Friday, May 9, 2008

Kingdom Already But Not Yet

On Monday Peter Cockrell quoted some good stuff from D.A. Carson on Kingdom Theology at
Carson on the Kingdom « Already Not Yet.
Indeed, that is the third arena where errors about the kingdom are not uncommon: tensions between the biblical descriptions of inaugurated eschatology (the kingdom has come) and futurist eschatology (the kingdom comes at the end). On the one hand, Jesus tells certain parables of the kingdom in order to get across that the expected ‘big bang’ is not yet. For instance (if I may use the formula much loved by the rabbis when they told their parables, and used by Jesus himself), it is the case with the kingdom as with the soils: there is varying receptivity to the word that is sown, and varying degrees of fruitfulness. The kingdom did not come in instantaneous and utterly effective division. It came slowly, with varying responses. Elsewhere we are told that this side of Jesus’s resurrection and exaltation, all authority in heaven and on earth is his: in other words, Jesus Christ reigns, even though we do not see everything and everyone cheerfully submitted to him.

What Carson speaks of separately as inaugurated and futurist eschatology, I like to call "down-payment" eschatology. In Christ we receive now a down payment on our future kingdom inheritance. It is real kingdom life, just not all of it now. Understanding and living in the tension between the "Now" and the "Not Yet" of the Kingdom enables us to avoid both a defeatist "pie-in-the-sky" mentality on one hand and a phony triumphalism on the other.