Realized Eschatology is that system of theology that holds:
The Holy Scriptures teach that the second coming of Christ, including the establishment of the eternal kingdom, the day of judgment, the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead, occurred with the fall of Judaism in 70 A.D. (Nichols and King iv).
This quote is the debate affirmation which expressed the view of Max King in his debate with Gus Nichols. This is the doctrine of hyper-preterism or full-preterism, which is the teaching that all prophecies have been fulfilled, and in this instance that
the second coming of Christ, including the establishment of the eternal kingdom, the day of judgment, the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead, occurred with the fall of Judaism in 70 A.D. (Nichols and King iv).
The topic, “The Last Days,” covers more ground than one might otherwise assume, for it deals with many prophecies and their fulfillment. Wallace says:
There is this to be remembered about the prophecies—they either had reference to the first coming of Christ or to the second coming of Christ, but whatever the prophecy meant at the time spoken or written, that is what that prophecy had to mean for all time to come (60).
The only infallible interpretation of prophecy is an inspired interpretation. This statement is sustained by Paul’s remarks on God’s wisdom in the revelation “the mystery” in the second chapter of first Corinthians, verses 7 to 13. Note first the seventh verse; “We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery.” This is that which Paul said in Rom. 16:25 had been “kept secret since the world began,” now “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Verse 8 says “which none of the princes of this world knew.” They did not know the “mystery—the plan of the ages hidden in the prophetic word of God. Verse 9 says: “even as it is written, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God prepared for them that love him.” The things that no eye had seen, that no ear had heard, and that no man’s heart had contemplated, are the things out of God’s prophetic word revealed in the New Testament—verse 10—“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit”—then verse 13, “which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth.”
It is thus that Paul declares that revelation (the thing revealed) plus inspiration (the words by which to teach it) is the only true and infallible interpretation of the prophetic word (64).
Peter, in Acts 3:18-26, puts forth the argument that all that happened leading up to the sojourn of Jesus on earth: His birth (Gal. 4:4), death (Isa. 53), resurrection (Psa. 16:10), ascension into heaven, and coronation as King of kings and Lord of lords (Dan. 7:13-14) is a fulfillment of all that was spoken by the prophets (Acts 3:18-24). The “things” (3:18), “the times” (3:21), and the “these days” (3:24) all refer to this present Christian age, dispensation, or world which had its beginning in Acts 2 and will continue until the Second Coming of Jesus.
The prophet Daniel provides for us the prophetical time frame for the advent of Jesus all the way through to the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem by the Roman legions commanded by Titus and Vespasian in ad 70. In Daniel 2, he interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. The king had a vision that awakened him (2:1) that he could not remember and demanded his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans tell him what it was and then interpret it (2:2-3). They, of course, could not do and said as much (2:4), which brought a rather severe sentence of a gruesome death for failure (2:5-9). Daniel, hearing of the problem, intervenes, 336 The Last Days asks for some time, and along with his friends goes to the God of Heaven for help (2:12-18). God provides help; so Daniel advised Arioch the captain of the king’s guard that he had (2:19-24). This vision contains images of five distinct kingdoms that come in succession (2:31-36). The kingdoms are understood to be the Babylonian (gold), Medo-Persian (silver), Greece (brass), Roman (iron/miry clay), and the fifth, a stone cut out without hands, consuming all that came before.
It is important that we acknowledge the Divine time element indicated in the king’s dream by such phrases as “what shall be in the latter days” (2:28), “what should come to pass hereafter,” and “what shall come to pass” (2:29), “in the days of those kings” (2:44), and “what shall come to pass hereafter” (2:45). Notice how definite these phrases are and with what certainty they are uttered. These things would happen exactly as prophesied.
In Mark 1:14-15, Jesus alludes to Daniel’s prophecy when He says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” Likewise, the Hebrews’ writer states in Hebrews 12:28 that they were “receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved,” which is what Daniel says, “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (Dan. 2:44). Paul tells the Colossian brethren that they had been translated into the kingdom (Col. 1:13).
Daniel’s “in the days of these kings,” in which days God would set up the fifth kingdom referred to by Daniel, is that of the Roman Caesars who ruled in the days Jesus was born (Gal. 4:4). The prophet tells us that one like the Son of Man would come in the clouds to the Ancient of days at which time He would receive a dominion and kingdom. This prophecy is distinctly fulfilled as depicted in the events of Acts 1:6-11. Peter cites this event in Acts 2:29-36 as the object of David’s prophecies in Psalms 16:10, 110:1, and 132:11 as well as Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7. The kingdom of heaven which was preached by Jesus as at hand in Mark 1:14-15 is not a material kingdom as expected by the Jews, but a spiritual one (Luke 17:20-24; John 18:36; Rom. 14:17).
The prophet Isaiah has very similar things to say about the when of the establishment of the kingdom. In Isaiah 2:2 it would be in the “last days” that it “shall be established.” In verse 3 we see both the law from Zion and the Word of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. Jesus gave His apostles commandments that would fulfill that prophecy in Acts 1:8. Isaiah’s last days and the latter days of Daniel 2:28 are one and the same. It was during the prophesied last days the kingdom of heaven was preached by Jesus (Mark 1:14- 15); would be established in Jerusalem, from which city the Gospel would go forth (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 8:1-25).
The prophet Micah (in 4:1-2) says almost word for word what Isaiah says in Isaiah 2:2-3. Micah 4:8 provides another significant piece of information describing this kingdom by describing it as “the first dominion.” The Bible teaches that the church Jesus promised to build (Mat. 16:18), to which the Lord added saved souls (Acts 2:47), purchased by God’s blood (20:28), which Paul said is the body (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), as well as the house of God (1 Tim. 3:15; Isa. 2:3), is likewise the kingdom of heaven (Mark 1:14-15; Mat. 16:19; John 3:3, 5) into which those becoming Christians are translated (Col. 1:13-14).
Jesus promised to build His church (Mat. 16:18), which Paul described as a body (Eph. 1:22-23), personifying it as an organism with functioning parts (1 Cor. 12:12-31). Peter says that as individual members making up that body we gain spiritual sustenance by which we are able to grow (1 Pet. 2:2; note Heb. 5:12).
When Jesus talks of the kingdom, He alludes to the form of government through which His body is ordered (Isa. 9:6-7; Acts 2:30- 37) and He rules over as King (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev 15:3). Luke tells us the saved are added to the church (Acts 2:47), and Paul says the Father translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13- 14), which is the kingdom of the prophets (Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14).
The descriptive terms—church, body, kingdom—all refer to that same group of souls sanctified by the blood of Jesus (Heb. 13:7) when they obeyed the truth through the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:22; Acts 22:16; Rev. 1:5; 7:14). This heavenly creation came into existence 338 The Last Days at the right time and in the right place, precisely as specified by the prophets Daniel, Isaiah, and Micah. The prophetical “last days” had their beginning with the events recorded in Acts 2. These days did not end prior to the specific events of Acts 2, as asserted by Max King (Nichols and King 46-47). The first dominion of Micah 4:8 also applies to the exact same kingdom as that of Acts 2, for it is just another descriptive term of that first group of souls added to the church by the Lord. So, just to be crystal clear, each of these terms—the church equals the body equals the kingdom equals the first dominion—are terms that simply refer to the exact same thing. This thing has not only fulfilled prophecy by its coming into existence, but it has also fulfilled prophecy by the timing of its coming into existence, which is labeled as the last days.
The word translated “world” needs to be addressed at this time. It can be translated to mean the literal earth as in Acts 17:24—“God that made the world and all things therein” (Thayer 356-57). Thayer continues his definition by saying the word can also refer to “the ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ” and references James 1:27 (among other passages) that we are to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. There are also references to a human fleshly desire for physical things that if permitted can lead us astray (1 John 2:15).
