Our Future Unimaginable Glory: The Expectant Hope of the Believer

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Several years ago one of the long-time members of this church passed away. Her name was Mrs. Pett. Pastor Steven’s preached her funeral. One of the unique last requests that Mrs. Pett had was when her body was put on display for the funeral that she would be holding a fork in her hands. Why on earth would you want someone to put a fork in the hands of your deceased body? It was a final way for Mrs. Pett to be a witness and a testimony for the gospel.
After you eat a meal and you might clear off the dishes from the table. Often times the host will tell their guests to keep their fork. Why? Because dessert is still to come. Keep your fork because the best part of the meal, the dessert, is yet to be enjoyed.
This was Mrs. Pett’s hope. This was her confident expectation. You see she was a Christian. She was a believer in Jesus, and because of her faith in Christ and what He has promised us she believed her death was actually a door way to ushered into the very presence of her Savior. And that she had a future glory to experience and enjoy. In other words, for Mrs. Pett the best was yet to come. So, she kept her fork as a testimony that she believed the glory that awaited her worth waiting for. The best is yet to come.
This is the overarching theme of our text this morning. What is coming in the future, the glory that God has in store for us, is unimaginable and beyond compare! Friends, if you know Christ, keep your fork, the best is yet to come.
The theme of Romans 8 is summed up in one word. Do you remember what that word is? Assurance. This spiritual blessing of assurance is primarily attributed to the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8.
Romans 8:1 ESV
1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
In vv. 2-13 Paul describe the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of LIFE.
Romans 8:2 (ESV)
2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
We have assurance because of the life that we are guaranteed through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In vv. 14-17 Paul described the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of ADOPTION.
Romans 8:15 (ESV)
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
Not only can we have assurance because of a guaranteed eternal life, but we also have assurance because of our guaranteed position as adopted children, and even greater, as adopted sons of God. And it is the ministry of the Spirit that guarantees and bears witness to this glorious truth.
In vv. 18-30 Paul now describes the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of GLORY. We can have assurance because of the ministry of the Holy Spirit who guarantees future unimaginable glory for the children of God.
V. 17 functions as a transitional verse from the theme of adoption as sons to the theme of future glory.
Romans 8:17 (ESV)
17 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.
Paul in this transition highlights the present reality of God’s children— that of suffering.
Now why does Paul highlight suffering as he transitions into the doctrine of our future glory?
I think Paul is anticipating our objections to his previous teaching.
You say Paul that we are under the law of the Spirit of life and that law has set us free from the law of sin and death. Then why do we suffer and die? You say Paul that we have been give the Spirit of Adoption as sons of God. You say we have this glorious inheritance. Then how can God’s very own, dearly loved children suffer?
Paul’s answer to these objections is this: we suffer with Christ in order that we may be glorified with him. It is not that suffering secures our salvation- that would be a works based salvation. However, all those who are truly united to Christ will suffer persecution.
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
And, Paul is also telling us that our path to glory follows the same road that Jesus followed. Think of the pattern of our Lord. For Jesus glory only followed suffering.
Hebrews 12:2 ESV
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
How can it be that God’s very own, dearly loved children suffer? Because that is the pattern set down for us by Jesus Christ. We are simply following in His footsteps. If we endure suffering like Jesus did, then we too have great glory and joy to look forward to.
This teaching should radically alter how we think about and endure our present suffering. This simply idea that on the other side of suffering is glory ought to, not trivialize suffering, but certainly transcend it. So, now that you have heard this from now on you should have no problem whatsoever with suffering in your life right? That is not our reality! We know the truth that on the other side of suffering is glory, but often times merely knowing that truth does little to aid us in our present suffering. Why is that?
“For many greatly deceive themselves in hearing the word. They admit of sacred truths in their understanding, and assent unto them, but take not in the power of them on their consciences, nor strictly judge of their state and condition by them, which proves their ruin; for hereby they seem to themselves to believe that whereof in truth they believe not one syllable as they ought.”
