The Shadowlands was a television film made in Britain in 1985. It was later made into a major motion picture in 1993. The Shadowlands tells the story of C. S. Lewis and his marriage to Joy Davidman and of the happiness and the suffering that they went through. They both experienced the terminal illness of Joy and the sadness of her loss was experienced by C. S. Lewis who only lived a short time after her death. Lewis wrote, “Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I’ve been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chose suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal.” (http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowlands) The shadowlands of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman were a place of suffering in this life. They were also a temporary place and didn’t last. They only foreshadowed a glory that is yet to come.
Recently, our beloved Cocker Spaniel, Blackie, passed away. He was 13 ½ years old. We had raised him from a puppy. He had been such a joy to us all of his life. We loved him and he loved us. Yet, we had to give him up to a terminal illness. There was nothing we could do to save him. His life came to an end. When he left us, we were very sad. We had almost taken it for granted that he would always be with us but we were wrong. His life ended. He was only temporary as so much in this life is. We are living in a place of temporariness. This life is only a shadow of what is yet to come. Well, we hope to see Blackie again one day at the resurrection with a new body that will no longer suffer. God loves animals and I am sure many will be there in that resurrection life including our dear Blackie.
We live in the shadowlands. This life will not last. There is suffering here. There is death. What we experience in this life is only temporary and behind the curtain is a life yet to come, the glory of which cannot be compared to this present world. In a way it’s all a mystery, but it is true.
In this article we want to consider Romans 8:18 which says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” We are living in the shadowlands. We are living in a place of temporariness. We are living in a place where suffering occurs. We are living in a place where death is commonplace. This life is only a shadow. It can’t be the reality. The reality is yet to come and its glory cannot be compared to this life. We must not set our hearts on this life alone. If we do, we will be disappointed and sad because what this life has will not last.
Our beloved dog Blackie was such a joy to us. We took him for a walk every day. We took him on our trips. He was always by our side and was a wonderful companion, but he was only here for a while. Our joy was only temporary. The Lord gave him to us and then He took him away. Yet, our experience with him was a shadow or only an example of the joy that is yet to come at the resurrection. We all live in the shadowlands. We cannot escape the shadowlands. We will all pass through them. Yet, if we know Christ, there is a glory yet to be revealed on the other side. We look forward to that future glory.
The shadowlands are a place of suffering. We need to consider the fact of sufferings in this present life. This creation in which we now live is a place of suffering. This is brought out in Romans 8:19-23 – “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” In referring to verse 18, John Murray states, “This verse is an appeal to the great disproportion between the sufferings endured in this life and weight of glory reserved for the children of God – the present sufferings fade into insignificance when compared with the glory to be revealed in the future. The apostle appeals to this consideration as an indurement to patient endurance of the sufferings.” (The Epistle to the Romans, p. 300)
Suffering is a fact. People get sick. People eventually die. So do animals. This suffering is all around us. We cannot escape it. Even though there are good doctors and hospitals and many advances in health care, suffering continues. Death strikes everyone sooner or later. That doesn’t include other types of suffering such as wars and droughts and storms and other kinds of disasters. This world is a place of suffering. That’s a fact.
There is suffering for many in general. There are sufferings we all experience whether Christian or not for merely being members of the human race. We all get sick sometimes. We will all die. We all experience sadness at some time. Again Romans 8:22 says, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Paul says this suffering has been around for a while and continues right up to the present time. It is a suffering in general for the whole creation and we all experience it.
Then, there are sufferings for God’s people in particular. 2 Timothy 3:12 says, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” There is this special suffering that Christians go through in this life. It’s a part of taking up the cross and following Jesus. The cross is an instrument of suffering. God allows us to go through different kinds of suffering as a part of bearing the cross and persecution is a part of that. I have been reading recently about the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900 when hundreds of Christian missionaries and even greater numbers of Chinese Christians were put to death because of their faith in Christ. Many were ordered to bow down to the idols and give up their Christian faith, but they refused and were killed. Many missionaries had given their lives to reach the Chinese with the gospel and yet they were violently put to death by the very people they had come to reach. That was their suffering. God allowed it. They were living in the shadowlands, a place of suffering. Many Christians have suffered for their faith through history and many more may yet suffer. That’s a part of this present life. That’s a part of living in the shadowlands. Yet it will not last. It is only temporary because the shadowlands are a temporary place. There is something better to come behind the curtain.
Let’s see then next that the shadowlands are only a shadow of what is yet to come. Everything is temporary in this life. There is no permanence here. Everything is temporary. Blackie, our beloved Cocker Spaniel, was only temporary in this life. His life came to an end. So it is the same with everything else. We are only strangers and pilgrims passing through these shadowlands. We are not here permanently.
