Romans 8 and Romans 5 have to be taken together. First, Romans 5:12Open in Logos Bible Software (if available) links human suffering and death to Adam’s original sin. Then Romans 8 teaches that human suffering and “natural” suffering (i.e., the suffering of the created order) are tied together. These notions form a single, biblical idea that matches the picture in Genesis 3.
The early chapters of Genesis trace death to Adam’s sin. Along with death came an entire brood of calamities. Alienation from God, suspicion of and hostility toward other people, grinding labor, sorrow, and physical pain all began with the sentence of death. At that time the created order was altered so that things no longer functioned according to their original design and purpose. For example, the ground was cursed and certain plants were changed so that they became hindrances to human wellbeing.
The New Testament teaches much the same: Adam’s sin brought death and its brood. In 1 Corinthians 15:21 Paul states that death came through a human being. In the next verse he identifies this person as Adam. Paul adds that all die in Adam, linking every human death to Adam’s original transgression.
The apostle further develops this theme in Romans 5:12-21. Verse 12 may teach more about the human condition than any other single verse in the Bible: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned….” Here Paul links Adam, sin, and death. Death came into the world only through sin. Sin entered the world only through Adam.
In Romans 8, which continues Paul’s argument from Romans 5, he further explains disorder and suffering in the world. He begins by noting that believers are sons of God and joint-heirs with Christ, joined with Him both in suffering and in expecting glorification (16-17). The sufferings, he explains, are far less significant than the eventual glory (18). Paul then uses a conjunction that links human suffering to the futility of the created order (19), observing that creation is presently in slavery to decay (20-21). This slavery is not something that creation chose for itself; rather, decay was imposed upon it (20). The result is that the whole created order has been groaning and suffering in labor-like pains ever since (22). As part of this general decay, human beings, including believers, also experience groaning (23). Both human suffering and the suffering of creation in general will continue until believers are manifested as God’s children and adopted sons, an event that will occur at the redemption of their bodies—a clear reference to their bodily resurrection (21, 23).