Creation’s Eager Expectation: Romans 8:19

creation's expectation

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b) Rom 8:19: Paul wrote, “For the eager expectation of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God.”

“Eager expectation” (apokaradokia),[1] which literally means “stretching the head forward,”[2] does not appear in pre-Christian literature. Elsewhere in the New Testament (NT), it occurs only in Phil 1:20.[3]

Josephus (37–95 AD) described a great warrior anticipating battle, writing, “for all those who brought ladders to the other places, he took no notice of them, but earnestly waited (apokaradokia) for the shower of arrows that was coming.”[4]

Despite the few usages of the word, the term clearly depicts an intense longing in confident expectation of fulfillment.[5]



Scholars have debated the scope of “the creation” for centuries, with various experts arguing for some or all of the following: everything God created, including all of humanity and the angels (Origen, 185–256 AD);[6] angels (Pelagius, ca. 360–418 AD);[7] and the sub-human natural world (Chrysostom,[8] 347–407 AD, among many others).[9]

Due to the Second Adam motif in Rom 5:12–21, the sub-human creation fits best in this context.[10]

God’s reversal of the fall must include the overturning of his curse of the ground (Gen 3:17–18).[11]

This personification of nature also appears in some Old Testament (OT) writings (eg. Ps 65:12–13; Ps 96:9–13). Paul depicted both the gravity of human sin and the wonder of our restoration to cosmic glory.[12]



The term “revelation” (apokaluptō) has the force of an end-time unveiling from heaven, as if someone drew the curtain back to reveal those already on stage.[13]

When that happens, everyone shall recognize our current status as God’s vice-regents—the sons and daughters of God (Eph 1:5–6).[14]

Sonship bears a strong link to image-bearing (Gen 5:3). For example, an ancient hymn describes the Son of God as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15).[15]

In the covenant which the Lord made with David, God promised, “I shall be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Sam 7:14).

Later in Israel’s history, the Lord expanded those designated as his sons from only the messiah to the end-time people of God (Hos 1:10).[16]

According to a Jewish apocryphal book:

And after this they will turn to Me in all uprightness and with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul, and I shall circumcise the foreskin of their heart and…the heart of their seed, and I shall create in them a holy spirit, and I shall cleanse them…

And their souls will cleave to me…and they will fulfill my commandments, and I shall be their Father…And they will all be called children of the living God, and every angel and every spirit will know, yea, they will know that these are my children…and that I love them.[17]



Note that the concept of being a son or daughter of God was not a New Testament innovation.

The Lord had promised to redeem righteous Jews from their exile in a second exodus, joining the gentiles with Israel as God’s people (Isa 2:1–4; Zech 8:20–23).[18]

Although Jews in the OT era recognized the term “sons of God” as a distinguishing mark exclusive to faithful members of Israel, in reality God welcomed and included gentiles who called upon him in faith (Josh 6:25; Ruth 4:9–12; 2 Sam 11:6–11).[19]

By applying several OT texts to gentiles (Isa 52:11; 2 Sam 7:14), with an overt expansion to include women, Paul demonstrated that all believers comprise the people of God (2 Cor 6:16–18).[20]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Rom 8:19. What is all of creation anticipating? Who are the sons of God? How does this knowledge encourage you?



Go to Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20)

[Related posts include Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20); Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption (Rom 8:21–22); Thorns and Thistles (Gen 3:17–18); In Adam’s Likeness and Image (Gen 5:3–5); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); Adopted as Sons (Eph 1:5–6); The Firstborn of All Creation (Col 1:15–18); Reserved for Fire (2 Pet 3:7); and Ancient Literature]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: Painful Toil (Genesis 3:17–21)]


[1] Danker et al., “ἀποκαραδοκια” (apokaradokia), BDAG, 112.

[2]Gerhard Delling, ἀποκαραδοκια” (apokaradokia), TDNT, 393.

[3] Dunn, Romans 1–8, 469.

[4]Flavius Josephus, William Whiston, trans., The Wars of the Jews, in The Works of Flavius Josephus (Auburn and Buffalo, NY: Beardsley, 1895), 3.264,

[5] Verbrugge, “ἀποκαραδοκια” (apokaradokia), TDNTWA, 62.

[6]Origen, The Writings of Origen (ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; trans. Frederick Crombie; ANF; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1869), 53–9, Https://

[7]Pelagius, Pelagius’s Expositions of Thirteen Epistles of St Paul: Introduction (TS; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1922), 191,

[8]Chrysostom, The Homilies of S. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans, 244–5,

[9] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:410.

[10] Moo, “Nature in the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” 452,

[11] Dunn, Romans 1–8, 469.

[12] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 514.

[13] Dunn, Romans 1–8, 470.

[14] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:413.

[15] Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God, 142.

[16]J. Andrew Dearman, The Book of Hosea (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 104.

[17]Charles, “The Book of Jubilees, or The Little Genesis,” 1:23–5, 6–7,

[18]Ciampa, “The History of Redemption,”  272.

[19]Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 269–70.

[20]Mark A. Seifrid, “Romans,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 771.