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Originally published in the Journal of Creation, 21.1.

For References and the entire article in PDF File here: pdfCosmic-Death-in-Romans-8.pdf

Cosmic and Universal Death from Adam's Fall: An Exegesis of Romans 8:19-23a

Paul’s theological treatise in the epistle to the Romans clearly teaches that the animal kingdom and the entire universe experienced a universal death sentence at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3. This provides solid support for a young-earth understanding of the Creation/Fall narratives found in the early chapters of Genesis. First, a detailed exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a1 demonstrates this. The Greek word for creation, κτίσις (ktisis), in this context refers to the entire sub-human created order. Second, ‘the one who subjected it in hope’ in verse 20 is God. Lastly, there is a direct connection between this passage and the universal death sentence caused by the fall of Adam in Genesis 3:14–19.

Translation of Romans 8:19–23

19 For the eager expectation2 of the creation3 eagerly awaits2 the revealing of the sons of God;

20 for the creation was subjected4 to futility5, not willingly6, but on account of the one who subjected it7 in hope8

21 because the creation itself also9 will be liberated from the bondage of corruption10 into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.11

22 For we know that the whole creation12 groans together and suffers together13 until now;

23a and not only this, but ourselves also,14

23b who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Larger context and exegesis

Through verses 8:1–17,15 Paul declares that those who are in Christ are no longer under the condemnation of God. He admonishes fellow believers to live according to the Spirit. The cry of ‘Abba Father’ is evidence that the Spirit is bearing witness to the human spirit within. Believers are one with Christ, suffering being part of that oneness. Paul writes in verse 17: ‘... we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him’ (RSV).

Verses 18–25 are a parenthetical statement in the context of this larger discussion about the Holy Spirit and suffering.16Verse 18 then sets up the immediate context: ‘I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us’ (RSV). Paul now has the final glorification of the saints in view. The knowledge that glorification is certain gives the Christian the hope needed to press through suffering.17 Paul presents a contrast between present suffering and future glory. The end of all suffering for fellow Christians at glorification is immediately in view as Paul turns to the topic of the ktisis.18

Additional uses of ktisis in the New Testament

Before proceeding with an analysis of the text, the word ktisis should be examined in other New Testament contexts. Each context where ktisis3 is found in the New Testament is the driving force behind its meaning. Only in one case do we find a more unconventional use of the word: 1 Peter 2:13.


This analysis shows that ktisis in the New Testament is used to refer to the creation of the world, to God as creator, and to the creation as a whole. Context limits its meaning, particularly in the following verses: Galatians 6:15 and 2 Corinthians 5:17, which refer to the new birth. Colossians 1:23 refers to humanity, while the context of Hebrews 4:13 limits the definition to believers. Only in 1 Peter 2:13 do we find a more unconventional usage, referring to human authorities. This usage still remains within the scope of meaning.18


The purpose in this section is to determine the exact definition of κτίσις in the context of Romans 8:19–23a, and to also determine what should be included within the scope of the ktisis. As previously noted, the glorification of believers is immediately in view in verse 18. Paul moves to a particular aspect of the time of glorification, the fate and state of the ktisis. Based on range of meaning, NT usage and context, the possible definitions of ktisis are: 1) unbelieving humanity, 2) angels, 3) believers, 4) the sub-human creation only, 5) the whole creation, including man and the angels, 6) combinations of the above suggestions.20

 Unbelieving humanity

Unbelievers21 are neither longing for the revealing of the sons of God, nor are they unwilling subjects of futility. Unbelievers willingly reject God (Romans 1:18–32).22 Further, κοσμος (kosmos) is typically utilized by the NT authors in instances that refer to unbelievers or the way the unbelieving world operates.23 Ktisis is not used in the NT to refer to unbelievers. Further evidence against including unbelievers in the ktisis is further spelled out in the section regarding believers below.


Fallen angels would not be included, as they willingly rebelled against God with their leader, Satan.24 They are permanently condemned to judgment, and cannot be redeemed (Jude 6, 2 Peter 2:4). Like unbelieving humanity, they are not eagerly awaiting the revealing of the sons of God, nor are they unwilling subjects of futility. Angels who did not rebel with Satan are not in the bondage of corruption.25 They await no liberation for themselves. The passage states that the ‘ktisis will also be liberated from the bondage of corruption’. Therefore, all angelic beings should be excluded from the meaning of ktisis.


