Now, but not yet

As I have been preparing a series of posts on Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), a question has arisen about the timing of the blessings Jesus describes. Do we have them now, or must we wait until the Day of the Lord to receive these blessings?

The answer, of course, is yes. In one sense we already have these blessings. In another sense we will not fully have them until the Day of the Lord, the Day when Christ is seen in his glory, the dead are raised, the Judgment is announced, and the saints of the Lord are welcomed into the new creation. This “now, but not yet” reality is one of the paradoxes of Christianity. As one God is three Persons, as one Christ is fully divine and fully human, as the Bible is entirely God’s Word—trustworthy and true—and yet entirely was written by human beings, so we already have the blessings Jesus promised, but at the same time we do not have them yet.

As Jesus says in Matthew 25:34—part of the parable that describes Judgment Day—Jesus will welcome the saints into a kingdom prepared for them since the foundation of the world. That’s right: before God said “Let there be light,” he knew all about us and loved us. He knew the sins we would commit and the price he would have to pay to redeem us and reconcile us to himself. He knew the suffering that sin and evil would cause in his creation. And God decided that we are worth the trouble. He went ahead and created. But his blessings were there from the very beginning.

On the other hand, we are still sinners living in a sin-polluted world. We may be meek, but we have not yet inherited the earth. A quick glance at the Internet reveals that we are not living in the kingdom of heaven, where God’s will is always done. Today we do not see God, but in the new creation we will see him continually.

On the other hand, we have already received mercy. We are already called sons of God, because the only Son of God has already paid for our adoption into his family. God looks at us and sees us redeemed. He sees us as his children. He sees us as we will see ourselves after the resurrection, when we have Christ’s blessings in all their fullness.

So the blessings are ours now, but not yet. They belong to us, because Christ has given them to us, and no one can rob us of them. The car is already in the garage, but we do not yet have the keys to be able to drive it. The trust fund is in our names, but we cannot spend any of the money yet.

Like any Christian paradox, we need to cling to both sides of the contradiction. If we doubt that the blessings belong to us now, we are doubting God’s promise. These blessings are an inheritance, and Jesus has already died, so we are already his heirs. On the other hand, if we think that we have the blessings in all their fullness—if we think that things will never be better for us than they are today—then we are disregarding God’s promise. The Day of the Lord has not yet arrived; we are not yet living in the new creation. Our present troubles are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed (Romans 8:28), and that glory will last forever. What we will be is not yet known, but when Christ is seen we will be like him, for we will see him as he is (I John 3:2). We wait eagerly for the new heavens and the new earth to be revealed. J.

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