Contrasting “Now” with “Then”
By Al Stoner
"Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then I shall know even as also I am known" (I Cor. 13:12).
Now and Then. In Scripture "now" oftentimes refers to that which is temporal, whereas "then" has reference to that which is eternal. Now is the domain of death and mortality, and then, the domain of unencumbered "life and immortality" (cf. II Tim. 2:9-10), which now have been brought to light through the preaching of the gospel. Now is the time for suffering with Christ and for Christ's sake, but then shall be the time for everlasting dominion and rulership, for which the Savior is presently grooming believing men and women. Now is the time for mortifying the deeds of the body, but then shall be the time for reigning in life without oppositions of any sort, by one Man, Jesus Christ. Now we are often called upon to pass through fires and difficult waters, but then it shall become abundantly evident why all the grief and pain endured for Jesus' sake were necessary to ready men for eternal glory.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead has ushered in a whole new perspective and change for the better for men, especially for “those that believe” (I Tim. 4:10). There are disadvantageous things that once were a liability to men, and which are contrary no more because Christ has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and has now risen from the grave. One such thing is death, which once reigned in terror over men (cf. Heb. 2:10-11), but now, by faith, is seen as but a portal for believing men to enter into the Presence of the Lord.
And, to be sure, there are presently many unpleasant and grievous things that we must yet endure only for “a little while” (Heb. 10:37), that is, until the time of our entrance into the world to come. Such things shall then finally be no more. As we consider these things, let us rejoice in the great spiritual advantage that we presently have by virtue of our being in Christ Jesus. And let us greatly anticipate the glorious deliverance from the things which must be presently born by us until the time that Christ shall come again “the second time.” We must endure them for the time being because we are yet in the body.
Christ Dieth No More. “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him” (Rom. 6:9). With the Savior Himself there are things which shall be no more. He is alive forever more, as He said, and, therefore, He shall die no more. Our Lord and High Priest has been forever freed from death’s dominion! The God of peace did bring Him back from the dead, even Christ Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant (cf. Heb. 13:20). And thus is He free to minister to us the great salvation.
It is No More I That Do It. “If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:16-17). “Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Rom. 7:20). This is a word that Moses, David, and Samuel could not say because of the covenant that they were in. Though they were great and mighty servants of God, yet they were not new creatures in the new covenant sense!
Old things had not passed away from them, and all things had not, in those times, become to them new (cf. II Cor. 5:18). In our day this is something that must be reckoned and claimed by us, as was the case with the Apostle, because of the sin that yet dwells in us (Rom. 7:20). This, of course, has to do with the blessed new covenant provision, in which men and women, because of their new creatureship, do not want to sin and they hate sin, and yet they, from time to time, find within their members the desire to sin. These evil desires are fervently disowned (It is not I that sin) by those who are in Christ, because they are desires that the people of God now “allow not” (Rom. 7:15).
In the present time the “I” part of us becomes subjected to blame experientially when we find ourselves doing that which we allow not (7:15). Therefore, we must continually reckon that “it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (7:20). In the world to come, however, we shall forever be without blame in every sense of the word. The times of reckoning that “it is not I that do it” shall be forever past. Let us greatly anticipate the blessedness that awaits the saints of the Most High God!
No More of Works. “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” (Rom. 11:5-6). Hear the matter reiterated by the Apostle in another place. “For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal. 3:18).
Thus we may gladly affirm that regarding the matter of earning or meriting salvation, “it is no more work.” And if eternal redemption were to be obtained by men by the works of the law of Moses or by the works of any other law, then “grace is no more grace.” Yet, lest we be misunderstood or misrepresented, let us be quick to add that grace calls into action great effort on the part of men for the obtainment of salvation (cf. Tit. 2:11-13). But it is effort and determination that proceeds from believing the record which God has given of His Son. And where this fervent denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts is not present and, likewise the anticipation of the blessed hope, there also “grace is no more grace.”
No More Servility. “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:6-7). Servanthood may be associated with grief and toil, or with great joy and blessing. For those in Christ all the grievous and unpleasant aspects of servanthood are in the past. Our times of servility and hard bondage were spent when we were the servants of sin. But now, praise God, we have been called to be “the servants of the Most High God” (Acts 16:17). What a blessed privilege is ours!
No More Foreigners. “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:18-19). We, who were once “afar off,” have now been “made nigh by the blood of Christ.”
No More Childishness. “And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:11-15).
In the present time we are exhorted by the Apostle to “be no more children,” but in the world to come spiritual infancy and childhood shall be no more. We shall be “the sons of God without rebuke” (Phil. 2:15). Chastening is “for the present” (Heb. 12:11) time only, and in “that world” (Lk. 20:35) it shall forever yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto those who were exercised by it while they were here in this world.
No More Remembrance of Sins. “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 8:12). “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sins” (Heb. 10:16-18).
No More Going Out. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out” (Rev. 3:12). Now we “go in and out, and find pasture” (Jn. 10:5). And we are exhorted by the Apostle to “be instant in season, out of season” (II Tim. 4:2). But the day is coming when we shall “go no more out.” It is a dreadful thing to leave the presence of the Lord in any sense of the word. But there in that world the tabernacle of God shall be with men.
No More Deprivation. “Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple: and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Rev. 7:15-17).
No More Sea. “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). There shall be no more mystery (Ps. 77:19), and no more separating of peoples and nations from one another.
No More Death and Sorrow. “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
No More Curse. “And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him” (Rev. 22:3). Let us then take heart and rejoice at the prospect of that which shall be no more! In just a little while we shall be freed from all that presently troubles and distresses, and all the sources and causes of the vexations and afflictions shall be no more.