PREDESTINATION OF THE SAINTS: BIBLICAL.
Recovering a True Biblical Teaching from a Theological 'Muddying of Waters.'
Understand the True Teaching on Predestination at last! The Scriptures are clear so let us finally be prepared to cast aside former doctrinal preferences and prejudices.
The Bible does indeed talk about 'Predestination' but millions have been put off this doctrine because elements of Calvinism, but especially of hyper-Calvinism, distorted the biblical message, turning predestination into a wholly unbiblical and overly-pessimistic 'double-predestination.' Some have been made too fearful to even discuss this subject when the truth is that the Predestination of the Saints is a most wonderfully encouraging doctrine, moreover, it is a doctrine which says nothing at all about the fate of unbelievers! If you have been made too angry, too upset, or too confused to even consider this teaching, we appeal to you to learn the wonderful truth here and now.
Is There a Single Scripture Which Says That God "Chose to Hate the Majority of Mankind and to Destine Them to Hell for Eternity" ?
No! If there were, that would turn a loving God into a monster! Yet thousands of sincere believers support this unbiblical teaching, a teaching which has caused many to totally reject the claims of Christianity.
Correctly Explaining Predestination by the Exclusion of Doctrinal Preferences and Through Utter Reliance on Holy Scripture Alone.
It is obviously necessary, first of all, to establish how the Word of God itself handles the topic of 'Predestination.' That is where we must start, for where else may we start to uncover the truth?
A Precise Definition of 'Double Predestination.'
Probably nobody has defined 'double predestination' better than R.C. Sproul. He defines it thus:
"The distortion of double predestination
looks like this: There is a symmetry that exists between election
and reprobation. God WORKS in the same way and same manner with
respect to the elect and to the reprobate. That is to say, from
all eternity God decreed some to election and by divine
initiative works faith in their hearts and brings them actively
to salvation. By the same token, from all eternity God decrees
some to sin and damnation (destinare ad peccatum) and actively
intervenes to work sin in their lives, bringing them to damnation
by divine initiative. In the case of the elect, regeneration is
the monergistic work of God. In the case of the reprobate, sin
and degeneration are the monergistic work of God. Stated another
way, we can establish a parallelism of foreordination and
predestination by means of a positive symmetry. We can call this
a positive-positive view of predestination. This is, God
positively and actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to
bring them to salvation. In the same way God positively and
actively intervenes in the life of the reprobate to bring him to
sin..." (Double Predestination, R.C. Sproul)
Okay, The word 'predestinate' occurs twice in the New Testament (NKJV) in Romans 8, verse 29 and also in verse 30. The word 'predestinated' also occurs just twice in Ephesians 1, verse 5 and also in verse 11. In all of these verses only those called into the Church during this age of the Church are being discussed. Check this for yourself! We learn that our divine calling was foreknown by God many thousands of years ago. This is a glorious strength and a comfort, but it does not make our personal decisions irrelevant; the Holy Scripture always upholds the veracity of our personal decisions. Throughout the Bible we are commanded to choose, but to choose life! But when we choose for Christ we discover that our choice was and is 'underwritten,' if you will, in heaven long ago and, of course, we could never come to Christ at all if God had not given us an 'Elective call.'
Without the grace of God we would be nowhere and if it were removed tomorrow, every Christian would fall. The knowledge of the eternal and God-sanctioned nature of our calling gives us strength and confidence, yes it should also grant us the gift of assurance – but that confidence is, of course, in God and Christ. - not in ourselves!! But the position of unbelievers is never addressed in the true biblical doctrine of 'predestination.'
But we also need to check out certain other words:
'Foreknow' occurs in Romans 8:29. Again, it concerns those of us who become believers in the Christ during this age. Then, the NKJV also uses the word 'foreknowledge' in Acts 2:23 and in 1 Peter 1:2. In Acts 2:23, 'foreknowledge' is referring to Christ and not to believers.
In 1 Peter 1:2 the word is speaking of believers in the Christ, but yet again, not a single word about unbelievers, nor any concept that they are "foreordained" to hell. Oh, the word 'foreordained' itself also appears in 1 Peter 1:20 ('chosen' in the NIV) but again this refers to Christ alone. The only other word we should probably check is 'foreknew' in Romans 11:2 but this purely appears to be speaking of Israel, so it does not assist us too much in this little study.
So, as we have seen, the verses which concern predestination and God's foreknowledge are only concerned with the calling of believers and never - in any sense - address the situation of unbelievers, therefore 'double-predestination' is not a biblical teaching. Please ensure that you are checking this out for yourself in your own Bible, rather than simply taking my word for it. The biblical teaching of predestination is only addressed to believers and only concerns believers - true Christians during this age of the Church. If you find a Bible verse using the word 'predestined' or 'predestination' which speaks of unbelievers, please let me have it. Frankly, there is no point in wasting your time because such a verse does not exist!