Four points of contrast between believers and the ktisis make the inclusion of believers in the ktisis untenable:

  1. In verse 19, ‘the eager expectation of the ktisis eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God’. The ktisis is not waiting for liberation, strictly speaking, but rather it is waiting for the sons of God to revealed, hence allowing the ktisis to escape from its present state. The ktisis and the sons of God are separate.

  2. Verse 21a states that the ‘ktisis itself will also be liberated from the bondage of corruption’. The use of itself and also create two additional clear contrasts between believers,26 whom Paul has in view in the immediate and larger context, and the ktisis.

  3. When the liberation from the bondage of corruption occurs in verse 21a, the ktisis will enter into the liberty of the glory of the children of God in verse 21b. The ktisis is once again separate from the children of God.

  4. Lastly, the statement in verse 23a, ‘not only this, but ourselves also’, establishes a fourth contrast between the ktisis and believers, consistent with the contrasts already established in the text. The phrase, ‘but ourselves also’,is distinguished from ‘the whole creation’ by the phrase, not only this.14,27


The sub-human creation

When potential meanings of ktisis are eliminated through this grammatical analysis, the immediate context and range of meaning limit the understanding of ktisis to the entire sub-human creation—inanimate and animate created order. The meaning of ktisis excludes rational beings, but includes everything else. Since the expression, pasa hē ktisis (πασα η κτισις), ‘the whole creation’, is used, ‘we are compelled, in the restricted sphere of the non-rational, to give the term comprehensive scope and we are prevented from positing any further limitation’.28 The only limits placed on the meaning of ktisis are the exclusion of human beings and angels. No other part of the creation should be excluded:

'The words πασα η κτισις [pasa hē ktisis], the whole creation, are so comprehensive, that nothing should be excluded which the nature of the subject and the context do not show cannot be embraced within their scope.’29

The ktisis would include all life forms on earth at the sub-human level, including the whole spectrum of plants and animals: ‘It remains, then, that the creatures destitute of intelligence, animate and inanimate, the heavens and the earth, the elements, the plants and animals, are here referred to.’30 Since our local solar system, galaxy and the space beyond are unquestionably part of the created order, the expression must include the entire universe.31

Supporting evidence for this understanding is found in Colossians 1:15, where Paul refers to the pre-eminence and pre-existence of Christ, ‘the first-born of all creation’, prōtotokos pasēs ktiseōs (πρωτοτοκος πασης κτισεως). This particular context allows for the inclusion of humanity and the angels, but nevertheless closely resembles the phrase under discussion, ‘the whole creation’, pasa hē ktisis (πασα η κτισις). When Paul utilizes pasa and ktisis together, the phrase is intended to convey a comprehensive scope.32

Understanding the ktisis as the entire sub-human created order, the phrase, ‘the whole creation groans together and suffers together until now’, can be properly understood. Paul has utilized the expression, sustenazei kai sunōdinei (συστεναζει και συνωδινει), two present tense verbs, to convey the unity of the sub-human created order in its futility and bondage of corruption. The groaning and agonizing suffering provides further descriptive details about the futility of the bondage of corruption. The state of affairs in the creation is awful. Together ‘is better regarded as referring to creation in its entirety and all its parts as uniting in this travail than as uniting with believers.’13,3

The elimination of angels and humans as candidates for inclusion in the ktisis gives credence to this interpretation. The whole creation groans together and suffers together and is an interdependent and unified entity. No part of the creation can operate or exist autonomously. In the same way, all parts of the creation experience the futility of its corrupted state. As Oke states, ‘the whole creation has been groaning and travailing in unison’.34 Every aspect of the creation longs to be liberated, longs to enter into freedom, together.

'The one who subjected it in hope'

Thus far, it has been firmly established that Paul’s use of ktisis in this context refers to the whole sub-human material creation, excluding humanity and the angels. Pasa hē ktisis, ‘the whole creation’, has been subjected to futility, and someone (the one) is responsible for this act.

There are three possible candidates who could be ‘the one who subjected it in hope’, Adam, Satan or God.35 The exact meaning of the phrase appears to be somewhat ambiguous at first glance,36 but through further analysis the identity of the ‘one who subjected it in hope’ can be ascertained. Verse 20 reads: ‘For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but on account of the one who subjected it in hope.’ Several observations shed light on the meaning of the text and reveal the identity of the subjector:

  1. The creation plays a passive role in the subjecting. The aorist37 passive hupetagē (υπεταγη) is used to describe the action. Therefore, the creation has been acted upon by something or someone from outside itself. ‘The inanimate creation was a passive sufferer, sharing in the curse which fell upon man for his apostasy.’ 4,38

  2. The phrase, ouch hekousa (ουχ εχουσα), not willingly, indicates that the creation was not only passively acted upon by some outside force, but it was acted upon in opposition to its will.6 Although the whole sub-human created order does not have a sentient will39 per se, the repetition emphasizes that the creation had no control over its subjection. The creation was acted upon passively and unwillingly.

  3. The phrase eph elpidi (εΦ' ελπιδι), in hope modifies either hupetagē or hupotaxanta (υποταξαντα). ‘It does not make much difference whether eph elpidi is taken with hupetagē or hupotaxanta. But it is preferably taken with the former as the main verb rather than with the participle.’40 In either case, hope is in view when the act of subjection occurs. This subjector, therefore, would have to possess the power and authority to subject the entire sub-human creation to futility, and have hope in view at the same time. The expression, ‘in hope’, is understood as having the purpose of hope, or ‘upon the basis of hope’ when the act occurs.8,41

The fact that this cosmic event took place ‘in hope’ negates the possibility of Satan being the subjector.42 Clearly, he would not be responsible for such an act for the purpose of bringing about hope. Although he possesses more power than Adam and is directly responsible for deceiving Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:14), even Satan would not be able to bring about such a state of affairs. Even if he were able to do such a thing, what motive would he have for committing such an act ‘in hope’?

Can Adam be ‘the one who subjected the creation to futility, in hope’? Assuming for a moment Paul has Genesis 3 in view (to be discussed shortly), as the federal head of humanity (Romans 5:12–21), Adam is held responsible by God for plunging the world into sin (Genesis 3:14–19). Adam had the authority to ‘hand over’ his responsibility as creation’s steward to Satan (Luke 4:6), but handing over authority as a steward does not imply adequate enough authority or power to subject the creation to futility on a universal scale. Adam certainly could not have subjected the creation to futility ‘in hope’. The power to bring about such a sweeping state of affairs cannot be ascribed to Adam.43

The only alternative is to choose God as the subjector.4,35,44 If the subjection took place during the creation of the universe (to be discussed shortly), the only possible choice is God. But if it took place at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3, only God would have the power to subject the whole sub-human creation to futility and the bondage of corruption, and to bring about such a state of affairs with hope in view. ‘Only God, being both Judge and Saviour, entertained hope for the world he cursed.’45 God could do such a thing with the ability, foreknowledge, authority and power to have hope in view.46 Only God could orchestrate all the events of history to bring hope in the end. The use of the aorist divine passive, hupetagē, points to a specific event in the past, ‘and the analogy with Paul’s argument in Romans 5 indicates a direct reference here to Genesis 3:17. The passive suggests God is the agent here, not Adam.’47

The parallel statements, ‘the creation was subjected to futility’ and ‘the creation itself will also be liberated’strengthen the argument that God is the subjector. Only God has the power to subject the creation in hope, just as only God has the power to liberate it from its present state.

cosmic16Life-destroying volcanic eruptions such as Mt St Helens occur due to Adam’s sin and the whole creation subsequently being ‘subjected to futility’.

The analysis thus far has yielded the following conclusions:
1. the entire sub-human created order was subjected to futility,
2. the ‘one who subjected it’ was God himself,
3. this act was brought about with hope in view, and
4. Paul is assuring believers that not only will they be liberated, but the creation itself will be liberated when the children of God come into their glory at the apocalypse.

