Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1050 MP3 Audio File Video File

The Already, But Not Yet

Ephesians 1:13-14

Delivered 02/07/2021

Last week in our study, Does Eschatology Matter, I said that salvation was historically tied to eschatology. I said that according to the Bible no one goes to heaven prior to the second coming. No one had eternal life prior to the second coming. And someone will no doubt ask about John 6:47.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. John 6:47 ESV

The word "has" here is the Greek word echo which is a present active indicative which means that the degree of contingency is zero, i.e., reality rather than hypothetical activity is in view. It means to possess. So Yeshua is saying that "Whoever believes has (right now) eternal life. So Yeshua is speaking this to Jews around A.D. 30 and He says that those who believe have eternal life. But look at what Yeshua says in Luke 18.

And Peter said, "See, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life." Luke 18:28-30 ESV

If you're paying attention, you notice that Yeshua tells them that whoever believes has at that time eternal life. But then Yeshua tells Peter that eternal life is a condition of the age to come. This sounds like a contradiction. Which is it? Do they have it or are they waiting for it?

Let's look at a few more texts to see if we can clear this up.

he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Yeshua the Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:5-7 ESV

"He saved us"—saved is in the aorist tense in the indicative mood which indicates past action. "The hope of eternal life" Do you hope for things you have? I hope not.

keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Yeshua the Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:21 ESV

The NIV makes this verse much clearer:

Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Yeshua the Christ to bring you to eternal life. Jude 1:21 NIV

"Waiting"—is the Greek verb prosdechomai, which means "to wait with great expectancy." Prosdechomai is used of things future in the sense of expecting and at the same time accepting. Earnestly expecting is the idea.

"The mercy of our Lord Yeshua the Christ"—he is talking about the Second Coming of Christ here, and he calls it "mercy." Mercy is usually used of Yahweh, and here it is used of Christ who is Yahweh. It is Yahweh's mercy, "to eternal life"—they are waiting anxiously for this eternal life, which means it was future to them. It would come to them at the Parousia of Christ.

People use these verses to argue against the inspiration of Scripture. These certainly sound like contradictions. Which is it? Did they have eternal like or were they waiting for it? People see this as a contradiction because they don't understand "the already, but not yet" of the New Testament period.

The "already but not yet" paradigm was developed by Princeton theologian Gerhardus [Ger-hard-is] Vos early in the 20th century. "Already, but not yet" refers to the concept of a pre-fulfillment of a future reality. It is used to speak of things that the first century believers already had, but they waited for the consummation (not yet). Suppose that you are 18 and a rich relative dies and leaves you a large inheritance but you cannot have it until you turn 21. The inheritance is yours—already, but you can't spend any of it until you turn 21—not yet. The already, but not yet tension underlies the whole New Testament message.

The "already but not yet" theology is popular with the charismatics and those who embrace the prosperity gospel. Costi Hinn, a nephew of Benny Hinn, stated in his book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel, that prosperity gospel preachers often tell people at a healing service that they have been healed but will realize it later. Costi Hinn points out that such teaching is a lie. It is not biblical truth. This is a distortion of the concept "Already, But Not Yet."

It's not just eternal life that the New Testament says they have but they're waiting for.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Yeshua has made me his own. Philippians 3:12 ESV

Paul is saying, "I don't have it yet." What is it that he doesn't have yet? The verb lambano (obtained) is transitive, but the object is not expressed. Is it the resurrection that he mentioned in verse 11 that he has not attained? Yes, the resurrection is included, but it is more than that. I think that what Paul is saying is that his justification had not yet been consummated. Paul was saying, "Not that I have already attained, or have already been justified." At the time of Paul's writing, righteousness was still a hope. Now, you might ask, "Didn't Paul and the New Testament saints already have the righteousness of God?" Yes, they did according to:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV

They had righteousness but not in its consummated sense. The futuristic perspective of God's righteousness was clearly expressed by Paul:

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5 ESV

If righteousness was already a fulfilled or completed event, Paul made a big mistake in making "righteousness" by faith a matter of hope. If righteousness was a present reality, why would Paul hope for it? This is the "already but not yet" of righteousness.

We see the same thing in respect to salvation.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, Ephesians 2:8 ESV

The Greek word translated "saved" here is sozo. It is in the perfect tense which gives it the meaning that something was done and completed in the past yet it continues to have present results. The Greek scholar, Kenneth S. Wuest, translated this verse, "For by grace have you been saved in time past completely, through faith, with the result that your salvation persists through present time; and this (salvation) is not from you as a source." This seems to be saying that their redemption is complete. Yet, later in the same chapter, Paul writes:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Yeshua himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22 ESV

The process was still occurring. They were "being built" for a dwelling place of God. But the clear blessing of the New Covenant was that God would dwell with His people:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place 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 21:1-3 ESV

The New Jerusalem is the New Covenant according to Galatians 4:24-26, "For these are the two covenants … but the Jerusalem above is free." Paul tells the Ephesian believers that they are "being built" for a dwelling place of God. It was a process that was taking place but was at that time still unfulfilled.

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:9 ESV
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ESV

Again, you don't hope for what you have. Salvation was not a completed event in the lives of the first-century believers, but it was their hope. They looked forward to its soon arrival.

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:11-12 ESV

He equates their salvation with the "day" which was at hand, referring to the day of the Lord. The completion of redemptive history was at hand, and with it would come salvation.

Peter also states that their salvation was not yet complete:

who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:5 ESV

When was Salvation ready to be revealed? In the last time, which would happen at the return of Christ.

They had, but were waiting for eternal life, righteousness, salvation and redemption

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, Ephesians 1:7 ESV

This is the already of redemption. They had it but they also waited for it.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23 ESV

"Redemption" is apolutrosis which means "deliverance at a cost" or "release by payment of a price." Imbedded in the word "redemption," in the original language, apolutrosis is the little word lutron, meaning "ransom." In other words, the idea of redemption is deliverance or release by payment of a ransom. This concept is always in view even when the word redemption is used in passages such as Exodus 6:6, 15:13; Psalm 74:2; and 78:35. Even in these passages in the Tanakh it is clear that redemption is based on some great expenditure of God. The price God paid is always in view. The New Testament terms for redemption always have in mind a price paid. In redemption, someone's release or deliverance is accomplished at the cost of a ransom payment. What's the ransom? What's the payment?

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 ESV

The answer is that the life of the Son of Man is the ransom paid in redemption. He gave His life so that there could be release and deliverance. Christ died for man's sins in A.D. 30, but Paul says in Romans 8:23, "we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies." Paul probably wrote Romans in A.D.55 or 56. So 25 years after Christ died, Paul taught that they were still waiting for the redemption of the body. They were still waiting eagerly for their redemption—it was "not yet."

When Christ returned, he brought redemption. As long as the Old Covenant existed, the believers were not perfect and did not have access to God.

By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. Hebrews 9:8-10 ESV

Under the Old Covenant, they were never made perfect. And because they were not perfect, they could not enter God's presence. When Christ returned, all believers were made like Him.

Therefore, they had, but were waiting for, eternal life, righteousness, salvation, redemption and adoption.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" Romans 8:15 ESV
to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:5-7 ESV

They had been adopted, but yet it was something that they hoped for.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23 ESV

Adoption was something that they eagerly waited for (not yet).

The New Testament teaches that they had, but were waiting for, eternal life, righteousness, salvation, redemption, adoption and sanctification.

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Yeshua, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Yeshua the Christ, both their Lord and ours: 1 Corinthians 1:2 ESV

Believers were sanctified in Christ, but they also waited for the completion of their sanctification.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV

Sanctification was to be completed at the return of Christ.

David Briones who is a Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary writes this in an article on the "already but not yet."

"For now, Christians live in a great theological tension: we already possess every spiritual blessing in Christ, but we do not experience the fullness of these blessings yet. In one sense, we are already adopted, redeemed, sanctified, and saved; in another, these experiences are not yet fully ours. Underneath this theological and practical tension are the two comings of Christ. In his first coming, he inaugurated the last days; in his second coming, he will complete them. In the meantime, we live for now in 'the overlap of the ages.'"

This is the typical view of the "already but not yet." Most modern writers believe that it still applies to us today. Dr. Michael S. Heiser, OT scholar and Christian author, continually tries to explain eschatology by using the "already but not yet." But it is my understanding that the "already but not yet" does not apply to us. In fact, it has not been applicable since A.D. 70 when the New Covenant was consummated.

The "already but not yet" only applied to those who lived from A.D. 30 to A.D. 70. This period of time is called the transition period. In order to correctly understand the New Testament, we must understand "The Transition Period." The Transition Period began on Pentecost in A.D. 30, and it ended at the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70. During the Transition Period, the church was growing from infancy to maturity. A spiritual house was being built for God to dwell in. This was a time of change and growth; it was a time of transformation from the Old to the New.

The Old Covenant was fading away and the New Covenant was being consummated.

In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13 ESV

The Old Covenant may be characterized as promise, as shadow, as prophecy. The New Covenant may be characterized as fulfillment, as reality, as realization.

Notice that the text says, "…is becoming obsolete …  ready to vanish away." Is that speaking to us? NO!!!!!!!!!! This is written to the first-century Hebrew believers. As of A.D. 65, the Old Covenant had not yet become obsolete, but it was about to.

At the end of the transition period, the judgment, the resurrection and the second coming all took place. Another name for the transition period could be the "Christ Event" which was a forty-year period of transition for the Old to the New Covenant.

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 ESV

I'm sure that you are all aware of what happened on Pentecost. This is the birth of the Church. How does Peter interpret what happened at Pentecost? He says,

But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: Acts 2:16 ESV

Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed that Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. Then he quoted Joel 2:28-32:

"'And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' Acts 2:17-21 ESV

Please notice that this is one prophecy of one event that encompassed the pouring out of the Spirit and the pouring out of wrath. This is a prophecy of "The Christ event." This "Christ Event" encompasses the Cross, Pentecost, the Resurrection, the Judgment, and the Parousia. Please notice that Joel's prophecy covers from Pentecost to the Day of the Lord. It covers a 40-year period that was equal to a generation.

We see this same idea of an event that takes place over a period of time in:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 3:1-2 ESV

What I want you to see is that John's message also covered a forty-year period. John announced in verse 2 that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, meaning it was very near—this is a reference to Pentecost. But John's message also involved judgment.

Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 3:10 ESV

In order for the kingdom to be consummated (which would happen forty years later) there must be a time of judgment. The axe is there at the root ready to cut down any tree that is not bearing good fruit. John places an emphasis on fire again in verses 11 and 12. In those verses there is a reference to the coming destruction.

The Jews of John's day knew these prophecies of Hebrew Scripture. They understood that before the kingdom would be consummated, God's judgment would fall on unbelievers who would be rooted out of the kingdom as the Messiah established His rule and reign.

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 ESV

Here John refers to the Christ Event. It begins with Pentecost—the baptizing with the Holy Spirit, and ends with fire—the destruction of Jerusalem. A.D. 30, then, began the Christ event, but it was not completed until forty years later in A.D. 70.

So, this forty-year period can be called "The Christ Event" or the Transition Period and it is also what the Bible calls the "last days" (e.g., the last days of the Old Covenant). Those "last days" began at the birth of Christ and ended at A.D. 70 when the Jewish temple was destroyed. The time period is also called "this age" in the Scriptures. We now live in what the Bible calls "the age to come" (the New Covenant age).  The forty-year period, from Pentecost to Holocaust, was a time of transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. In this transition period, the New Covenant had been inaugurated but not consummated. It was a time of "already but not yet." It was the ONLY time of the "already but not yet."

During the "Christ Event" (i.e., the Transition Period, The Last Days or the "this age"), they lived in hope of what they had been promised. Notice what the transition saints hoped for.

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5 ESV
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 ESV
in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. Titus 1:2 ESV
so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:7 ESV
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Yeshua the Christ, Titus 2:13 ESV

The return of Christ was their blessed hope because all that they hoped for would be fulfilled by His presence.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Christ. 1 Peter 1:13 ESV

The "Christ Event", Transition Period, Last Days or the "this age" was a time of hope. They hoped for what they did not see. They hoped for the completion of their redemption.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25 ESV

You don't hope for what you have. So, the transition saints lived in hope.

There are some Preterists who think everything was completed in the death of Christ on the cross in A.D. 30. They see no transition period, no "already but not yet." I find this to be an unbiblical position. Let me give you a couple of more things that show that redemption was not complete until A.D. 70 and that what the saints had in the transition period was the down payment of the perfection that was to come.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV

"Were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit"—when a person believed the good news of salvation, at that moment, they were sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word sphragizo, translated here as "sealed," means "to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation" (Strong's Concordance).

Peter O'Brien notes that "In speaking of the Holy Spirit as a seal, the notions of ownership and protection are in view. Cattle, and even slaves, were branded with a seal by their masters to indicate to whom they belonged." The sealing of God secures their safety. Yahweh is marking out those who are His. In Ezekiel 9:4-6, we see that Yahweh set a sign or mark on those who were mortified because of the sin of their nation.

And the LORD said to him, "Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it." And to the others he said in my hearing, "Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one on whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the house. Ezekiel 9:4-6 ESV

The Hebrew word translated "mark" is tav. The tav is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet. In modern Hebrew it looks like thisמ , but in ancient Hebrew it looked like two crossed sticks (+). Those whom Yahweh had marked out for safety were those who had the ancient Hebrew letter tav on them that looked like a cross. That's interesting!

We see, then, from the mark of Yahweh, that salvation is not like a transaction at Walmart where later on you can return your faith when you don't need it anymore. When you put your faith in Christ, when you "trust" Him, you are sealed with the Holy Spirit. You are marked by Yahweh.

"Who is"—relates back to Holy Spirit in verse 13. The Holy Spirit is "the guarantee." The word "guarantee" is from the Greek arrhabon. It is translated as "pledge" or "down payment" in other translations. Strong's says that this word is of Hebrew origin denoting a pledge, that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest (earnest). The Hebrew word for "pledge" is arabon. This word is used in Genesis 38.

He answered, "I will send you a young goat from the flock." And she said, "If you give me a pledge, until you send it—" Genesis 38:17 ESV

Do you understand the context here? Tamar had disguised herself as a harlot, and Judah, her father-in-law, wanted to have sex with her. They were negotiating a price, and she said, "What will you give me, that you may come in to me?" He says, "I'll send you a goat." But he didn't have the goat with him, so she wanted a "pledge" until he gave her the goat. She wanted property given in advance as security for the rest.

The word pledge might better be translated as "down payment or earnest money." A pledge is something valuable that you give as temporary collateral until you complete the agreement. We see this same word used in Job.

"Lay down a pledge for me with you; who is there who will put up security for me? Job 17:3 ESV

This is a parallelism so that "pledge" and "security" are the same. A pledge is something given to guarantee the rest.

The Holy Spirit, then, was given to first-century believers as a guarantee of their future redemption. Paul also uses this word in 2 Corinthians.

and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 1:22 ESV

Here Paul uses the word "seal" and "guarantee" to indicate that Yahweh had "marked" them for security or preservation and had given a deposit of the Spirit. What the saints had in the transition period was the down payment, or pledge, of the perfection that was to come.

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:5 ESV

What is the purpose of this guarantee? In context it was as a guarantee that they would receive their new home, a building from God, a house not made with hands. This "Spirit as a guarantee" is the same thing as the "spirit of adoption." We could say that the Spirit was given these transition saints as a pledge or a guarantee that they would in the very near future receive the adoption, the redemption of their body.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30 ESV

They were sealed by the Holy Spirit until the future-to-them day of redemption ("not yet").

Therefore, Paul teaches that once a person becomes a Christian, he is sealed with the Holy Spirit and it is impossible for him to become a non-Christian again. After God causes a person to have faith in Christ, it is impossible for him to lose the faith:

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. John 10:28-29 ESV

The life God gives is eternal; it can never be lost. Believers will never perish.

11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee[a] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

In verse 11 Paul presents the already aspect of the inheritance: "We have obtained an inheritance." Then in verse 14 we find the "not yet" side of the it. The promised Holy Spirit guaranteed their future possession of it. Both Jews and Gentiles are by the mediation of Christ, and in union with Him, brought to be partakers of the benefits of that plan of mercy which God had purposed in Himself and which He has now revealed for the salvation of men.

"Until we acquire possession of it"—Paul is speaking to first-century saints, telling them that they had the promise from God that they would be redeemed. He is the same God who "works all things according to the counsel of His will." Paul is speaking of the fulfillment of that redemption, the culmination that would happen when God brought forth the new heavens and new earth, the consummation of the New Covenant. The promise was certain, but to them it was still future.

Sadly, most today still think the promise is future. John MacArthur writes, "Now look, we have not yet totally been redeemed, we've been redeemed spiritually but we haven't had our physical body redeemed, a la Romans 8." He doesn't know what time it is. He thinks we are all still living in the Old Covenant Age.

Believers, we are no longer living in the "already but not yet" of the transition period. We are living in the New Covenant age in which righteousness dwells. We are not living in the age of "hope;" we are living in the age of "have." The righteousness of Christ is ours, eternal life is ours, and immortality is ours.

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