Now having established all of that, here is the first part of the description of Predestination from a website which was brought to my attention. I hope that as we all look at this we can all see how, however sincere this declaration may be, it falls into quite serious error:
"PREDESTINATION: Although it is true that God loves both the wicked and the righteous (Matthew 5:43-45; John 3:16), it is also true that before the world was created, God choose to love only a few people and destine them to eternal life in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 9:6-23; Ephesians 1:4). He chose to hate the rest of mankind and destine them to hell for eternity (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 9:6-23)..."
Okay. Let us go straight to the following assertion:
'.. it is also true that before the world was created, God choose to love only a few people and destine them to eternal life in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 9:6-23; Ephesians 1:4).'
“Double Predestination” - An 'Other Side of the Coin' Assumption.
The error of this teaching works something like this:
The Scripture is clear that God's own Elect are effectively 'set aside' from the foundation of the world. God alone is Elector and Caller. The place of true Christians is safe: We have an eternal home with God when these physical bodies expire! John 6: 39, 44, 55-58, 65. John 10: 27-30. Ephesians 1:3-14. Romans 8:1-2, 16-39. 2 Cor. 5:1-8.
John Calvin vividly saw this and then made an assumption and a jump of logic in believing that this must also apply to the uncalled, or to the 'reprobates' – so, just as true believers will surely be saved, and are assured of heaven, unbelievers will surely be lost and are assured of, or, predestined for hell. Of course, he was aware, as all later Calvinist writers have been aware, that the Scriptures referring to predestination only refer to true elect believers and are completely silent about unrepentant sinners, so Calvinism went outside of these Scriptures to attempt to find support in Scriptures such as Matthew 7:13-14 and in Romans 9-11. Calvin was a deeply sincere man who is rightly admired, but - away from the more hard-line reformed writers - many now believe that his exegesis of Romans 9-11 was in error, since a series of verses which he believed referred to those God whom had decided for eternal destruction, really do not appear to be referring to hell or to final destruction at all but, rather, to God's right to use people, nations and circumstances on earth and in this present life to work out His grand purposes (see main article).
Unfortunately most Calvinist fundamentalist theologians, and several reformed writers still hold to Calvin's original exegetical schema which they appear to treat with something approaching religious awe, laying them open to the charge that they consider Calvinism of equal importance to Scripture.
In fact, the
Scriptures never draw an exact parallel between the saved and the
lost in quite this mechanical sort of way. In New Testament
teaching, for example, only those specifically rejecting Jesus (John 3:18; Acts 10:43),
those abusing the Gospel for personal gain (Matt. 7:21-23; Jude
4-13), and those refusing to repent (Luke 13:1-5; Rev. 9:20-21),
appear to be under threat of eternal damnation. While certain
Scriptures might appear to suggest that few can be saved (Matt.
7:13-14), Jesus specifically warned His disciples to avoid this
leap of logic (Matt. 19:25-26).
Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus is showing how people will respond to the
gospel message in this present life and in this age of the
Church. But this is a value comment, not a numerical comment, moreover, Jesus says nothing here about what God decided before the
earth was created. As Neal Punt has so accurately written,
'The "small gate," "narrow road," and "few" finding convey the intrinsic value of salvation, not the extent of its availability. These expressions have the same meaning as finding the "hidden treasure" and selling everything else in order to purchase the "pearl of great value." These figures of speech are intended to teach us to covet salvation as a rare discovery and an invaluable treasure.' (Neal Punt, p 219, ch 22, 'A Theology of Inclusivism').
Romans 9:6-23 Paul starts off by discussing how Christians now
become the true heirs of Abraham and the true people of God. We
are spiritual Israelites. Even as a passionate Benjaminite, Paul
cheerfully upholds this great truth.
Here we read of God's choice in how He uses people to fulfil His mighty purposes upon earth; He is never dependent on any real or imagined merits of the people He uses. God chose Jacob above Esau for a specific purpose; He (God) is utterly sovereign. By the way, salvation and heaven and hell are not being discussed here. Please note the context: it is this present life and world and how a sovereign God decides to use people to fulfil His purposes upon earth which is under discussion.
So is God unfair in how He may use people upon this earth?
No. The Creator God has every right to say, 'I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy...' God is under no obligation here. There is absolutely nothing here to suggest that Paul is discussing God's calling of certain people to Eternal Life, and his rejection of others. God's 'hardening' of Pharaoh is discussed, verses 17-20, then we are presented with the picture of the potter having a perfect right to decide how he will use his lump of clay, verses 20-21. God alone decides how He will raise up people or nations to fulfil His purposes. We may liken this to things in more recent times: God has powerfully used Great Britain and the United States to send countless millions of Bibles around the world. Yes, other nations too, of course, but especially us. We should not congratulate ourselves about this - its just the way that God ordained that it would be done, not because we are better than other peoples. So, in that sense, He 'raised us to honour'. But God also - in His perfect wisdom - decided that the German people would play a major part in two 20th century world wars; in that sense, He 'raised them to dishonor' (perhaps we should say, 'lowered them to dishonor') - just the way He decided to do it; it does not mean that Germans are more evil than Brits, and it certainly does not mean that Germans are doomed to Hell!!
Now for the first time we do get a sense of calling and judgment in an apparently more eternal sense, but this does not happen prior to these verses.
