N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 76, Part 1 (the Creation Waits with Eager Longing)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 8:18

(Rom. 8:18 ESV)  18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

The translations differ as to whether Paul means revealed “in” (KJV, NKJV, NIV) us or “to” (ESV, NET, NASB, NRSV) us. The Greek preposition is eis, usually translated “into,” “unto,” or “toward.” Wright says that the preposition is —

implying not merely that we are to be shown a vision of glory (as the NRSV implies), nor simply that a glory will appear within us (as the NIV implies), but that the future revelation will bestow glory upon us, from above, as a gift.

N.T. Wright, “The Letter to the Romans,” in The Acts of the Apostles-The First Letter to the Corinthians, vol. 10 of NIB, Accordance electronic ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 595.

That is, not only will we see glorious things, and not only will glorious things take place, but we’ll participate in the glories of the New Heavens and New Earth (NHNE) (which Paul will get to shortly).

Romans 8:19

(Rom. 8:19 ESV)  19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 

“Sons of God” [JFG]

Really? The glory that is already in us by virtue of the Spirit’s indwelling (like God’s Glory, the Shekinah, in the midst of the tabernacle or Temple) is hidden from most. When Jesus returns, the curtain will be torn and our true, renewed, Spirit-empowered natures will be visible and on full display — revealing us to be “the sons of God” — the true Israel and (are you ready?) kings and queens of the universe.

Now, as we earlier covered, “sons of God” is taken from Deuteronomy, where it refers to the Israelites (male and female, but “sons” makes clear that we all inherit, even women). But “son of God” has a second meaning in the OT —

(Ps. 2:7-9 ESV)  7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.  9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 

“Son of God” was the title of the King of the Jews — from David to Jesus. And Paul is now shifting gears and hence metaphors. We’re not just the new Israel by faith in Jesus. We are also restored to the dominion over the Creation that God gave humankind, male and female, in Gen 1:26-28.

(By the way, “begotten” would be translated “born” if Paul were speaking of a mother rather than a father. It’s the same word used by Jesus in John 3:5 to speak of Christians being “born again,” but since Jesus is thinking of God the Father, I think the better translation is “begotten again,” which ties Jesus’s words to Psalm 2, which would make a lot of sense and be very consistent with the Greek usage throughout the rest of the NT. And, of course, to be re-begotten fits well with what Paul just said about God adopting us. He begets us again. We are re-Fathered.)

“The creation waits with eager longing” [JFG]

To the modern, Western mind, it makes no sense to speak of the Creation — largely inanimate matter — “longing” for anything. How can the Creation have feelings? Is this real? Or is Paul just being poetic? Well, I think the answer is somewhere in between. That is, the renewal of Creation by God will be quite real. And the OT often speaks in terms of human sin impacting the Creation beyond humanity. In fact, the OT prophets often speak of the “land” or other non-human parts of the Creation yearning for redemption.

What does Paul mean by these images? Well, whatever the prophets meant by their similar language. It means at least that the heavens and the earth are affected by human sin. In fact, many of these passages can be most easily found by reading Creation Care literature, arguing for Christians to see God’s mission as including care for the Creation. It’s not all going to burn. Some parts will be redeemed.

James D. G. Dunn explains that “creation” includes more than just humanity —

This is implied by the clear allusion to the narratives of creation and of man’s/Adam’s fall (Gen 1–3, particularly in the next sentence [v 20])—creation understood in distinction from humankind (and from the creator), as also in 1:25. As (the rest of) creation in the beginning had its role in relation to man, the crown and steward of creation (Gen 1:26–30; 2:19), so creation’s rediscovery of its role depends on the restoration of man to his intended glory as the image of God.

James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, Word BC 38A; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 487.

2. Isaiah 65 and 66, Rev 21 and 22, and all the other NHNE passages speak of the entire Creation being redeemed or transformed. I mean, Gen 1 says that God created “the heavens and the earth,” being the very definition of “Creation.” If we’re going to have a NEW or RENEWED heavens and earth, then the entire Creation is to be redeemed/renewed. God says, “Behold, I’m making all things new” (Rev 21:5). (“New” translates kainos rather than neos. Especially when speaking of the afterlife, the NT writers used kainos to mean made new again or refreshed, whereas neos was used of something newly made. Hence, “made new,” “New Heavens and New Earth,” “new creation,” and “new covenant” all use kainos.)

3. If the entire Creation is to be renewed and freed from futility, as Paul is about to explain, then the entire Creation must have been subjected to futility and bondage.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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9 Responses to N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 76, Part 1 (the Creation Waits with Eager Longing)

  1. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I read the verses in Psalms that have been quoted. But, I also read the rest of the text in this chapter. Look at the complete and tell us how the narrative is a description of Jesus. To me the last part is as far from Jesus (a loving Savior) as any king could get.
    Psa 2:1-12 ESV Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? (2) The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, (3) “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (4) He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. (5) Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, (6) “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” (7) I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. (8) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. (9) You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” (10) Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (11) Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. (12) Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

    Of course, kissing the son could be an acronym to serving him, and we easily understand that to take refuge in him we will be blessed. But, the concept of him being easily angered and then his wrath quickly kindled, does not sound like the description of our Savior.

