The Victory is Already Won, But Not Yet
Christ came “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), to disarm “the rulers and authorities” (Col 2:15), and to “destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb 2:14). The result of this victory is that he is seated on his rightful throne, the whole cosmos is liberated from a tyrannical and destructive ruler, humanity is delivered “from the power of darkness and transferred … into the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). This has already been done and is a settled reality.
However, when we look at our present situation, it is clear that the earth continues to be in bondage to the powers of evil. This is referred to as the “already-not yet” eschatology of the New Testament. Already the Kingdom has come, but it is not yet fully manifested.
A common analogy of this tension is the distinction between D-day and V-day in World War II. Historians generally agree that, for all intends and purposes, World War II was decided in the Battle of Normandy (referred to as “D-day”) that began on June 6th, 1944. At this time the Allied forces dealt a fatal blow to Germany that rendered its defeat inevitable. But it took another year for Germany to surrender (referred to as V-Day). Between D-Day and V-Day, the victory the allied forces had already in principle won was not yet manifested as an actual fact.
This captures the dynamic of the New Testament well. D-Day for the Kingdom took place when Jesus culminated his work by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. At this time the Powers were dealt a fatal blow and were in principle defeated. Yet, Christ’s victory over the Powers will not be fully manifested until V-Day, when Christ returns and fully establishes God’s Kingdom.
The author of Hebrews illustrates the “already-not yet” tension when he says that God made humans “for a little while lower than the angels” and that in Christ he has “crowned them with glory and honor, subjecting all things under their feet.” Our position as rulers of creation has in principle been restored in Christ. But the author immediately goes on to add:
As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb 2:7-9, emphasis added).
Our position as God’s viceroys on the earth has already in principle been restored because of what Jesus has accomplished. D-Day has been fought and won. But this truth is not yet manifested as an actual fact. We do not yet see everything subjected to us. The destructive Powers still reign. Though Christ in principle defeated death, we nevertheless continue to die. V-Day still lies in the future.
What we do see, however, is Jesus. He is already everything we shall be when V-Day arrives. This is why the New Testament speaks of Christ as “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29, emphasis added). A new family is being birthed, and we will all eventually resemble Christ, our elder brother. As the one fully restored human, Jesus is the pioneer of our faith whom we are to fix our eyes on and follow (Heb. 12:2).
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