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Note that I am not asking how Paul knew this. In the Letter to the Romans, we read of his interesting observation:

Romans 8:22: "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (Emphasis added).

What does the apostle mean that "the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth"? Is this, perhaps, referring to the degradation of all material objects including all human flesh (Gen. 3:19)?

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Everything in creation is subject to decay or entropy. Nothing is permanent in creation. Everything in creation has an end.

For the present form of this world is passing away. (1 Cor. 7:31, ESV)

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17, ESV)

It's the new heaven and new earth that is permanent.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:1–4, ESV)

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  • This is partially what I was looking for. Dottard seems to have provided the rest: "Rom 8:22, 23 is a direct allusion to [Gen.] 3 and the curse placed upon creation", where he rightfully enumerates the curses upon human beings. +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 6 at 17:41
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GEN 3:17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you;

‘Ground’ - ăḏāmâ, the earth, earth substance (Strongs)

Through Adam the earth was ‘blessed’. That is, through Adam’s righteousness. Adam was created ‘righteous’ - but so was the earth. Everything God creates is created ‘righteously’. That is, the ‘earth’ is not inanimate. It has Gods qualities.

When Adam ‘fell’, he became unrighteous, and through him, the earth became unrighteous. That is, was ‘cursed’ through Adam. That is, it inherited death just as Adam did!

A verse previous to the one you quoted helps see this retrospectively…

ROMANS 8:21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

All ‘sons of God’ ate righteous. And through them, through their ‘righteousness’ by ‘inheriting’ via these ‘sons of God’, the earth can begin to be blessed once again, and relieve itself of the effects of ‘death’ (decay) inherited from Adam - who was a son of God (Luke 4) until he ‘fell’.

3

Rom 8:22, 23 is a direct allusion to gen 3 and the curse placed upon creation, specifically:

  • Gen 3:11 - Adam and Eve were naked following their sin
  • Gen 3:14 - the serpent cursed
  • Gen 3:15 - enmity between the woman and the serpent
  • Gen 3:16 - Woman cursed with troublesome childbirth
  • Gen 3:17, 18 - ground cursed with thorns and thistles
  • Gen 3:19 - Adam (mankind) is cursed with difficult working of the ground
  • Gen 3:23, 24 - Adam and Even banished from the garden of Eden (= "pleasure"), AND, lost eternal life through lack of access to the tree of life in the garden

Thus, the creation was cursed and death was introduced. This is consistent with Paul's earlier comments in Rom 8:20, 21 -

For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

See also 2 Peter 3:13 -

But in keeping with God’s promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

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  • This is partially what I was looking for. However, I believe what remains was well-stated by Perry: "Everything in creation is subject to decay or entropy. [Since the Fall,] nothing is permanent in creation. Everything in creation has an end." +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 6 at 17:39
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How does the whole creation groan according to Romans 8:22-23?

Romans 8:22: "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

What does the apostle mean that "the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth"? Is this, perhaps, referring to the degradation of all material objects including all human flesh (Gen. 3:19)?

Creation subjected to futility.

The Whole Creation/Refers only to mankind and not to the material objects or other types of life, this was as a result of Adam's disobedience, the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

God said to Adam: Genesis 3:17 (NRSV) reads;

17 And to the man[a] he said,“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

Suffering touch almost the life of every human in one way or another. Indeed, we encounter stories of human tragedy on a daily basis. Whenever we watch, read, or listen to the news. “Not until our . . . era of mass communication did it become practically impossible to escape constant bombardment by bad news. “Wars, natural disasters, industrial catastrophes, highway carnage, crime, terrorism, sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence—all make trauma a horrible and daily leitmotif of the 20th century.” The Christian apostle Paul realistically summed up the human experience: "For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now."Roman 8:22

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The Big Rip is bad news:

In physical cosmology, the Big Rip is a hypothetical cosmological model concerning the ultimate fate of the universe, in which the matter of the universe, from stars and galaxies to atoms and subatomic particles, and even spacetime itself, is progressively torn apart by the expansion of the universe at a certain time in the future, until distances between particles will become infinite.

This is a possible ultimate death of the physical universe.

Fortunately, within the bad news, we have a piece of good news from Paul in Romans 8:

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

Is this, perhaps, referring to the degradation of all material objects including all human flesh (Gen. 3:19)?

Yes, and it is supported by the Big Rip theory. Furthermore, current spiritual beings are also subject to decay.

23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

That's the good news. We will receive bodies that are not subject to decay.

How does the whole creation groan according to Romans 8:22-23?

The whole creation groans metaphorically. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the believers groan inwardly for the coming re-creation.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

All these point to the current bad state of being but look forward to the future good state of being.

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What does the apostle mean that "the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth"?

Starting in Romans 8: 19 it gives more context that the creation indeed is awaiting to be delivered from corruption as well. It knows that when the unveiling of the sons of God happens then it too will come into that glorious liberty as well. It too will be delivered from the corruption that it has been subjected to by God who also instilled expectation of It's deliverance from corruption.

First Corinthians 15: 35-39 Gives a little bit more hope what happens to the animals that die as they too will be given a new body.

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body as He has designed, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body. Not all flesh is the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another, and fish another.<

For the earnest expectation of the creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God.<

So just as we are groaning we waiting for our new bodies so all creation is waiting for theirs as well!

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