Many individuals and groups think that everything that happens in life is inevitable and unavoidable. They believe that fate—the supposed force, principle or power that predetermines events—rules throughout the universe. A number even hold that a Supreme Being, the Creator God, is the author and controller of such fate. On the other hand, there are others who maintain that even God Himself is subject to this all-powerful force. What is the truth?
Is there really such a thing as fate, a set destiny reaching even beyond the grave? Are some people foreordained to succeed and others fail? Are only a few destined to be saved and the rest lost, as some religious groups teach? Or is this idea a distortion of what the Bible really teaches about “predestination”?
God and predestination
During World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain told the U.S. Congress, “He must indeed have a blind soul who cannot see that some great purpose and design is being worked out here below” (Dec. 26, 1941). Many others throughout the centuries have certainly recognized this fact.
But who or what is “working out” this “great purpose and design”? Logic and reason would dictate that it must be an infinite Intelligence. And indeed, the Holy Bible names that Intelligence—God. Within its pages, the Eternal God is declared to be supreme in existence, for there is “no one greater” (Hebrews 6:13 Hebrews 6:13For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he swore by himself,
American King James Version×). Thus, if fate exists, God has dominion over it. For one who is supreme cannot, by definition, be subject to anything but himself!
The same great and infinite God tells us: “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ ” (Isaiah 46:9-10 Isaiah 46:9-10 9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 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:
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout). This, then, should remove all doubt. God is supreme and nothing can prohibit Him from doing whatever He wants.
Perhaps even more interesting, though, is that from the beginning of history God has declared the end of it. But how can this be? Does the future already exist, so that God can merely look into a crystal ball and see it? Not at all! Rather, He explains how in the very next verse: “Indeed, I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it.” In other words, God, who sits at the controls of the universe, so to speak, steers events and circumstances to bring about His plan and purpose.
And that brings us to predestination. Does the Bible directly mention this subject? Yes, it does. In fact, the word “predestined” occurs four times in the New King James Version. First in Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son … Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified” (8:28-30).
And then in Ephesians, the same apostle said that God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself … In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5 Ephesians 1:4-5 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,
American King James Version×, 11).
Notice that those who are foreknown and predestined are referred to as having been “called.” In other places, the Bible refers to them as the “elect” (Matthew 24:24 Matthew 24:24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
American King James Version×; Romans 8:33 Romans 8:33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies.
American King James Version×)—in fact, “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2 1 Peter 1:2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, to obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, be multiplied.
American King James Version×).
All of this, then, begs the question: Is an individual’s eternal salvation a fait accompli —a done deal—before he is even born? And more disturbing still, if salvation is predestined for only some, does that mean the rest are already foreordained by God to eternal condemnation—having been doomed to a hopeless fate before even coming into existence?
Fate vs. free will
A major branch of Protestantism teaches that God, from the beginning, predetermined everyone who would be eternally saved as well as everyone who would be eternally condemned. Those who profess this religious view maintain that there is no choice in the matter whatsoever. According to them, whether a person ever follows God or not is based solely on what God decided in advance. It gets worse when you realize that these people also believe in an eternally burning hellfire for those He has already decided would remain unrepentant. This would mean that God created certain people—indeed, billions of them, as most who have ever lived have not even professed Christianity—just to torture them forever in unending flames! What a horrendously cruel God that would be!
Thankfully, the true God is far different. He is a God of infinite love and mercy, and the Bible reveals truths far different from these misguided human ideas!
For one, the real hellfire doesn’t torture sinners forever, but rather incinerates the relatively few who ultimately refuse to repent and choose God’s way of life (to learn more, download our free booklet Heaven & Hell: What Does the Bible Really Teach? ).
Furthermore, it is actually quite easy to show from the Bible that God has not predestined any individuals to condemnation. Paul states that “God our Savior … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4 1 Timothy 2:3-4 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior;
4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×). And Peter says essentially the same thing: “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×).
Peter also explained that “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34 Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
American King James Version×)—and Paul echoes this thought (Romans 2:11 Romans 2:11For there is no respect of persons with God.
American King James Version×; Ephesians 6:9 Ephesians 6:9And, you masters, do the same things to them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.
American King James Version×). So God is eminently fair. Moreover, as we’ve just seen, it is His expressly revealed will and desire that every person ultimately be saved.
Yet according to Revelation 21:8 Revelation 21:8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
American King James Version×, some will indeed perish forever—be annihilated—in “the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
But these other scriptures make it absolutely clear that it is not God’s predetermination that puts them there!
