Paul begins this section by affirming what must have been quite obvious to a lot of people at his time: this world is a place of much suffering and pain. But we should not think that the life then was so miserable because they did not have all the modern conveniences, such as running water and dishwashers and laundry machines and cars and airplanes, not to mention HD TV’s and internet. It’s easy to think that way because we are a generation of people who wonder how we ever lived without the smartphones! I’m sure the people of the ancient world were happier and more satisfied than we think they were since they had no idea how convenient life has become for us. Even so, they themselves were not so naïve as to think that their lives were just fine and dandy! They did know the kind of hardship they lived in when their babies and loved ones died prematurely, when their children cried for more food and they had none to give them, when they frequently fell victims to floods and droughts and lost everything they had (from which we are still not free as we saw in recent hurricanes). So, Paul took it for granted that, when he characterized the life in the ancient world as a life of suffering (v. 18) and groaning (v. 23), pretty much everyone would agree.
That was then. How is it now? Has it gotten any better after 2,000 years and all the scientific progress we have made? Life expectancy has gotten much longer. Infant mortality rate is definitely way down. Life has gotten so much more convenient. And we are much more educated and knowledgeable. With Google Search at our fingertips, we have access to so much information instantaneously. But can we say we are better people? Are we better at resisting temptations and overcoming sin? Probably not. All we have to do is just read what people post on the internet and the kind of obscene and mean comments people make in the safety of anonymity. It is obvious that we need redemption at a foundational level—nothing short of a new creation. That is what our glorification is ultimately about.