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Does the Bible teach predestination?

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Many religions teach some form of predestination, but is this teaching biblical? There are variations of the doctrine, but among the most common is the idea that God long ago predetermined every detail of every person's life, including whether He would save or condemn that person. However, doesn't this approach deny a fundamental teaching of the Bible—that we have freedom of choice and that God holds us accountable for the choices that we make?

Notice how God has consistently worked with His people down through the ages. God instructed Israel, urging them to make right choices with that knowledge and then holding them accountable for the choices that they made. Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I 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 you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×
illustrates how God works. He told Israel, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” He didn't predetermine the outcome; they had a choice.

God works the same way with Christians today. Christ said: “For every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36 Matthew 12:36But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
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). This is but one of numerous scriptures that assure us God will have us answer for our actions. Romans 14:10 Romans 14:10But why do you judge your brother? or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
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and 2 Corinthians 5:10 2 Corinthians 5:10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad.
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show that we are all to appear before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ to be judged according to what we have done. If God had predetermined our judgment, this would make no sense.

Thus we see from the Scriptures that God did not predetermine everyone's course of action or everyone's salvation. God could not justifiably judge anyone for failing to make a right choice, if He predetermined the choice that the person would make.

There are some who will argue: “God is omniscient. Therefore, He knows in advance what choice people will make.” Just as a parent has an idea in advance what choices his children will make in a given situation, God has a good idea what people—His children—will do. But having an idea of what choice people would make is far different from predetermining it. Because He grants mankind free choice, He cannot know what individual choices will be until a person actually makes his or her choice.

What does the Bible teach about predestination?

  • God predetermined that He would call humans to salvation. “Salvation” involves a conversion process, not merely a passing emotional decision to “give one's heart to the Lord.” The process begins with God's calling; is followed by repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit and living a life in submission to God's instructions; and concludes when God changes Christians to immortal spirit sons and daughters in His family. 
  • He predetermined that He would call and choose a select few to salvation before Christ's return (Matthew 22:14 Matthew 22:14For many are called, but few are chosen.
    American King James Version×
    ; 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 1 Corinthians 1:26-27 26 For you see your calling, brothers, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
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  • He also predetermined that He will give everyone a chance at salvation—which means that most will have to be brought back to life to receive not a second chance but their only chance for salvation. 
  • There were rare instances where God predestined or chose certain individuals for specific responsibilities or even physical inheritances prior to birth—Jacob, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc. But those had nothing to do with their salvation.

God didn't predetermine the existence of every person, for that would take all free choice away from the conception of every life from Cain and Abel on down. Nor does it mean that God guarantees everyone He calls to salvation will be in His Kingdom. Once God extends His invitation or calling to a person, that person must choose whether to respond, and must choose to continue to be faithful. God does not force His Spirit on anyone.

Each Christian continues to exercise free choice, making decisions every day to resist temptation and to live by God's way of life. If a Christian makes poor choices or drifts away from God, he or she can lose salvation (Hebrews 6:4-6 Hebrews 6:4-6 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again to repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
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  • TRJ46

    When I study the bible, it is clear to me, that our Father has predetermined/predestined/chosen, not all, but certainly many of his children; not for a particular moment or purpose in time, but for any time that will serve HIS PURPOSE during that person or people’s lifetime. Example: “I have chosen you before the foundations of the world”, is a statement uttered by GOD plenty of times in the bible. Israel are HIS chosen people. “I knew you before you were in your mother’s womb” has said The Lord. “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated”, saith the Lord (before they were even born!).

  • Skip

    Right on! TRJ46

    But I have to ask, “Chosen for what?”

    I’m reading in Genesis right now & I see, (Gen 3: 17)
    “Cursed is the ground FOR your sake.”
    Sounds like God cursed the ground to bring about something good.

    My point?
    Unless or until you understand why Israel was “chosen” you can’t really talk about predestination.

    It is quite possible that most descendants of Jacob or Esau have no idea for what they have been chosen.

    The good news is that the Truth is better for both.

  • Skip

    Hello TRJ46,

    You are correct. There have been certain individuals chosen by God
    for a specific purpose at a specific time.
    Also, Israel is His chosen people.
    That having been said, where does this leave you & me?

    I am being given an opportunity NOW to respond to an incredible offer.
    But not everyone is being given that opportunity, NOW.

    Predestination is a “doctrine” that limits God’s plan.

    The UCG booklet, “What is Your Destiny?” addresses this issue
    and shows the bountiful future available to every human
    at God’s proper time.