Rather, as God told ancient Israel through Moses, “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×; compare Joshua 24:15 Joshua 24:15And if it seem evil to you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
American King James Version×; Proverbs 1:29 Proverbs 1:29For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD:
American King James Version×). Thus, the Israelites of old had a choice. For God had made them free moral agents, having the free will to make their own decisions. And so it is with us today.
But as clear as that may be, there are still some important questions to be answered. For, based on what we’ve already seen, weren’t some people foreknown and predestined to certain actions? Yes. In some cases, specific individuals were ordained beforehand for certain roles and actions: the appearance of Christ as the Messiah (Daniel 9:25-26 Daniel 9:25-26 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem to the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.
26 And after three score and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and to the end of the war desolations are determined.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 7:14 Isaiah 7:14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
American King James Version×; 53:1-2); Jacob’s ascendancy over Esau (Genesis 25:20-26 Genesis 25:20-26 20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian. 21 And Isaac entreated the LORD for his wife, because she was barren: and the LORD was entreated of him, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 And the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to inquire of the LORD. 23 And the LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. 24 And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. 26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: and Isaac was three score years old when she bore them.
American King James Version×); the triumph of King Cyrus of Persia over Babylon and his decree to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple before he was born (Isaiah 45:1 Isaiah 45:1Thus said the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, 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;
American King James Version×; 44:28). The roles of certain other people—including John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-57 Luke 1:5-57 5 THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. 8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell on him. 13 But the angel said to him, Fear not, Zacharias: for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elisabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you shall have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 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. 18 And Zacharias said to the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said to him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak to you, and to show you these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, you shall be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because you believe not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak to them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned to them, and remained speechless. 23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus has the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men. 26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in to her, and said, Hail, you that are highly favored, the Lord is with you: blessed are you among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said to her, Fear not, Mary: for you have found favor with God. 31 And, behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give to him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary to the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Ghost shall come on you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, your cousin Elisabeth, she has also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it to me according to your word. And the angel departed from her. 39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spoke out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And what is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, see, as soon as the voice of your salutation sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46 And Mary said, My soul does magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from now on all generations shall call me blessed. 49 For he that is mighty has done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has showed strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52 He has put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53 He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55 As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and returned to her own house. 57 Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
American King James Version×), the apostle Paul (Galatians 1:15 Galatians 1:15But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
American King James Version×), Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:4-10 Jeremiah 1:4-10 4 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 Before I formed you in the belly I knew you; and before you came forth out of the womb I sanctified you, and I ordained you a prophet to the nations. 6 Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. 7 But the LORD said to me, Say not, I am a child: for you shall go to all that I shall send you, and whatever I command you you shall speak. 8 Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with you to deliver you, said the LORD. 9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said to me, Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
American King James Version×), Josiah (1 Kings 13:1-2 1 Kings 13:1-2 1 And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 2 And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus said the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burnt on you.
American King James Version×; 2 Kings 23:15-16 2 Kings 23:15-16 15 Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove. 16 And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchers that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchers, and burned them on the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
American King James Version×) and Samuel (1 Samuel 1:1-20 1 Samuel 1:1-20 1 Now there was a certain man of Ramathaimzophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephrathite: 2 And he had two wives; the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. 3 And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there. 4 And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: 5 But to Hannah he gave a worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. 6 And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. 7 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. 8 Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weep you? and why eat you not? and why is your heart grieved? am not I better to you than ten sons? 9 So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat on a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. 10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD, and wept sore. 11 And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your handmaid, and remember me, and not forget your handmaid, but will give to your handmaid a man child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come on his head. 12 And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. 13 Now Hannah, she spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. 14 And Eli said to her, How long will you be drunken? put away your wine from you. 15 And Hannah answered and said, No, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16 Count not your handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken till now. 17 Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant you your petition that you have asked of him. 18 And she said, Let your handmaid find grace in your sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. 19 And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. 20 Why it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD.
American King James Version×)—likewise were determined before their births.
Of course, these were all positive roles. There are some who were preappointed to play negative roles. Examples include the pharaoh at the time of the Exodus, whose heart God hardened (Exodus 9:12 Exodus 9:12And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he listened not to them; as the LORD had spoken to Moses.
American King James Version×; 10:1-2; Romans 9:14-18 Romans 9:14-18 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.
