Biblical Studies Biblical Theology

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

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In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are

(1) Promise-Fulfillment
(2) Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology
(3) Typology
(4) the Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

This time we’ll look at the second structure, Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews.

Schreiner defines already-but-not-yet eschatology in this way: “God’s eschatological promises have been inaugurated through Jesus Christ but not consummated. Fulfillment has truly come in Jesus Christ, but the fulfillment isn’t complete” (31). Basically, OT prophecies are being fulfilled, but are not yet completely fulfilled. Read on to see how this plays out in Hebrews, along with providing examples of what the definition above really means (especially if you’ve never heard of the term “already-but-not-yet”).

As we saw in my previous post, Jesus fulfills Ps 110.1 and is sitting and reigning at the right hand of God. As is so, “the last days have arrived (1:2), for the Messiah reigns as the OT prophesied” (33). Hebrews 9.26b says, “But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.“ Yet if Jesus has appeared at “the end of the ages” and reigns in heaven, why are there still enemies (Heb 1.13; 10.13)?

Hebrews 2.8b says, “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.” But one day the heavens and earth will be shaken and removed, and all that will be left is God’s kingdom (12.26-28)

The “not-yet” part of the program requires faith (10.39-11.40). Schreiner adds, “If the promise were visible (cf. 11:3) and the reward were given now (11:6), faith in God’s future promises would be superfluous” (35).

We see in 2 Corinthians 1.20 that all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ, and from that verse until chapter 7.1, Paul gives us a list of promises that have come through Jesus, though some of them we do not see now. We have been anointed, sealed, and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit (1.21-22), and we have life by the Spirit (3.3, 6). But while we have a building from God that is eternal in the heavens (5.1), we cannot currently see it (it is “in the heavens”). So what do we do? “We walk by faith, not by sight” (5.7).

So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1) (p 34-45).

Posts

BTS: Promise-Fulfillment in Hebrews

BTS: Already-But-Not-Yet Eschatology in Hebrews

BTS: Typology in Hebrews

BTS: The Spatial Orientation of Hebrews

4 comments

  1. You wrote: So again in Hebrews, the author says in 10.10, “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and it is through “the blood of the covenant” (10.29). Sanctification is a completed reality. It’s a done deal. And yet the readers (including us) are to “strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (12.14). We also must recognize that we are not yet completely sanctified, as we have the command to “strive… for the holiness” if we want to see the Lord. We are perfected once and for all (10.14), and yet we are to strive for perfection (6.1) (p 34-45).

    My question concerns the tenses of sanctified in Hebrews 10:10 and 14. Verse 10 says we have been sanctified, while verse 14 says God has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. How can we have been sanctified through Christ’s single offering, and yet still being sanctified?

    1. Hey, Thanks for your comment, David. Cockerill says, “The first may put emphasis on the privilege of access to God;17 the latter, on consecration to God through the removal of sin” (Hebrews, 451–452). DeSilva says something wimilar when he says that we are neither profane nor polluted, but cleansed and can come before God. “The sins that one has committed against God have defiled the conscience, which cannot now come into the presence of the holy God, before whom nothing unclean (i.e., defiled or ‘unwhole’) survives” (201).

      Jesus’ sacrifice made us whole (or “perfect”) so that we can come into God’s presence, but we are not yet in the final consummated state (the new creation).

      Something similar can be seen in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Paul refers to the corinthians as sanctified (1 Cor 1.2) and as saints (2 Cor 1.1), yet he has a lot of trouble with them! They are definitively sanctified, that is, just as Christ is holy, God sees them and declares them as holy. But they are certainly not completely virtuous people. There is a both-and. A now and not yet.

      I hope that makes sense. Let me know if you have any more questions! I’m more than happy to try to answer.

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