“They hear it, they understand it in the notion of it, they assent unto it, at least they do not contradict it, yea, they commend it oftentimes and approve of it, but yet they believe it not; for if they did, they would judge themselves by it, and reckon on it that it will be with them at the last day according as things are determined therein.”
“They behold it, and conclude that it is even so with them as the word doth declare; but immediately their minds are filled with other thoughts, acted by other affections, taken up with other occasions, and they forget in a moment the representation made of themselves and their condition.” —John Owen, Spiritual-Mindedness
Why doesn’t our future glory motivate us like it should? What is one of the major obstacles to walking by faith in light of God’s promises concerning our future glory?
Romans 8:18 (ESV)
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Revealed- ἀποκαλύπτω (used 2x’s in vv. 18-25 along with the complementary idea of things being not seen used 3x’s in the same section)
BDAG
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (ἀποκαλύπτω)
To cause something to be fully known, reveal, disclose, bring to light
Nuance- of the revelation of certain persons and circumstances in the endtime.
Romans 8:18 (ESV)
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
That means that the glory about which Paul is speaking is not yet fully known, revealed, disclosed, or brought to light.
At the outset of our text I want to highlight this issue.
The glory that we expectantly hope for is not yet fully revealed. There is a tremendous amount of future glory that not only do we not understand, but in our current unglorified state we cannot understand.
1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV)
9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (ESV)
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Illustration: Seth- not fully understanding the having to pay his own school tuition until the bill arrived in the mail, until he received a paycheck for working an honest day’s wage, until what I had been telling him (this fictional school bill) because a reality did the truth of it hit home. “I wish I would have know this.” Really? “I’d been telling him this for years!” But, all he had to go on was my word. He had no tangible reality to actually relate to.
We have this same problem when it comes to looking forward to the glory that awaits us. Because just how good the glory is has not been revealed to us, indeed it cannot be in this state, it is hard to us, as John Owen said, “to believe one syllable as they ought.”
We really have to think about this truth that we cannot comprehend what our future glory will be like!
What do I mean?
A.W. Tozer said this, “We learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar. Even the most vigorous and daring mind is unable to create something out of nothing by a spontaneous act of imagination.. Those strange beings that populate the world of mythology and superstition are not pure creations of fancy. The imagination created them by taking the ordinary inhabitants of earth and air and sea and extending their familiar forms beyond their normal boundaries, or by mixing the forms of two or more so as to produce something new. However beautiful or grotesque these may be, their prototypes can always be identified. They are like something we already know.”
The problem with our future promised glory is that it is unimaginably good.
1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV
9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—
Illustration: In Ezekiel 1 the prophet saw heaven opened and he beheld visions of God and he he found himself looking at that which he had no language to describe. What he was seeing was wholly different from anything he had ever known before.
Read this text sometime. Try to figure out exactly what he means by a wheel within a wheel. Huh? It gets even harder for poor Ezekiel. The near he gets to the throne the less certain his words become.
Ezekiel 1:26–28 ESV
26 And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. 27 And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. 28 Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking.
What is going on here? Ezekiel, a prophet of God, seeing a vision from God, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is at a loss of words when it comes to describing the glory of God!
Friends this is the glory we have to look forward to! It is so go we CANNOT imagine it!
The problem is that it seems almost fictional to us. How do we overcome this? How do we act upon it? We don’t really believe this!, “for if they did, they would judge themselves by it, and reckon on it that it will be with them at the last day according as things are determined therein.”
If we cannot imagine the good, then how do we act in faith upon it? The answer is- we trust every word that comes from God.
At the end of the day all we have is God’s word that the best is yet to come. Do we really trust God’s words about our future glory? How can we tell? Paul gives us four tests so that we can know if we are trusting God’s words about our future glory.

