Romans 1:18-20 is often cited to justify the thought that God is now judging every person in the world for their final judgment. The claim evidently is that God has revealed himself to everyone in the world through his creation, and thus the final judgment is determined by whether one comes to God before death.
What is Paul writing about in Romans 1:18-20? Was he saying that every person who has ever lived is being given a final individual judgment based on what is revealed in God's physical, material creation?
Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness,
Paul speaks of the wrath of God, the condemnation, that has come upon mankind through the sin of Adam, which wrath remains upon any any who are outside the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. (Romans 5:1-19; John 3:36) This wrath can be seen in all the subjection to futility and the suffering of mankind. — Romans 8:20; Ecclesiastes 1:2,13,14. This condemnation through Adam would have been eternal had it not been for the sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind.
Romans 1:19 – because that which is known by God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them.
Paul is not saying that all mankind living has received this revealing, but he is referring to mankind especially as represented in the first human pair, Adam and Eve. It was as represented in Adam and Eve that mankind knew God (Romans 1:21), and to whom God revealed himself. Adam could see God's creation in the Garden of Eden, and therefore he had no acceptable excuse in God's eyes for disobedience. But more than this, God had revealed himself to Adam in Adam himself, for as Paul intimates in Romans 2:15, God had written his perfect law in heart of man. Thus Paul says he was not deceived. (1 Timothy 2:14) Eve, however, was deceived, but she surely must have ignored the law written in her in order to create a desire within herself be deceived. Through Adam especially, all mankind in Adam were being judged regarding God’s law of love and obedience to the Creator. Due to Adam's sin, God turned mankind over to all kinds of sinful desire, as recorded in Romans 1:24-31; as a result, the law of God in the heart of mankind has highly corrupted through sinful desires of the flesh. (Genesis 6:12; 1 Peter 1:4) Nevertheless, mankind does still have a left-over sense of God’s law as revealed to Adam, for Paul later refers to this, when speaking of the heathen, that, they, by nature, do things of the Law. (Romans 2:14) Not that any of the heathen were actually fully obedient of the Law, but that we find remnants of God’s original Law as revealed to Adam, the law of love and justice. Rather than providing a means of salvation, this law actually condemns all, as Paul later says that he “previously charged both Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin.” (Romans 3:9) He later elaborates on this condemnation under sin in Romans 5:12-19.
Romans 1:20 – For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse.
ta gar aorata autou apo ktisews kosmou
THE FOR UNSEEN (THINGS) OF HIM FROM CREATION OF WORLD
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tois poieemasin nooumena kathoratai hee te
TO THE THINGS MADE BEING PERCEIVED IS SEEN DOWN, THE AND
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aidios autou dunamis kai theiotees eis to einai
ETERNAL OF HIM POWER AND GODSHIP, INTO THE TO BE
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Westcott & Hort Interlinear
The unseen things of God, his eternal power and godship, being perceived, is seen from the creation of the world, so that they are defenseless.
The creation refers to the world of mankind, not all creation in whole universe, as is also the case in Romans 8:19-22, where Paul writes of the whole creation as having been subjected to vanity. (See Ecclesiastes 1:2,13-15) The "whole creation" is not referring the angels in heaven, nor even to the material world itself, but it is referring the "whole creation" of Adam and his descendants. The "world" in Romans 1:20 is the same “world” that is spoken of Romans 5:12, into which one man — Adam — introduced sin. Thus, in Romans 1:20, Adam and Eve are still being used to represent the creation. From the creation of the world of mankind, as mankind looks back upon what is recorded about Adam and Eve, one can see the demonstration of God’s eternal power and godship. The invisible things of God were seen in the original creation, and still can be seen although man’s perception of God’s creation has been marred by man’s disobedience and God's subsequent subjection of man to a bondage of corruption and vanity, so that many men draw the wrong conclusions from the present-day things that are seen. Without what many refer to as the indwelling of God's spirit, the physical man under the bondage of corruption and vanity cannot appreciate God's spiritual truths. (1 Corinthians 2:7-15) It is similar to the parables that Jesus spoke to the people, for he says that they were as “seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13) But to Adam and Eve before they sinned, God’s eternal power and godship could be seen clearly in their own creation. Today, however, that perception has been marred by corruption through sin. (2 Peter 1:4) Nevertheless, as Paul later shows, all mankind are included in Adam (Romans 5:12-19), and thus all mankind are counted as without excuse in Adam.