'Subjected to futility’: Creation or Fall?

Biblical commentators regard this subjection as having occurred at two possible points in time. Either the creation was subjected to both futility and the bondage of corruption at the moment of creation,48 or the creation was subjected to futility and the bondage of corruption at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3:14–19. There are several points to be made regarding the time of this subjection.

The Creation Week

If the creation was in a futile state at the initial moment of its existence, it technically could not be subjected to corruption and decay. It would simply come into existence in that state. Its natural and initial inclination would be toward futility. When a thing or person is acted upon, in this case, ‘subjected to futility’, it already exists. If God subjected the entire sub-human created order to futility at the time He created the universe, the text would read: ‘the creation was created in futility’ not ‘the creation was subjected to futility’.

There is nothing in the narrative of Genesis 1, which describes the creation of the universe, that indicates there is any kind of futility or corruption.49 In fact, the summary statement regarding the days of creation, Genesis 1:31, indicates the exact opposite: ‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good’ (NIV).50 Romans 8:18–23a describes a desperate and futile condition, threefold, quite antithetical to the description found in Genesis 1:31: ‘the creation was subjected to futility’, ‘the creation will be liberated from the bondage of corruption’ and ‘the whole creation groans together and suffers together’. If the text of Romans 8:19–23a is teaching us that God subjected the created order to futility at the creation, then something should be found in the text of Genesis 1 to justify that understanding. A cursory review of Genesis 1 reveals quite the opposite.

The Fall

The narrative of Genesis 3:14–19, however, is much more consistent with Paul’s expressions found in the text under investigation. If Adam’s fall was indeed the cause of this ‘subjection to futility’ by God, the idea of hope being directly connected to the action makes perfect sense if Paul had Genesis 3 in view. Many biblical commentators see Genesis 3:15 as the protevangelium,51 the first proclamation of the gospel. The first human beings have disobeyed God in paradise, and, having been fairly warned, they are to receive punishment for their transgression. But this punishment occurs with hope in God’s view. The gospel is the ultimate hope in a desperate and impossibly corrupt situation. The combined terms4,10 hupetagē and tēs douleias tēs phthoras, (της δουλειας της Φθορας) in verses 20 and 21 are perfectly consistent with the events described in Genesis 3:14–19, a direct result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.


Paul describes exactly what ‘in hope’ entails: ‘the creation itself also will be liberated from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God’. The hope of the creation is inexorably connected to the fate of the children of God. It therefore follows that the creation’s futility is also inexorably connected to man’s futility, both originating in man’s fall. The whole sub-human created order was plunged into futility by man’s fall, and it will be liberated as a result of man’s redemption. ‘If creation suffered with man in the Fall, God means it also to share in his final beatitude.’52

Mutual fall, mutual destiny

The larger context of the passage under investigation has the glorification of believers directly in view. Verse 21 reads: ‘The creation itself will also be liberated from the bondage of corruption’, indicating the creation will be liberated from the same fallen condition as man. Paul makes a direct connection between man’s need for liberation and creation’s need for liberation. This entire connection between the glorification of believers and the liberation of the creation is lost if the creation has always been in a futile and corrupted state, completely unrelated to man’s fallen condition. Instead, the relationship between the futile and corrupted state of mankind, and the futile and corrupted state of the created order, would be perfectly consistent with the relationship between man’s redemption and creation’s redemption.53 Ultimately, a fallen creation is the only appropriate stage for fallen man to live and operate:

‘The point Paul is presumably making, through somewhat obscure language, is that God followed the logic of his purposed subjecting of creation to man by subjecting it further in consequence of man’s fall,so that it might serve as an appropriate context to engage the futile mind of man; a futile world to engage the futile mind of man. By describing creation’s subjection as “unwilling” Paul maintains the personification of the previous verse. There is an out-of-sortedness, a disjointedness about the created order which makes it a suitable habitation for man at odds with his creator [emphasis added].’54