I. You will constantly weigh present sufferings in the balance with the future glory promised to us by God (v. 18)

How do you handle suffering well? How do you follow the example of Jesus? How do you endure your cross and despise your shame? You trust God’s words about the coming glory that He has in store for us. How do you know if you are really trusting God’s words about your future glory? You will constantly weigh sufferings in the balance with future glory promised by God.
Romans 8:18 ESV
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Consider- to hold a view about something, to think, to believe, to be of the opinion of. It is a present tense verb and has the idea of continuous action.
For I am always causing my mind to dwell on this truth- that the sufferings we are going through here and now do not deserve even to be compared to the future coming glory that is to be revealed to us.
What are we talking about here? Paul is talking of a new perspective, a new way in which to view the workings of the world.
Taken from the perspective of an unbeliever this world is all there is—it is a closed system. And if this life is all there is, suffering becomes unbearable. Suffering becomes your solitary and dismal reality. “All is trouble, adversity, and suffering!”
Positive stated we might say it the way Paul does, If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
As a Christian we view suffering differently. We view this life differently! Ours is not a closed system. This life is not all there is, in fact, it is an infinitesimally small part of our existence. When we trust God’s words about our future unimaginably glory we view life in a much larger, life-transcending context.
We do not trivialize sufferings, we do not alleviate sufferings. But when we weigh our suffering against our future glory we transcend it. The suffering we now face is not our final reality. We have a much weightier reality ahead of us.
2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
When we by faith take God at his word that the future weight of glory is so grand, so glorious, so wonderful—when God’s truth becomes weighty in our minds our present sufferings tend to flutter into the air as if they had no weight at all.
“Hence men walk and talk as if the world were all, when comparatively it is nothing.”—John Owen
“When we shall come home and enter to the possession of our Brother’s fair kingdom, and when our heads shall find the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall look back to pains and sufferings; then shall we see life and sorrow to be less than one step or stride from a prison to glory; and that our little inch of timesuffering is not worthy of our first night’s welcome home to heaven.” —Samuel Rutherford
Friends we should not be surprised if we find ourselves in the midst of suffering in this life. We are following the footsteps of Jesus. Through suffering lies glory. How well are you handling your suffering? If your faith in the coming glory transcending that suffering? Are you constantly weighing sufferings in the balance with future glory promised by God?
Do we really trust God’s words about our future glory? The second test that Paul gives us to see if we are really trusting God’s words is this:

II. You will have an eager expectant longing to see the promises of God fulfilled (vv. 19-21)

If you are really trusting God’s words about your future glory there will be a normative eagerness and expectancy in your longing for when and how God will keep His promises.
Romans 8:19 ESV
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Paul supports and develops the idea that our future glory is yet to be revealed by pointing to the eager longing of creation for the revealing of the sons of God.
Eager longing- suggests the picture of a person craning his or her neck to see what is coming.
For with eager expectation the creation expectantly waits for the revelation of the sons of God.
So the creation is eager expectantly waiting, for what? Notice the connection to the future glorification of the sons of God. There is a connection that is important to observe.
Vv. 20-21 are one sentence in the Greek so I am going to read them as such.
Romans 8:20–21 (ESV)
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Subjected to futility- this appears to be a reference to God cursing creation in Genesis 3 as a result of the fall. The idea of futility is that of uselessness or purposeless. In v. 21 we see that this futility is connected to the creation itself being enslaved to the corruption of sin and death.
Genesis 3:17–19 ESV
17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
So the creation itself is cursed- it takes part in the pain, the corruption, and the death that Adam shares in. Adam’s curse is creation’s curse. There is a link.
But notice also that the creation was subjected, not willingly, but by God’s choice. Yet, God subjected it also in hope.
Romans 8:20–21 (ESV)
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
This is probably a reference to the hope that God gave to Adam (and to creation) way back in Genesis 3 as He was subjecting both of them to the curse.
Genesis 3:15 ESV
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The hope of creation is found in the promise of God in Genesis 3:15 that one day eventually there would come an offspring of Eve who would crush the head of the snake. That one is none other than Jesus Christ. He has already made certain Satan’s demise. And one day Jesus will come back and fully undo all that Satan and sin did in corrupting God’s creation.
This promise was made to Adam and Eve, but Paul tells us, that like as creation was cursed along side of Adam and Eve, so too will creation be set free from its bondage when the children of God obtain the freedom of their glory.
This is the content of the hope of creation.
Romans 8:21 ESV
21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
So creation is eagerly longing for its hope. And what is its hope? To be set free from corruption! To obtain the freedom of the glory that we will possess one day as the children of God. Creation’s hope is our hope. There is a connection. We are both eagerly longing for the day when God removes the very presence of sin, when God removes the corruption of sin all together, when God glorifies us to be perfect and glorious as he is glorious. As we eagerly long for this hope so too does the creation of the world.
Why does Paul make such a strong connection between the creation, the world the universe—and the believer?
When will this transformation of creation take place? And how does it coincide with the glory of the children of God?
Revelation 21:1–8 ESV
1 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.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7 The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 22:1–5 ESV
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Friends, how do you know that you are trusting God’s words about our future unimaginable glory? Do you regularly have a deep longing in your heart for the promises of God to come to fruition? Do you long for them eagerly? Do you long for them expectantly? I can’t wait for eternal life! I can’t wait for our promised hope! How about you?
Test #3:

III. You will experience regular inward groanings as you see the effects of the corruption of sin (vv. 22-23)

Romans 8:22 ESV
22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
Because of the corruption of sin, it is as if creation is in a constant state of groaning. Like it remembers what it was like before the fall and longs to be returned to that perfect state.
Creation is suffering like a woman in pains of childbirth. What a perfect analogy. Childbirth is painful and difficult, but knowing the little bundle of joy that awaits makes it all worth it. The suffering leads to joy. This is how creation is suffering.
John 16:20–22 ESV
20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
Romans 8:23 ESV
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
It is not only the creation but also the children of God who groan. We sigh inwardly. This reflects our attitude of frustration when we see the remaining moral and physical corruption that clings to us. We see ourselves still in a state of weakness. So we groan knowing what we are destined to become.
We do understand a little of the good God has in store for us. Why? Because we have been given the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit. We have been sealed with the Spirit of God, we have been indwelt with the Spirit of God. And any true Christian knows just how sweet of a gift the Holy Spirit really is. And if this is only the firstfruits of the goodness God has for us, then we groan for the full possession of our inheritance. Here Paul calls it the full manifestation of being adopted as sons of God- we will receive the redemption of our bodies. We will be glorified!
“A healthy balance is necessary in the Christian life, in which our joy at the many blessings we already posses should be set beside our frustration at our failures and our intense yearning for that day when we will fail no more— when “we shall be like him.” —Moo
Philippians 3:20–21 ESV
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Do you long for that day? And do you experience groanings within your soul as you strain to be free of sin and its effects forever?
Test #4:

IV. You will wait for God’s promises with patient fortitude even when the sufferings of life all but erase your future hope (vv. 24-25)

Romans 8:24 ESV
24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
This again highlights the difficulty we face. Our hope, our future glory is unseen. That is why the Christian life requires faith.
Sometimes this is difficult. We can go through some very hard heart wrenching trials. Sometimes these trials can all but erase the image of our future glory.
And yet, God has promised to us this coming glory. Do we really trust his words? How will we respond to deep trials, when our eyes of faith are dim and our vision fades, and it feels like our hope is an impossible dream?
Romans 8:25 ESV
25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
If we trust God’s words about our future unimaginable glory, then we will wait for God’s words to become our reality with patience. Patience- patient endurance, patient fortitude. It is the idea of bearing up under a heavy weight. It is the idea of perseverance.
My life is really hard, but in the face of that I know God’s words to be true. And so I make what God says in his Word my reality. And if his words are my reality then I have the grace necessary to wait for God’s promises with patience- with patient fortitude.
2 Corinthians 4:17 ESV
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
2 Corinthians 4:18 ESV
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Do you really trust God’s words about your future unimaginable glory?
Do you will constantly weigh present sufferings in the balance with the future glory promised to us by God? Do you then find your present sufferings light and momentary in comparison to your future weighty glory?
Do you have an eager expectant longing to see the promises of God fulfilled? Are you straining your neck looking forward to all that God has promised?
Do you experience regular inward groanings as you see the effects of the corruption of sin? Do you sigh inwardly because of sin? Do you have this deep sense within you that you are destined for glory?
Do you wait for God’s promises with patient fortitude even when the sufferings of life all but erase your future hope? Are you able to bear up under the weight of trials because of your dogged confidence that God will keep His promises?
Our future unimaginable glory: It is our expectant hope, it is our great joy. So we walk by faith- looking not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
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