Continuing our sketch of eschatology in recent NT studies in doing so telling the story of ‘eschatology’s come back’ to a (rightly) central place in NT theology.
A couple of key figures here are Werner Georg Kümmel (Germany) and Oscar Cullmann (Switzerland).
Focusing first on Jesus but later extending analysis to Paul and John, Kümmel argued the first Christians believed in Jesus, the bearer of salvation of the end time “already now as the heavenly Lord rules his eschatological community” and believers in that community are “already experiencing together the reality of the final salvation that is promised to them.”
It was Oscar Cullmann who developed a famous eschatological image of the overlap of the ages . See the map for a clue
What’s D-Day got to do with eschatology? Cullmann’s point was that D-Day marked the decisive turning point in the war. After the Allied invasion it was only a matter of time until final victory (V-Day). So it is with the first and second coming of Jesus.
Christians now live in the inbetween times of the first and second coming. This is the eschatological tension of an “already fulfilled” and “not yet consummated” aspects that exist within a redemptive-historical framework. Christ has come in history and will do so again.
The Christian faith is determinedly historical, awaiting that which has not yet happened in the light of that which has. The future is really future. New events are yet to happen: the parousia, the resurrection and the new creation. Eschatology is not an existential abstract concept, it talks of events still to unfold within a temporal framework … this integration of the present reality of the kingdom (Dodd) and a future expectation awaiting consummation (Weiss-Schweitzer) was also reflected in various ways in scholars like Joachim Jeremias, Günther Bornkamm, G. E. Ladd, and George R. Beasley-Murray.
(Mitchel, The State of New Testament Studies)
You can see how Cullmann’s heilsgeschichtliche (salvation history) theology confronts Bultmann’s de-eschatologizing and de-historizing of the New Testament as well as Weiss-Schweitzer’s conclusion that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet.
Cullmann roots eschatology in the real world, and he argued that this reflects the “innermost character” of New Testament faith.
This takes the faith of the first Christians, as expressed in the NT, seriously, and has been hugely influential in NT Studies ever since. That is not to say, of course, that the Wredestrasse is not still well travelled, or that the actual historical events of resurrection past (Jesus) and future (general for all) are accepted as ‘real facts’ by much academic scholarship. But it does mean that eschatology is now front and centre in understanding the experience, theology and hopes of the Christians who wrote the New Testament.
The idea of the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ or ‘inaugurated eschatology’ of the kingdom come and yet to be fulfilled in the future is, I think it fair to say, a widely accepted paradigm among scholars and in the church for understanding the eschatology of the New Testament.
And if so, then Christians live in the overlaps of two co-existing ages. BOTH ages mesh with each other. The old age that is passing away (Gal 1:4) and the new age that has arrived in the present.
And this makes sense of the ethical imperatives of Jesus, Paul, John, Peter and elsewhere in the NT – to live according the age to come (kingdom, Spirit, new creation, eternal life) and not according to the age that is temporary and will be judged (sin, evil, flesh, the powers).
If you are a Christian, your mission (if you choose to accept it) is ‘be who you already are in Christ’. Live now according to your true identity and purpose as a citizen of God’s kingdom, right here in the present.
 W. G. Kümmel, The Theology of the New Testament According to its Major Witnesses – Jesus – Paul – John, (trans. John E. Steely: London: SCM Press, 1976), 330-31.
 Two works stand out. Oscar Cullmann, Christ and Time: the primitive Christian conception of time and history, (trans. Floyd V. Filson: London: SCM Press, 1951); Salvation in History, (trans. Sidney G. Sowers: London: SCM Press, 1967).