American King James Version×), and Judas Iscariot, Christ’s betrayer (John 6:70 John 6:70Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
American King James Version×; 17:12; Acts 1:16-20 Acts 1:16-20 16 Men and brothers, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spoke before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. 17 For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry. 18 Now this man purchased a field with the reward of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst asunder in the middle, and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it was known to all the dwellers at Jerusalem; so as that field is called in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, The field of blood. 20 For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his position as bishop let another take.
American King James Version×). Consider also that God has prophesied in Revelation of the coming of a great evil dictator called the Beast and his accomplice known as the False prophet—both of whom will be destroyed at Christ’s return.
Here, then, is where many become confused. And this is quite understandable. For how can it be that God has predetermined such unenviable roles that seem to end in condemnation while saying, as we’ve seen, that it is His will that none should perish?
Moreover, the Bible emphatically states that only through the name of Jesus Christ can anyone be saved (Acts 4:12 Acts 4:12Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
American King James Version×). Yet two thirds of the world’s population does not profess a belief in Him as the Messiah. And, lest anyone jump to the notion that these 4 billion people are entirely responsible for their blindness to the truth, notice the words of Jesus Christ: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44 John 6:44No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.
American King James Version×; see verse 65).
But has the entire world been drawn to God? No! Remember that only some are specifically referred to as the “called” and even fewer as the “elect”—that is, “chosen” by God.
Though much of the world may learn about salvation by hearing or reading the gospel that Christ and His apostles preached, not all can comprehend it at this time. Jesus told His followers, “It has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them [the rest of humanity] it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11 Matthew 13:11He answered and said to them, Because it is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
American King James Version×). How then can the Bible be true in saying God shows no partiality and wills that none be condemned? And how can it really be that we have free will? For the answer we need to know the rest of the story.
The divine plan
The difficulty in understanding this subject is based on a mistaken notion common to mainstream Christianity—that God is in a great soul-winning contest with Satan and trying desperately to save the world now. That, it must be understood, is simply not the case. Rather, God is merely allowing this world to be deceived by Satan—for the time being.
Notice how the apostle Paul put it: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ … should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:
4 In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
American King James Version×). The omnipotent God allows Satan to preside over this present age, deceiving those who would otherwise understand the truth!
As recounted in Genesis 1-3, mankind got off to a bad start in the Garden of Eden. Because of their wrong choice, God has cut off mankind in general from understanding the knowledge of salvation—letting human beings go their own way to learn the lesson that any way of life other than what God has revealed to us to be the right way ultimately brings only misery, heartache and death.
Since that time, every human being except Jesus has sinned—that is, broken God’s law—and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
American King James Version×; 1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
American King James Version×, King James Version). We all, therefore, deserve the death penalty (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×). In that sense, the vast majority of the world is “perishing,” as the verse quoted above describes. For unless they ultimately are redeemed, they are doomed.
But remember that it is God’s will that none should perish! And so Jesus Christ, the One through whom the Father created us (Ephesians 3:9 Ephesians 3:9And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:
American King James Version×), gave His life as an atoning sacrifice to pay the death penalty for the entire world—whoever would accept it (John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×).
Yet in the face of such widespread lack of understanding even in professing Christianity, how is the world at large to be saved? The wonderful answer—shocking to the majority, who have never heard this biblical truth—is that this is not the only day of salvation!
God is calling just a few now. In fact, the Greek word translated “church” in the New Testament—ekklesia—means “the called-out ones.” And those now in God’s Church are referred to as His “firstfruits” (James 1:18 James 1:18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
American King James Version×, KJV; compare Romans 8:23 Romans 8:23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
American King James Version×). This clearly implies that there will be later fruits to come! And so there will be.
When Jesus Christ returns, He will put down all resistance and establish a Kingdom that will rule mankind for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×; compare Isaiah 2:2-4 Isaiah 2:2-4 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. 3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×). Reigning with Him will be the saints—those who are called in this age and remain faithful to the end—who are raised to immortal life in what is called the “first resurrection” (Revelation 20:5-6 Revelation 20:5-6 5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×). During that period known as the Millennium (meaning 1,000 years) the earth will be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the oceans are full of water (Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×), and the vast majority of mankind will be saved.
But what about the billions who have lived and died throughout the previous ages without understanding God’s truth? A parenthetical sentence in Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
American King James Version×answers: “But the rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended” (New Revised Standard Version).
At that time, 1,000 years after Jesus returns, these people will be resurrected to a temporary physical life (see Ezekiel 37) and given God’s Spirit (see verses 12-14). They will then go through a judgment—not sentencing—period (Revelation 20:11-12 Revelation 20:11-12 11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
American King James Version×), just as God’s Church is being judged today (1 Peter 4:17 1 Peter 4:17For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
American King James Version×). And most will repent at that time, as they would have, according to Christ, if His work had been done among them when they first lived (see Matthew 11:21-24 Matthew 11:21-24 21 Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, which are exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.
