Already, Not Yet
And you placed everything under his feet.
When it speaks of everything being subjected to him, it leaves nothing that is not subjected to him. As things are at present, we don’t see everything subjected to him.
What we do see is the one who was, for a little while, made lower than the angels-that is, Jesus-crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by God’s grace he might taste death on behalf of everyone. [KNT]
We currently live in this “in-between” sort of age. With the introduction of Logos incarnated (God dwelling among us in human form) into the universe, the kingdom of God was inaugurated here on earth. It has been infiltrating humanity, and spreading ever since the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Yet it obviously has not been fully realized, or consumated. There is still evil, pain, death, and war. We live in a tension, if you will. If the kingdom of God came to us in Jesus, why is there still all this crap going on? Well this letter called Hebrews, among other places in Scripture, tells us that we are in this time between Christ’s two advents. And until the second advent, there will still be suffering. At the same time, there will be much joy and healing due to the inaugurated kingdom spreading among us. Statistically, most of the healing organizations in the world giving relief to suffering are Christian, or started by followers of Jesus.
This also gives us an interesting insight. We have a distorted view many times of what life should be like, of what the Christian life should be like. Who says what life should be like? Who has that kind of authority? For much of history, persecution has been the normal Christian experience. God has not always answered affirmatively the prayers of the afflicted. If that were the case, no Christian would ever die, get sick, be abused, stub their toe…
So maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Perhaps it’s not a matter of “Is God answering prayers?” but rather “How should we respond when we do not see everything submitted to Him?”
The answer lies in our perception of reality, and of the nature of our Christian faith. Our worldview. Here’s what Larry Crabb says concerning Western Christianity: “we have become committed to relieving the pain behind our problems rather than using our pain to wrestle more passionately with the character and purposes of God. Feeling better has become more important than finding God. And worse, we assume that people who find God always feel better.” Focusing on our situations, problems, and pains as primary, rather than the purposes of God, moves us away from important aspects of following Christ. We must follow Christ in the way of suffering. God’s people have always been persecuted as counter to the power systems of the world. This is just how it is at times. And this has always been how Christianity has grown. Where is it growing most today? Not in America where we have it so easy. It is in Africa and China, and other places where there is oppression.
We know this is still happening today in other countries. People are being imprisoned, beaten, murdered by beheading for their faith in Jesus. This is happening now. Christianity is not necessarily Pollyanna right now all the time.
“The problem of evil for the Christian lies not in God’s abilities, nor even in our perception of His will and timing, but in our perception of Jesus.”*
We need to make sure we are following the reality of Jesus and the Christian faith and not something we have made up or have swallowed hook, line, and sinker from someone else. From someone who says it’s suppose to be easy and happy all the time.
Scripture tells us that God is bringing about all things in the end for His purpose, and that He works everything out ultimately for our good. He does not tempt us or inflict evil upon us, but will redeem and restore everything. This is the great comforting. It is up to us to trust Him for this even in the midst of pain and suffering.
When my friend of 22 years, Jeff, died of Leukemia in 2010 barely at 40 years old, it sucked. It reeeeeally sucked. He left behind his wife and three children. But it did not prove that there is no God. It did not definitively show that God does not answer prayer. We are just not seeing all things consummately subjected to Him yet. What we do see, if we so choose, is Jesus in the midst of our sufferings. We can grow though any circumstance into someone closer to Christ Himself, if we look to Him for comfort instead of focusing on our circumstance.
In the Name of Jesus,
Soli Deo Gloria