The Already/Not Yet of the Kingdom
How should citizens of a heavenly kingdom live while on Earth? In his seminal book Paul and the Faithfulness of God, N.T. Wright gestures towards that very question:
“The new creation—both the new creation and the new creation—has already been launched, and Messiah-people must learn how to live within that new world. They are ‘already in the new age.’ Equally, the final new creation is yet to come, and their behavior must look ahead to, and live in accordance with, something which is ‘not yet’ a present reality.”
Christ has defeated Satan—He’s reigning at the right hand of God currently—yet there remains work to be done before that reign is fully realized. Enemies still exist—chiefly, death. Of course, this isn’t the first time God’s people have been in such a situation. In 1 Chron. 10: 13-14, we see that the kingdom of the first Shepherd-King, David, was inaugurated without being fully consummated.
His predecessor, Saul, was struck down by the Lord and the kingdom was “turned over” to David. Yet, while this main foe was defeated, and David’s soon to be anointed King (11:3), it won’t be until chapter 18 that his enemies are completely conquered, and his kingdom will be fully realized. As interesting as this is from a historical perspective, it would do our faith well to consider how Israel lived during the time their land was claimed by two competing authorities—David’s and Saul’s.
In the next two devotionals, we’ll give attention to how Israel lived in the already/not yet of David’s kingdom. But for today, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge that this is an analogous position to the one in which believers find themselves in today. As C.S. Lewis says, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch, every split second is claimed by God, and counterclaimed by Satan.”
You see, Jesus has already defeated sin, death, and the devil. Eternal life was brought into the world two thousand years ago! Yet, we’re still waiting for that salvation to be fully realized. Believers know a full spiritual life now, but they also still taste physical death. One day, that won’t be.
Our salvation will be total—spiritual and physical. All things will be made new. On that day, when the Kingdom if fully realized, Jesus will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away.
To use Jesus’ parable, we’re still waiting for the yeast of the Kingdom to make its way fully through the dough of the world. But make its way it will, and, indeed, is. This is the already/not yet tension believers must learn to live in. Salvation is here, salvation is coming.
Pastor for Faith Formation at All Saints Dallas (AMiA) in Downtown Dallas, TX.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all
things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord
of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth,
divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together
under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.