Our recent bible study on Daniel ties in well with Sunday’s sermon topic. As I briefly mentioned yesterday, passages dealing with prophecy show us how God’s plan is continually unfolding throughout human history. This relates to biblical figures like Daniel, who interpret and prophesy concerning God’s salvation. This idea also relates to our discussion on miracles and the early church. Below is a writeup I did for the study group, and how miracles teach us that God’s salvation plan is both already here, and also “not yet”…
Many of the prophecies of the Old Testament (particularly Isaiah and Daniel) tell of a future where God would establish an everlasting kingdom. For instance, Isaiah 65:25 famously reads: “‘The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.” This certainly sounds like a miraculous act. How do we interpret passages like this one?
Those in the Jewish faith point to prophecies like this one as evidence that Jesus Christ was not the true messiah. They may argue that because we do not have peace on earth, the savior has not come yet. After all, where are the wolves, lambs, lions, and serpents who peacefully coexist? Why isn’t God’s promise fulfilled around us if Jesus was the messiah? Where are all the miracles today?
Christians adopt a different interpretation of messiah prophecies like Isaiah 65. Yes, God will eventually make peace over all the earth in the future. But at the same time, however, a relationship with Christ can grant the world peace right now. God can live inside our heart and transform the world through the work of the church. We can see countless examples of “wolves” and “lambs” coexisting in our lives if we only embrace the love of God. The kingdom begins in our hearts, and flows out through our lives as we are shaped by the love of Christ. Miracles are but a preview of the future reality with God.
Nevertheless, there is a tensions between these ideas of prophecy, the future, and God’s salvation. When exactly will restoration come? Is it already here? Or has it not come just yet?
In the 1900s, theologians developed a way to talk about this issue called “kingdom theology.” This idea has been embraced by many diverse denominations of Christianity, from Pentecostals, Methodists, evangelicals, and Presbyterians. The central argument is this: God’s kingdom is already here, but it is not yet fully developed. The completion only comes at the end of time where God judges all and establishes his kingdom here on earth. Right now we can experience a foretaste of the future, just as the famous hymn “Blessed Assurance” describes (“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine; Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!”).
Miracles also have this quality, too. They are opportunities to witness the power of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, lives, and world. Yet the “miracle” (regardless of what it might be) still exists in an imperfect world. We look to the future for God to finish the work of salvation throughout all creation. Miracles point towards that heavenly reality.
Jesus was clear that we can experience the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus’ first recorded words in the Gospel of Mark 1:15 are “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” You may be familiar with this idea in our faith. We are to repent, ask for God’s forgiveness, and believe in the good news of Jesus in order for us to be saved. This transformation allows us to live in God’s kingdom. This relationship could be described as an already-but-not-yet kingdom…
We can already experience the healing of Jesus… but full healing will come in the future. Miracles remind us God is continually working.
We can know what eternal life is like right now… but “full” eternal life in heaven can only happen after we die. We all will eventually die on this earth.
We can already know what perfection looks like through following Jesus’ commandments… but we are not perfected just yet—God will purify us at the final judgment.
We can already see the kingdom of God moving around us in the church… but it’s completion is “not yet.” In the meantime, be a Godly miracle to someone with your words and actions!