Suffering in the perspective of God’s governance, eschatology and God’s council

Van de Beek, Abraham (2014-04)

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.

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Please cite as follows:

Van de Beek, A. 2014. Suffering in the perspective of God’s governance, eschatology and God’s council. In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi, 48(1), doi:10.4102/ids.v48i1.739.


From the beginning of Christian theology, theologians have struggled with the question of how suffering in the world is related to God’s providence. A classic response to this question is that, ultimately, God’s governance is beyond human understanding. More recently an eschatological solution has been preferred: God is involved in a historical process and he will finally overcome evil. This article argued that both responses have their own problems. In the first God is a hidden mystery, and in the latter either the outcome of history is uncertain or God is waiting unnecessarily long. On the other hand, both provide consolation to human beings in times of suffering. Which one of the two answers is more helpful, depends on culture and context. Therefore, they are both acceptable responses to the question. At a deeper level, one can argue that both refer to eternity − one in a spatial model (above) and the other in a temporal model (hereafter). Both space and time are metaphors in this context. That is also the case when we speak of ‘before’ with regard to God’s eternal council. Ultimately, from a perspective of eternity, God’s council, God’s governance and God’s final judgment coincide. In Christian theology these concepts can only be understood in the paradigm of God’s revelation in Christ, who is the expression of the mystery of creation − as is especially indicated in the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians.

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