    My point is that the messages of these verses can all be applied to a human king, and he would fulfill the role perfectly. Then we have verse 7 which specifically states that, “The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you”. When did God explain that he was not identifying the author of the book. Did he not also create the author? Was the author of the book (a king) not anointed of the Lord?

  2. Monty says:

    Larry,

    I know you’ve read 2 Thessalonians 1 about Jesus punishing those who know not God. Jesus is God. When you read about God’s wrath being kindled, his wrath is the same as his Son’s. “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” The mercy of Jesus is the mercy of God. There is no variance. The Father is not more wrathful than the Son and the Son is not more loving than the Father. They are One.

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    Monty,
    I sure have. But, re read the Psalms 2 again and then explain to me who is doing the speaking, who is the author speaking to and especially notice the times specified in which these events are or will happen. The specification is either now or today, there is no projection into the future, especially as far into the future as it was to Christ. Do we believe that God would tell Jesus that he must ask as in verse 8 for this action to granted?
    (8) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
    If this action is or was for Christ, then what would he need with the earth? His possession? I mean did you not explain that God and the Son Christ are One? The only way this can make any sense, would be if the message was not about God’s Son Christ, but about kings of the land in that time. Considering the message which God wrote upon the wall which Daniel interpreted, there are many similarities.

  4. Monty says:

    Larry,

    There are many Messianic prophecies that have a double meaning. The verse applied often times to someone in the present and also to someone(Christ) in the future. The Apostles often quote an OT verse that surely applied hundreds of years earlier to some present day event(in the past) and applied it to fulfilment in their day. They simply didn’t have a problem with it. One reason is they didn’t over analyze it.

  5. Larry Cheek says:

    Monty,
    So history does repeat itself, that is a fact. Does that mean that all authority for any event has to be traced back to the original event?
    Then you state,” There are many Messianic prophecies that have a double meaning. The verse applied often times to someone in the present and also to someone(Christ) in the future.”
    I guess you would have to give me an example of the double meaning, I can not think of a single one. But, one thing I believe that I can be certain of is there was only one Messiah to which prophesy was directed. Any similarities of events concerning the lives of men in the past was just coincidence. The only reference to a likeness of Christ in men of the past that I could relate to would be Adam bringing sin into the world and Christ bring the redemption from sins.

  6. JohnF says:

    In John 3:5 I would prefer “anothen” to be translated “reborn from above.” That understanding is consistent with the lexical definition(s) of anothen. Also consitent with what I think is the intent of Jesus’ statement.

    (Still not getting e-mail notifications.)

  7. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    How could this be a description of life in a NHNE of the time after resurrection? Is there not death here? Will we not be living longer than a tree? Will we really be building houses, planting vineyards, producing children? If we will have descendants they must have been produced after we are there. There will be sinners there who are a hundred years old? There will be Wolves and lambs (not Sheep) grazing together, Lions eating straw, serpent that eats (Satan does not eat) eats dust, sounds like the curse upon Satan. This sounds a lot more like our world with these animals being examples of wolves who are converted to followers of the Lamb, the Kings no longer in authority, having to live like the balance of the inhabitants.
    Isa 65:17-25 ESV “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. (18) But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. (19) I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. (20) No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. (21) They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. (22) They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. (23) They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. (24) Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. (25) The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.

  8. GrandpaFloyd says:

    Larry,

    Sorry, I’m a bit late to the discussion but I just now saw your comment March 17 asking for messianic prophecies with double meaning. The first one that comes to mind is the very chapter in question, Psalm 2. Peter, John and the early believers prayed part of the 2nd Psalm in Acts 4:25, 26. Paul also quoted Psalm 2 in his sermon at Antioch in Acts 13. And the writer of Hebrews quotes from it twice. I think that Psalm 69 is a great example of double fulfillment. David is clearly speaking of himself in vs 5 when he says “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.” But Jesus quotes verse 4 as applying to himself. And in Rom 15:3 Paul applies verse 9 to Jesus. And the list goes on, probably a couple dozen just from the Psalms.

  9. Dwight says:

    It is strange, but I remember the Jehovah’s Witness handing me a tract with people sitting with a lion on one side and a lamb on the other while their children played or was it 7th Day Adventist?

    But anyways, according to the scriptures Matt.22:30 “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”
    Now what the Jews thought and expected is being corrected by Jesus.
    Just because the Jews thought in terms of a NHNE doesn’t mean that was the reality of the situation.

    Isaiah 65 is one of these mixed bag visuals. It is harking back to creation “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food.”
    But then again, “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.”
    While all animals might have been vegetarian at one point, Adam and Eve were not builders of houses, but inhabitors of a garden.
    Will there be infants and if so, then there will be marriage.
    And so it goes.

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