Realized eschatology is a Christian eschatological theory popularized by C. H. Dodd (1884–1973) that holds that the eschatological passages in the New Testament do not refer to the future, but instead refer to the ministry of Jesus and his lasting legacy. Eschatology is therefore, not the end of the world but its rebirth instituted by Jesus and continued by his disciples, a historical (rather than transhistorical) phenomenon. Those holding this view generally dismiss "end times" theories, believing them to be irrelevant. They hold that what Jesus said and did, and told his disciples to do likewise, are of greater significance than any messianic expectations.
This view is attractive to many people, especially liberal Christians, since it reverses the notion of Jesus' second coming as an apocalyptic event, something which they interpret as being hardly in keeping with the overall theme of Jesus' teachings in the canonical gospels. Instead, eschatology should be about being engaged in the process of becoming, rather than waiting for external and unknown forces to bring about destruction.
Apocalyptic eschatology is world-negation stressing imminent divine intervention: we wait for God to act; sapiential eschatology is world-negation emphasizing immediate divine imitation: God waits for us to act.—John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (1998), p. 8
- Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996).