The Already and Not Yet?

In this article I hope to explain what “Realized Eschatology” means and why it’s important

So, let’s begin with some definitions. The word Eschatology (from the Greek language) means “study of the last things”.

Compart eschatology to biology: they are both compound words originating from the Greek language, each have the ology ending. First, let’s deal with ology, you’re likely aware means “the study of”. The second part, which is actually the first part of the word, is not nearly as familiar as bio is in biology (most of us know that means “life”), but not many of are familiar with eschat[os] (the on is in brackets because the ending is left off when combined with ology). Eschatos means “the last things”.

In general, the modern Christian and many non-Christians too, think of eschatology in terms of the that final day in the existence of the world. Whether it’s the return of Christ with the recompense of God, the secret rapture taught by dispensationalist Christians that precedes (or less commonly is in the middle or end of) “The Great Tribulation”, or is an asteroid or “Zombie Apocalypse” believed to be the end by non-Christians, eschatology has come to mean the final day of existence on earth. That’s not a wrong view–well, one of those is the particularly right view, but in general thinking about eschatology as the final time before Christ returns bodily to make all things new is a big part of eschatology.

But that’s not everything that eschatology is. There’s also realized eschatology. This is the idea presented throughout Scripture that God’s blessings will be finally and perfectly fulfilled one day, but for now the blessings are only partial. In this way we can say eschatology deals with “the latest things”. It’s not muddying the waters to think about it this way. The high-powered Greek Lexicon abbreviated BDAG1 explains that eschatos can refer to the last, or latest, in a series.

So as we consider the latest things revealed in the New Testament, we see a drastic difference between our present and the promised future of the New Heavens and New Earth. But in the meantime, there is an aspect of the New Heavens even now at work, but only partially. Even though they are only partial the blessings are still wonderful and powerful. One of the major issues some peoople have taken with classic dispensationalism (for a discussion of dispensationalism see this link ) is that it tends to “push” all God’s heavenly realities (blessings) past the present so that they are only future.

What I’ve taken a long time to say is that there’s an aspect of God’s heavenly blessings that believers share in now, that’s realized eschatology. Ephesians has some of the best statements of this doctrine: we were dead but now we’re alive in Christ, in him we have obtained an inheritance…might be to the praise of his golory, and he raise us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places. Those are the currrent blessings we share in through Christ Jesus’ work by the instrument of faith–praise be to God!

In this state of realized eschatology, the new creation has already begun and believers are the “first fruits” by nature of their belief and God’s work of regeneration which granted new life. It’s helpful to think of salvation as re-creation, just as God breathed into that pile of dirt we know as Adam, so did the Spirit breathe divine breath into your soul and make you alive in Christ! And just as the “first fruits” of the OT calendar (Pentecost) pointed to the full harvest (Trumpets marks the beginning) which has not yet come, so, too are the believers (who are the new creation) on earth now pointing to fullness of the new creation to come when Jesus returns.

This is an important doctrine, because it’s what the Bible teaches about what God is doing in his believers now–granting an otherworldly power to do an otherworldly work. How else will a sinner be able to live a holy life? How else will your words help another sinner see the beauty and excellency of Christ? If the heavenly blessings of being a believer have to wait until Jesus brings heaven, then your faith is a “white-knuckled” done in my strength kind of faith, and believing that weakens your dependence on Jesus your Savior.