We are doing a bit of an overview of Romans 8 and considering what it has to teach us about suffering. Last time we acknowledged the reality of suffering in a fallen world and we saw that suffering cannot separate us from Christ and that all creation suffers. Let’s begin today’s post with this truth:
Suffering Precedes Glory
Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
While we are justified by grace through faith, no one on earth has seen what our salvation looks like fully. So we wait for it in hope. As Robert Mounce notes, “Our salvation involves the hope that our mortal bodies will someday be liberated from the bondage of decay.”
Right now is a season of suffering, but it won’t be that way forever. Because one day we will be in glorified bodies in the physical presence of our great King Jesus. But right now—in this age—is a time of suffering. Our bodies still fade right now. Our bodies still groan right now.
Do you remember when you were in your 20s? And you could wake up in the morning and nothing would pop or crack or ache? Do you remember in your 20s how they would have to put you in a body cast to keep you down but now if you sleep awkwardly, you’re out for a week?
Oh, but I have good news! For those in Christ our bodies won’t be this way for long! Suffering is now, but glory is coming. And Paul also says Christians are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Romans 8:17).
Suffering precedes glory. In fact, if we never suffer for the cause of Christ, we have reason to wonder if we are in Christ at all. For to be in Christ is to suffer with Him.
Just as Christ suffered for our sins, died, rose again, and ascended to glory, so too does the Christian carry his cross before he receives his crown. And maybe in our present situation that suffering might be ridiculed because we do not buy into mainstream ideologies. Later, that suffering might intensify in America — we are already seeing an open-war on the gathering of the church.
But the Christian continues to seek to be the hands and feet of Christ during these days to trust His ways and to follow Him, shining as lights in the midst of a dark world. We should consider using these times to remind people that life is frail, death is certain, and judgment is coming.
Our main hope is not in vaccines or a stabilized market but in the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.
And unless our nation repents, they will all likewise perish. So what if one survives 2020 but still loses their soul? And so we face our present crisis with a completely different mindset than the lost and dying world. It’s okay to be concerned. In a way, Christian love certainly demands that we be concerned. But we dare not panic because we know suffering precedes glory and we wait for glory with patience (Romans 8:25).
The very Christian motto is Cross before a Crown. We see throughout the Scriptures that God’s people are exiles and strangers. And so, as we wait with hope, we point to Jesus even if that adds to our suffering.
Suffering does not negate security, suffering is cosmic in scope, suffering precedes glory, and finally:
Suffering Cannot Compare to Glory
Not only does suffering precede glory, but we must also affirm that suffering cannot compare to glory. Paul writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Notice that it’s not “suffering” but “sufferings”. That is, sufferings are manifold in this present life. And there are degrees of suffering we go through. And some go through significant degrees of suffering while it seems others go through lesser degrees of suffering.
But the point is, none of these sufferings is worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. So, in our suffering, we might wonder “Is glory going to be as good as this suffering is bad?” And Paul says, oh no, you do not understand. The glory to be revealed is not worthy to be compared to present sufferings.
You can’t use “like” or “as” or a Venn diagram or charts or scales or an excel spreadsheet to compare our sufferings to glory. The glory to be revealed is unquantifiable. It is incomparable to our sufferings. Sufferings are so insignificant when compared to glory that you cannot rightly compare the two.
The suffering that keeps us up at night. The suffering that breaks our hearts. The suffering that has left scars both physical and emotional. The suffering that we don’t think we can get through or over or ever behind us.
Paul says, that suffering, those sufferings are not even worth compared to the glory that is to be revealed in us. You don’t even know what’s in store up ahead. You can’t even fully fathom it. It is beyond your finite brain.
For those in Christ Jesus, glory is more certain than tomorrow’s sunrise and it is of inestimable majesty.
My eschatology, my doctrine of the end times, is really divided into two ages — this present age, and the age to come. This present age is the age of suffering. The age to come is the age of glory. Christ is coming to call His Bride to Himself. We will reign with Him.
And I can’t tell you all that will be like because we can’t fathom it all. But we do know that it is incomparable to the present suffering. COVID-19, cancer, bankruptcy, sorrow, sadness, sickness, divorce, infidelity, impropriety, miscarriage, persecution, martyrdom, and all the myriads of ways we suffer—they will not even be worth mentioning in glory because they will have been so insignificant in comparison.
So Paul says this in 2 Cor. 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 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.”
COVID-19, this pandemic, the economic fallout, the persecution that may or may not follow, and all suffering in this life: Paul says, it is light, and it is but for a moment, and it is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
This is beautiful. This is hopeful. This is something we can sink our faith into.
I saw Paula White pandering for money earlier this year. In the midst of this situation, she’s still serving her golden calf. She’s looking at things seen. Christian brother or sister: I’m asking you to turn your eyes upon things unseen. Look to Christ. Cling to His gospel. Glory is coming.
I might mention a word here to unbelievers — Just as the suffering of this life cannot be compared to the glory believers will receive when Jesus returns, so too, your best days cannot compare to the immense suffering you are headed for at judgment.
When Christ returns, if you are not in Him, condemnation awaits you. Eternal condemnation in a place called hell.
But if you are reading this, there is hope. I invite you this day to turn your eyes upon Jesus. To repent of your sins and believe the gospel — Christ suffered, the righteous for the unrighteous that He might bring us to God (see 1 Peter 3:18). Turn from your sins and put your faith in the suffering and subsequent resurrection of King Jesus.
Note: These posts were taken from a sermon I preached on Romans 8:18-30. You can listen to that sermon here.