By F.M. Perry (1973)
There is a denominational doctrine, that many today believe, that says that God predestined us individually, personally, by name, to salvation in heaven or to hell. Some believe that at the birth of a person (or even before birth, possibly even before the creation of man on earth), God determined that the individual person will be one of His children to be taken to heaven, or that the individual person will be one of those who follow Satan and will be lost, and that the person himself, during his life on earth, can do nothing about it. His fate is sealed before he is born. This is loosely called the doctrine of Predestination.
This is not only a belief among some denominations of Christianity, but is also a belief of certain other religions. Many Muslims, for instance, believe this doctrine.
The word “predestination” (proarigo – Greek) is a bible word. It is used in Romans 8, Ephesians 1, Acts 4:28, and 1 Corinthians 2:7. It means “to mark off first or beforehand,” “to determine before,” or simply “to ordain.” The Bible does have a doctrine of predestination, but it is not the doctrine that I just described. It is not the doctrine that each person is individually doomed or saved beyond his own power to do anything about it. The Bible's teaching on God's predestination is simply the Bible's teaching about the things that God has ordained, the things that God has marked out beforehand, and will come to pass. We sometimes refer to all those things mentioned in the Bible as “God's plan.”
We have just finished a study of the Body, Soul, and Spirit of man in which we examined the scriptures that reveal how God created man as three part beings, one part being a unique, individual soul for every man. God ordained, or predestined, that we would be made that way, and thus we are. We are composed (in God's sight) as body, soul, and spirit, but we are known individually as soul. We learned that God created the soul of each person to be free will agents, to express their own choices, to determine their own destinies under God's guidance. God tells us in Romans 2:9-10 that “there will be tribulation and distress to every soul of man who does evil …. but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good.” Thus God created the soul with the ability to do evil or do good. God ordained or predestined that our souls must make choices to do evil or do good. Then God told us in Ezekiel 18:4 that “the soul who sins will die.” Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned.” 1 Peter 1:9 tells us that we can have salvation of our souls, however, as the outcome of faith. And 1 Peter 1:22 tells us we can purify our souls in obedience to the truth.
The point now is to remind us that God created our souls as free will agents and set us up in the world to make our own choices. We chose to sin and our souls died. We believed and obeyed the truth and our souls were saved by God. God predetermined the way we are made. He predestined that our souls must choose for themselves. God did not predetermine or predestine what choice we would make, but He predestined that we must each make his own choice. God made it possible through Jesus Christ for every single soul to be saved. But God's plan provides for man to make his own choice. God forces no soul to obey the truth. Our study of the soul brought out these things.
So, on this question of Predestination, with respect to the soul of man, God predestined that man must make his own choice. What God has predestined, no man can change. Every soul will make his own choice and God will not choose for him. So, even our study of the soul should have convinced us that the doctrine is false that says a man cannot make a choice, and that he cannot change his choice. The doctrine that says that the destiny of an individual soul is determined by God alone and the individual can do nothing about that destiny, is not supported by what the Bible reveals about the soul.
Sometime back we studied God's word revealed in the book of Romans. In that study we noted that God's plan (or what we call a plan) is revealed from the “creation of the world” until the “day that God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus,” the day when the “salvation” and the “wrath of God” is revealed. This “plan” is actually the thing which God ordained or marked out beforehand, that is the thing which God predestined from the creation of the world to come to pass. (See Figure 1, above.)
God foreknew it all before it happened. From the very first God put into operation His plan to attribute righteousness to the faithful based on His foreknowledge that His Son would one day go to the earth and die for the sins of mankind, and be raised so that grace might reign. On the strength of God's foreknowledge of the accomplishment of the things that He predestined, that Christ would make it possible for man to be saved, God began to call men and save them from the very first upon the operation of their obedience of faith. God sees it all at a glance, past, p[resent, and future. It is as though time doesn't exist for God. God sees it all at one time. “Do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” (2 Peter 1:8).
In Acts 2:23, Peter told the men of Israel who had crucified Christ, “This man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross.” God predestined and foreknew that Jesus would come to earth and die and that He would raise Him.
1 Peter 1:20-21 says, “For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God.”
The diagram in figure 1 helps remind us that God foreknew and predestined all things to come to past. And now, inevitably they are coming to past. By realizing that God sees all ages of mankind at a glance, perhaps we get an inkling of the meaning of God's foreknowledge of all things. But we don't understand it, really, for God's wisdom is too much above our wisdom. An understanding of God's foreknowledge is beyond us, a mystery to us. It is revealed to us in the Bible that God has full knowledge, but just how His foreknowledge works is still hidden from us.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:7, “We speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.” Isaiah asked, and Paul quoted him in 1 Corinthians 2:16, “Who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him?” We simply must accept the statements of the Bible that God has foreknowledge. We can understand in an elementary way that anyone who has foreknowledge has then an opportunity to try to influence the things that will happen. God's influence and power is such that whatever He ordains to come to pass will come to pass without fail. What has God predestined to come to pass?