  • TRJ46

    No. GOD gave us free will; But there are certain peoples, like the Israely Nation,and certain individuals, who are called “my chosen”, who, while having free will, have been “set aside” in whose lives The Lord can,at any time and for The Lord’s purpose,do GOD’s will and not their’s. GOD is always fair, so when they are doing The Lord’s Will and not their’s, are not held accountable. The apostle Paul was bent on destroying the Church of CHRIST and on his way to Damascus he was following his own will, but The Lord overrode Paul’s intentions and made him follow GOD’s will. The Pharaoh holding Israel captive, after the plagues decided to let them go, but GOD had another plan, so HE “harden Pharaoh’s heart” and The Pharaoh went after them.

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi Skip,

    What a great discussion topic! Here’s one possibility: “you are a chosen…people for God’s possession, so that you may proclaim the [“excellent” (EMTV 2003)] virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, LEB 2010) of Truth.

    One minor note of clarification: The grammatically archaic phrase “for thy sake” (Genesis 3:17b Matthew-Tyndale 1537, 1549; Bishop’s 1568; Geneva 1583 (which places a colon after “sake”); KJV 1611, 1769; Webster 1833; Brenton 1851; RV 1885; ASV 1901) is an older English expression generally rendered “on thy [thine] account” (DBY 1890 [YLT 1898]) or, in more modern English, “because of you” (LITV 1976; ESV 2011) as in most translations. Semantically, the archaic form assumes the reader will place syntactic emphasis on the word ‘thy’ (as in “I apologize–this is all *my* fault”), rather than on the word ‘sake’ (as in “Eat your asparagus–this is for your *good*”).

    I have a question: What does Timothy mean when he refers to “the elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21, ESV 2011)?

  • Ivan Veller

    Hi TRJ46, here are more articles related to this topic:
    • Does predestination mean that God has already predetermined who will be in His Kingdom?
    • In Psalm 139:13-16, it reads “In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed” [which] implies that our lives are predetermined by God? If not, why not?
    • Predestination: Are You Just a Pawn?

    For more, see:

