What is this world coming to? Ever hear that question? It is mostly asked with the sense of confusion and frustration as to the reason events happen. Something happens that throws our sense of direction and morality off, and in confusion or frustration we ask, “What is this world coming to?” But in reality that is a fair question to ask. The answer is what can be defined as our philosophy of history and our answer to the quest for meaning. Every generation faces that question and search, not only as a society, but as a individual.
What is a philosophy of history? It is a systematic interpretation of universal history in accordance with a principle by which historical events and successions are unified and directed toward ultimate meaning.
By this definition, we can see that the Bible gives a philosophy of history, although it is not a textbook on the philosophy of history. However it meets the requirements that are necessary for a philosophy of history.
- It explains the why of historic events in an organized way.
- It covers the whole scope of history from beginning to end.
- It has a unifying principle which ties history together.
- It assigns ultimate meaning to history.
The Bible fulfills these requirements. Briefly, the Bible shows that history is controlled by God in the outworking of His purpose. The events of history are really a struggle between rebellion, redemption, and restoration. It covers the beginning and ending of history (Genesis to Revelation). The ultimate meaning or goal of history is the redemption of man for the glory of God.
Dispensationalism has a direct relationship to the Biblical philosophy of history. Dispensationalism or the study of dispensations aimed at developing the Bible’s philosophy of history on the basis of God’s eternal purpose. That eternal purpose is expressed in Ephesians 3:11, “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.” While there is much that could be said about this verse, the one thing it clearly does is tell us that God has a plan and purpose. It climaxed (but did not end) with the work of Christ Jesus our Lord on the cross. Notice the verse does not say that this was God’s plan in its entirety. But it was in accordance with His purpose. His purpose is still being worked out. “That in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace…” (Eph. 2:7). What dispensations do are identify the stages of the outworking of God’s purpose and plan in history as revealed in the Bible.