the beginning. Editor.).”
 John Locke, The Claredon Edition of the Works of John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of St Paul, Volume 2, p.789, Oxford AT THE CLAREDON PRESS 1987.
 Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, Libronix Digital Library; The Complete Word Study Dictionary of the N.T., Libronix Digital Library, The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Libronix Digital Library.
 James B. Jordan, The Future of Israel Re-examined, http://www.preteristarchive.com/PartialPreterism/jordan-james_pp_01.html. Jordan is in error in thinking that the millennium (Rev.20) began in A.D.70 and that there remains a future second coming.
 Gary DeMar, “All Israel will be saved”: Notes on Romans 11:26, http://www.americanvision.org/articlearchive/10-22-04.asp
 Gentry and Strimple, ibid., pp. 113, 142.