During a weekly Bible study, the question of predestination was brought up. The minister explained that all men are predestined to either be saved or lost, and that one’s fate has already been determined in advance. He stated that the ultimate fate of each person is preordained, that is, already determined. A member of the group asked, “What is the use to try to live a Christian life if one’s fate is already decided?” The minister replied, “You don’t know, only God knows.” This answer could hardly have given satisfaction.
The earliest New Testament writers paid little attention to the doctrine of predestination, and it did not come up until the third century when Augustine addressed it in his argument with Pelagius regarding the matter of free will. Augustine’s view was that all persons were predestined either to belief, through the intervention of God’s saving grace, or unbelief, by God’s permitting them to follow their own ways. Today, most Christians have been taught that if one does not accept Christ now, he or she will be lost. They believe that now is the time for all to accept Christ and be saved, or to be lost for refusing to do so. If Christians understood the plan of salvation, they would realize that this is not the only day of salvation. This is the time for the harvest of the first fruits, and two great days, or times of salvation, lie ahead. For a full understanding of the plan of salvation, please refer to our website article entitled : God’s Holy Days-for Christians Today? It is located under General Articles.
Both the Old and New Testaments repeatedly emphasize that men must make choices in life. While God gave His Commandments and Law to Israel, the choice to obey or not to obey was left up to them. Man is a free-moral agent, and as such may do as he likes. These choices included the choice of believing what God instructed; the choice of obeying or not; the choice of repenting for wrong doing; the choice of being baptized; and the choice of eternal life. Both the Old and New Testaments provide a number of examples of the choices that were made.
Clearly illustrated throughout the entirety of the Bible is the fact that men are free sovereign beings and must choose either life or death.
“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).
Below are a couple of Bible examples of free moral agency:
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. (Hag. 1:12)
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey. (Josh. 24:23-24)
Throughout the Bible many examples illustrate the importance of free-moral agency. Why, then, do many who believe in predestination insist that we are either predestined to be saved or to be lost, and that salvation for those who are to be saved was decided eons ago? Surely the many Bible examples indicate otherwise.
Knowledgeable Bible students are aware that some of those called of God have been predestined. But, there is much discord over how this is to be understood. There is the disagreement over the belief that some have been predestined to be saved, while others are predestined to be lost. Also, there is the wrangle over just how Christians are predestined. Some believe the Bible does not definitely reveal how we are predestined, while others believe that God predestinated us thousands of years in advance. In doing so, He foretold just exactly who we would be and even what our names would be. The arguments over predestination-both pro and con-are largely a matter of interpretation, and many of them are speculative. This has led to endless disputes. While the subject of predestination has no bearing one way or the other as far as salvation is concerned, knowledge of the subject may ease the pain of those who believe their deceased relatives are lost.
The Bible says God is omniscient, but also indicates God chooses to limit Himself. Speaking of God, the Bible states: “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). Yet, the Bible also makes clear that God allowed the people of Israel to be tested in order to prove whether they would keep His commandments or not. Obviously God does not always desire to know some things in advance. When it comes to the matter of predestination-what God determined in the distant past-the Bible makes some rather broad statements.
Consider the following:
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began. (Titus 1:1-2)
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the . . . Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. (1 Pet. 1:1-2)
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. (2 Thess. 2:13)
What has been overlooked or ignored by some is that no text in the Bible says anyone was ever predestined to be lost. Those called by God are called to be saved! Take a look at the following texts:
For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ Who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. (1Thess. 5:9-10)
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1Tim. 2:3-4)
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men. (Titus 2:11)
No other text in the Bible disagrees with what is stated above! The fact is: No one has ever been predestined to be lost!