Okay, now let us look at Ephesians 1:4. Does this verse discuss how "God chose to love only a few people and destine them to eternal life in the kingdom of heaven" ? This verse plainly tells us that those who are Christians are only Christians because it was given to us by the grace of God - decided in heaven thousands of years before our birth! Yes, it was given to us as a free gift - truly by the grace of God.
Finally, the statement which (claimed) to define predestination, says this,
“..He chose to hate the rest of mankind and destine them to hell for eternity. .."
The writer then quotes Matthew 7:13-14, and Romans 9:6-23 as the Scriptures to back up this point. However, as we have already noted, those Scriptures cannot support the weight of such a theologically cataclysmic assertion! They do not support 'double predestination' at all. Moreover, the assertion, "..He chose to hate the rest of mankind and destine them to hell for eternity. .." is nothing whatsoever to do with the biblical teaching of predestination which, as we have seen, only concerns believers. This is a classic case of 'making careless assumptions according to one's doctrinal preferences.' So we have seen that the Matthew 7:13-14 text while certainly saying that only a few would find the narrow gate to life and that many would find the way to destruction, is not saying that God only chose to love a few and "chose to 'hate' the rest" (something contradicted, by the way, in the first sentence of this definition). The word 'hate' is picked up from Romans 9:13,
'Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."'
But is this talking about God deciding to 'hate' many millions of people and declaring that they should go to hell even before they were created? No. It is not. This is equivalent to saying, 'Jacob I chose, but Esau I rejected' – this does not refer to any personal hatred God felt toward Esau or even to any group of people, neither is it anything to do with Hell. The verse is saying that God did not allow the good things to travel the way of Esau and his descendants upon this earth because He was fulfilling a plan through the line of Jacob and Isaac culminating in Christ, in that sense (and in no other way) He was -effectively - 'hating Esau'. Again this whole section of Romans is discussing how God may choose to work things out in His plan down here on earth; He is completely free to use people and historical episodes to work out His grander purposes, and no one has the right to question His judgement.
So the truth, as we have seen, is that there is not a single statement anywhere in the Bible which states that God ”predestined”, “predestinated” or “fore-ordained”, that the huge majority of men and women would go to hell. Predestination concerns the calling of God's own Elect - a teaching which we do not deny since it is wholly biblical but the Holy Scriptures refuse to ever hold a direct counter-balance with regard to hell although it is true that one could possibly be drawn if we purely rely on human logic - but we must not rely on human logic! Let us recall that at one point the disciples also made this leap according to human logic. They had just heard the 'eye of a needle' comment concerning a rich man by Jesus and this was their quick response,
'When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" [here is the pessimistic approach which would later go into hyper-Calvinism - but read on] Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."' (Matthew 19:25-26).
Jesus is saying, 'No! Despite everything, don't come to this negative conclusion that few can be saved!'
The actual biblical position on this doctrine is best expressed in this way:
'Salvation is a gift of unconditional sovereign grace, but condemnation is earned by human disobedience.'
And that statement, I submit, is the closest which we can get to the correct biblical teaching on this doctrine. At it's worst, Hyper-Calvinism virtually believed that human decisions do not really matter in this area because the entire matter of Election/Reprobation is already decided in Heaven, yet, from Genesis to Revelation the Word of God continually stresses the importance of human decision.
So Predestination concerns the Elect of God and is a biblical teaching but 'double-predestination' is borne out of Calvin's love of logic - not out of Holy Scripture! Actually, many reformed (Calvinist) writers have admitted this and continue to admit it yet still insist on supporting 'double-predestination.' Calvin himself somewhat erred here but in very few other places, yet the man himself cannot be blamed for the 'hyper-Calvinism' of later centuries.
On this earth in general - as Romans 9 carefully explains - God is working out His divine purpose and at times certain things can appear a little unfair but we cannot question His infinite judgement! It is also true to say that since God knows 'the end from the beginning' He could (through that particular process, if you will) know all outcomes - I mean outcomes in everything, including what you and I will decide to do tomorrow, but this in no way means that God forces us to do certain things.
As already stated, throughout the Bible the veracity of our personal decisions is always upheld. At its very worst, hyper-Calvinism led to the Fatalism of the pagans entering Christian theology but it is ultimately unbiblical. Biblically, our personal decision and choice are held in perfect tension with God's will and sovereignty! If we overly- emphasize the former we lapse into Arminianism, if we overly-emphasize the latter we can lapse into hyper-Calvinism and even Fatalism.
So the biblical teaching on 'predestination' only concerns those who become Christians during this age of the Church and is completely silent about how God will deal with the millions of unbelievers in this world - many of whom never even heard the name of Christ during their lifetimes! Those Calvinist writers who have insisted on teaching 'double-predestination' have frequently admitted that this doctrine is never explicitly and specifically taught in Holy Scripture but feel that it is a logical doctrine to adopt - but we must never move to doctrinal positions purely on the strength of unreliable human logic!
Robin Brace, 1999, further edit in 2006.
There is more vital information on this topic in our Day of Judgment article which is here.
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