“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Paradox of God’s Kingdom on Earth: “Already, But Not Yet”

…This paradox is strongly related to the paradox of a fallen world – it is a paradox of the present age in that fallen world, the messianic age, the age of God’s Spirit, in which God is at work in and through his people to bring the good news to the ends of the earth and thus complete the renewal of creation begun with Christ’s death and resurrection. We are at a point where the world is still fallen and broken, yet at the same time on its way to redemption; indeed, in a sense it has already been accomplished. The paradoxical nature of this age in salvation history can be summarized with the phrase “already, but not yet”:

• The kingdom of God has already been inaugurated on earth (in the Church), but has not yet been brought to its final destination.
• Evil has already been defeated at the cross, but the evil one has not yet conceded defeat. God’s victory has already been accomplished and ensured at the cross, but the full manifestation or revelation of that victory has not yet been completed.
• Satan has been robbed of his accusing power and he cannot touch our salvation – we are held in God’s hand (John 10:28-29). Still, we are warned to beware his power to harm us in this world – he still “prowls around like a roaring lion” (1 Peter 5:8) (see p. 240 of The Cross of Christ, by John Stott).
• God has already taken humanity upon himself, in Christ, but we have not yet been fully transformed into his image, as we were intended to be.
• God’s people have been reconciled to him and are already part of the divine community of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19), yet they have at many times in history been treated by the world as “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things” (1 Corinthians 4:13).
• The sins of mankind have already been paid for at the cross, but sin itself has not yet been eradicated.
• God’s people have already been justified before him (justice has been carried out, and our debt has been paid), but we have not yet been sanctified (we have not yet become the holy, righteous people that God has declared us to be in Christ).
• The Holy Spirit is at work within us and has given us a new understanding of the things of God and ability to live humbly and obediently, but we still struggle with our natural inclination towards sin and selfishness (Romans 7:14-25). These last two points bring me to the next paradox…

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