Question: "What is inaugurated eschatology?"
Answer: Inaugurated eschatology is a certain scheme of eschatology—the study of the latter days or the end times. Inaugurated eschatology basically says that the kingdom of God, as prophesied in Isaiah 35, began at the first coming of Jesus and is now here, although it will not be fully consummated until His second coming. Inaugurated eschatology is also sometimes referred to as a “partially realized eschatology” and is associated with the “already but not yet” concept.
Basically, inaugurated eschatology is the belief that we are now living in the end times (or latter days), which were inaugurated at the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. With the kingdom of God having been inaugurated by Jesus, the church has access to the kingdom promises right now. In contrast to this view is dispensational eschatology, which sees the kingdom of God as a separate, future era in which the promises made to Israel will be literally fulfilled on earth. Dispensationalism maintains a distinction between the New Testament church and Old Testament (and future-kingdom-era) Israel. Inaugurated eschatology blurs that line.
According to inaugurated eschatology, all the promises of the kingdom can be fulfilled in the church today. For example, Isaiah 35:5 makes the promise that, in the kingdom, “the eyes of the blind [will] be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” This promise can be claimed today, say promoters of the “already but not yet” concept, if we have faith to make the kingdom “break through” into our world. The reasoning is thus: Jesus is the King on the throne in heaven, and His kingdom has already been established, so the blind should see and the deaf should hear. Inaugurated eschatology is popular in the Charismatic movement, for it provides a basis for claiming miracles today.
Scripturally, there is a sense in which we are living in the end times, because the return of Christ is imminent. And there is a sense in which the kingdom is already in force. Colossians 3:1 says that believers “have been raised with Christ,” although, of course, this cannot be speaking of a physical, bodily resurrection yet. Paul must be speaking spiritually. One of the problems with inaugurated eschatology is that it tends to look for a present physical fulfillment of the kingdom promises made to Israel, when Jesus clearly said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He did say that the kingdom of God was “near” (Matthew 4:17). But Israel rejected their King and, in so doing, rejected the kingdom. The kingdom years are now “on hold” as God works through the church, made of both Jew and Gentile. Once the church age has ended, God will again make Israel the focus of His work in the world. Jesus will return, Israel will receive their Messiah, and then the kingdom of God will come.
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