Most texts on the subject of predestination are broad, while some address the matter of predestination with more detail. Let us take a look at some of these more detailed texts. The first one to consider is Romans 8:28-30.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
From the above verses we see that those predestinated have been called to conform to the image of the Son-the firstborn of many brethren yet to come. The question is, when did God predestinate those called? Romans 8:28-30 does not give the answer. Here is the reason: The New Testament was originally inspired in the Greek language. Our English version is a translation from the Greek text. There is an unusual tense in the Greek language that we do not have in English. It is called the aorist. It is not the exact equivalent of any tense in any other language. Most English translations render it in the past tense, but this does not give the true meaning of the tense. The aorist is best described as timeless or indefinite, and the English present is an equivalent of the Greek aorist. What the aorist tense really does is to describe a fact, not an act-that is, a fact without any time relationship. Take the following example: “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Abolished is in the aorist tense. We see death about us constantly, so death has not been abolished. The correct translation should be “abolishes death.” The fact is: Death will not be abolished until the last enemy is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:26 ).
An understanding of the aorist tense is the key to the proper meaning of Romans 8:28-30. The verb “foreknow” in verse 29, the verb “predestinate” in both verses 29 and 30, and the verbs “called,” “justified,” and “glorified” in verse 30 are all in the aorist. What does this mean? A more accurate translation would be, “For whom he foreknows, he also predestinates. . . . Moreover whom he predestinates, them he also calls, them he also justifies, and whom he justifies, them he also glorifies.” What the aorist tense does in this verse is to take the event out of time and circumstance and to place it in the realm of fact. The text is not concerned with time, but with fact. The fact is that some have been called and justified in the past, some were being called and justified at the time Paul wrote the epistle, and some will be yet ahead in the future. All will be glorified in the resurrection to life (1 Cor 15:43 ), again, a fact without a time reference. But, all are predestinated, called, justified, and glorified, according to God’s plan and purpose-a purpose which He established at the beginning.
Coffman’s Bible Commentary tells us that the only thing to be understood by Romans 8:28-29 is that God knows in advance what will happen. The problem is that men often assume that because God knows what will take place before it happens, He is the cause of it. Consider this: Just because a man may know an event that took place in the past does not mean he caused it to happen. God’s knowledge of the future is just like that. The only difference is the element of time. God’s eternal knowledge of a future event cannot be viewed as the cause of it.
God predestined all men to be conformed to the image of His Son. The meaning is obvious: The destiny of every man is that he should obey God and be conformed to the image of His Son. Predestined refers to God’s plan, His intention, what God had in mind when man was created. Therefore, every man born should come to love God and be conformed to the perfect image of Christ. But if all men are “destined” to be Christians, why are not all men saved? The answer: Every man has been given freedom of will and can either accept or refuse the destiny to which God called him. In Romans 8:28-29, Paul restricted the meaning of destined by applying it to those who became Christians. They accepted the call, while those who did not accept it remained called, but were also condemned. What most people do not realize today is that they were born to serve Christ, and while a man may live in opposition to that destiny, true happiness can be achieved only by conforming to the image of His Son (Coffman’s Com).
The predestined can refuse their destiny of entering the Body of Christ, but this has nothing to do with any person as an individual. Nothing can be predestined for the individual because of the right of free will. The predestined who accept the divine call are found in Christ. This is the fairness and justice of the inherent right of “whosoever will” to enter into the company of those destined for eternal glory. The two great errors in the understanding of predestination are: (1) assuming that foreknowledge necessarily implies an act of decreed predetermination for everything done in this human life, and (2) that those predestined for glory, refers to individual human beings (Coffman’s Com).
Our next text is Ephesians 1:4-5, and verse 11:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the [sonship] of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. . . . In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Coffman’s Bible Commentary notes that the tendency to abuse the doctrine of predestination has led some to believe that all things are fixed, and there is no need for effort. They believe that God has an eternal plan and no matter how people live, they will be saved if they have been predestined. For them, nothing can change that plan. The Apostle Paul held no such view. To him the doctrine of predestination was found in God’s plan to make people holy before Him in love. The calling and election in Christ are not without reason, but every man must decide for himself if he will or will not accept God’s intended blessing.