The King James translates another word from the original with the English word “world.” It is the Greek aion. Thayer says, “as the Jews distinguished the time before the Messiah, and the time after the advent of the Messiah,” and “the end, or rather consummation, of the age preceding Christ’s return, with which will be connected the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, the demolition of this world, Matt 24:3” (19). The ASV in a footnote for world in Matthew 24:3 has this, “Or, the consummation of the age.” Robertson has the same in a footnote regarding world in Matthew 24:3 (184).
Yet a third word, dispensation, needs consideration. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as, “A specific arrangement or system by which something is dispensed or administered” (407). Thayer defines the word translated “dispensation” in 1 Corinthians 9:17, Ephesians 1:10, 3:2, and Colosians 1:25, as “the management, oversight, administration, of others’ property; the office of a manager or overseer, stewardship, and for stewardship: Lk. 16:2-4… as the management of a household or of household affairs” (440).
As we study our topic, it must be understood that world can refer to either the material creation or the ungodly multitude who inhabit the material creation. It also has reference to a period of time or an age in which people live. Dispensation, when coupled with Patriarchal, Mosaic, or Christian, refers to the system of law which God used to administer the affairs of mankind through these ages as he lived in this world.
The Patriarchal Dispensation refers to the time that began during the period in which Adam and Eve occupied Eden. The law they followed, as far as we can determine, was fairly limited. They were to multiply and have dominion over all creation (Gen. 1:28). Adam was to dress and keep the garden (2:15). The couple were to eat of every tree in the garden with the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16-17). They were also given instruction in animal sacrifice (Heb. 11:4).
The Mosaic Age began in Exodus 19 and 20 with the giving of the Law at Sinai (Deu. 5), and ended at the cross of Christ (Col. 2:14), having acted as a schoolmaster to bring the Jews to their Messiah (Gal. 3:23-29). The Patriarchal system was likewise done away in the cross of Christ (Acts 4:5-12; 17:30-31; Eph. 2:14-22; 1 John 1:6-10; 2 John 9-11).
Since both the Patriarchal age/system/world and that of the Mosaical or Jewish age/system/world have fulfilled their purpose and have been replaced by that of the Christian age/world in fulfillment of prophecy, then we are in the last days of prophecy. When will the “consummation of the age” come about which the disciples asked Jesus (Mat. 24:3)? In Matthew 24:2 Jesus refers to a catastrophic event of such magnitude that the stones of the temple would be thrown down. The disciples naturally wanted 340 The Last Days more details. Matthew’s account adds, “and of the end of the world” (consummation of the age).
Something worth noting is that Jesus did not always answer the question He was asked but gave what was needed. Observe His response to Nicodemus in John 3:1-3. Nicodemus states what was commonly believed within his circle of acquaintances. Jesus responds with a discussion of the new birth to enter the kingdom of heaven. Having powers of discernment, it is reasonable to conclude Jesus responded as He did because He perceived it was what Nicodemus needed regardless of why he came (John 2:25; Jer. 17:9-10).
Whatever the case may be, it is certain beyond doubt that Jesus provided all the detail and more than what the disciples may have been seeking. In spite of claims, this passage (Mat. 24:1-25:46) can be divided logically, reasonably, and scripturally. The only place it can be divided and must be divided is at Matthew 24:36 (Nichols and King 6, 15, 17, 23, 25-26, 67, 107, 133).
Jesus discusses two completely different events in this section. When Jesus said, “all these things” (Mat. 24:6, 33), He referred to indicators which His discerning disciples would be able to use to know when the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple would be imminent so they might flee: deceivers (24:4-5), wars and war rumors (24:6-7), natural disasters (24:7; Acts 11:27-30), persecution (Mat. 24:9-10), false prophets (24:11; Acts 20:29-30), greater evil (Mat. 24:11-12), Gospel spreading (24:14, 31; Col. 1:23), Roman army surrounding the city (Mat. 24:15), tribulation (24:16- 22), more false prophets (24:23-26), and then the fall of Jerusalem (24:29-30). Just as a sprouting fig tree signified summers nearness, just so the coming destruction would be signified by the “these things” listed by Jesus. What must have been truly disturbing to the disciples was His statement that they and their contemporaries would live through the prophesied destruction (24:34).