The doctrine of death

Paul’s theology regarding death’s entrance into the human race is built on the fact of a literal Adam and his transgression only three chapters earlier in Romans 5:12–21. Death came to humanity through one man (Adam), so life comes through one man (Jesus, the Last Adam). In Pauline theology, Adam isresponsible for the entrance of sin into the human race. Tobin makes the connection between Romans 5 and Romans 8 as follows:

‘Since Paul has already in Rom. 5:12–21 traced the roots of the present situation of sin and death to Adam’s transgression, 8:20–21 is closer to the Jewish texts that build on interpretations of the Genesis account, in that the futility to which creation has been unwillingly subjected and the decay to which it is enslaved are the consequences of Adam’s transgression.’55

Black supports this view:

‘As much as any other text, this passage attests to the broad, cosmic sweep of Paul’sthinking about death. It is not merely the case that individual human beings die; the whole creation has been subjected to futility and has been groaning in travail together (vv 20, 22). In such statements as these, we are reminded once again of the curse on the ground of Genesis 3’.56

Death is clearly in view in Romans 5:12–21, and having been shown to have a direct theological and linguistic connection to Romans 8, it is certain that death is directly in view regarding the futility and bondage of corruption reference, further characterized by groaning and suffering. These terms are descriptive of the effects and consequences of death, human or otherwise. Corruption, phthoras (Φθορας) in verse 21 is defined as ‘decay, perish, ruin, destroy’10,57 Though Paul does not use the standard New Testament word for death, thanatos (θανατος)—the meaning of phthoras in this context clearly refers to death. The phrase tēs douleias tēs phthoras, ‘the bondage of corruption’,57 is combined with the unwilling subjection to futility, mataiotēs (ματαιοτης). The groaning and lamentation of the entire sub-human creation speaks of universal death and decay. All these words in combination: phthoras, mataiotēs, douleias, sustenazei and sunōdinei irrefutably speak of universal death, decay and destruction.The pervasive death that is found in the animal kingdom has come as a direct result of God’s curse resulting from Adam’s fall. As Barth has said about the animals, ‘Vanity is not the creature’s primal constitution.’58

cosmic17The tragic 2004 tsunami demonstrates the horribly corrupted and futile state of the created order. Natural disasters like this will cease when: ‘There shall be no more anything accursed’ (Rev. 22:3; RSV).

Genesis 3:14 supports the assertion that the animals began to die after the fall, as God declaresto the serpent: ‘… cursed are you above all cattle and above all wild animals’ (RSV). The contrast ‘above all’ communicates that the serpent’s curse would be greater than the curse of the all other animals. Hence, all animals are being cursed at this moment in time. There is nothing in the text of Genesis 1 that would lead one to believe the animals were experiencing death before God’s curse. The text of Genesis 1 indicates that the animals were not eating and killing each other prior to the fall of Adam. ‘And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. And it was so.’59 Animals were originally designed to eat vegetation, not each other.

Certain Old Testament prophetic textsthat look forward to the apocalypse portray animals as being benevolent in the Messianic age, especially animals that today are considered dangerous and/or carnivorous. For example, Isaiah 11:6–9:

‘The wolf will lie with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like an ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ (NIV)

John Munday argues that this verse and others, such as Isaiah 65:25, are looking to the future, and are not a description of conditions in the world before the Fall.60 These verses do speak of the end of the age, but they describe a condition in the future of restoration. The implication is that the animal kingdom will be restored to a state that resembles its original state: perfect, harmonious and benevolent. The end of the age will not just bring about permanent change in the universe, it will restore the universe to a condition that resembles its initial condition.61 The essence of restoration at the apocalypse is a return to an initial condition! This reconciliation and transformation will occur in the animal kingdom, and the animals will not perish by disease or carnivory in the new age, just as they did not perish in this fashion prior to Adam’s fall. Motyer comments extensively concerning Isaiah 11:6–9:

‘There is an Edenic element in Isaiah’s thinking … the life of nature itself is transformed. Verse 6-8 offer three facets of the renewed creation and verse 9 is a concluding summary. First, in verse 6 there is the reconciliation of old hostilities, the allaying of old fears; predators (wolf, leopard, lion) and prey (lamb, goat, calf) are reconciled. So secure is the peace that a youngster can exercise the dominion originally given to humankind. Secondly, in verse 7 there is a change of nature within the beasts themselves: cow and bear eat the same food, as do lion and ox. There is also a change in the very order of things itself: the herbivoral nature of all the creature points to Eden restored (Gn. 1:29–30). Thirdly, in verse 8 the curse is removed. The enmity between the woman’s seed and the serpent is gone (Gn. 3:15ab). Infant and ‘weaned child’ have nothing to fear from cobra and viper. Finally, in verse 9 the coming Eden is Mount Zion—a Zion which fills the whole earth. Peace (9a), holiness (9b), and ‘knowing the Lord’ (9c) pervades all [emphasis added].’62

‘Original animal immortality can hardly be maintained without presuming vast anatomical, behavioral and ecological changes in animals at the time of the fall. Scripture is fully silent on such changes, suggesting that there were none.’63

Munday is simply wrong. The universally futile and corrupt state of affairs that pervades the sub-human created order described by Paul points to one event as its cause: Adam’s fall. The text shows that the futility of the created order is far-reaching and comprehensive; all creation is under a universal death sentence. Munday is correct in describing the immense and vast changes that would have to transpire to subvert animal immortality and initiate carnivory and death, but this sort of change is exactly what Romans 8:19–23a is describing!

Munday proceeds to misinterpret Romans 8:22 by stating: ‘Creation’s own order has not been fundamentally and permanently altered. Instead, man’s sin has imposed on it a burden.’64 The futility of the sub-human created order as described by Paul cannot be ascribed to man’s mismanagement of its resources or its creatures. The text reveals that it was God who subjected the creation to futility, not man.65 The problem in the sub-human creation is far worse than man’s abuse of it. Are we to understand that earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes that destroy both human and animal life are the result of man’s environmental abuse?

Cosmic Christology, cosmic restoration

Paul sets forth a cosmic Christology in his writings that assert the pre-eminence of Christ over all existence.66 He writes in Colossians 1:15–20:

‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. … For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross [emphasis added]’ (NIV).67

The Greek phrase, ta panta (τα παντα) refers to the entire created order as the larger context asserts Christ’s supremacy over the entire universe. ‘All things’ includes everything in the sub-human creation. ‘All things’ require reconciliation; hence Christ will reconcile himself to all the things that he created, including the animal kingdom, the earth and the universe beyond. The comprehensiveness of the reconciliation demands a comprehensive schism in the relationship.

How can Christ reconcile himself to a creation, things on earth and thingsin heaven, that He created in a futile and corrupted state originally? There would be no reconciliation, for the state of the creation would always have been a futile, corrupt and decaying one. At the heart of the concept of reconciliation is a relationship that is restored. This line of reasoning leads to the conclusion that Christ’s creation was not futile and corrupt, characterized by death in the beginning, but was brought into its current corrupted state by God’s judgment as a result of Adam’s sin.

Revelation 22:3 reports that at the end of the age, ‘There shall be no more anything accursed’ (RSV). The expression, kai pan katathema ouk estai eti (και παν καταθεμα ουκ εσται ετι), contains the same adjective with merely a different inflection, pasa, as Paul’s phrase, pasa hē ktisis (πασα η κτισις). This is another universal expression describing the scope of the curse and is an unambiguous reference to Genesis 3:14–19.68 The universal effects of God’s judgment on the created order will be permanently and universally removed. Peter tells us of a ‘new heaven and new earth’ in 2 Peter 3:13, and this idea is repeated in Revelation 21:1. ‘The new earth’ would include the animals and plants that God created in an initially perfect condition. Jesus verifies this universal restoration in Matthew 19:28, when he proclaims:

‘Truly I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne …’(RSV). These images of universal restoration are also found in the Old Testament, including Isaiah 11:1ff; 65:17ff; 66:22; Psalm 102:25–27; Hosea 2:18; and in non-canonical Jewish literature: 1 Enoch 45:4–5; 2 Baruch 31:5–32:6; 4 Ezra 7:11, 30–32, 75.69