Romans 1:21 – Because, knowing God, they didn’t glorify him as God, neither gave thanks, but became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened.
Mankind, represented in Adam and Eve, once knew God, but they didn’t give him the glory, the honor, due to him as God. They became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless heart was darkened. Eve allowed herself to be deceived so as to obey the serpent rather than God; Adam evidently wished to obey Eve rather than to obey God.
Romans 1:22 – Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
The story in Genesis shows that Eve was tempted by what many today often refer to as witchcraft, or the crafty “wisdom” of the serpent. The serpent told her, in effect, that Jehovah was a liar, and thus Jehovah was not worthy to receive the glory and honor of rulership and godship. The serpent lead Eve into believing that disobedience to the One who made them would a wise thing to do. Adam, however, was not deceived as was Eve, and thus in his hands lay a greater responsibility. Although not deceived, he evidently considered it to be a wise thing to obey the voice of his wife, rather than the commandment of Jehovah. And thus mankind become fools.
Romans 1:23 – and traded the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and creeping things.
Until Adam and Eve sinned, they had the incorrupt (but not incorruptible) glory of God. They were incorrupt, but they were also corruptible. They had not put on incorruption (incorruptiblitly) in their loyalty to God. And yet, they had not fallen short of the glory through sin. Once they sinned, however, they fell short of the glory. (Romans 3:23) Their original image of God (Genesis 1:26) in them was thus marred due to sin, and was no longer incorrupt, but was corrupted. Through Adam, all of Adam's descendants have likewise been subjected to this corrupt condition, under a bondage of corruption.
In other words, God created mankind upright, straight, incorrupt, without sin, but mankind was not created incorruptible. (Ecclesiastes 7:29) Had they been incorruptible, then it would have been impossible for them to have become corrupted by sin. (2 Peter 1:4) On the other hand, being created upright, without corruption, mankind was not created in a bondage to corruption, but was later subjected to such a bondage due to Adam’s sin. (Romans 8:20) Being incorrupt, yet corruptible, God gave mankind — represented in Adam and Eve — the freedom to either obey or disobey. (Genesis 2:17) Paul hints in Romans 1:23 that their obedience would eventually have led them to possessing the incorruptible glory like their God. But, instead of seeking to become incorruptible, they traded that hope for the image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, etc. Thus, it came to be that man was reduced to being like the beasts of the field, so that now, “man [who was originally given dominion over all the lower creatures of the earth] has no advantage over the animals: for all is vanity.” — Ecclesiastes 3:19; Genesis 1:26,28; Psalm 8:5-8; Hebrews 2:6-8.
Nevertheless, the condemnation that resulted from mankind’s disobedience in the Garden is offset by the ransom sacrifice of Jesus. (Romans 5:12-19; 2 Timothy 2:5,6) That condemnation in Adam is not the final judgment, for Jesus died to save, deliver, the whole world from the original judgment, so that the world may be enlightened and given another, a more favorable time of judgment in the “last day”. — Isaiah 2:2-4; 26:9,10; John 12:48,48; Revelation 20.
Since there is a guarantee of a coming day of judgment for man, no, Paul was not, by his words recorded in Romans 1:18-23, laying a basis of an individual final judgment of man in this age, before the day of judgment. Indeed, if this was so, then there would not be any need for another provision of judgment; the judgment of the world through Adam would be permanent.
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