These are my thoughts about predestination, but I'm doing something different this time. I'm telling you up front that I might be wrong about this. If God has given you any enlightenment about predestination beyond what I have, I would be delighted for you to share it with me. On the other hand, perhaps this is the enlightenment for you that you have long sought.
Predestination means to decide beforehand. In some people's minds, it means that God has decided in advance who will believe in him and be saved. God has also decided who will reject him, and he has prepared a place for them away from heaven. They are predestined to be lost. I do not hold this view of Predestination. Let's closely examine the Bible and see what it says about this subject.
The Nature of God
I must first talk about the nature of God before getting into the scriptures. According to mankind's brightest minds and skilled thinkers, as presented by Dr. Albert Einstein, Space, Time and Matter are connected. You can't have one without the others. The Bible says in Genesis 1:1 that God created the heavens and the earth. That has got to mean that God is outside of our Space, Time and Matter. God cannot create something that already exists and he was already in it when he created it. Therefore, by further clarification, our Time does not apply to God.
What is Time? You can't hold it or see it. It's like patience and wisdom; you can't hold them or see them. But we know they exist because we can see and understand the results. Time is a sequence of events. This happened first and that happened second. The two events are separated by "time." You cannot have time if you don't have events. You can't have events if you don't have movement. You can't have movement if you don't have space and matter.
I used to be confused by the term "space." I always thought of it as "outer space," where the stars and planets exist. But when I defined space in other terms, I understood the relationship between time, space and matter. Space, in this instance, means "distance" to me. The distance between two stars is the space between two stars. Because of that, space containing things, we can have events. Because of events we have time; this happened first and that happened second.
That brings us back to God. I said that God is not within our Space, Time and Matter because he created them and he therefore existed before them. But that does not mean God does not have his own Time. If God did this first and then God did that second, then God has his own Time.
Although God is not bound by our Time, I do not know if he can view our time from both ends. I do not know if he can look back on our Time, as if viewing the past, before it has happened. Some people say that God can, but you know what, they don't know for a fact that he can, either. They're talking from their own personal dogma and not from known facts. But I do believe God can control events. He can control our events to the point where he can tell us what is going to happen in the future.
But an event is only an event. Where does faith come in? We have faith, either in God or not in God. Did God put that faith there? God put in us the capacity for faith, hope, love, joy, wisdom, kindness, and so on, all those conditions that cannot be held or seen. But can he, or does he, dictate how they will grow in us? Some people think Yes, and some people think No. I think No. Otherwise, God's command to us that we develop these things in ourselves would be ludicrus, and God forbid that God should be ludicrus. Therefore, in my opinion, God commands us to have faith and allows us to obey or disobey. In a sequence of events, one thing happens first and another thing happens second. But in this case, the First Thing creates the Second Thing; God gave us the capacity for faith and we fill it up with faith ó or not.
Predestination In Scripture
And now, let us examine the scripture. When referring to scripture, I have to pick one of the Bibles. For convenience sake, and for no other reason, I will use the New International Version. I also usually compare verses in the NIV with verses in the King James Version. If somebody gave me another Bible and asked me to use that, I would be just as comfortable using that (except for the New World Translation). Now for the scripture.
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. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of Godís grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are Godís possession – to the praise of his glory.
That really sounds like predestination to me – being pre-determined to be saved. But let's break it down and see what Paul is really saying.
"who has blessed us"
Who is this "us"? In verse one we find out. Paul writes "to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus." Since Paul said "us" and not "you," he included himself. So now we know who "us" is. It is the faithful in Christ Jesus, in this case, those faithful in Ephesus. It is the people who believed in Jesus and are faithful to that belief.
This scripture is specifically directed to the Ephesians but believers in predestination (as defined in paragraph two) believe it applies to everyone who believes in Jesus. I agree, and may I not do the same? Although Paul is talking to the faithful in Christ Jesus in Ephesus, his words are also applied to every faithful person in the world: living, dead, and those who will live. I will do the same. This applies to every faithful person in Christ Jesus, not just to those in Ephesus at that time.
I'm also going to change the expresssion "faithful in Christ Jesus" to "believers in Jesus." I think I can do that without changing the meaning of the scripture, so please indulge me. When Paul says "us," he means "believers in Jesus." Now let's read the scripture with this understanding. I will substitute the word "us" with "believers in Jesus."
"who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ"
"[God] has blessed believers in Jesus in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ."
So far, so good.
"For he chose believers in Jesus in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."
Do you see that? So far the scripture does not say certain selected people are chosen before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless. Instead, it says God chose the people who will be believers in Jesus to be holy and blameless in his sight.
You see, God didn't have to save us whether we believed in him or not. I believe in terrorists. I don't agree with what they do or what they believe, but I do believe they exist and they intend to do exactly what they say. They want to kill me and they will if they can. My belief in them will not save me from being killed by them. In the same way, my belief in God and Jesus would not save me unless it was God who said he will save those who believe in God and Jesus. Therefore the scripture says,
"Blessed be God".
2 Corinthians 1:3
So, we are not chosen to believe in Jesus. Instead, those who do believe in Jesus are chosen to be holy and blameless in God's sight.
"he predestined believers in Jesus to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will"
God could have done anything to the believers in Jesus. He could have sent them to hell. He could have taken them to heaven immediately. He could have left them as is. He could have made them lower than the angels. He could have put them in heaven with a status of something like pets. But God did not do any of that. What he did was to adopt as his own sons and daughters those who believe in Jesus.
God did not predestine people to believe in Jesus. He predestined believers to be adopted as his own children.
"In him believers in Jesus have redemption through his blood"
People have not been redeemed through Jesus' blood just willy-nilly. Instead, God predestined believeres in Jesus to be redeemed through his blood. But he did not predestine them to become believers. He merely created in all people the ability to be believers and gave us the command to become believers. Those people who obey God's command have redemption.
"In him believers in Jesus were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will"
We were not not chosen to become believers in Jesus. Instead, those people who become believers in Jesus are chosen and predestined according to the plan of God, who works out everything according to his own purpose.
"And believers in Jesus also were included in Christ when believers in Jesus heard the word of truth, the gospel of [their] salvation. Having believed, believers in Jesus were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit"
Believers in Jesus were included in Christ when they believed, not before. And having believed, then they were marked with a seal. They were not marked before they believed.
Well, so far so good. Let's examine another scripture and see if my reasoning holds up there as well.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
In verse 28 we see right away who is being talked about, "those who love him." This scripture says that God works for good in all things to those who love him. God is still good to all people, and he calls all people to the obedience and faith of Jesus. But those who reject God are somewhat on their own. However, the believers, the adopted children of God, are secure in that God never leaves them and in all things he works for their good and benefit.
"For those God foreknew he also predestined"
Does this mean God foreknew Jerry and predestined Jerry, or does it mean that God knew beforehand that some people would in fact turn to him in faith and believe in Jesus? Well I'm sorry, but I just cannot tell which it means when isolating this particular phrase. In fact, I need to explore other sections of the Bible and find out what teaching is consistent with this phrase.
On one hand, God did create in people the capacity for belief, and God did call those people to repentence and faith. I suppose it's evident that he did know in fact that his work would be successful and some people would believe. But that still does not prove whether this phrase in Romans 8:28 is person-specific or person-general. We only find out in Ephesians 1:3-11 that Paul definitely said the promises of God are given to those who believe, and that is not person-specific. Anybody who believes receives the promise. It is not "Jerry will believe and he will recieve the promise."
What then is in store for those whom God "foreknew"?
"He also predestined [them] to be conformed to the likeness of his Son."
This is consistent with what we found out in Ephesians One. Notice he did not predestine them to be saved. Instead, he predestined them to be "conformed to the image and likeness of his Son." This is amazing. Remember how I said God could have reserved for us believers anything he wished? He could have done anything. He could have taken us to heaven as pets. He could have rejected us and let us descend into hell anyway. He could have made us equal to the angels. Instead, what did he do? To those who believe in the name of Jesus, those are the people he predestined to be made into the exact likeness of Jesus Christ. Why? So "that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." They were not predestined to believe; but those who believe were predestined to receive a certain reward.
According to the Bible, it seems to me, predestination starts when a person becomes a believer and not before he is conceived. God foreknew that people would believe on him, and he decided before the creation of the world that those believers would be adopted as his children. It is as if I were running a store and created a system of credit for customers. I know some customers will apply for and get that credit but I don't know which specific customers will do exactly that. They do not have it before they ask for it, but I know some will ask for it and I know I will give it to them. Therefore I have determined beforehand that people will get credit when they ask for it, and I made that decision even before some of them were born. All they have to do is ask for it. Therefore the credit starts when they ask for it, but I foreknew some people would ask for it. In this way God knew beforehand, even before people are born, that some of them will become believers. Those who become believers are predestined to be adopted into God's family and to be conformed to the image of Jesus.
Therefore, it is not that certain people are predestined to be saved. Instead, those who believe in Jesus are predestined to be adopted as children and to be made into the image and likeness of Jesus. That's a big WOW.
Is there anybody who has been predestined specifically? Yes, there is. Almost two hundred years before the Persian king Cyrus was born, the prophet Isaiah said this,
[God] says of Cyrus, ĎHe is my shepherd
and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, "Let it be rebuilt,"
and of the temple, "Let its foundations be laid." '
Cyrus was not predestined to be saved, but he was predestined to perform a task. Earlier I said that God manipulates events. He causes things to happen to fulfill his own good work. God caused events to happen so that the child born to be king would be named "Cyrus" and that Cyrus would be the one to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, and he would be the one to send the Jews back to Judah. This prophesy in Isaiah 44:28 gave Jews hope and it reveals the omnipotence of God.
According to my reading of the Bible, no one has been predestined to believe in Jesus and to be saved. Instead, the Bible says that those who do believe in Jesus are predestined to be adopted as children of God and conformed (made) to the image of Jesus. I think that's pretty good.