Already But Not Yet

For disciples of Jesus, living in the present world is shaped by three horizons.

First, we, along with everyone else, recognize the present creation is filled with violence and suffering; it is filled with evil. The human condition is far from ideal as racism, homophobia, sexism, murder, and injustice appear at every turn. Moreover, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes leave a path of destruction in their wake. As the apostle Paul put it, the creation has been subjected to futility or frustration. The creation has not yielded its full promise but lives in a bondage given over to decay. Consequently, even the creation itself, along with all humanity, groans for liberation; it groans for redemption.

At the same time, though groaning with the creation, disciples of Jesus also experience joy and hope because new creation has already begun and even now we enjoy the fruit of God’s redemptive work. For example, we already experience redemption through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is the first fruit of a coming harvest. By the presence of the Spirit, we already participate in the new creation. The Holy Spirit knows our hearts, searches them, and intercedes for us. The Holy Spirit groans with us and also secures our hearts through the hope of redemption and liberation. While we groan over the brokenness and violence that is still part of the present creation, we also may know peace, joy, and hope by the presence of the Spirit in our hearts.

We groan because we have not yet fully experienced the promise of a new creation. At present, the creation groans in its bondage, and we groan over the evil in the world as well as our own suffering. Nevertheless, we are rescued through this groaning by hope, which is poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. Our hope is the future redemption of our bodies in the resurrection as well as the future liberation of creation. We hope for the fullness of new creation when God will renew the present creation and rid it of its evils, sufferings, and chaos. While we have not yet experienced this future, it is our hope. Because God has raised Jesus from the dead and poured the Spirit into our hearts, we wait in hopeful expectation for that future.

We wait. That is the difficult part. Waiting involves endurance because our hopes and dreams are not immediately realized, and sometimes it seems they are mere illusions, the product of self-deception and wishful thinking. Waiting is a process of endurance drawn from the witness of the Spirit in our hearts who orients us to the future God is preparing for us. But waiting is hard.

This is one reason disciples of Jesus live under three horizons. On the one hand, we acknowledge the reality of the present evil age, and we suffer because of it. Yet, on the other hand, we already know the joy of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, which enables our endurance. But, and this is the third horizon, we do not yet fully experience what God has in store for us. We live in-between the times. We name the evil of the age, while we, at the same time, know the joy of the Spirit as we await the future.

One Response to “Already But Not Yet”

  1.   Jerry Starling Says:

    For some 18-20 years now my usual reply to the trite question, “How are you today?” has been, “Somewhere between better and best.” That answer often catches people by surprise and gives me an opportunity to explain what I mean by it.

    Explained, I mean that when the Lord saved me he made me (indeed, is still making me) better, but that I will not be ‘best’ until I get to glory!” While I am still waiting, I have good days or bad days, but in all days I am still “between better and best.”

    I believe this post fits in with my response. The Christian is better for being one, even though we live in the INTEREGNUM between the work of the Christ on earth and the consummation of the ages and our entry into the eternal kingdom of God.

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