D. M. PANTON, M. A.
rare and startling truth out of Scripture can rise
great difficulties in our minds, but it always solves far greater
than it creates. Such
is the problem of
the animal world with its Scripture solution. John
painfully forecasting the Gnosticism that will come at the end, said; "The facts of the universe suggest,
not so much the idea of a beneficent and all-wise Creator as that of a
dealing with an intractable material, over which he has not acquired
mastery." This is a blasphemous
solution to a very real
problem that imperatively needs solving - namely, the undeserved,
unrequited sufferings, often agonies, of the animal creation; a problem
has as its solution - whatever difficulties may attach to that solution
of the most golden utterances in the whole Book of God. "The CREATION itself
also SHALL BE DELIVERED from the bondage of corruption INTO THE
It is first of all of critical importance to observe that Paul carefully distinguishes throughout this passage between the 'creation' or 'creature' * and the redeemed of humanity: "the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God" (Romans 8: 19): that is, all the world that is not man - the animal and vegetable creation - waits for the Advent, when the sons of God will appear with Christ. Paul, in an earlier chapter, describes the animals as the 'creation', or creature. Men, he says, after making images of corruptible man, and of "birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things, worshipped THE CREATURE rather than the Creator" (Romans 1: 23). In the words of Dean Alford: "The 'creation' is all this world except man; all animate and inanimate nature as distinguished from mankind."
[* 'Creation' rather than 'creature', because it includes the vegetable world.]
Now arises the great fundamental moral fact on which the action of God is based. "For" - this is the reason why God acts as He does - "the creation was subjected to vanity" - to distress, disease, death, when the Curse fell upon it - "NOT OF ITS OWN WILL" - not consciously, nor wilfully, like Adam and Eve: the snake, and all other animals in it, were involved in the Fall, but without guilt - "but through him who subjected it in hope" - for in the very breath with which He cursed the Serpent the Most High revealed the Woman's Seed. Solomon vividly associates man and beast in the fall. "For that which befalleth the sons of man befalleth the beasts: as the one dieth, so dieth the other: for all is vanity [to which the creation was subjected]: all turn to dust again" (Ecclesiastes 3: 19). And exactly as the mouth of a morally unconscious snake was used by Satan, so the animal creation, at least in sections, innocently fell under Hell's grip. "I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all THE POWER OF THE ENEMY" (Luke 10: 19).
Now the coming removal of the Curse involves, backward, a very startling revelation. The difficulty is expressed by the poet William Blake:-
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
Did He who made the lamb make thee?
A priceless photograph of the future answers. In the Lord's [Millennial] Reign on [this cursed] earth the animals are thus pictured: "The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11: 6).* The conclusion is overwhelming. The ferocity of savage animals - such as the acme of horror in the tearing of Christians to pieces by lions in the Colosseum - since it is totally removed with the lifted Curse IN THE MILLENNIUM, must have been inflicted by the Fall which produced the Curse. This is what we should have supposed. The Curse fell, first on the animals, then on the soil: if therefore "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us" (Galations 3: 13), the Curse must be entirely revoked wherever it fell, even on the vegetable world. Our Lord, crowned with thorns, was crowned with the Curse; and therefore He destroyed the thorns when He expiated the Curse. And this is exactly what we find; for "instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 55: 13) - that is, no curse will ever fall again, either on the old earth or on the new.
[* Not all
snakes are poisonous. In the
therefore we confront the deliverance of the whole creation.
J. R. Thomson well puts it: "If
without consent on her part, been made the painful illustration of
spiritual truth; then we may expect a
just Governor like God to give Nature
compensation, and allow her to share the glorious liberty of His
So Paul says:
"The creation was subjected to
vanity" - it fell:
it incurred both spiritual and physical bondage - "not willingly" - the
serpent did not wilfully harbour Satan,
nor did the ground vex men with thorns and thistles of its own accord:
laid on them the burden "in hope"
hope, with God, is a certainty - "that the
creation itself also"
- and not only men - "shall be delivered
from the bondage of
corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God."
That is, the unconsciousness which made the animal creation share in
is the very unconsciousness (as with infants) which makes them share in
we behold the radical nature of the redemption. "The creation itself also shall be
delivered from THE
BONDAGE OF CORRUPTION". If 'the
bondage of corruption' were merely the liability
to corrupt, and
so only the animals on whom that Day dawns are made deathless, the
problem would remain unsolved, and the animal generations that suffered
worst pangs suffered them for naught; on the contrary, as the phrase
is the bondage of the grave; the 'bondage'
is the corpse, the 'liberty'
is the immortal
body out of the tomb. So therefore the redemption
is amazing that this golden truth has not been more widely grasped in
the fact that it was embedded in a type simply gigantic. "The ark, wherein few, that is, eight
souls, were saved through
water; which is also AFTER A TRUE LIKENESS"
- that is, an
exact and designed type - "doth
now save you, even
That is, the
[*No sooner have Noah's six centuries lapsed - symbolizing our six millenniums culmination in the 'flood' of wrath (Daniel 9: 26) - than all wrath-flood has died off the earth on the seventh or sabbatic millennium (Hebrews 4: 9): "in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month" (Genesis 8: 13). So it is the day if the Resurrection - the 17th of Nisan - when the Ark touches Ararat.]
