New Defender's Study Bible Notes
8:19 creature. “Creature” in Romans 8:19-21 is the same word as “creation” in Romans 8:22. This important passage (Romans 8:19-23) is the main New Testament exposition of God’s primeval curse on His creation because of sin (Genesis 3:14-19), and its promised future deliverance. The latter awaits the unveiling to the world of all those who have been brought into God’s spiritual family.
8:20 vanity. “Vanity” is equivalent to “futility.” Because of sin, the creation was made to operate under a law which specifies a universal process of decay and death. This law of morpholysis is recognized by science as a basic principle pervading the whole universe. It is also called the law of increasing entropy (meaning turning inward) or the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Every system in the physical and biological worlds has a tendency to turn inward and “feed” on itself to maintain its structure and activity, but this simply causes it to run down, disintegrate and die, unless it somehow becomes opened to outside sources of energy, information, food, etc. Even if it does remain an open system, this internal tendency continues to act in opposition to the incoming energy. Since even the latter will eventually be exhausted, the whole creation is thus in bondage to this principle of futility, or “in-vainness.” But since this law has been imposed by God, He also can remove it, and so there still is “hope.”