Based upon all these factors, it would be logically impossible to justify an interpretation that asserts futility and the bondage of corruption at the moment of creation. A subsequent, post-Genesis-1 subjection is the only exegetical possibility. The only event recorded in Scripture that could provide additional insight into the subjection of the creation in Romans 8:19–23a is Genesis 3:14–19. This analysis is consistent with the view of most Biblical commentators, who have determined that Paul had the fall of Adam and the curse of Genesis 3:14–19 in view when authoring this text.70 Haldane sums up the case most succinctly: ‘It would be derogatory to the glory of God to suppose that his works are now in the same condition in which they were first formed, or that they will always continue as at present.’71


Romans 8:19–23a clearly teaches that the fall of Adam caused God to subject the entire sub-human created order to the bondage of corruption, a universal death sentence. This act was done with hope directly in view. The creation’s only hope is inexorably connected to the redemption of the children of God at the end of the age. Paul’s description of the state of redeemed humanity at the end of the age cannot be separated from the need for the created order itself to be redeemed. The fate of the ktisis depends solely on the fate of God’s children. The only explanation for their mutual destiny is that the created order and mankind also mutually fell into their current state of futility and corruption. Man did not fall into this corrupted state when he was created, and consequently, neither did the sub-human created order. The entire sub-human creation groans and suffers in unison. Adam’s fall in Genesis 3:14–19 was a far-reaching and universal event that had immense cosmic implications, not only on mankind, but also on the entire sub-human created order. The creation was given a cosmic death sentence that can only be eradicated by Christ. The combination of negative terms used by Paul irrefutably speaks of universal death. The universal nature of Paul’s language and an analysis of other relevant texts have revealed that animals also fell into this cosmic death sentence at the time of Adam’s fall.

It is most unfortunate that many scholars and exegetes find it difficult to accept such wide-ranging effects from Adam’s fall.72 The primary reason for this appears to be the assertion that ‘science’ has proven that there have been millions of years of death and catastrophe on the earth, particularly in the animal kingdom, prior to Adam’s existence. Many commentators believe thatscientists have proven that the earth is billions of years old, and the long-age interpretation of the fossil record supports that conclusion. No matter how one approaches the chronological data in the Bible, no-one would argue that Adam lived millions or billions of years ago. Therefore, modern science has asserted that there are eons of death, disease and destruction in the animal kingdom which predate Adam’s existence. Destructive earthquakes, other natural catastrophes and mass extinctions in the animal kingdom, including carnivorous behaviour, had taken place in ages past, and therefore would still be taking place at the time Adam and Eve were created.

If this is true, then Romans 8:19–23a would have to be reinterpreted to mean something in a very limited sense. As noted above, many commentators have attempted to do just that. These reinterpretations of Paul’s theology, however, must include interpretations from modern historical science (not empirical science), and not from Scripture alone. Other attempts have been made to limit the ktisis to a strict anthropological-soteriological definition.73 These fruitless attempts at reinterpretation cannot be justified by a sound exegesis of the Greek text.

How could God declare in Genesis 1:31 that the creation was very good, when in fact, cataclysmic events such as earthquakes and meteorite impacts had been killing members of the animal kingdom for eons of time? Not to mention the obvious evidence today and in the fossil strata that animals kill one another and die from disease, injury and old age. Therefore, based on an analysis of Romans 8:19–23a and other relevant texts, there is a glaring contradiction between Paul’s theology and any attempt to reinterpret Scripture to accommodate old-earth dogmatism.

Romans 8:19–23a should point evangelical laymen and scholars alike to the plain, straightforward and natural reading of Genesis 1. Only with Scripture as a guide can the scientist accurately reconstruct the events of the past. Paul’s treatise in Romans 8:19–23a serves as an absolutely essential guidepost in understanding the age of the earth, because it describes the current state of the creation and how its beauty and perfection were horribly marred when Adam chose himself over his Creator.


I would like to acknowledge Mr Lester Hicks of Lancaster Bible College Graduate School (who introduced me to the Greek Language) and Mr Scott Lanser, Executive Director of ABR, for their input and guidance in writing this paper.


Originally published in the Journal of Creation, 21.1.

For References and the entire article in PDF File here: pdfCosmic-Death-in-Romans-8.pdf


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