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THEOLOGY > God > Providence > Eschatological Providence    


The word “providence” comes to us from the Latin, providentia (pro, “before” plus videre, “to see”), meaning, “to see before” or “foresight.” Within the etymology of the word is a forward looking, an anticipation, a seeing of what is ahead. The concept of Divine Providence relates to this sense of “knowledge of the future.”

When this etymological aspect of the word is incorporated into the theological significance associated with the word, then there arises an eschatological consideration—God’s Providence is a present activity with an end in view. There is purpose in the preservation and administration of the created order. It is not merely to maintain the heavens and earth so they can continue to exist, but to maintain them for a goal, an end, an Eschaton. The maintenance and sustenance of Creation is for the purpose of bringing it to a conclusion, the conclusion determined by God from eternity.

What is the purpose of Providence? If the purpose of Creation is the glory of God (see: The Purpose of Creation), then it goes without saying that the purpose of Providence is the glory of God. Finally, all things exist and function for His glory, and His alone.

But what is there about Creation that contributes to the manifestation and worship of this Glory? What is history all about? What is woven through the ebb and flow of the daily grind from century to century? If viewed in its totality, where is history going? What best describes the moment by moment, event by event, purpose of life and also describes the goal of this event by event activity that at times seems to be without direction and meaning? Is there something profound, and even Divine, in the endless daily activities that often seem to have no ultimate meaning, but are simply trivial and insignificant and trying?

Perhaps the best word to describe the reason for history is “Redemption”; in the activity and meaning of this word is the purpose of Providence. Since Eden Providence has kept in place the arena of God’s saving activity. Because of sin, there is the necessity of salvation if God is to have a people. And the salvation is accomplished in history on this earth.

Four words can be used to outline the content of Scripture: Creation, Sin, Redemption, and Consummation. Of these four, Redemption dominates the Scriptures, extending from Genesis 4 through Revelation 20. The other three would be as follows: Creation—Gen. 1-2; Fall—Gen. 3; and Consummation—Rev. 21-22. From this perspective all of Scripture with the exception of five chapters deal with the unfolding drama of Redemption. And it is for this Redemption of Creation that the Creation is maintained and governed.

It is not outside but inside Creation that Redemption is taking place, for it is every aspect of Creation that is in need of Redemption—“the whole of creation groans and labors with birth pangs” (Rom. 8:22), longing for full deliverance from the curse. This “inside” reality reinforces the assertion that the Christian faith is anchored in history; the Faith that is held by the believer is not merely a meta-historical ideal or concept, but it is historical in the sense that the message of the Faith affirms that God who is above history has done and is doing something within history. Christianity is a historical religion. Separate it from history and the Faith of the adherent is undermined, for Christianity is then without foundation and relevance. Without the history of Christianity, there is no Christianity.

The message is that the One who is in charge of history has invaded history (see: Incarnation) for the purpose of redeeming man who is confined to history and sinned within history in Eden, the Fall; (see: Man's Disobedience). The message is that the transcendent God comes to man, and without this condescension by the Creator, there would be no Redemption or hope for the guilty. Sin is historical—Eden, and salvation is historical—Calvary.

Not only is this salvation historical, but it is also progressive. The Scriptures clearly reflect this progress: anticipation of Redemption in the Old Testament; accomplishment in the New Testament; and application of the purchased salvation by the Spirit to the believer during the present era, with the current period terminating with the completion of the redemptive work (see: A Process).

Providence is eschatological in this sense: it is for the purpose of the Eschaton, when sin will no longer enslave. All of the sheep will finally be in the fold of the Shepherd, and all things will be made new. The cosmos and life on earth will not come to an end in some unexpected nuclear nightmare or be destroyed by some wayward meteor, but will be preserved by God until His eternal purpose has come to pass. And then the end will come. The end of days is in His hand.

Note: There is no specific word for providence in the Scriptures. In the KJV and the NASB “providence” is used in Acts 24:2 to translate the Greek word pronoia, which literally means “forethought.” In the NKJV and the NIV “foresight” is used in Acts instead of “providence.” Pronoia which appears in one other place, Rom. 13:14, is translated “provision” in both the KJV and the NKJV.

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