For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected [the same] in hope,
Note 5 at Ro 8:20: Many people have thought that the "creature" spoken of here is human beings. However, the contrast made in Ro 8:22-23 clearly exempts the saints from this group. Ro 8:21 speaks of the creature being "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." If "creature" were referring to unsaved people, then this would mean ultimate reconciliation of the human race to God, and that is not the teaching of Scripture. Therefore, it is most probable that the creature being spoken of here is all of creation, living and non-living, excluding humans. Paul was speaking of how all of creation did not choose to rebel against God. It was just mankind that sinned. Yet the Lord brought all the rest of creation, against their choice, into our cursed state with us so that He could also redeem them with mankind.
Take for example the animal creation. Ge 1:30 says that all the animals were given "every green herb" for their food. There were no carnivorous beasts. Yet after man's rebellion, parts of the animal creation began to devour one another, as we see today. This was not God's original plan, and it was not because of a specific sin on the animals' part that this happened. God subjected the animal creation to the same vanity (see note 6 at this verse) that man had come into, in the hope of redeeming them also.
The animal creation, as well as the inanimate creation, will be delivered from the corruption that we now see, to walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God. It is not clear that every animal that has ever lived will be resurrected, but it is clear that the animal creation will be represented.
The Scriptures declare this freedom for the creation when it speaks of the child playing with the snake; the wolf and the leopard dwelling peacefully with sheep; and the lion and lamb, and cow and bear dwelling together and eating straw like the ox (Isa 11:6-8 and 65:25). We know that in heaven, there are animals because the saints ride white horses at the Second Coming of Jesus (Re 19:14).
In summary, the animal creation was plunged into the same degenerate state as mankind so that they could also be redeemed with us into liberty. Therefore, it can be expected that on the new earth where the saints will live for eternity (Re 21:1-7), animals will be living in harmony with each other and mankind as God originally designed in His first creation.
Note 6 at Ro 8:20: The Greek word that was translated "vanity" here is the word "MATAIOTES," and it means "emptiness as to results" (Vine's Expository Dictionary). In this verse it specifically means "failing of the results designed, owing to sin" (Vine's Expository Dictionary). This is speaking of the non-human creation (see note 5 at this verse) being subjected to a corruption (Ro 8:21) that was not God's original design.
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