What is the meaning of 'already but not yet'?
Some biblical concepts can be captured with a simple term. These terms are sometimes abused and distorted. One such term that has been twisted is “already, but not yet.” It is important to know that the term does not refer exclusively to the future kingdom of Christ. This article explains the biblical meaning of “already, but not yet” and a few of the common distortions.
“Already, But Not Yet” – Coming of Elijah
“Already, but not yet” refers to the concept of a pre-fulfillment of a future reality. For example, Malachi 4:5-6 prophesies the coming of Elijah before the coming of the Messiah.
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6 (NASB)
At one point during the ministry of John the Baptist, he was asked if he was Elijah. He answered the question with, “No!” (John 1:19-21). John the Baptist was not Elijah! But in Mark 9:13, Jesus told the disciples that Elijah had already come and in Matthew 11:14 Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah “who was to come!” Revelation 11:3-6 appears to refer to Elijah coming in the last half of the tribulation. That is, Elijah had come “already, but not yet.” John the Baptist was a type of the true Elijah who was to come later.
The expression “already, but not yet” helps us understand Jesus’ statement in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:14-15 that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.
From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (NASB)
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (NASB)
“Already, But Not Yet” – Kingdom Is At Hand
Not only was the kingdom near in God’s time table, but we are told in Hebrews 1:1-2 that Christ came “in the last days.” From God’s perspective the kingdom was near. Yet the kingdom was also distant since Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that the kingdom was yet future (Matthew 24:36; Luke 19:11; Acts 1:3, 6-9). The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 that Christ would come in the future. When He comes, He will set up His kingdom (Matthew 24-25). That is, when Jesus said the kingdom was at hand and yet it is still future, He was referring to a pre-fulfillment of the kingdom because they were experiencing a “taste” of the future kingdom because the King was in their midst (Luke 17:21) and He was healing and preaching.
“Already, But Not Yet” – Kingdom Characteristics
Another “already, but not yet” example is the pre-fulfillment of Joel 2:28-3:21 on the day of Pentecost when the apostles spoke in tongues. It is important to notice that when Acts 2:17-21 quotes the Joel passage, it ends abruptly with verse 31. This is significant since Joel 2:31 and following refers to the future tribulation and millennial kingdom. The apostle Peter understood that during the tribulation and the kingdom men and women would speak in tongues (Joel 2:28-29). Therefore, he stated that the crowd was witnessing a pre-fulfillment of the future. The concept of “already, but not yet” had occurred.
“Already, But Not Yet” – Seated In Heaven
Our last example of “already, but not yet” can be found in Ephesians 2:6 where Paul says that Christians are already seated in heaven.
. . . and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus . . . Ephesians 2:6 (NASB)
But we are still here on earth! Only when Christians die do they go to heaven.
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord . . . 2 Corinthians 5:6 (NAS)
This is an example of “already, but not yet.” Ephesians 1:3 says that we are already blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” That is, we already have eternal life (John 3:16). We are sitting in heaven and we already have “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,” but we will not realize all that until we leave this life. The term “already, but not yet” is not exclusively a prophetic term.
Distortions of “Already, But Not Yet”
The “already but not yet” theology is popular with the charismatics, including the Vineyard Church and those who embrace the prosperity gospel. Costi Hinn, a nephew of Benny Hinn, stated in his book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel that prosperity gospel preachers often tell people at a healing service that they have been healed but will realize it later. Costi Hinn points out that such teaching is a lie. It is not biblical truth. This is a distortion of the concept “Already, But Not Yet.” Such teachings related to money and health are unbiblical. They are the words of false teachers.
The theological principle of “already but not yet” applies to pre-fulfillments of future prophecies and our eternal destiny in heaven, but not to health and wealth in this life. This article provides a clear explanation of this theological principle.
1. Costi Hinn. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Zondervan. 2019. pp. 75-76.
Costi Hinn. God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. Zondervan. 2019.