The Greek word above is found in the following text. Can you guess its meaning?
"For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." (Romans 8:19)
Give up? Itís the phrase anxious longing. It might also be translated anticipation. Now thereís a word! The KJV translates it earnest expectation which expresses the same idea.
Read the passage again and note the emphasis on the urgency of this revelation. The phrase, "waits eagerly" is from the Greek apekdechomai which literally means to fully expect. The combination of these two words in reference to this event emphasizes its imminency. Early Christians fully expected the consummation of all things in their lifetime, and with good reason; they were told to!
There is a great deal of scholarly work addressing the nature of the creation (or creature) under consideration in this and the following verses of Romans 8. Some would apply it to the entire physical creation. Others would reference the Jewish world. Still others would include all the nations of the earth. Some would understand it to mean all believers. And finally, some propose a composite understanding.
I lean toward that last position myself. While there is evidence that the term applies to all nations (see Colossians 1), other passages provide additional insight that is worth considering.
For example, we read in Hebrews 9:11-12, "But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us."
Building in this passage is the same word translated creation elsewhere, and indeed the NASB and others translate it that way. However, note that the context of Hebrews 9 is a contrast of the New Covenant system with the old to demonstrate the superiority of the new creation.
I see several possibilities as I look at Romans 8:19. It is possible that "the creation" spoken of here is a reference to all those who are a part of the new creation.
Who was anticipating "the revealing of the sons of God"?
The Gentiles certainly werenít anticipating such a revelation. Christís ministry as well as that of the apostles make it clear that there were Gentiles who longed for God and redemption. But, did they have cause to anticipate such? Thatís a discussion for another day and I can make a case both ways. (It might also be of interest to you that "revealing" here is from the same root word as "revelation" we frequently call the apocalypse. Christís apocalypse would also be that which confirmed who the children of God were.)
Overall, it seems to me that the biblical record speaks of the hope of Israel as represented in the coming Messiah and the establishment of the eternal kingdom. It is true that the hope of all the world is the same hope, but they had special reason to anticipate its consummation on their behalf. Consequently, there is a sense in which we might understand this passage to speak of their hope.
That said, it is obvious that whatever "creation" is intended here, there is an imminent expectancy in regard to the vindication of the "sons of God."
Those Jews with a vested interest in the traditions which had been erected around the Old Covenant were not about to give up their position, prestige, and profit without a fight. The murder of their Messiah only hardened their hearts to the good news He proclaimed. They quickly turned their attention to afflicting first century Christians.
Their action stood in judgment against them and the perseverance of the ekklesia was its hallmark. Times were really tough and the epistles are especially full of admonitions to stand firm. One recurrent theme in those admonitions was the consolation that their suffering would soon end.
That end would be so dramatic that all the world would know that they were chosen of God and that their persecutors were His enemies. In essence, Paul is saying that the world is on edge waiting for the confirmation that those who follow Christ are, in fact, the people of God.
The air is heavy with anticipation. Christ had said that confirmation would come in their lifetime. While He was not specific as to the time and season, He made it clear that it was after the gospel had been taken to all the world. Paul tells us that task was completed (Colossians 1:6).
Christ had promised that "the end" would come when the gospel of the kingdom had been preached to the nations (Matt. 24:14). The Greek word here is telos which is found in various forms throughout the New Testament. One notable place is 1 Cor. 13:10 where the form teleon is translated "that which is perfect." This is a word of fulfillment not termination! The form tetelestai is also well remembered in Christís last words, "It is finished."
Iíve included that last reference to demonstrate that not every use in the New Testament refers to the consummation of all things. Though Christís death, burial and resurrection are the apex of redemptive history, there was more to come before the Old Covenant age passed from existence leaving the New Creation firmly established.
Christ could rightly say, "It is finished" because the sacrifice was complete. The completion of the sacrifice did not, however, complete His work and the establishment of the kingdom of God.
The old system was still in place and operative. In fact, the apostles continued to participate in its traditions. Christ instructed them about how to view them differently. At what is commonly called the institution of the Lordís Supper, he admonished them to remember Him as they shared the bread and wine.
It is of critical importance to understand that this was not just any piece of bread or cup of wine. They were eating the Passover meal and Christ is specific in His message, "this bread ... this cup." The specific piece of bread is called the afikomen. Weíve talked about these elements before, but a reminder here is in order.
The afikomen was one-half a piece of unleavened bread shared at the Passover table. It began the celebration whole, placed in a pouch with three compartments so that three pieces of bread are stacked one on the other in separate sleeves. As the meal progresses, the middle piece (Christ) is removed, broken in two, wrapped in white linen, and hidden under the table until time for the third cup of wine which followed the actual meal eaten during the observation of Passover.
"After dinner," the afikomen is "resurrected" to the table and eaten with the third cup of wine called "The Cup of Redemption." The symbolism in all this is hard to miss and there is much more than I have hinted at here.
It is "this" and "this" cup which Christ instructs them to see in a new way. Note that the specific article touto is used. His comments regard the specific elements before Him. His instruction anticipates that they will continue sharing in the Passover celebration. However, from now on they are to see these elements as His body and blood. By doing that, they are to "proclaim the Lordís death until He comes." (1 Corinthians 11:26)
What was to happen when He came? In Matthew 26, Jesus tells them He would drink it new with them. What does that mean for us today? Are we to still be observing the Passover and taking the bread and wine to show forth the Lordís death? My thoughts are still in transition but I'm not afraid of questions! They drive diligence in study.
Most of these are not new questions for me. Iíve wrestled with them for more than a quarter of a century and I may never know the answer. I welcome your thoughts!
Nevertheless, what I want us to see is that there was intense anticipation of something about to happen: namely, the Parousia of Christ. Was their hope disappointed?
Even as the "fiery ordeal" had come upon those early believers, Peter encouraged them with a reminder that they would not be disappointed by their hope in Christ. The KJV translates it "confounded" but the Greek is even more descriptive. It has the idea of one who is embarrassed.
Peter is telling them that Christ will not embarrass them. What He has prophesied is coming to pass. They are caught in the midst of it and it will all end shortly to their glory in Christ.
How his words must have quickened their anticipation as the tribulation mounted! If they did not receive what was promised, their hope was in vain and Peter misled them. I canít accept that! I find it impossible to stand with C. S. Lewis and others who are "embarrassed" that Christ was wrong.
Lewisí diligent scholarship convinced him that Christ indeed taught his followers He would appear in that generation; however, his study failed to reveal to him how Christ kept His word.
The anticipation of those early believers was not in vain. Their hope did not become a cause of embarrassment to them. To the contrary, they shared in the glory that Christ exhibited as He came in judgment in A.D. 70, obliterated the Old Covenant system, and ushered in the promised kingdom of God.
What do we anticipate? How do our anticipations drive our actions? What happens if we anticipate the wrong things? Does any of this matter? I know, more and more questions!
Enjoy them! Get into Godís word and let Him speak the answers to you. Study with anticipation. You wonít be disappointed!
© Copyright 2003 - Jim Wade