There is a common theological understanding about our life as Christians on earth today. It’s the idea that Christ “already” has come, and so has the kingdom of God. It already is here on earth. Eternal life, also, already is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.
And yet, there’s also a “not yet.” Christ still hasn’t returned. We still haven’t experienced the resurrection of the dead and the new heaven and new earth.
And so we can say we live in a strange time that is “already, but not yet.” Christ’s work is done, but there is still more he will do – namely, to return and finally abolish death and the devil.
We get a glimpse of this at the very end of the Book of Exodus when God’s presence descended on the tabernacle in the form of a cloud, and Moses couldn’t enter the tabernacle. The tabernacle already was complete, but it was not yet time to enter fully into God’s presence.
This image re-emerges in the Book of Revelation. There’s a temple in heaven that no one can enter until the final work of God is carried out in heaven and on earth. There’s also a cloud, of sorts, in that heavenly temple:
“And the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished” (Revelation 15:8).
But this work will be finished someday. And the end of Revelation has this: “Behold, the dwelling place (tabernacle) of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Revelation 20:3).
And so things will be brought to completion. The “not yet” will go away for good. All that will remain is the “already.”
So what does this mean for us today, especially as we consider the good news of Easter Sunday?
The most important thing is to know that the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the focal point of this whole story. The cross does away with sin. Sin “already” has been dealt with. And the resurrection points to the thing that still is yet to happen for all of us. It is “not yet” here – but it will be.
And so we look backward and forward at Easter – backward to the cross and the resurrection of Jesus – and forward toward Christ’s return and our own resurrections.
All of this should cause us great joy, and a lot of gratitude.
“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:49-52).
Come, Lord Jesus!