  • Asong Ngaihte
    Yes, I do feel that God Pre-determined our lives too. Our lives were all seen and forseen by God, who is omniscient..! I do understand that God gave us Free will, and also chosen certain people for certain reasons. He gave us the Choice, conscience: That all our lives were of our WILL and not Pre-determined. On second thought, God being Omniscient, our maker, life/soul giver. Wouldn’t he knows our future, all these choices that were going to make or the choices that were not going to make or that even all these choices or thoughts comming to us. I understand that he doesn’t interfere with free will. Interfere or not, He is the giver of the definition of FREE WILL, i bet he knows what our Free will would be. Isn’t that means the choices of our free will is already acknowledge by him or limited by him. Doesn’t that means its Pre-determined?
  • Maxwe11
    Everything, all the workings of the world down to the minutest of details are predetermined by the unfathomable omniscience of God. There are innumerable factors involved that make up the ‘plan’ and we simply cannot formulate a mathematical equation for this, ‘for the ways of god are foolishness to man’. I am the Alpha & Omega, the beginning & end and therefore He knows the outcome of every situation. A leaf doesn’t fall from the tree without the foreknowing volition of the Almighty. Your very thoughts are known even before the slightest ripple of a thought-wave and modern science has proven this. Your coming here to type a response was all mapped out… and God knew this, otherwise He couldn’t be omniscient. He was with at the time of your physical birth, and will be with you when you discard the body. The above article is flawed. We cannot ‘choose’ our parents, our race, our gender, children, money etc. Fact - the choices we think we personally make are purely mechanical & limited, and even so, if we are to accept the statements in the first paragraph, then we must also accept that even these mechanical thoughts are predetermined. Let us not misconstrue what the prophets meant by free-will. It is that you should be empty of your personal self & let the ‘will’ of God be ‘free’ to express itself. “I of myself am nothing, thy will be done Father, not mine” - Jesus Yes, God gave man dominion over all things but only insomuch that we accept our Christhood, our freedom, our true I-dentity in His image and not the false personal i-dentity. In the garden of Eden we all ate of the tree of knowledge of duality & died to God. Know that even Satan was part of the greater plan and that even he couldn’t budge but took his orders from upstairs. All this talk of free agency and freedom of choice to choose righteousness or resist temptation, when God already knows what you’re going to do beforehand. All this is from the viewpoint of the personality. Give up this false identity and be as your Father is in heaven, perfection… to which nothing can be added, from which nothing — taken away. Be in the world but not of it.
  • BrianKinney
    If predestination is not biblical, how should I read Ephesians 1:3-14 Ephesians 1:3-14 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
    American King James Version×
    where Paul talks about salvation? - “3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” And how should I read Romans 9:6-29 Romans 9:6-29 6 Not as though the word of God has taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: 7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall your seed be called. 8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son. 10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; 11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls;) 12 It was said to her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he said to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy. 17 For the scripture said to Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore has he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardens. 19 You will say then to me, Why does he yet find fault? For who has resisted his will? 20 No but, O man, who are you that reply against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? 21 Has not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor? 22 What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared to glory, 24 Even us, whom he has called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? 25 As he said also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. 26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said to them, You are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. 27 Esaias also cries concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: 28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make on the earth. 29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like to Gomorrha.
    American King James Version×
    where Paul talks about God’s sovereign choice… “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” I don’t mean to pick a fight, I’m actually really struggling with this stuff. Thank you for your help.
  • Larry Walker
    Most of mainstream Christianity has accepted the Greek philosophers’ concept of God—that He is omniscient, omnipresent and unchangeable. God is omnipresent by means of His Spirit (Psalms 139:7-10 Psalms 139:7-10 7 Where shall I go from your spirit? or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there shall your hand lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.
    American King James Version×
    ). However, to suggest that He is omniscient and unchangeable as per the Greek concept implies that He cannot cannot continue to expand His knowledge or change His oourse of action—assertions which are unbiblical and contradictory to His plan of free moral agency. The Bible condemns this “wisdom of the world” and its inability to know God (1 Corinthians 1:18-23 1 Corinthians 1:18-23 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness;
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    ). The Openness of God by Clark Pinnock, et al presents a biblically documented rebuttal to this errant philosophical theology and presents a biblically based concept of the “hands on” God of history that has long been understood in the Hebraic culture. I have read the book and recommend it for enlightening and inspiring reading. The word “predestine” simply means to determine or decide something in advance of doing it. Ephesians 1:13-14 Ephesians 1:13-14 13 In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.
    American King James Version×
    explains that God determined His plan of salvation in advance of actually carrying it out. We who are God’s people today are part of that group of people that he determined in advance to call. But that doesn’t mean that our individual calling was determined from the beginning. The UCG answer re. predestination explains that clearly. The Greek concept is incorrect, not because I said so, but because the apostle Paul said so.
  • Lewis VanAusdle
    Hi Maxwe11 and BrianKinney, Maxwe11 you make a good point that “Yes, God gave man dominion over all things but only insomuch that we accept our Christhood, our freedom, our true I-dentity in His image and not the false personal i-dentity.” God does give us dominion and freedom but, like you said, we must “accept” His calling and consciously strive to take on the character traits of God and strive to make that our true identity. God does the calling and then sets the choice in front of us to make (I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I 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 you and your seed may live:
    American King James Version×
    NKJV)). God chooses certain people at certain times and ensures that His overall plan happens. Sometimes He changes His mind (Exodus 4:10-16 Exodus 4:10-16 10 And Moses said to the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since you have spoken to your servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. 11 And the LORD said to him, Who has made man’s mouth? or who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say. 13 And he said, O my LORD, send, I pray you, by the hand of him whom you will send. 14 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold, he comes forth to meet you: and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 And you shall speak to him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with your mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16 And he shall be your spokesman to the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to you instead of a mouth, and you shall be to him instead of God.
    American King James Version×
    ; Exodus 32:7-14 Exodus 32:7-14 7 And the LORD said to Moses, Go, get you down; for your people, which you brought out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves: 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them: they have made them a molten calf, and have worshipped it, and have sacrificed thereunto, and said, These be your gods, O Israel, which have brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 9 And the LORD said to Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiff necked people: 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of you a great nation. 11 And Moses sought the LORD his God, and said, LORD, why does your wrath wax hot against your people, which you have brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from your fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever. 14 And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people.
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    ; Jonah 3:10 Jonah 3:10And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
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    ) and is surprised by our actions (Jeremiah 19:5 Jeremiah 19:5They have built also the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I commanded not, nor spoke it, neither came it into my mind:
    American King James Version×
    ). He tested Abraham to see what his character was like (Genesis 22:12 Genesis 22:12And he said, Lay not your hand on the lad, neither do you any thing to him: for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son from me.
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    ) because He needed to know if He could trust Abraham to follow Him. If there is no free will then there is no judgment. If there is no judgment then there is no right or wrong. If there is no right or wrong then there is no need for salvation. But we do need salvation because we have chosen to sin. If this was not a choice then there would be no consequence for what we do. But there are consequences for our sins (For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    American King James Version×
    NKJV)). BrianKinney, that passage from Romans you mentioned shows that God chooses whoever He decides to choose for the job that He wants to be done. He can cause things to happen or prevent them from happening to cause His plan to move forward. We see that God loved Jacob and chose him to accomplish His will. However, Jacob still made choices that were against God’s law and did things not the way God would have had him do them, like the way he went about receiving the birthright. God intended this blessing for Jacob. God used the poor choices of Jacob to accomplish His own will and to carry out His plan. I hope this helps answer some of your questions.

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