Is the concept of the 'already but not yet' biblical?

The concept of "already but not yet" implies that believers in Jesus are currently taking part in the kingdom of God, but that the kingdom of God is coming in fullness sometime in the future. This concept is particularly popular with charismatics and is related to kingdom theology and inaugurated eschatology.

For charismatics, this theology allows for miracles today, and the Vineyard Church uses it as foundational to their teachings.

Critics say "already but not yet" thinking can lead to a prosperity gospel and name-it-claim-it heresies. Prayer and spiritual optimism can allow the kingdom of God to "break through" into the present day, teachers of this theology say, leading to well-being and financial riches. Of course, God never promises wealth in this world, and often the Bible teaches against the pursuit of worldly gain (1 Timothy 6:19; James 5:1–5).

Adherents also speak of advancing the kingdom of God, however the Bible teaches that we are to receive the kingdom (Mark 10:15), that the kingdom will come (Luke 11:2), and that the kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Yes, God works toward establishing His kingdom and we are taught to pray for God's kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). However, comfort, health, and worldly riches are not what God has in mind.

The "already but not yet" thinking was developed by Princeton theologian Gerhardus Vos and then advanced in the 1950s by Georg Eldon Ladd, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary. Ladd said the kingdom of God was first, God's right and authority to rule, and second, the realm in which He does rule. Ladd surmised that the kingdom of God can be entered now and will be entered in the future.

Though it can be exaggerated to reach non-biblical conclusions, the concept of "already but not yet" is true and biblically supported in many ways. For example, Hebrews 2:8–9 says, "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. 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." This shows us the "now" (Jesus is currently crowned with glory) and the "not yet" (not everything is yet subjected to Jesus).

We see the "not yet" and the "now" in 1 John 3:2: "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."

Romans 8:30 says we are glorified, and Ephesians 2:6 says we are seated with Christ in heaven. The Bible speaks as though these things are completed, and yet our present reality doesn't quite match up to this. So there is a sense in which these things are already accomplished and yet to be fully realized.

God's kingdom is not something that we must usher in nor that needs to "break through." Jesus says that He is building His church (Matthew 16:18). Isaiah, and others, tell us Jesus will return to establish His kingdom on earth (Isaiah 51:3). We live already knowing that Jesus is King and experiencing the gift of His salvation, yet awaiting the fullness of His kingdom and the completion of His work in us.


Related Truth:

In light of Christ's return, how are we to live our lives?

The blessed hope – What is it?

What is the Millennium / Millennial Kingdom?

What does the Bible say about the new heavens and the new earth?

What does the Bible say about the New Jerusalem?


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