Everyone Will Be Free
“I reckon that the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us. For the eager expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will but through him that subjected it, on the basis of hope that the creation itself also will be set free from enslavement to corruption and have the glorious freedom of the children of God. For we know that all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now.”—ROMANS 8:18-22.
IN THIS portion of his letter to Christians in Rome, the apostle Paul gives an outstanding synopsis of why lives lack true liberty and are so often marked by emptiness and pain. He also explains how we can gain true freedom.
“The Sufferings of the Present Season”
Paul does not minimize “the sufferings of the present season” when he says that they “do not amount to anything in comparison with the glory that is going to be revealed in us.” During Paul’s time as well as later, Christians suffered greatly under the harsh totalitarian rule exercised by Roman authorities, who cared little about human rights. Once Rome came to believe that Christians were enemies of the State, she subjected them to brutal repression. Says historian J. M. Roberts: “Many Christians in the capital [Rome] certainly perished horribly in the arena or were burned alive.” (Shorter History of the World) Of these victims of Nero’s persecution, another report states: “Some were crucified, some were sewn up in the skins of animals and hunted down by dogs, some were covered with pitch and set alight to serve as living torches when darkness fell.”—New Testament History, by F. F. Bruce.
Those early Christians certainly would have liked freedom from such oppression, but they were not prepared to violate the teachings of Jesus Christ to get it. They remained absolutely neutral, for example, in the struggle between the Roman ruling authorities and such Jewish freedom fighters as the Zealots. (John 17:16; 18:36) To the Zealots, “talk about waiting God’s good time was not what the present crisis demanded.” What was needed, they said, was “violent action against the enemy,” Rome. (New Testament History) The early Christians thought differently. “Waiting God’s good time” was to them the only realistic option. They were convinced that nothing but divine intervention would permanently end “the sufferings of the present season” and bring true, lasting freedom. (Micah 7:7; Habakkuk 2:3) Before we consider how that will happen, though, let us examine why “the creation was subjected to futility” in the first place.
“Subjected to Futility”
Here the word “creation,” says Benjamin Wilson in The Emphatic Diaglott, does not mean “the brute and inanimate creation” as some suggest but, rather, “all mankind.” (Compare Colossians 1:23.) It refers to the whole human family—all of us who long for freedom. We were “subjected to futility” because of the actions of our original parents. It was “not by [our] own will” or as a result of personal individual choice that this happened. We inherited our situation. From the Scriptural point of view, Rousseau was wrong when he said that “man was born free.” Each of us was born in bondage to sin and imperfection, enslaved, as it were, to a system filled with frustration and futility.—Romans 3:23.
Why was this the case? Because our original parents, Adam and Eve, wanted to be “like God,” to have complete self-determination, deciding for themselves what is good and what is bad. (Genesis 3:5) They ignored one vital factor about freedom. Only the Creator can have absolute freedom. He is the Universal Sovereign. (Isaiah 33:22; Revelation 4:11) Human freedom must mean freedom within limits. That is why the disciple James encouraged Christians in his day to be governed by “the perfect law that belongs to freedom.”—James 1:25.
Jehovah rightly expelled Adam and Eve from his universal family, and they died as a result. (Genesis 3:19) But what about their descendants? Mercifully, although they could now pass on only imperfection, sin, and death, Jehovah still allowed them to produce children. So “death spread to all men.” (Romans 5:12) In that sense God “subjected [the creation] to futility.”
“The Revealing of the Sons of God”
Jehovah subjected the creation to futility “on the basis of hope” that one day freedom would be restored to the human family through the activities of “the sons of God.” Who are these “sons of God”? They are disciples of Jesus Christ who, like the rest of “the [human] creation,” are born enslaved to sin and imperfection. By birth they have no rightful place in God’s clean, perfect universal family. But Jehovah does something remarkable for them. Through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, He frees them from bondage to inherited sin and declares them “righteous,” or spiritually clean. (1 Corinthians 6:11) Then he adopts them as “sons of God,” bringing them back into his universal family.—Romans 8:14-17.
As Jehovah’s adopted sons, they will have a glorious privilege. They will be “priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth” alongside Jesus Christ as part of God’s heavenly Kingdom, or government. (Revelation 5:9, 10; 14:1-4) This is a government firmly established on principles of freedom and justice—not on oppression and tyranny. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 61:1-4) The apostle Paul says that these sons of God are associates of Jesus, the long-promised ‘seed of Abraham.’ (Galatians 3:16, 26, 29) As such, they play a key role in fulfilling a promise God made to his friend Abraham. Part of that promise is that by means of Abraham’s seed (or, offspring), “all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.”—Genesis 22:18.
What blessing do they bring to mankind? The sons of God share in liberating the whole human family from the terrible consequences of Adamic sin and in restoring mankind to perfection. People “out of all nations and tribes and peoples” can bless themselves by exercising faith in the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ and by submitting to his benevolent Kingdom rule. (Revelation 7:9, 14-17; 21:1-4; 22:1, 2; Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) In this way “all creation” will once again enjoy “the glorious freedom of the children of God.” This will not be some kind of limited, temporary political freedom but, rather, freedom from everything that has caused pain and distress to the human family ever since Adam and Eve rejected God’s sovereignty. No wonder the apostle Paul could say that “the sufferings of the present season do not amount to anything” in comparison with the glorious service that faithful ones will perform!
When does “the revealing of the sons of God” begin? Very soon now, when Jehovah makes it clear to all who the sons of God are. This will be when these “sons,” resurrected to the spirit realm, share with Jesus Christ in cleansing this earth of evil and oppression at God’s war of Har–Magedon. (Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14, 27; Revelation 2:26, 27; 16:16; 17:14; 19:11-21) We see around us mounting evidence that we are deep into “the last days,” when God’s long tolerance of rebellion and its resultant wickedness will end.—2 Timothy 3:1-5; Matthew 24:3-31.
Yes, it is true, as the apostle Paul says, that “all creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now”—but not for much longer. Millions now living will see the “restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time,” including a restoration of peace, freedom, and justice to the whole human family.—Acts 3:21.
True Freedom at Last
What must you do to enjoy this “glorious freedom of the children of God”? Jesus Christ said: “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32) That is the key to freedom—learning and then obeying Christ’s commands and teachings. This brings a degree of freedom even now. In the near future, it will bring complete freedom under the rule of Christ Jesus. The wise course is to get to know Jesus’ “word” through a study of the Bible. (John 17:3) Like the early Christians, actively associate with the congregation of Christ’s true disciples. By doing so, you can benefit from the liberating truths Jehovah makes available through his organization today.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
While “waiting for the revealing of the sons of God,” you may cultivate the confidence the apostle Paul had in Christ’s protective care and support, even when sufferings and injustices seem almost unbearable. After discussing the revealing of the sons of God, Paul asked: “Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword?” (Romans 8:35) Of course, Christians in Paul’s day were still, to use Rousseau’s words, “in chains” to repressive forces of one kind or another. They were “being put to death all day long” like “sheep for slaughtering.” (Romans 8:36) Did they allow that to overwhelm them?
“To the contrary,” writes Paul, “in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37) Victorious despite all that early Christians had to endure? How so? “I am convinced,” he says in answer, “that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38, 39) You too can ‘come off victorious’ from whatever “tribulation or distress or persecution” you may have to endure in the meantime. God’s love guarantees that soon—very soon now—we “will be set free from [all] enslavement . . . and have the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
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“All creation keeps on groaning together and being in pain together until now”
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‘Creation will be set free from all enslavement and have the glorious freedom of the children of God’