Sunday, December 7, 2014

Earnest Expectations

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.         Romans 8:18  NKJV

Do you have good memories of Christmas’ past as I do?  The feelings of expectation as the days counted down to Christmas morning when you could finally see just what was inside all of those wrapped packages with your name on them?  Or maybe as I do, you can also remember other times in your life where you experienced the emotion of expectation while waiting for something you wanted very much to finally occur.  While most of us have, in one way or another, experienced the joy of expectation, I have to ask another question which is related to the first.  Have you ever experienced disappointment when the reality failed to live up to your expectations?

Truth be told, I think many of us would have to agree that we have been disappointed far more than not when something fails to live up to our expectations.  In fact, in our family as my three daughters were growing up, their favorite saying was “reality bites”.  As much as we might have tried to alleviate it, they experienced their fair share of disappointment as the realities of life failed to live up to their expectations.  If you are like me, it’s possible that you have never escaped the habit of asking “why?” when considering the complexities of life and the disappointments we often are called to endure. 

As I thought about the subject of expectations this week, the Spirit led me to this passage from Romans that I have to admit, caused me to pause and consider carefully exactly what the apostle Paul was trying to tell us.  I must admit, the idea that creation itself has feelings causes me to take a step back and raise my eyebrows, yet that is exactly what Paul tells us here.  Just as we are living with the expectation of being delivered from the bondage of sin at the rapture of the Church, so creation itself is waiting for the return of Christ to this world.  The unfortunate result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden was that this earth, and all of nature was punished along with man through no fault of its’ own.

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Romans 8:22  NKJV

Now let me ask you a question here.  If, as Paul tells us, creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed”, and  the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs”, is it not logical to conclude that what the world describes as “natural disasters”, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, drought, floods, fires, etc. is just creations’ way of revealing its’ own expectation of deliverance just as we do?  Now at first that might sound a little strange, but consider how often we are told much the same thing throughout the scriptures.

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the LORD. For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.         Psalms 96:11-13  NKJV

The heavens will rejoice, the earth itself will be glad, the sea will roar, the fields will be joyful, and even the trees will rejoice when Jesus returns at the end of the Great Tribulation to judge the world.  Jesus Himself said that the stones He created could cry out with rejoicing and praise in this passage from Luke describing His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”  Luke 19:37-40  NKJV

So my thoughts were that if creation itself feels much as we do, and is waiting patiently (or impatiently) for the return of Christ, it seems logical to assume our expectations are the same.  We are waiting for the promise of His return and the expectation of deliverance from the effects of sin.  As I grow older I find myself appreciating more and more the promise of a new body that will never grow old, and a life free from my sin nature and the temptations to do wrong.  I’m sure many of you would agree with me, and have given thought as I have as to just what we can expect when we finally meet our Savior in the air.

Although I highly doubt that any true believer feels that there is a possibility of being disappointed when we finally get to Heaven, I think it is reasonable to assume that the reality of what we find when we do go home might be somewhat different from some of our expectations as to what life might be like.  I recall one time listening to a pastor from California talking about his expectations of surfing on the perfect endless wave in Heaven and wondering if he missed the description in Revelation which says there will be no more seas.   What exactly are our expectations and what does the Bible tell us we will find when we arrive?  

The passage from Romans uses the phrase "earnest expectation" to describe what creation is feeling.  In the Greek, this phrase means "anxious and persistent".  Are you anxiously and persistently looking for the return of Christ?   What are your expectations of what we will find when we get to heaven?   Next week we will talk about the joy of heavenly expectations.

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