There is an already.
And there is a not yet.
And I’ve always thought that somehow, we who are Christ-followers (and, those who are not–so truly, all of mankind), are somewhere in this in-between area suspended between the two, as we live in this present age.
But tonight I am rethinking that idea.
I’ve been reading–and writing–my way through Dr. John Frame’s Systematic Theology. I’m grateful to P&R Publishing for this opportunity, and grateful for Dr. Frame’s labor to produce a very comprehensive, yet applicable tome that covers a tremendous scope of effort. If interested, you can read my introduction to this series at this link: Theology is…. Also, I’ll add links to my other postings about earlier chapters below.
You know that cliché–“Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good?” Yeah? Well–first let me share that I abhor clichés. Very much so, in fact. But sometimes…well, sometimes they hit a bit close to home. And, I’m afraid, that sometimes I wander a bit closely to this one.
I focus much on the “not yet”……. the home that is to come, when Christ returns or this life ends and I find myself before my God. I ache for the day that no longer will I see as in a mirror dimly, but rather see Him face-to-face. (1 Corinthians 13:12). I yearn for the day that what I know in part becomes fully known–just as my Savior fully knows me. (also 1 Corinthians 13:12)
However, reading through Frame’s chapter titled The Kingdom of God (Chapter 5) has reminded me of something that I need reminded of–often. The two–the already and the not yet–co-exist in a way that we can neither explain nor ignore.
The present age that we live in, is not some cosmic “holding pen”, where we are biding our time until we are called to our final destination. Yet please, hear me say this: I am not saying that we are not sojourners here. We are; very much so. This is not our home, we who are Christ-followers. We are, in all ways, passing through. Our citizenship lies in the eternal sanctification that we are called to in the “not yet”. But this present age is also a part of the Kingdom of God. It is the “already”. And while there is tremendous grief and suffering that we witness–and experience–in this present life (oh, my soul, how deeply I have known that grief!)–the reason we can have hope in that grief, is because there is an “already”.
The Kingdom of God is present. Today.
Frame shares this, regarding “the age to come”:
“The “age to come,” however, is the age of fulfillment…In the understanding of those Jews who believed in resurrection, “that age” follows our death and God’s final judgement. In “the age to come,” God’s people have “eternal life” (Mark 10:30)…..
…But, the remarkable thing about NT teaching, in contrast with the Jewish conception, is that in one sense the “age to come” has already appeared in Christ. Believers in Christ are those “on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).” (Frame, pg. 89)
Remarkable, indeed. Because, sometimes–sometimes I get so wrapped up in the concept that “there will be a day, with no more tears–no more suffering”, that I forget to see the remarkable impact that Christ’s resurrection has on this age. On my life today, sitting here at my desk in a small, marshy peninsula on the East Coast of the United States, as I hear my laundry machine humming, as I listen to my girl practicing her violin in her room, and as I hear my boy cooking himself an egg sandwich in the kitchen–because he never, ever is full (such is the life of a 17-year-old boy).
Christ’s resurrection is what gives me–and you, dear reader–the hope we so desperately need and desire, here in this present age. The truth of scripture lays out that hope for us in the accounts of our Lord’s death, burial and resurrection. Just as the disciples and the women who went to the tomb found their utter despair turned upside down in a split second, we, too, can and do have that same life-giving hope.
And that hope should color everything we do and say. It should be the lens through which we view all of life–the good, and the sorrowful. The joys and the griefs. The moments of elation, and the moments of tremendous despair. It is what allows us to be able to grasp what is written 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18–that we do not grieve as others who have no hope. It is a hope that we have in the “already”. And it is a hope that will be fully realized, in the “not yet”.
I never want to lose site of the truth that this is not my home. I will always long for that home. Maybe more than some. I have seen much in this life, that makes me long for the truth that “there will be a day”.
But I don’t want to become so future-focused that I neglect to see the “already” that we have in this present age: that Jesus has already ushered in the Kingdom of God. He stands at the right-hand of His father. He sees and knows us, and grieves over the suffering in this world. And He is a holy and just God, who, in His sovereignty, rules this present age every bit as much as the age to come.
This is why there is joy, and hope, in this present age that also contains much sorrow and suffering–because He is King, in the now. He is King, in this “already” of every day life, as we wait for the “not yet”.
(If you would like to check out Frame’s Systematic Theology, you can find more information at the P&R Publishing website, located at this link: Systematic Theology by John Frame) or by clicking the picture of the book above this post.)
Other posts in this series: