Have you ever been discussing theology or reading a book and heard the speaker say something like, “Well, this is a case of the already/not yet. We have something inaugurated in fulfillment, yet it’s not fully accomplished.” Have you wondered how to respond? I’m going to be looking at this paradigm of interpretation (because that’s what it is) over the next couple of weeks. Feel free to respond with questions you want me to dig up (and do some digging of your own). I’ll be looking at how helpful this paradigm and terminology is, what limits exist, and how it compares with literal interpretation of the Bible. We’ll also see that different people mean different things by it.
Already/not yet terminology was popularized in relationship to kingdom theology developed by Gerhardus Vos as seen in this wikipedia article. Here’s an excerpt:
This present-day tension is often expressed in phrases such as the kingdom of God is “already, but also not yet,” or “here, but not yet fully here.” This teaching about the “already” and “not yet” was first proposed by Princeton theologian Gerhardus Vos. Since 1948 and the Latter Rain Revival these thoughts have entered Pentecostal teachings. Today this teaching about the “already” and “not yet” has been accepted by many Christians, including pre-, a- and postmillennialists.
Because the kingdom of God is already here, believers in the kingdom theology expect to see God actively working, sometimes even miraculously, in the present day. Most of them testify they have seen this expectance being fulfilled. In a kingdom theology framework, present-day manifestations of the kingdom of God include the presence of the Holy Spirit within every Christian, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, successful evangelism and missionary activity, as well as divine healing and other miracles. Additionally, the role of individual Christians and of the Church as a whole is to represent the kingdom of God to the world, through evangelism, missions, and social action.
Because the kingdom of God is not yet here in its full expression, the works of this present evil age continue though not as unlimited as it would have without the presence of the Kingdom of God. Although Christians have eternal life, they still sicken and die. Although God dwells within them, their knowledge of God at times seems quite limited. War, poverty, sickness, godlessness, and death continue, and kingdom theology teaches that they will continue until the end of the age.
In addition there is a debate regarding the nature and structure of the kingdom of God. Christians who see a first-century fulfillment of prophecy tend to also see the kingdom as having been already instituted in its fullness at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, whereas through the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, a new kind of kingdom in which Jesus reigns was instituted. This is justified through Jesus’ own words regarding the kingdom: “My Kingdom is not of this World,” or “My Kingdom is among you,” and “My Kingdom is within you.”
What questions do you have?