I recently noted that, in the person of Jesus Christ, the End of the world has come to us in advance, and that those who finally will be saved were both judged and acquitted in Jesus their representative. Bible scholars sometimes call this “realized eschatology.” A Texas brother inquires whether I agree with the notion held by some, that Jesus’ Second Coming occurred in its fullness in A.D. 70, so that nothing remains for the future. He asks the question because proponents of that doctrine also call it “realized eschatology.”
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The interpretation to which you refer was popularized by Max King and Ed Stevens, who originally preached for Churches of Christ. I see it as an extreme over-reaction to the futuristic prophetic speculations which fill the airwaves of radio and television, and which fill the pockets of certain imaginative authors. This so-called “preterist” view has now spread among people of many denominations.
The British scholar C.H. Dodd used the term “realized eschatology” many years ago, to describe certain aspects of the teaching of Jesus in John’s Gospel. Oscar Cullmann, a Swiss-French theologian, developed the theme of Jesus as the bearer of the End-Time in his brilliant book titled Christ and Time: the Primitive Christian Conception of Time and History, but Cullmann was looking at the life-death-resurrection of Jesus Christ, not primarily at the events of A.D. 69-70.
What happened to Jesus surprised the Jews, Cullmann explained, because they looked for Messiah at the End of the present age. When Messiah comes, they thought, Resurrection will occur, God will judge his enemies, the Spirit will be poured out on a new creation and God’s people will enjoy salvation forever. But instead of coming at the End in that sense, Messiah (Jesus) comes in the midst of time and history. So the End begins with him, for he is raised from the dead! And on Pentecost shortly afterward, God pours out his Spirit and announces salvation to all who will repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name. Equally clearly, however, the world continues.
When Jesus returns, he will bring to its consummation what he has already accomplished. We live between the advents — between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. With his first coming, Jesus ushered in the beginning of the End. When he returns in glory, he will usher in the consummation of all that he has already accomplished.