The “Already but not yet” motif by Jack Kettler
What does the “already but not yet” eschatological motif mean?
“The theological concept of “already” and “not yet” was proposed by Princeton theologian Gerhardus Vos early in the 20th century, who believed that we live in the present age, the 'now,' and await the 'age to come.'” - Wikipedia
“The theological concept of “already but not yet” holds that believers are actively taking part in the kingdom of God, although the kingdom will not reach its full expression until sometime in the future. We are “already” in the kingdom, but we do “not yet” see it in its glory. The “already but not yet” theology is related to kingdom theology or inaugurated eschatology.” - ‘Answers’ as quoted at the monergism web site.”
The idea of “already but not yet,” teaches that the kingdom of God will not reach its full manifestation until the second coming of Christ. Nevertheless, there are aspects of the kingdom that are a present reality. Said another way, there are present and future aspects of the kingdom of God. We have salvation now, but still await glorification that happens in the resurrection at the end of redemptive history.
It may be asked, what is inaugurated eschatology? Inaugurated eschatology is used to describe the view that the kingdom of God was established at the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus brought the kingdom of God, which has both present and future realities. In the Old Testament, Israel was a type of the kingdom inaugurated by Christ. The kingdom from the 1st century onward incorporates the church into itself as a central reality. This reality does not dismiss the future conversion and re-graphing of Israel into the New Covenant. See Romans 11:26 and the future conversion of Israel.
In the Old Testament, there are aspects of this “already but not” yet motif. In Psalm 97. it is declared that the “Lord reigneth.” The full reign of God will not happen until the end of history when His foes are forever banished.
Looking at the Scriptures:
In the Old Testament, God’s reign is on the earth:
“The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.” (Psalm 97:1-5 KJV)
Daniel pictures the kingdom and its growth:
“As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:34-35 ESV)
The kingdom has come:
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28 ESV)
The kingdom of heaven will grow in history:
“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 ESV)
The kingdom of God will grow in history:
“And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:30-32 ESV)
The kingdom is not far away:
“Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” (Luke 17:20-21 ESV)
Not yet is everything in subjection:
“You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” (Hebrews 2:7-8 ESV)
A present reality:
“For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” (1 Corinthians 15:25 ESV)
The Mediatorial Reign of Christ:
Christ’s reign is described as the mediatorial reign. What is the mediatorial reign of Christ? When does this mediatorial reign take place?
The mediatorial reign of Christ is present now as noted by the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:
“25. must—because Scripture foretells it.
Till — There will be no further need of His mediatorial kingdom, its object having been realized.
Enemies under his feet—(Luke 19:27; Ephesians 1:22)” (1)
To add to this:
“Christ sustained and exercised the function of mediatorial King as well as of Prophet and Priest, from the time of the fall of man, when he entered on his mediatorial work; yet it may be said that he was publicly and formally enthroned when he ascended up on high and sat down at the Father's right hand (Psalms 2:6; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 9:6) after his work of humiliation and suffering on earth was “finished” and until his Second Coming.” - Wikipedia
From Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future regarding the fruits of the “already”:
“We may say that in the possession of the Spirit we who are in Christ have a foretaste of the blessings of the age to come, and a pledge and guarantee of the resurrection of the body. Yet we have only the firstfruits. We look forward to the final consummation of the kingdom of God, when we shall enjoy these blessings to the full.” (2)
The mediatorial reign of Christ is ongoing during church history and is another confirmation of the “all ready” motif. How so? To be in Christ is to be part of His Kingdom. To enter into the kingdom involves repentance and faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Our benefits now in Christ, “the already”:
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17 ESV)
The “already” and “not yet” motif helps us understand the death and resurrection of Christ. Christ has delivered us from power by sin and death and has now empowered us to live a life where we no longer practice sin. We now live with the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Finally, because of the “not yet,” the church must still pray:
Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen. Matthew 6:9–13
- Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977), p. 1222.
- Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans), p. 67.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more research:
Messiah the Prince; or, the Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ.
BY WILLIAM SYMINGTON, D.D., https://www.covenanter.org/reformed/2017/8/15/messiah-the-prince-or-the-mediatorial-dominion-of-jesus-christ