The Already not yet of the Kingdom

In the Kingdom of God, we experience a certain tension that is constantly stretching us, challenging us and puzzling us. We experience this tension because of two opposing realities that we experience simultaneously – the already and the not yet. This is a tension that is constantly stretching us. 

Already, Not Yet

We currently live in the time between the first and second coming of Jesus. In this time, the Kingdom of God is already here, but not yet fulfilled. The ministry of Jesus was all about the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus announced the Kingdom – He went from town to town telling people that the Kingdom of God was breaking in. 

Jesus demonstrated the Kingdom – through miracles of healing and setting people free of demon possession, but also through nature miracles and the multiplication of food

Jesus explained the Kingdom – through His parables, He explained to His disciples what the kingdom was like – light, salt, yeast, a pearl of great value, a vineyard

Jesus taught the Kingdom – explaining how people living under God’s rule and reign would treat each other and live in relationship with God. 

In the New Testament, the Kingdom of God is presented as an inbreaking reality – not as a completed reality. 

The Old Testament pictures this world as a world that is far from God, dominated by sin, injustice and war. The prophets looked forward to a time when God would intervene, and would bring the reality of heaven down to earth – a new world, where sin and death would be no more, and which would be under His rule and reign. 

Through the life of Jesus, the reality of God permanently breaks into the reality of this world. Yet, this inbreaking reality is not a completed reality. It is a reality that overlaps or penetrates the old reality.  

While we already experience the love, peace, healing and restoration, freedom and the power of the Kingdom of God, it is not yet made complete. 

Only when Jesus comes again to rid this world of all evil, and the New Jerusalem comes down to fill the whole earth, we will be able to experience the fulness of the Kingdom of God. 

The New Testament acknowledges this tension, and I believe that the second part of Romans 8 is a passage that helps us to deal with this tension properly. It provides us with a framework to understand how to live in this tension. I’m going to break it up and discuss it in the rest of this message. 

Children of God

Romans 8:14-17 (NLT)

All who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

First of all, Paul points out that through the grace of Jesus, we have been accepted as children of God. This is key to dealing with the tension of the now & not yet. Our position in all of this is that we are children of God – accepted, loved and protected by our Almighty Father. 

In the first century, being adopted was a very honoring process. When the master of a household was very fond of one of his servants, he could adopt him as a son. This was a legal process, where he gave the servant the same rights as his own children. 

Paul says that this is also how God has received us into His family. He has adopted us, the Holy Spirit is the legal witness to this adoption, and we become full heirs to the inheritance. 

This inheritance, by the way, includes both suffering and eternal glory. Here Paul is hinting already to the tension he will be unpacking even more in the rest of this passage.

A deposit of the inheritance

Romans 8:18-20 (NLT)

Yet what we suffer now
(this age/earth’s reality)
is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later (new age/God’s reality).

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope,

The world is a mess, because God has handed it over to the consequences of its own sin. Life on earth will always entail suffering. That is the reality we live in. 

Romans 8:21 (NLT)

the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

There is a day that all creation looks forward to. The day which is described in the last two chapters of your Bible, when God will make everything new and make His rule and reign on earth complete. This is what we hope in. 

And so, in this time, we will all experience suffering to some degree. This is the reality of the broken world we live in. We all will be on the receiving end of pain, sickness, disappointment and injustice. That is the reality we live in. This is the reality of a world that is suffering the consequences of its own sin. 

So, we may experience pain, disappointment and injustice – but this doesn't have to break us because there is hope. And this hope is not a wishful thinking type of hope. It is not a hope like winning the lottery. It is a firm hope, a secured hope. It is a hope based on Jesus who was resurrected from the grave. 

And the impact of the Kingdom we experience in the here and now, is a deposit or a foretaste of what is still to come. This is why we know that this hope is sure. Now Paul will move on to what all of this means for how we can live today.

Romans 8:22-25 (NLT)

For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

So, while we still live in the reality of this world, where countries attack each other, bushfires destroy homes and hectares of beautiful nature and millions of animals, and people vandalize their neighborhoods on New Year’s Eve – 

we also experience a foretaste of God’s reality deep within us through the work of the Spirit. 

We are on the receiving end of God’s love, favor, encouragement, healing, restoration and unlimited power – through the work of the Holy Spirit in and through us. All of this is a first deposit of our eternal inheritance. It is a foretaste of heaven is like. 

And because we are tasting it, we can testify of it in every trial. 

What makes Christians different from any other person in the world, is not that we endure less hardships, but that we never endure hardships alone. We are children of God, and our daddy is always nearby!  

Three keys to living in the now & the not yet

  1. Look up

Romans 8:26-27 (NLT)

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.

Have you ever been in a situation so overwhelming that you didn't know how or what to pray? 

When we get to this point, we may know: 1) that the Spirit prays for us, 2) through speaking tongues we can pray in line with the Spirit, even when we’ve run out of words, 3) we can always ask others to pray for you. That’s why we are a church family. 

So often, we measure the maturity of someone’s faith by the things that they say at Bible studies. I think true maturity of faith is not saying the right things when all is going well, but thinking the right things when it isn't.

  1. God is in control

Romans 8:28-30 (NLT)

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

Isn’t it amazing to know that, when you experience the heaviness of life, God is still using it for something good? Even this – the very thing you are going through right now! – He can use. 

This doesn't mean that it came from Him. It doesn't make it right or good. It doesn't tell us why, how long and it doesn't answer all the questions we may have. 

Yet, in everything we may know, that however much something may stink or hurt or confuse us, when we put it in God's hands, He can still turn it into something beautiful! 

That’s the God that we love and serve. That’s the God we can trust, no matter what!

  1. Fight from victory

Normally before a fight, or a match, you don't know who's going to win. It is different from us. We know that Christ has already won the victory. And He calls us victors with Him. We share in this victory. 

And so, I want to ask you, whatever the fight is that you are fighting today, to fight it not to get a victory, but from a place of victory.

Receive these words in Romans 8 as a promise and an encouragement. There is absolutely nothing that could ever separate you from the love of Christ!

Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”  No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.