For ages theologians have tried to complicate the subject of predestination. Simply put, predestination applies to everything God made. In creating man, God’s purpose was for man to become a Son of God through Jesus Christ, a destiny God intended for every man on the earth. Stars and galaxies may not oppose or thwart their destiny, but the freedom of the human will enables men to hinder or prevent the fulfillment of God’s purposes in their lives (Coffman’s Com).
In Ephesians 1:4-5, 11, the verbs “chosen” in verse four, and “predestinated” in verses five and eleven, as well as the verb “obtained” in verse eleven, are in the aorist. Again, the meaning takes us from time to fact. God indeed chooses us before the foundation of the world. He predestinates us to sonship by Jesus Christ; we are now potential sons of God. The process of sonship is a fact which God determined at the beginning and which will continue until God’s plan of salvation is complete. The usage of the aorist shows that the text is not concerned with time, but with fact. But there is something else that should be called to our attention.
Dr. Lange points out in his Commentary on the Holy Scriptures that the verb form for “chosen” in verse four, corresponds to the Hebrew bahr-the word used for “chosen” many places in the Old Testament. The Septuagint-the Greek translation of the Old Testament-translates bahr as eklektos. Eklektos means “elect.” The word “chosen” in Ephesians 1:4 is the exact equivalent of “elect.” Several places in the New Testament the Church is called “the elect.” The Greek word eklektos is used to designate this. See 1 Peter 1:2; 5:13 , Colossians 3:12 , 2 Timothy 2:10 , and Romans 8:33 . What this tells us is that election does not concern itself with individuals but with the Church and its growth externally. Yet it is done in such a way that each individual may apply it to himself. This is why the use of “us” in Ephesians 1:4 does not refer to individuals, but to the Church as a whole. This is an important point to keep in mind. It is evident that Paul could apply the word “chosen” to himself and members of the Church because only in this way was this capable of being perceived.
Now take a look at 2 Timothy 1:8-9:
Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
The verbs “saved” and “called” in verse nine are both in the aorist. The English past tense does not present the true meaning of the text. The verb “saved” would be better translated “rescues.” God both rescues and calls us according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. Predestination was determined at the very beginning, but the fact is that God rescues and saves us now. Time, again, is not a consideration in this text, but the essential character of God’s plan and purpose is. This fact is being fulfilled according to God’s design, but was purposed before the world began.
Paul’s epistles demonstrate that he knew very well that predestination included free moral agency. What is fundamental to biblical thought is that God always carries out His will, while at the same time allowing men the privilege of free choice.
“Foundation of the World” Texts
A number of texts refer to the “foundation of the world.” What are these texts saying? Do they always refer to some distant time in the past of which man has no knowledge? The key to understanding these texts is the usage of two Greek prepositions utilized in conjunction with the “foundation of the world” texts. These prepositions are apo and pro. Let us take a look at the apo texts first. First, notice Matthew 13:34-35:
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.
“From” in this text is the preposition apo, which can be translated in a number of different ways. How it is translated was determined by what the translators thought to be the intended meaning of the preposition. “From” used in Matthew 13:35 is more than likely the correct word as “foundation” means the state or act of being founded. From the time the world was founded, the secret things of God have been withheld. Not until the time of Christ was this revelation made known.
The next text is Matthew 25:34 : “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” The word “from” in this verse is the correct translation, as God’s plan for man was set in motion at the very beginning. God’ Kingdom will be established on the earth in the last days (Micah 4:1-3). This was determined at or near the time the world was founded.
Now turn to Hebrews 4:3:
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
A clearer translation of this verse would be: “It is only as a result of our faith and trust that we experience that rest. For he said: As I sware in my wrath, they [the nation of physical Israel ] shall not enter into my rest [that is, the Promised Land]: not because the rest was not prepared-it had been ready since the work of creation was completed, as he says elsewhere in the scriptures. . . .” (Phillips Translation). Phillips uses the word “since” in place of “from,” which is used in the Authorized Version. In either case the meaning would be the same. God’s plan was fixed at or near the time the earth was founded. This plan included eternal life-deliverance and rest from all the toils and sins of this physical life-which God had set in motion at the beginning.
Next, let us look at Hebrews 9:25-26. This text refers to the one sacrifice Christ made for mankind.
Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Here we find that apo is translated “since.” Christ had been designated as the sin bearer from the very beginning (Gen. 3:15, Acts 2:23 ), a plan that had been set in motion when the earth was founded. This was to be a one-time sacrifice, never to be repeated.
Luke 11:49-50 is another text that we should consider. We read:
“Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation.
What is clear from this text is that the blood of the prophets was not shed at or before the foundation of the world. At that time there were no prophets, so “from” in the text means since the time the world was founded, not at or before. Apo can only be determined by the context and where the context is not clear; one should not jump to any dogmatic view regarding the time element.
The two other texts which use apo in conjunction with “the foundation of the world” are found in the book of Revelation. The first of these is Revelation 13:8.
Here we read: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the beast], whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
The Lamb was not slain at the time the world was founded. He was not slain until approximately four thousand years after Creation. What had been determined at the time of the founding of the world was that Christ would be the sacrificial Lamb of God (John 1:29 ). That plan had been set in motion at the beginning.
Next, notice Revelation 17:8:
The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Apo is translated “from” in this verse. What is the meaning? Since the words “foundation of the world” mean the founding of the world, “from” cannot mean “before.” The Bible makes it plain that no one has ever been predestined to be lost. To assume those not written in the book of life were excluded from salvation because they were not found written in the book of life at the time the world was founded is false. A number of texts translate apo as “since.” See, for example: Matthew 24:21, Luke 1:70, Acts 3:21 , and Colossians 1:6. Hebrews 9:26 has already been mentioned. “Since” in these texts makes perfect sense, as the translators could clearly see. “Since” would have been a better translation of apo in Revelation 17:8. Why? To interpret this verse to mean that some names were not written in the book of life “before the foundation of the world” contradicts the fact that no one has ever been predestined to be lost.
There are three texts (John 17:24 , , 1 Pet.1:20, Eph. 1:4) that use pro rather than apo in conjunction with “foundation of the world.” The first two of these “foundation of the world” texts concern themselves with Christ. These are John 17:24, and 1 Peter. 1:20. In these two texts pro is translated “before.” One shows the pre-existence of Christ and the relationship He had with the Father before the foundation of the world (John 17:24 ); the other text (1 Pet. 1:20 ), also uses “before” and tells us that He was foreordained to be the sacrificial Lamb before the foundation of the world. In the texts which use pro in conjunction with “foundation of the world,” the word “before” is the logical translation. Prior to the creation of the universe Christ indeed was with the Father, and indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be the sacrificial Lamb of God. The third text to examine is Ephesians 1:4. Even though we have looked at this text earlier, we need to look at it again because it uses pro with the phrase “foundation of the world.”
It reads: ” According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” “Before” is the only translation that would fit here.
So, what do we have? We have already seen the use of the aorist with the words “hath chosen.” The emphasis is on fact. It underscores the fact that God does the choosing. He “chooses” us in Him before the foundation of the world. What the text tells us is that the process of choosing was set in motion before the founding of the world, but the indication is that the choice itself is made at whatever time period God calls us to the knowledge of the Truth.
Some Predestined in Advance
The Bible does show that some few have been predestined for a specific work and purpose. Certainly Christ was one of these; in fact, He is the major figure in God’s plan. We read in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14 ). Jesus, the Son of God, was born of a virgin, and His name Immanuel meant “God with us” (Matt 1:23 ). This prophecy was given about 700 years in advance. Jesus Christ was indeed predestined to fulfill the most important mission God purposed in His plan of salvation (1 Pet. 1:19 -20).
Jeremiah the prophet was also predestined before birth. God said to him: “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:5). Jeremiah’s mission was long and arduous; his life fraught was much persecution and toil. He is included among the prophets in God’s Hall of Fame chapter-Hebrews, chapter 11.
