Already? Not Yet? Which Is It?

A few years ago my husband and I took a class at the Bethlehem Institute in Minneapolis, MN called, “The Kingdom of God.” Tom Steller, now Academic Dean of the Bethlehem College and Seminary was our teacher. One thing he stressed in that class was the ‘already/not yet’ aspect of God’s Kingdom; the Kingdom of God has already broken into time with Jesus’ first coming but has not yet been fully realized – “consummated” to use a better word.1 If you are interested in understanding more about this, Dr. Sam Storms provides an excellent explanation in his online eschatology series.

Why bring this up?

The implications of this ‘already/not yet’ biblical concept are far-reaching. A good understanding gives insight into why all Christians are not healed – and why the ones who are healed are never fully or permanently healed in this life on earth. It helps you grasp why believers are treated cruelly and why they sometimes treat others cruelly. Bottom line, it helps you answer questions like: “Why do Christians suffer? Why do believers continue to wrestle with sin?”

In terms of our salvation, the ‘already/not yet’ concept helps explain why the Bible says we have already been saved, regenerated, sanctified, and glorified, forgiven, justified and adopted and why it also says we are being and/or will be all these things. In other words, the Bible teaches an already present realty and a not yet future consummation to all these aspects of salvation.

Why mention this on an Art & Theology blog?

In the 1500’s, a famous Puritan named William Perkins wrote a widely- read book called, “A Golden Chaine.” In his book, Perkins offered a visual representation of the order of salvation – ordo salutis. This chart or chain continues to influence Christ thought today.

The chain, though widely distributed and referenced, does not go without critique. Sinclair Ferguson asserts that, “severed from Perkins’ robust Christocentricity” this chart causes unintended results:2

• It fails to illustrate that by the Spirit we are “in Christ” and all spiritual blessings are already ours here and now – simultaneously and united with each other and with Christ (Eph. 1:3ff)

• It leads people to substitute faith in Christ for faith in a ‘present experience’ on the salvation chain. (For example one blogger commenting on the chart said he would know by “persevering” that he was saved.)

• It does not fully express the not yet truth that all the distinct aspects of salvation will be consummated in the future. (Just recently I’ve heard people discuss everything from the idea that sin no longer exists in believers to the idea that, even though we still sin, because we have already been forgiven, there should be no further repentance.)

So back to the question, “Why mention the ‘already/not yet’ in this blog?” Answer: Here in Perkins’ chart you have graphic art – loosely speaking – a graphic organizer to be sure, that is lacking in its representation of truth. And where truth is lacking, there is bondage.

A Challenge

So here’s a challenge to those of you skilled in the arts – graphic, visual, or performing or in the art of music, poetry, prose, dance, drama, or think big – even cinema. Can anyone come up with an artistic way to better communicate the aspects of salvation in a way that brings truth and freedom to our confused contemporary culture?

References

1 Tom Steller, Kingdom of God, class notes, The Bethlehem Institute, Minneapolis, MN.
Justification:
Already – Rom 5:1,9; 8:30; 1 Cor. 6:11.
Not Yet – Mt. 12:36-37; Gal. 5:5; Rom. 2:13.
Sanctification:
Already – 1 Cor. 1:2; 6:10; Rom. 15:1; Acts 20:32; 26:18.
Not Yet – 1 Thess. 5:23.
Salvation:
Already – Eph. 2:5,8; 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor. 2:15.
Not Yet – Rom. 8:24f; Rom. 5:9f; 1 Pet. 1:5; 1 Cor. 5:5.
Eternal Life:
Already – Jn. 5:24; 6:24; 17:3; 1 Jn. 3:15; 5:11,13.
Not Yet – Mt. 19:29; 25:46; Rom. 2:7; Gal. 6:8.
Judgment:
Already – Rom. 1:18; 1 Cor. 11:29.
Not Yet – Rom. 2:5; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:16.
Healing:
Already – Lk. 10:9; Is. 53:4; Mt. 8:17.
Not Yet – Rev. 21:4.
Satan’s Defeat:
Already – Col. 2:15; Jn. 12:31; Mt. Mt. 12:29; Lk. 10:18.
Not Yet – 1 Cor. 15:24; Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:20.
Glorification:
Already – Rom. 8:30; 2 Cor. 3:18; Jn. 12:16; Acts 3:13.
Not Yet – Phil. 3:21; Rom. 2:5-8; 1 Cor. 15:43.
Adoption:
Already – Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:4f.
Not Yet – Rom. 8:23.
Forgiveness:
Already – Eph. 4:32; Col. 2:13.
Not Yet: Mt. 6:14f; Mk. 11:25.
Holy Spirit:
Already – Eph. 1:14; 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Rom. 8:23.
Not Yet – Eph. 3:19; Jn. 17:24, 26.
Victory Over Death:
Already – 1 Cor. 3:22; Phil. 1:21; Rom. 8:38.
Not Yet – 1 Co. 15:26, 54-55.

2. Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Holy Spirit: Contours of Christian Theology, Gerald Bray, Gen. Ed., (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1996), 100-103. http://www.amazon.com/Holy-Spirit-Contours-Christian-Theology/dp/0830815368