For one thing Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That doesn't sound like a Lord who condemns a man to hell without giving him a chance. And Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:4, “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So the truth of the matter is that God does not predestine any man to hell without giving him a chance to be saved. In fact, if God were going to predestine anyone without giving him a chance to exercise his own free will, God would predestine him to salvation for God does not wish for any to perish and desires all men to choose salvation.
So that denominational doctrine that says God predestines some individuals to hell and some to salvation without them taking part in it, is at least half wrong. God is not wishing for any individual to perish in hell, Then someone might ask, if that is the way God feels, why doesn't He save everyone? Why doesn't He predestine every individual to salvation? Indeed, many people have blindly concluded that God will save everyone, for surely God would not send anyone to hell.
But, of course, the Bible reveals to us that God predestines no individual to hell or to heaven but puts it within the power of each individual to choose.
John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” There is an indication of that free choice God has given to everyone - whoever believes can be saved. And anyone, no matter who he is, can choose to believe or not to believe.
John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
God has certainly predestined some things. He has predestined that the judgment will take place and that hell will destroy. He has predestined the existence of eternal life in heaven. He has predestined that every individual will go either to hell or heaven. There are no other destinies. But God has not predestined which individual will go to one place and which will go to the other. This is determined by the individual himself. Whoever, anyone, has the privilege of believing and being saved. Anyone who believes can escape the judgment that ends in destruction. But anyone who does not believe is already judged toward destruction because God has predestined the existence of it and it is certain.
Someone might ask of John 3:18 (which says, “he who does not believe has been judged already”), does not that show that God has predestined some individuals to hell because they have been judged already? No, it does not indicate that any choice has been taken away from anyone. It is like a case of modern day law breaking. For certain misdemeanors and crimes the judgments have already been pronounced and written on the books. It is known in most cities, for instance, that if you park your car illegally, you will be fined a certain amount. If you are caught parking illegally and a policeman hands you a summons, you know that you have been “judged already.” If you went before the judge and argued that your fine was not fair because you were predestined to pay that fine, the judge would overrule you. No prerogatives had been taken from you. You had free choice of where to park your car. You brought the penalty upon yourself. The law predestined what the penalty would be but it did not predestine you to pay it. If anything, the law and the judgment being already pronounced and on the books, should have served as a deterrent to your law breaking. You undoubtedly knew that law and the judgment that had already been announced. Knowing this, you should have been more careful where you parked your car. You were without excuse and you knew it. It was not predestined that you personally would reap that judgment without you having chosen to break that law.
1 Timothy 2:6 says, “Christ Jesus gave Himself a ransom for all.” In order that you might individually and personally have opportunity to be saved, Christ gave Himself as a ransom for you and for all. He did not then contradict this great act and predestine that certain individuals could not take advantage of it. To the contrary, He predestined that every individual could take advantage of it. He does not force any individual to take advantage of it. It is a gift that can be received or refused by the individual.
Hebrews 7:25 says, “Jesus is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Jesus has predestined that He always lives to make intercession for us. He is absolutely able to save forever those who draw near to God. But this intimates that Jesus is not able to save those who do not draw near to God. We did not place this restriction on God or Christ. No man can restrict what God and Christ can do. But God and Christ can place restrictions on themselves. They can put boundaries on their actions if they choose. The Bible says Jesus will save those who draw near to God. It also indicates that God has put restrictions on Himself not to save anyone against their will, who does not draw near to God. This restriction God has made is perfectly in harmony with God's decree that man shall have a free will. What God has ordained or predestined will definitely come about. So man must make his own choice on whether to draw near to God or not. Some things God predestines but not any thing to our detriment. Every provision is made for our salvation except one. God has made no provision to save us against our will. We must take the steps to accept the gift in order to gain the salvation God has provided for all.
In fact, Jesus came to earth and sacrificed His life for us before we lived on earth. While He was on earth He gave us the gospel in order to persuade us, to plead with us to make the proper choice. He said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My load is light.”
Jesus did the very opposite of predestining anyone to hell without a chance. He made heaven available to all and then went about trying to convince us of its attractiveness and to persuade us to take the gift. He pleaded that we come to Him, all of us, no exception. He assured us that if we came to Him, our heavy load would be taken away and only a light load would be placed on us. He urged us to trade a heavy yoke for an easy yoke. But, He left it up to us. The only thing that has been predestined for each of us individually, which we cannot change, is that we must make our own choice. We can't get away from that.
The writer of Revelation 22:17 said, “And the Spirit and the Bride say 'come.' And let the one who hears say 'come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”
The wishing is up to us. No one is deprived of his prerogative. The predestined past is all in our favor, for our benefit. It is predestined that the water of life is without cost. Thus no one will be deprived of doing as he wishes for lack of funds to pay. God makes sure that we have opportunity to exercise our choice.