We are going to be here a while. Admittedly, when I came across this passage a few years ago, it was the most difficult passage I had ever grasped. (Yes, I have read the book of Revelation.) But I'm not alone in this. Most theologians will tell you that what Paul is saying here is beyond what most of us can comprehend. This should come as no surprise, after all he wrote 2/3rd's of the New Testament. Most of the theology you practice comes from his writings - so yes, I believe Paul understood somethings we have yet to grasp.
Verse 18 - This is fairly easy. After a hard week of work or after accomplishing a difficult project we feel that we have earned our paycheck or praise from our peers. No sin in that - you probably did earn it. But I have never heard anyone say that they have earned their way into heaven. For anything (Yes, I said ANYTHING!) you go through - you will not say when you get to heaven, "I deserve this." Why? When you get there, and you better, what Jesus has prepared for you is so much more than you could ever deserve. The WOW factor here is so off the scale so that when we see Jesus all we will be able to say is, "Thank You! Praise You! & I Love You!"
Verse 19 - 21 - Creation, both animate and inanimate, is eagerly awaiting for us (the Sons of God) to receive our full glory. You are now at the top of the roller coaster ride. You know, the first hill that gives you the momentum you need is steep! So hang on.
Paul by no means is implying that the earth has a soul. Environmentalists and activists would have you believe otherwise. That is why I am very cautious about their teachings and philosophies. Environmentalism for some is a cult and religion. When you hear the term, "Mother Earth." Every alarm in your soul better be going off. It isn't a term of endearment - it is a religious term that is used to describe the god that people worship.
A good friend of mine coined a term which I have adopted also. "I am a environmentalist with a chainsaw." Do I believe that we should be good stewards of the earth? Yes I do. Do we need to change some of our ways? Yes I do believe so. Do I believe that creation has a higher value than man? No way! Do I believe that mankind has a hope of ever returning this earth back to it's original balance and state? Never. The running philosophy is that mankind - through abuse of nature has made the earth the way it is. Nope, never happened. The earth is the way is it because of man alright - but it came from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We read in Genesis how nature changed. The food chain became a reality and the ground itself resisted the very plants it was created for. Why is the earth doing what it is doing? Because of the weight of our sins. It is groaning and looking forward to the day when sin is dealt with and we will receive our full reward at our Day of Judgement.
More to come . . .