Then there was John the Baptist. Jesus said he was the greatest of all the prophets. Why? Not because he performed any great miracles, but because his mission was the most important of all the prophets. He was the harbinger of Christ-chosen before birth. Of John we read: “But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. . . . And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13, 17). Jesus said that John was the Elijah prophesied to come: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD ” (Mal. 4:5). “And if ye will receive it, this [John the Baptist] is Elias, which was for to come” (Matt. 11:14 ). Because of his powerful ministry, many people readily accepted Christ as the Messiah (John 1:7).
Cyrus, King of Persia, was predestined to carry out a work for God. That work is recorded in Isaiah 44:28: “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem , Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” Cyrus was appointed to rule the nations. One of his purposes was to free the captive Jews so that many of them could return to the Holy Land and rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem . “Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut” (Isa. 45:1). When was this prophecy uttered? About 150 years before the events.
These examples illustrate that according to God’s purpose and plan, He can and does predestinate certain individuals in advance. These servants, as we see above, were predestined for a task God intended to perform.
Does God Limit Himself?
We mentioned earlier that some hold to the notion that everyone called to a knowledge of the Truth was specifically predestinated thousands of years ago, so much so, that God even knew his or her name at that time.
Is this true?
Bible examples clearly show that God chooses not to know certain things. Take Genesis 18:20-21 as a case in point. God was about to punish Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins. We read: “And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” If God knows all things, there would have been no necessity to “go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it.” Some say this is an example of condescending, that is, God lowering Himself to the level of humans in order to relate to them. This view means that the Bible cannot be taken literally. If one cannot take the Bible literally, then it can be relegated to the level of literature or “inspirational reading,” which is exactly what many modern theologians have done.
Another example is Genesis 22:12. The account says: ” . . . God did [prove] Abraham” (verse 1). When Abraham passed the test and showed his willingness to obey God, no matter what God commanded, we read: “. . . Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” If God already knew what Abraham would do, there would have been no need for the test. Some say God had established a covenant with Abraham much earlier, so He already knew Abraham’s character. So God knew what Abraham would do in advance. But God did not say, “I already knew what you would do.” He said, “. . . now I know that thou fearest God. . . .” God chose to limit what He knew until Abraham proved that he indeed would obey God. What is overlooked by some is that the original covenant God made with Abraham was conditional (Gen. 17:1-2). As a result of proving his obedience to God, the covenant was made unconditional.
In Exodus 16:4-5 the nation of Israel was put to the test regarding the observance of the Sabbath. Manna was given them for six days, but they were to rest on the seventh. We read: “Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.” If God already knew what they would do, He would not have tested them by giving them a double portion of manna on the sixth day of the week and telling them to rest on the seventh.
An unusual example is found in 2 Kings 22:20. God foretold the coming destruction of the nation of Judah , but because of his righteousness King Josiah was told: “Behold therefore, I [God] will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace; and thine eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place. . . .” But later Josiah made war with the Pharaoh of Egypt. In 2 Chronicles 35:23-24 we read: “And the archers shot at king Josiah; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded. His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem , and he died , and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.” This text clearly demonstrates the principle of free moral agency. It was God’s intention to give Josiah respite from all the evil that was determined upon his nation, and to let him die in peace. But that did not happen. Why? God allows us to make choices. Josiah made the wrong choice and it cost him his life. If God predestined what Josiah was going to do, He would not have told him he would die in peace. Josiah did not die in peace. He died from wounds received in war. The Scriptures presented in the previous paragraphs illustrate one thing: God honors our free moral agency by not exercising His option to know in advance what we choose to do.
Predestination and Free Moral Agency
God has made each one of us a free moral agent. We have the right of free choice. While it is God’s desire that we make the right choices, He nevertheless tells us: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deut. 30:19).
Human nature being what it is, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that many of our forefathers have been sinners. Most of us know little about our ancestors more than a generation or two back. How many of our forefathers have been truly righteous people? Perhaps some, but it would not be illogical to conclude that, going back many generations in the history of man, our fathers have done many things wrong. The history of Israel in the Old Testament is a good example. Children have been born out of wedlock, incest, rape, adultery, polygamy, etc. If God knew before the foundation of the world that we would be exactly as we are today-with our race, nationality, looks, color of eyes, posture, mental aptitude, sex, name, etc.-then God would somehow have been a party to every union in our family history. Some say all men have the right of free choice, but God uses advance knowledge of men’s freewill choices to overlay and harmonize His master plan. This notion makes God complicit in all the sins of our forefathers.