So therefore all that we are experiencing and are watching is the travail before the birth of the new world. "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." It is a picture extraordinarily illuminating. The earth, containing the dead [their bodies in the grave; their souls in Hades], labours in travail, even as the Lord Himself was "the first born of the dead" (Revelation 1: 5): so the travail sharpens as the birth draws nearer, and of the Great Tribulation our Lord says, "These are the beginnings of birth-pangs" (Matthew 24: 8). Joel has depicted the deepening crisis culminating in the Tribulation. "The day of the Lord is at hand, and as destruction from the Almighty shall it come. How do the beasts groan! the herds of cattle are perplexed, because they have no pasture; yea, the flocks of sheep are made desolate. O Lord, to thee do I cry: for the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field. Yea, the beasts of the field pant unto thee; for the water brooks are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness" (Joel 1: 15). So in a moment a new world is born. As Isaiah says ; "Like as a woman with child, so have we been before thee, O Lord. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for the earth shall cast forth the dead" (Isaiah 26: 17). The birth is accomplished.
THE NEW [restored]* WORLD
[* It is not ‘a new heaven and new earth’ (Rev. 21: 1), but this cursed world restored after the ‘Great White Throne’ judgment, when the Sea, Death, and Hades give up all of the remaining dead. Rev. 21: 13.]
The final vision is a final confirmation. God has always had before Him the creation He intends to redeem, in the person of four Living Beings - living creatures, therefore not symbols - for ever before the Throne. "The first creature was like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face as of a man and the fourth creature was like a flying eagle" (Revelation 4: 7). It is the animal creation, including man, kept forever before the face of God. Surely this is conclusive. And so all closes with the Hallelujah Chorus of Creation. "And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honour and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever. And the four living creatures said, Amen" (Revelation 6: 13).
BISHOP ELLICOTT ON THE DESTINY OF THE CREATURE
Irenaeus and the Greek Fathers were right in giving the term 'creation' (Rom. 8: 21) its widest application, and in referring it to all creation, animate and inanimate, which stands in any degree of relation to man. *
[* “So Tholuck,
Reiche, Rückert, Olhsausen,
Fritzche, De Wette,
In the consolatory words the point of real and startling importance is the close bond that connects man with the material world, especially in relation to time. With man's sin came at once the curse that fell upon the earth; thorn and thistle began to germinate the very day that Adam sinned; confusion and discord began at once to work amid the tendencies of created things. So the earnest expectation of the creature waits for no doubtful or chimerical [unreal] future, for no ill-defined or uncertain hour of emancipation; it waits, as the [Holy] Spirit of God here infallibly declares, for no less a sure and certain epoch than that of the manifestation of the sons of God.
I can understand the ruin of my own soul, I am forced to acknowledge its corrupting lusts, I can feel its rending passions, I can trace out the slow corrosion of evil habits, the convulsive movements of sudden sins - I can mark all this in myself and others; but the guiltless creatures of God's hand, what have they done? These animals that minister to my wants, and die unrecked of and unheeded, whence came their strange accumulations of sufferings? This wide-spread plant-world, that contributes to my food, or bears balm to my wounds, - whence comes its often thwarted development and stinted growth, its palpable subjection to something more than perishableness, the bondage to something worse than decay?
In the very first day of his creation, man is indissolubly associated with Nature. Not only is he to have dominion over all that liveth, but he is to subdue and make his own the earth he treads on. When he falls, the earth becomes cursed; when the deluge sweeps off his race, the guiltless animals perish with him; when the covenant is made with the solitary surviving family, the surviving creatures are especially included in its provisions; the foul and the cattle - every living creature of all flesh - share the blessings of the divine clemency. Even so it is impossible to doubt that when the restitution of man takes place, the restitution of the earth and its occupants will speedily and immediately follow. The day of the perdition of the wicked, as one Apostle tells us (2 Pet. 3: 7), will let loose the last lustral fires, even as another Apostle here represents all creation here waiting for its final redemption and glorification of the elect of God.
Therefore all the animals suffer at the hands of man - all that they suffer from one another, all their exhibitions of wanton cruelty, their deep-seated aversions and connatural hostilities; - all, again, that nature suffers from the hand of man, the poisoned vegetation round peopled cities, the blazing prairie, the desolated forest, - all that it suffers from the wildness or churlishness of the elements, - all tend to swell that mighty cry of suffering and travail that is now ever sounding in the ears of God - all serve to call forth the deep longing of the hour when the apocalyptic vision of the Apostle shall be a mighty and living reality. Let us not fear to say that the efficacy of the blood of our Lord and Master is limitless in its applications, that it knows no bounds in space, as it knows no bounds in time; and that the issues of His atonement for us, in different measures and degrees, extend unto all things, - that the odour of that sweet-smelling savour fills every court and every chamber of the universal temple of God.