Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?
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Do Protestants Have the "Fullness of the Faith"?

Why You Need to Know the Difference Between “Already” and “Not Yet”: Tensions in the Christian Story

Posted July 13, 2022
DoctrineEnd Times

I love to travel. It’s not just exploring distant lands that I find thrilling. It’s also the wanderlust. Getting lost for the sake of getting lost in unknown places is a powerful experience that keeps me wanting more. Coming home can be so disappointing because it’s familiar. If only there were some way to permanently stay out on the road. . .

The Christian story is built on a similar tension between wandering and homecoming. Unlike my preference for the road, however, the Scriptures insist that our arrival is so much more fulfilling than the journey. Our resurrection and entrance into the new creation is the last act in the divine drama (Rev. 21:1–4). And yet, our lives are spent on the road, waiting for God to take us home. This is the already/not yet tension in the Christian life.

I want to explain how this works, but also why it’s practically important. Because living between wandering and homecoming helps us to rediscover faith and hope in the risen Jesus, not only for what he has done but for what he will do. Theology then becomes more like biography because you realize God still has a place for you in his script. The story isn’t over. You’re actually being invited into something deeper and more fulfilling when you embrace the in-between.

Already

It all started with a promise. God committed himself to a family of immigrants so he could bring them to a new land they would one-day call home (Gen. 12:1). God pledged to give Abraham, the father of this family, a name that would be remembered and a large family that he would protect (Gen. 12:2–3). God’s final vow was that Abraham himself would become a blessing to the nations. Through Abraham and to the world—that’s how God wanted to bless all the families of the earth.

The apostle Paul says that Abraham’s blessing is the good news in the Old Testament (Gal. 3:8). In other words, the whole Bible is about God extending Abraham’s promised land blessing beyond this one family to include everyone. When that happens, Abraham becomes the father of blessing to all who trust in God’s promise of homecoming (Rom. 4:11).

What God started with Abraham was finally completed by Jesus (Gal.3:14). He is the one who blesses all the families of the earth because he is Abraham’s true descendant (Gal. 3:16–17). Trusting in his death and resurrection allows anyone to become a child of Abraham (Rom. 4:16; 24).

This is the “already” aspect of the divine drama. The doors are opened for all to receive God’s promise to Abraham. This is what we see in the first Jesus communities: former gentile immigrants are granted full citizenship in his kingdom (Eph.2:12–13), children of slavery are turned into royalty (Gal. 4:7), and strangers are welcomed in as God’s heirs (Eph. 2:19). Simply put, a new humanity is made (Eph. 2:15). Each member of this new family has equal access to God because they share a common identity in the crucified yet risen Jesus and uniting work of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:16–17).

The story is over. Or so it seems. Even though we’ve been adopted into God’s family, we’re not yet home. This is where faith and hope come in. We trust in the return of Jesus and pray for his kingdom to come because, until we’re finally with him, we’re still wandering on the road.

Not Yet

One image should shape our longing for Jesus’s return more than any other while we wait for him—feasting. Because Jesus celebrates our homecoming by throwing a party (Rev. 19:6–9). The only reason our reunion is delayed is because the ceremony is still being prepared. Like any great party, not only must the perfect location be found, but all the guests must arrive before the celebration begins.

Just the right place is closer than you might think. In fact, you’re sort of there already. The hospitable and abundant creation God made at the beginning is the site of the new creation party. The only difference is that its current vandalized condition will one day be repaired (Rom. 8:21). God will restore the ruins of his original masterpiece until it not only matches but exceeds its former beauty (Rev. 21:22–27). This creation—but a renewed one—is the location of our reunion where Jesus will welcome us home. Not only will the presence of sin be removed, but the very possibility of our return to exile will be unimaginable (Rev. 22:3–5).

When creation is restored to its garden-like beauty, the final step is for the host to welcome his guests. Every culture and language from the corners of the earth will have a seat at Jesus’s table (Rev. 7:9). Though this global feast will be beautifully diverse and multicultural, the guests will wear the same white robes (Rev. 7:9, 14). Unlike the exclusive red carpet displays of celebrities, the new creation feast embraces everyone as guests of honor. It’s not their status that has gained them entrance, but their belonging to the King who shares his inheritance with his beloved sons and daughters (Rev. 21:7). Everyone who has been rescued by the self-donation of Jesus on the cross is welcomed, healed, and made whole by his loving presence (Rev. 7:15–17). And their new resurrection bodies guarantee this party that will last forever (1 Cor. 15:50–53).

Living Between Wandering & Homecoming

The community of Jesus has an important role to play while they await their homecoming. You not only bear witness to the promise-keeping God, but care for other wounded strangers out on the road who need to hear the good news about Jesus (Eph. 3:10). You’re like an outpost of the new creation, directing everyone toward its healing touch (Rev. 21:4). You live in sacred time with a sacred purpose because you’re a guest of honor at the coming new creation feast. And you get to invite other privileged guests to the party. When your life is shaped by that story, you can’t help but to spread the news. The location is perfect. The guests are arriving. Let the feast begin.

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Ty Gregory

Ty Gregory is a Latin and Humanities teacher in the classical, Christian education movement. He earned two master's degrees in Biblical and Theological Studies from Westminster Seminary California. He continues to pursue his pastoral calling as an intern of Denver Pres (PCA) in Colorado. He hopes to combine his pastoral and academic training—especially his love of language, history, and theology—to form the next generation of lifelong learners and followers of Jesus. Outside of the classroom, Ty enjoys hiking and coffee connoisseuring with his lovely wife, Karen. The renewing and liberating love of God in Christ Jesus for the outcast and the poor inspires all of his teachings and writings.