American King James Version×; 12:41).
It should be noted, however, that this does not mean they are given a “second chance” to be saved. Although it will be their second life in human flesh, it will be their first opportunity to really understand and live by the truth of Almighty God and His Son Jesus Christ.
Amazingly, then, God has foreordained three judgment periods: this present age, the Millennium and the Last Judgment. Therefore, to answer one of the major questions of this article, predestination does not concern whether or not individuals will be ultimately saved or condemned. Instead, it refers to when people are offered salvation!
Some—in fact, most—will not be offered it until the Millennium or the Last Judgment. But God predestined that a few would be called in this age and given the opportunity before Christ returns. Yet these people—as in all ages—still have free will. The decision of whether to truly repent and accept Christ is each person’s choice to make individually. And even then, whether or not that person remains in God’s grace or chooses to reject Him is also ultimately up to that individual (see Hebrews 2:1-3 Hebrews 2:1-3 1 Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
2 For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward;
3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by them that heard him;
American King James Version×; 10:26-27, 35-36).
God’s guiding hand
Of course, some will claim that even this is not fair. And they still wonder how a just God could preappoint individuals to negative actions. Notice how Paul explains this in Romans 9:17-24 Romans 9:17-24 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?
American King James Version×(New Living Translation):
“For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, ‘I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you, and so that my fame might spread throughout the earth.’ So you see, God shows mercy to some just because he wants to, and he chooses to make some people refuse to listen. Well then, you might say, ‘Why does God blame people for not listening? Haven’t they simply done what he made them do?’ No, don’t say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to criticize God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who made it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’
“When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? God has every right to exercise his judgment and his power, but he also has the right to be very patient with those who are the objects of his judgment and are fit only for destruction. He also has the right to pour out the riches of his glory upon those he prepared to be the objects of his mercy—even upon us, whom he selected …”
In other words, God had every right to shape and mold Pharaoh to be the way he was. After all, God created him and Pharaoh was, like everyone else, a sinner worthy of death—so God hardening a heart that already was sinful and blinded by Satan did not worsen his predicament in the overall scheme of things.
However, the Lord, it must be noted, did not directly make Pharaoh sin, for God does not tempt anyone to sin (James 1:13 James 1:13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts he any man:
American King James Version×). Rather, it was part of Pharaoh’s rebellious nature all along, as he had at first hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15 Exodus 8:15But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and listened not to them; as the LORD had said.
American King James Version×, 32). In further hardening the Egyptian ruler’s heart, the omniscient God merely knew how to “push his buttons” as it were—that is, how to direct circumstances to provoke him to a particular reaction.
For example, by letting Pharaoh get away with his retractions of his promises for a time, Pharaoh became more set in his ways. And the longer Pharaoh could make a promise and then rescind it with no unfavorable consequences, the harder his heart became. Finally God used circumstances to destroy the entire Egyptian chariot force that had gone out to re-enslave the Israelites—turning the hubris of Pharaoh to utter humiliation (Exodus 14).
Pharaoh will, of course, be given his opportunity to repent and receive salvation during the Last Judgment. Ultimately, God’s fairness will be extended to him just as much as to any other human being.
God, then, sometimes steers events and circumstances—even seeing to it that certain people are influenced into particular actions—to make sure His overall plan and purpose is fulfilled. But He clearly doesn’t directly bring about all that occurs at any given moment with all people. For, as His Word tells us, “time and chance happens to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 Ecclesiastes 9:11I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
American King James Version×). Most of the time, God simply allows people to become ensnared by their own wrong inclinations and choices. Thus God has not mapped out every detail of a person’s life.
As to why God calls a particular individual —perhaps even you if you are beginning to really understand what you are reading in the pages of your Bible and The Good News magazine—God alone knows that answer. And He, as the Creator, has the prerogative to call a person at whatever time He chooses.
We should trust that whatever time He decides to call a person is the best time for that individual. And though being called now is a wonderful privilege, it does not make one better than those called later (compare 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 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;
28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are:
29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
American King James Version×). After all, even if we are being called now, all of us still have free will—and therefore we can still fall away if we don’t continue to repent and obey the truth. For we are not just pawns on a chessboard.
So let’s take hold of the wonderful salvation offered to us now by our Creator, allowing the awesome future that He wants for us to become a reality. GN