The event described in verses 36-51 is so fundamentally different from the one described previously that one must redefine words wholesale to fabricate a theology to explain this passage. The sea change is understood when we compare “this generation” from verse 34 to the “that day and hour” of verse 36. The distinction is made even more apparent with the suddenness and lack of warning of this second event (24:36ff) to the details and drawn out time line of the previous event (24:1-35).
Verses 36-39 teach through the suddenness of the flood in Noah’s time and the mundane events of everyday life as described, that this event is completely distinct from that of Jerusalem’s destruction. These verses mirror the events described by Peter in 2 Peter 3:3-10 and by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10. Both apostles describe a cataclysmic and catastrophic event with neither preceded by any indications of coming doom and destruction. Jesus labels this terrible event as “the coming of the Son of man” (Mat. 24:37). Paul styles it as “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed” (2 The. 1:7). Peter calls it “the coming of the day of God” (2 Pet. 3:12). There will simply be no warning, quite unlike the previously described event. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Mat. 24:42). Those unprepared will face terrible consequences for their behavior (24:44-51).
In Matthew 25:1-30 Jesus provides two parables describing what the kingdom of heaven in its first dominion would be like prior to the Second Coming of the Lord. The Lord uses two events to compare kingdom citizens and their relative preparedness for His return and the beginning of the second dominion of the heavenly kingdom. The first picture is that of 10 virgins awaiting a bridegroom. Five of these women were prepared, and five were not; those unprepared were denied entrance into the feast to which they had an invitation (25:1-13). The second illustration is that of a householder leaving on a trip and turning over various amounts of money to each of three servants, expecting a greater return when he came back home. There is no indication of when He would return to call for an accounting. Nevertheless, when the Son of man does return, He will judge each soul according to that person’s actions while on earth (2 Cor. 5:10) with punishment and reward being meted out to each based on their actions (Mat. 25:14-30).
The lesson from these two parables is made in Matthew 24:36- 39, that there will be no signs indicating when the coming of the Son of man in judgment will occur. Consequently, we ought to always be prepared for judgment based on our preparedness for that event and the establishment of that second dominion of the heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. 4:18).
The eternal heavenly kingdom inaugurated with the coronation of the Son of Man (Dan. 7:13-14; Acts 1:8-11; 2:29-36). The gates to that kingdom were opened on the day of Pentecost with the preaching of Peter and the eleven other apostles as we see in Acts 2. The three thousand who gladly received the Gospel were baptized for the remission of their sins (John 3:3, 5; Acts 2:38) and added to the church by the Lord (2:47; Col. 1:13-14). Thus the eternal kingdom’s first dominion began.
As we have seen, the Second Coming of Christ will be sudden, without warning, in flaming fire, the elements melting with fervent heat, and all that is of a material nature will be completely destroyed and no longer in existence. It will be at this time that all of the dead shall come forth from the grave at the sound of His voice (John 5:28-29; 1 The. 4:16-17). Judgment will then take place (Mat. 25:31-46; John 6:29-40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48) with the majority of humanity sent into outer darkness and the remainder ushered into life eternal, which is that second dominion of that heavenly kingdom (1 The. 4:17; 2 Tim. 4:18).
All Scripture quotations are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
“Dispensation” American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd College Edition. 1982.
Nichols, Gus, and Max King. The Nichols–King Debate. Warren, OH: Parkman Road Church of Christ, 1973.
Robertson, A. T. A Harmony Of The Gospels For Students Of The Life Of Christ, Based On The Broadus Harmony of the Revised Version. New York, Evanston, and London: n.p., 1922.
Thayer, Henry. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of The New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977.
Wallace, Foy E., Jr. God’s Prophetic Word. Ft. Worth, TX: Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1946. Revised Ed. Noble Patterson Publisher-Distributor, 1960
Reprinted from the 2015 The Bellivew Lectureship, Pensacola, Florida, Refuting Realized Eschatology. Ed. Michael Hatcher.