Hebrews 11:13-16 refer to the faith of the Patriarchs saying, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” These shadowlands are a place to pass through not to stay. We cannot stay here. There is something behind the curtain that we must go to. F. F. Bruce writes, “All creation, says Paul, is waiting with earnest longing for the day when the sons of God will be manifested in glory….this state of frustration and bondage – is only temporary; just as man at present falls short of the glory of God, so creation as a whole cannot attain the full end for which she was brought into being. Like man, creation must be redeemed because, like man, creation has been subjected to a fall.” (The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, p. 168-169)
This present life is only a shadow of what is yet to come. It is not the reality. The reality is yet to come. Here all is temporary and is only a shadow of the reality that is to come at the resurrection. Colossians 2:17 says, “These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” The Old Testament types were only shadows. Christ was the reality. Those shadows only pointed to Him. Hebrews 8:5 says, “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.’” The tabernacle and the temple were only a shadow. They were not permanent. They pointed to something greater than themselves. Hebrews 10:1 says, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” The Ceremonial Law of the Old Testament was a shadow of something yet to come. This shadow pointed to the reality of what would come in Christ.
We read in 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV), “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Here we look through a dark veil. We can’t see it all. We are in the shadowlands. Yet, one day that veil will be taken away and we will see clearly. This heaven and earth we now experience is only a shadow of what will be. The glory is yet to come. This life is only a shadow. It is temporary and it only points to something greater to be revealed at the resurrection.
In Isaiah 25:7-8, we find this interesting passage: “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” There is a shroud or a dark sheet or veil that now covers all people. That shroud is suffering and death. It is what happens here in the shadowlands. Yet, God promises to remove that shroud and to wipe away every tear and take away our suffering. When Jesus died on the cross, He opened the way for the removal of the shroud and we will see the reality at the resurrection. F. F. Bruce writes, “…what is now seen in a limited and all too distorted fashion will be seen in perfection when the people of God at last attain the goal which He has ever had in view for them – complete conformity to His glorified Son.” (The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, p. 168)
We must look forward to the future glory. Again, we read in Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Our future glory outweighs our present life. It will be a place without suffering. It is beyond the shadowlands. It is behind the curtain now, but one day it will be revealed. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Matthew Henry writes, “The sufferings are small and short, and concern the body only; but the glory is rich and great, and concerns the soul, and is eternal.” (Commentary on Romans, p. 419) Our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared to that future glory that will come. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” In commenting on that future glory, 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’.”
F. F. Bruce writes, “But the glory to come far outweighs the affliction of the present. The affliction is light and temporary when compared with the all-surpassing and everlasting glory. So Paul, writing against a background of recent and (even for him) unparalleled tribulation, has assured his friends in Corinth a year or two previously that ‘our light affliction, which is but for a moment worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ It is not merely that the glory is a compensation for the suffering; it actually grows out of the suffering. There is an organic relation between the two for the believer as surely as there was for his Lord.” (The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, p. 168)
We must not dwell too much on this life alone. In his first epistle, John tells us, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (I John 3:2) If we dwell only on this life, we will be led to despair. This life is only temporary. It will not last. Our only hope is in Christ. He has gone before us and has prepared a place for us. Paul tells the Corinthians, “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Because Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so we will also be resurrected. So, we look forward to the resurrection that is yet to come. Romans 8:23 says, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” We must dwell on this. We look forward to a resurrection and a glory that will yet be revealed. We must not dwell only on this life. We are citizens of another place, not the Shadowlands. We are passing through them. One day we will see behind the curtain. Matthew Henry wrote, “There is nothing like a believing view of the glory which shall be revealed to support and bear up the spirit under all the sufferings of this present time. The reproach of Christ appears riches to those who have respect to the recompense of reward.” (Commentary on Romans, p. 420)
John Murray writes, “The age to come is the age of the resurrection and of the glory to be revealed. The contrast is not between the sufferings endured by a believer in this life prior to death and the bliss upon which he enters at death. The glory contemplated is that of the resurrection and of the age to come. It is said to be ‘the glory which shall be revealed to usward’. The expression bespeaks the certainty of the revelation in the future…..the glory revealed is so bound up with the resurrection that we cannot conceive of it as existing now except in the design and purpose of God. This glory is to be revealed ‘unto us’, that is to say, it is to reach unto us, is to be bestowed upon us, so that we become the actual partakers; it is not a glory of which we are to be mere spectators.” (The Epistle to the Romans, p. 300-301)
The glory is yet to be revealed. It is not here yet. We must grasp it by faith. This life is temporary. It will not last, but there is a life coming that will be glorious for God’s people. On his last day, our dog Blackie couldn’t get up from his bed. He wanted to. I heard him make a whimpering noise and went in to see what was wrong. He was covered with a wool blanket and couldn’t get up. He had grown very weak over the last few days. So, I helped him up and took him outside to use the restroom. He whimpered one more time that day when I had taken him to the Vet’s office. Again I had him covered with a wool blanket. I guess he was too warm. So, I took it off of him as we sat together on the bench in the examination room. That visit was to be the end of the road for Blackie. As I was holding him, the Vet gently put him to sleep. He had passed through the shadowlands as we all do. One day maybe we will see him again on that glorious resurrection day. I hope so. I believe so.
We know that all who know Christ will be raised from the dead to a glorious new life in the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus has paved the way for us. He rose from the dead as the firstfruits. We will follow on the resurrection day.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (1978) unless indicated otherwise.
Bruce, F. F. The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1963.
Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume VI – Acts to Revelation, Fleming H. Revell Company, USA, no date given.
Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1968.