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. – Romans 8:23-25 ESV
While we live in this world, we find ourselves praying for the healing of those who are sick, the restoration of marriages that are broken, and the salvation of those who are lost. We long for peace in the world, an absence of pain, the presence of joy, and the removal of all sorrow. But we must understand that while we might get a glimpse of some of these things in this life, they are reserved for the life to come. Paul says, “we groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons.” He is insinuating that we lack sonship in this life, but that the final stage of our adoption will take place when we receive the inheritance that has been reserved for us.
Like the prodigal son, many of us demand our full inheritance in this life. We want it all now. And while Jesus did promise us abundant life, life to the full, He did not say that we would receive the full measure of our promised resurrection life right here, right now. In these verses, Paul describes us as having the “firstfruits of the Spirit,” He is NOT saying that we are firstfruits of the Spirit, but that we have received the firstfruits of the Spirit. He provides us with a foretaste of future glory. The Holy Spirit within us gives us glimpse of what our glorification will be like. Paul is not telling us we have only a part of the Holy Spirit. But as he told the believers in Corinth, the Holy Spirit is a kind of down-payment or earnest money, the first installment on all that is to come. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NIV).
Paul mentions two aspects of our future glorification that should grab our attention. The first is the completion of our adoption by God as His sons and daughters. In an adoption, the paperwork can be completed, the financial transactions finalized and the child official status as an adopted son established, but the process is not really complete until the child and the parent are together. So it will be with us. Paul wrote to the Galatian believers, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV). We have been adopted, but we are not yet with our heavenly Father. We have yet to receive our full inheritance as sons and daughters. And that brings us to the second aspect of Paul’s emphasis: “the redemption of our bodies.” We are still living in these bodies of flesh, what Paul elsewhere described as “tents”. “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NLT). He goes on to say, “we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 5:4-5 NLT).
Our finalized adoption and the redemption of our bodies. We should long for that day – eagerly and hopefully. In fact, Paul tells us “For in this hope we were saved.” That is the true purpose for our salvation in Christ. Not our best life now, but His perfect life later. In these bodies we groan. In this life we face trials and troubles. “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing” (2 Corinthians 5:2 NLT). We should long for our adoption and the redemption of our bodies. And while we most certainly enjoy the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, the day is coming when God will make His dwelling among us. We will be with Him and He will be with us. I love the words of the Apostle John in his first letter. “Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). “Now we see things imperfectly,” Paul writes, “like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT).
The presence of the Holy Spirit within us gives us a glimpse of our future glory and should provide us with an incentive to live lives of holiness now. He is a constant reminder of what is to come. He is our comforter. But the day is coming when we will no longer need to be comforted. There will be no more tears, sorrow, pain, disease, suffering, sin or death. We will have new, resurrected bodies. We have unbroken fellowship with God, our Father. We will enjoy fellowship with Jesus in an atmosphere of perfect righteousness and justice. Can I explain it? Can I fully comprehend it? No. But I can hopefully, eagerly hope for it. “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT).