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But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ (Eph. 4:15).
There is a tension in the Christian’s walk that Jesus described this way: “An hour is coming, and is now here….” Jesus said this specifically about resurrection and worshiping God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23, 5:25). Bodily resurrection is coming but the Resurrection Himself is now here within us, enabling us to walk in newness of life (Eph. 2:6; Rom. 6:4). Likewise, spiritual worship begins now and continues into the next age. God is Spirit. We relate to Him as spiritual beings now, not as second class citizens waiting for “terminal graduation.”
Jesus’s comments apply to most biblical truths. While 1Thessalonians 5:23 says we still need to be sanctified completely, other verses declare that we are now sanctified (1 Cor. 1:2, 30; Heb. 10:10). We now have redemption in Christ yet await the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23). The kingdom of God is coming yet already here within us (1 Cor. 15:50; Luke 17:21). We await a new heavens and earth yet anyone in Christ is a new creation (2 Peter 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:17).
It isn’t easy to live in this tension. Sometimes it’s easier to embrace one part of it while debating the other. It’s less complicated (not to mention less responsibility) to live in this world and relegate spiritual things to “the sweet bye and bye.” We can’t be holy, we can’t really know we’re redeemed, we can’t really manifest the kingdom now, so why worry? Someday, Jesus will return and just fix everything. This makes for a lazy, bankrupt church. Others react to this by minimizing the future. “We have it all now,” the argument goes. Amen. We do have it all now. But how sad if there is no fuller incarnation of what we have.
The third way is to recognize that what is coming and what is now exist in a necessary relationship, like a seed and a plant. We can’t grow in something unless we are already rooted in it. We can only become what we already are. Only those who are sanctified can be fully sanctified. Only those who are spiritually redeemed can be redeemed bodily. Only new creations can live in the new creation. “For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough. But whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Matt. 13:12).
Separating what is coming from what is now here makes no sense. It is like arguing about whether a plant lives because of its roots or its stalk and leaves. Neglecting one or the other causes us to wither, spiritually. If we want to thrive we have to root ourselves in what is now here and grow up into the Son.