What do you say to the parent whose child will never have a mental ability beyond six months?
In his sermon, “The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the New Earth” pastor John Piper answers this very question:
“You read to them, with tears and with the joy of hope (“sorrowful yet always rejoicing”) Romans 8:18-25.”
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 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. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 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. 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.”
1. God promises that there will be liberation for this creation from its bondage and decay. V. 21: “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.”
Your disabled son will have an eternity to run and leap to the glory of God—and this world will have seemed like a light and momentary affliction.
2. This liberation from its natural order will be a participation in the freedom of the glory of God. V. 21: ” the creation . . . will . . . obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
Your child will not be changed to fit the new glorified universe. The new universe will be changed to fit the glory of your child. He will not have to adapt anymore; everything in creation will be adapted to him.
3. The arrival of the new liberated creation is compared to a birth; so there’s not only continuity with this world, but also discontinuity. V. 22: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Will my disabled son ever grow up? Will he eat on his own? Will he be able to make anything? God will make this world in a way that nothing is wasted. Your son will eat with Jesus. God will give him full development, for his maximum joy and God’s maximum joy.
What’s the deepest assurance and highest hope we can give these parents?
4. The hope of having redeemed bodies in the new creation is secured by our salvation which we received in the gospel—but this (receiving new bodies) is not our best hope. Vv. 23-24: “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. For in this hope we were saved.”
The ultimate gift and good of the gospel is not the redeemed bodies, not propitiation, not justification, not forgiveness of sins—these are all means. The ultimate good of the gospel is the glory of God himself in the his crucified and risen Son. 1 Pet. 3:18: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.”
The risen Christ will never lay down his risen body, but will keep it as an emblem of Calvary, where God’s grace was displayed most fully. We will sing of the slain lamb forever.