Let us take a look at a few examples of predestination in the Bible. To what degree did those predestined exercise free moral agency when appointed to do God’s will? We have seen that Cyrus, King of Persia, was predestined. Does the Bible indicate the decisions Cyrus made were by his own personal choice? The Scripture does not say, so there is no way of knowing. What we do know is that Cyrus did exactly what God said he would do in order to fulfill His plan and purpose. The most we can infer is that God must have put the desire to fulfill His will in Cyrus’ mind. This does not appear to be a choice Cyrus would have made without the influence of God’s Spirit.
Judas Iscariot was predestined. He is called the “son of perdition” (John 17:12 ). Jesus said, “. . . One of you [His disciples] is a devil” (John 6:70). Did Judas exercise his own personal choice when he betrayed Christ? Possibly. We read that the devil put it into Judas’ heart to betray Jesus (John 13:2), and that Satan actually entered into him (v. 27). Later, when Judas realized the extent of his betrayal, he was remorseful, and hanged himself (Matt. 27:3-5). Judas obviously had a weakness on which Satan capitalized. When he betrayed Christ, he was completely under the power of Satan. Would Judas have betrayed Christ without being possessed by Satan? We do not know. But whatever motivated him, Judas was predestined to carry out this deed. What we can say is that God knows the personal choices individuals will make because He knows their character well enough to recognize what choice they will make. The Bible does not reveal the extent of God’s omniscient power, nor does it reveal how He exercises it in the matter of predestination.
Regarding the lineage of Christ, some argue that God, for His purpose, chose Rahab the harlot thousands of years in advance, knowing ahead of time the choices she would make. Rahab married Salmon, and bore a son named Boaz, the grandfather of Jesse, the father of King David. What Rahab did before she married into the line of Judah is not the issue. The issue in the matter of predestination is the offspring that was produced in spite of previous sinful conduct. Does God wink at sin in order to bring about what He predestined? Take a look at the patriarch Judah and King David, both ancestors of Christ. Judah cohabited with his daughter-in-law Tamar, who bore twin sons. One of these sons was a forefather of Christ. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered. She later bore Solomon by King David, a forefather of Christ. It would certainly be out of line to attribute these sins to God because of predestination. The indication is that God chooses not to know what we will do in advance. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity. . . ” (Hab. 1:13). It is unlikely that God, who cannot bear to behold evil, would want to know in advance the sins of which men are capable. A look at Genesis 6:6 indicates this. We read: “And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.” If God would have chosen to know in advance man’s depth of sin, would He have been sorry and grieved at the extent of it?
There are three things we should realize here: (1) There is no evidence from the Bible that anyone was ever predestined to be lost; (2) There is no evidence that God chose to know before the foundation of the world what our names would be; and (3) No one really knows how we are predestined. What we can know is that true Christians have been predestined for a purpose that God had in mind before the foundation of the world. All indications show that purpose is to rule with Him in His kingdom (Rev. 2:26; 3:21 ; 5:10 ). When it comes to the matter of predestination, the inference is that God predestined various offices, or positions of responsibility for those called to be in His kingdom (John 14:2). God promises a new name for those who enter (Rev. 2:17; 3:12 ), so our present names are not important. God created us in hope. He tells us through the Apostle Paul, “For the [creation, that is, man] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope. . . . but hope that is seen is not hope. . . ” (Rom. 8:20 , 24). God has hope in His creation. If He chooses to know everything thousands of years in advance, hope does not exist, for that which is seen is not hope.
The fact is: God has determined not to reveal some things at the present time (Deut. 29:29). The subject of predestination is not a matter of salvation, and the most encouraging thing to know is that God nowhere says in the Bible that anyone is predestined to be lost.