Restoration is a time when Christ will wipe every tear from every eye; “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” It is there that the work of redemption will be complete. Shalom will be completely restored.
Previously, we have discussed God’s original creative vision for shalom in community and how the fall distorted that vision. Today, we’ll examine how redemption, the third chapter of the four-chapter gospel, gives us a glimpse of the way things could or should be.
Redemption—Grace and a Taste of Shalom
After the fall, God did not abandon his creation and the human race. He did not leave us to die in the sin and misery that resulted from Adam’s original rebellion. Instead, out of his great love and mercy, God delivered his people from sin and brought them into salvation by grace through faith, administered by his son Jesus Christ. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, ESV). In our sin and wretchedness, we deserve death—the penalty for our sin—but instead, God graciously gave us the free gift of eternal life through his son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:23).
Although we walked away from God, he still wants to bring us back to himself and restore shalom. Redemption is necessary to prepare for the full restoration of shalom, which was always God’s intention for his creation. In this redemption chapter of the four-part gospel, we often refer to shalom as flourishing. But we do not experience the fullness of shalom that awaits the return of Christ at the end of this age. And although we have received the fullness of salvation, we still live in a fallen world. We are still exposed to and suffer from the pain and heartbreak of the sin around us. As believers, we long for the return of Christ to finish the work he started two thousand years ago and consummate his kingdom.
Already, But Not Yet
Theologians call this reality the “already/not yet.” In a sense, it is the overlap of two ages: the present age of sin and death established at the fall and the coming age of Christ’s comprehensive reign. It is the “age to come” breaking into the present age. During Jesus’ time here on earth, he established his kingdom through his life, death, and resurrection (Mark 1:15; Matt. 12:28; Luke 17:20–21).
This “already/not yet” distinction helps us make sense of the Bible. The “already” refers to things like my salvation that are already true, while the “not yet” points to things like my sanctification that is not yet fully realized. There are many other instances of these apparent contradictions in scripture that are explained by understanding the “already/not yet” distinction.