Skip to main content

A Look At Already/Not Yet Language

All right, getting back to looking at “already/not yet.”  I have been thinking through the best way to break this down, and I’m going to start with a simple look at the language of the Epistles in regards to use of the term “already” or “not yet.” I realize that this won’t cover all the foundations on why this terminology is used, but it’s helpful to get some basis for it as well as some Biblical usage. I’m choosing to focus on the Epistles because the gospel usage is mostly narrative and isn’t helpful for a good understanding of why it is currently used as a paradigm. There are only two passages in the New Testament that actually use the terms in an eschatological way in the Epistles. First Corinthians 3:2 and 8:2 and Hebrews 12:4 all use the terms in other ways (sanctification and/or historical). So here we go (with context):

Hebrews 2:5–10

(5) Now it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking. (6) It has been testified somewhere, “What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him? (7) You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, (8) 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. (9) But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (10) For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.

1 John 3:1–3  

(1) See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (2) Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (3) And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

I don’t want to go too in-depth on these passages yet. But a couple of observations:

1. Hebrews 2:8 says that we have “not yet” seen everything put under His feet, which seems to be a reference to a future kingdom (v. 5). But we “already” see the King (v. 9).

2. First John 3 states that we “already” are children of God but that we have “not yet” experienced all the transformation that God intends to make in us.

We’ll come back and look more in-depth later. For right now I want to point out that while some people might want to get rid of already/not yet terminology altogether, it is Biblical.

One of the key considerations in this paradigm is that a Jewish mind-set had only two partitions to history: now (the law) and the future (the kingdom). That’s the subject for next time as we go back into the Old Testament.


  • Joe Earle says:

    Thanks for making this point Will. I was meditating on this very idea recently in my morning quiet time as I studied John 5:24 & 25. It says that everyone who believes on Christ “has passed from death to life” in v. 24 though we remain in these dying bodies. Verse 25 says “an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God” (ESV). We see already but not yet language quite often. Merry Christmas!

  • Dick Dayton says:

    Will, The terminology of “already/not yet” may be limited to these two passages you mention, but the concept is pervasive. One example would be that God the Holy Spirit is “the earnest of our inheritance.” We have Him indwelling and sealing us, and we profit from His ministry to us. However, the concept of “earnest” is that, while we have some now, we will have more later. Paul in I Corinthians 13 would have indicated a similar concept, in “seeing through a glass darkly” and that “we know in part but some day we will know as we are known.” In our present frailty, we could not handle the fullness of the presence and power of God. In our new being, we will be able to give Him the attention and glory He deserves. Dick Dayton

Leave a Reply