The Already and the Not Yet


Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Dec. 1, 2019


Luke 17:20-21

20Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”


I John 3:1-3

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.



I have two friends working on novels right now. One of them is named, Tom.

Tom is a retired Orthopedic Surgeon, and he’s writing a book on another doctor by the name of Alonzo Clifton McClennan. Dr. McClennan was born in 1855 (1855-1912). He was one of the first African American doctors in Charleston, South Carolina. Dr. McClennan was the second African American to receive an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. He eventually went to medical school and pharmacy school. He founded the first black drug store in Charleston, “The People’s Pharmacy,” and later in 1897 co-founded the Charleston Hospital to care for black patients and the Nursing school at the hospital to train black nurses. He grew up during the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War. It was not an easy time, to say the least.

My friend Tom is writing an historical fiction novel about Dr. McClennan, because he feels his is an important story that hasn’t been told. Tom has come to the last chapter of his novel.

I suspect that the first & last chapters of a novel would be the hardest ones to write. Not too long ago over lunch, Tom said to me, “I want to end on a hopeful note, but not too hopeful.  Dr. McClennan accomplished a great deal, but surely he knew that there was a long way to go.”

Tom then said he thought about ending the book with Dr. McClennan in church, hearing a black preacher preaching on this idea that, “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go.”

I suggested that the preacher preach on the idea of, “The Already and the Not Yet.”

“The Already and the Not Yet.”

We’ve seen where we want to go, but we’re not there yet.

We’ve already tasted what we yearn for, but we haven’t had the whole meal yet.

We’ve seen the Promised Land (as Dr. King said), we’ve even experienced a bit of what it’s like there, but we’re not there yet. 

“The Already and the Not Yet.”

It then occurred to me that I’ve never preached on the subject of, “The Already and the Not Yet.”  So here goes . . .

Theologians use this phrase when they talk about the Kingdom of God. It helps explain the truth that the Kingdom of God has come to us in Jesus Christ. “The Kingdom of God is here.” And we experience living in the Kingdom of God’s love, and we participate in God’s Kingdom through our prayers and our worship, through our service to others and our love. But God’s Kingdom has not yet come in all its fullness.

In Luke 17:21, Jesus saysThe kingdom of God is among you.”

Other translations say, “The Kingdom of God is in your midst.”  (NIV)

Still others say, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Kg. James) 

In Matthew & Mark Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God is near,” or “at hand!”   (Matt. 3:2, Mark 1:15)

No matter how we translate it, it’s still in the present – among you, within you, near or at hand! And wherever God’s will is done, wherever God’s love reigns, there is the Kingdom of God as a present reality, but yet, the Kingdom of God has not come to the earth in all its fullness. 

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” because

  • All the hungry are not fed, war rages on throughout the world and prejudice and racism are still strong, evil forces even in our land, the home of the free and the brave.

Revelation 11:15 has clearly not been fulfilled yet, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”

The Already, but Not Yet fully.


In John’s First Letter, Ch. 3:2 we read, Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” 

We are God’s children today, here & now – beloved by God, part of the family of God, called God’s Sons & Daughters and welcomed at God’s table. But one day, all will realize that all people are God’s children, and all of us will live fully as God’s children in God’s kingdom, and God shall reign forever and ever.

The Already and the Not Yet.

The Kingdom of God is both present and future. We presently live in God’s Kingdom as citizens of heaven, but the Kingdom has not fully come.

We glorify God here and now, but God’s Kingdom has not yet come in all it’s glory. 

The Already and the Not Yet.

So much of the tension, struggle & paradox of the Christian life is summed up in this phrase.

The Already and the Not Yet.

We’re New Creations in Christ, says, St. Paul.

Yet, we’re still sinners in need of God’s mercy & grace. 

The Already (New Creations) and the Not Yet (still sinners).

We’re given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It’s the Spirit of God within us that creates faith and inspires us to worship, love and serve.

But we’re still imperfect, prone-to-wander people, who need to continually pray to be filled with the Holy Spirit. “Come, Holy Spirit, Come!”

Illustration. You probably heard about the guy who came forward at the end of every service at the Baptist church. He responded to every altar call, and he knelt at the altar up front and every Sunday he cried out,

“Fill me, Jesus! Fill me, Lord, Fill me! Fill me, Jesus! Fill me, Lord, Fill me!”

Every single Sunday he cried out the same thing. “Fill me, Jesus! Fill me, Lord, Fill me!”

Finally, one day someone had had enough of it, and so when he cried out, “Fill me, Jesus! Fill me, Lord!,” a guy from the back shouted, “Don’t do it, Lord. He leaks!”


The truth is, we all leak.

God gives us Christ’s Spirit within us, but we are not what we one day will be in Christ.

The Already and the Not Yet.

We experience God’s Presence in precious, precious moments of prayer, worship and communion, in moments of love and grace. And yet, we also experience times of spiritual dryness, the “Dark Night of the Soul,” as it’s been called. 

The Already and the Not Yet.

We experience the beautiful bonds of Christian fellowship and friendship.

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.”

But then we have misunderstandings, sometimes sharp disagreements and hurt feelings. Relationships get strained and out of whack.  Bonds of Christian fellowship are sometimes broken.

The Already and the Not Yet.

We will share in the Lord’s Supper today, a small piece of bread and a cup of juice.

But one day we will feast at God’s table in heaven. 

The Already and the Not Yet.


I’ll close with this thought.


This side of Heaven, we need both the Already and the Not Yet.


Some Christians focus almost solely on the Not Yet, and they devote all their energies and all their resources to righting the world’s wrongs, making just the injustices, fighting the good fight with all their might. And these are holy tasks.

But sometimes these folks can be so focused on the “Not Yet” that they miss the “Already!” They miss what we already have!!!

They miss the joy of walking with God!

They miss the peace of resting in God!

They miss the love found in the worship of God!

They miss the beauty of Christian fellowship!

They miss the strength of Christian friendship!

They miss the things we already have!


Of course, other folks err on the opposite side. These folks are so busy enjoying the “Already” that they seldom get around to the “Not Yet.”

This world is Not Yet what God would have it be. And we get to participate in the work and even the coming of God’s Kingdom through our acts of justice and compassion. We become part of an answer to that prayer – “Thy Kingdom come, Lord. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Already and the Not Yet.


I don’t know how my friend Tom will end his novel, but I do know this

When the final chapter of our lives comes to a close, the “Not Yet” part will be over, and the “Already” will have come forever and ever and ever!

That’s how the story ends!

Thanks be to God!

Let us pray:

Lord, prepare us for that day, but just as importantly, prepare us to live this day for you and your kingdom. Come to us now through the sacred meal. Fill us with the Living Christ! In his name we pray. Amen.


To learn more about this topic just google, “The Already and the Not Yet.” The concept was first introduced by Gerhardus Johannes Vos (March 14, 1862 – August 13, 1949) of Princeton Theological Seminary. It was further popularized in the 1950s by George Eldon Ladd, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.




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