Predestination has been and continues to be a hotly debated topic among Christians. Believers form into subtle and not so subtle variations of one or two groups. On the one hand are those who believe that God has indiscriminately chosen to save some men and women, by His sovereign will, out from the entire population of unworthy sinners; and otherwise leave the remainder to suffer the damnation rightly deserved by all. On the other hand are those who believe that God has offered salvation to all, yet a great majority of those who could believe, refuse the free offer of salvation; thus forfeiting the redemption He offers them in Christ.
In all, the debate continues.
The Bible does teach the doctrine of predestination. It should be accepted among those in the body of Christ – especially because believers are the recipients. Believers will find genuine rest in Christ when they understand that it is the same God Who inspired the Scriptures, Who predestinates the believer, and therefore completes the work of climatic redemption in every born again person. He alone initiates the relationship we have in Christ, completes the work of justification, sanctification, and glorification; thus providing the believer all they need in this life, and in the life to come.
A close look at the Scriptures will assist us in better understanding the topic.
Predestined to be like Jesus
“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, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Romans 8:28–30)
Notice that the God Who cannot learn foreknew us and predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. In this passage, the predestination is to conformity to the image of the Son of God – Jesus. This is the joy of every believer. God has purposed in Himself to make us like Jesus. As we surrender to His leadership we grow in grace, and therefore grow to be more and more like Him. Although we do not fully realize this complete transformation – in temporal life, the final result is that we will; when the redemption we have in Christ is fully realized. This occurs when we see the Lord face to face. We are told, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2)
Furthermore notice that in the foreknowledge of God, those He foreknew, He called, justified, and glorified. The interesting thing is that all three verbs are in the aorist tense, active voice, and indicative mood. This means that the action stated by the verb (called, justified, glorified) is actually in the condition described by the verb, (called, justified, glorified), that the state the believer is in has been accomplished in time past, and that the condition of the believer is not potential or probable, but actual. Finally, it means that the review of the said state (called, justified, glorified) is declared in the form of a snapshot and describes the reality stated (called, justified, glorified). Therefore we can safely conclude that in the eternal foreknowledge of God, the condition of the believer has been complete – in Christ – from before the foundations of the world: i.e. before time. For this reason Paul can say, God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4); and that He has “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:5)
Therefore we can see that the predestination to be like Jesus was arranged for those He foreknew, and those He foreknew, He called, those He called, He justified, and those He justified, He glorified.
Predestined to Adoption
“having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:5–11)
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
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.”
Notice that it is God’s purpose to adopt the believer. Also notice that it is God’s good pleasure to adopt the believer. This is an awesome privilege. After all, God could have predestined us to be angels, to be slaves, et al. However, He predestined us to adoption as sons and daughters of God.
The Question of Foreknowledge
God has declared that He knows all things – before time began. He said, “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)
We know that God cannot learn, knows all things, and does not trick Himself into not knowing. Therefore we need to ask, “What does “foreknowledge” mean? We need to ask the question because we know that there are some people whom the Lord says He never knew. In Matthew we read, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23)
If there are some people whom God says He never knew, and God knows all things, then we must conclude that to foreknow means more that to simply have the information and facts about the existence of the one foreknown.
Interestingly, the Greek word for “foreknowledge” is translated “prognosis”. According to Strong the word means to know in advance. This seems obvious. However, while there may be little connection to the way we use the term prognosis today, the definition may provide some insight. Prognosis to the medical world means “to know the end result of a disease or affliction”. It may also mean the foreknowing of a good end. We have all heard the expression, “The patient has a good prognosis.” meaning that the person is on the pathway to healing, health, etc.
Therefore we conclude that there is something in the person(s) or of the person(s) God foreknows that causes Him to foreknow rather than to never know.
“…that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:12–14)
Please note that the one who is chosen before the foundation of the world is foreknown by God (before time began) and is therefore called, justified, and glorified (in the time continuum). It should also note that those who are called, justified, and glorified, are those who have believed the word of truth (as stated above), and trusted Christ for salvation. The realization of this event must occur in the time continuum, according to the preordained plan of God, as foreknown to God, because we did not exist prior to time.
Also notice that the act of sealing with the Holy Spirit follows faith. The sealing of the Holy Spirit guarantees the end result of being called, justified, and glorified. Thus it can be said, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…”
In order for there to be a past tense action i.e. “believed” and “trusted” time must be in the equation. So, the person created by God, who in time, a part of the creation, believes the “word of truth, the gospel…” is therefore foreknown by God with the “prognosis” of being called, justified, and glorified, before the foundation of the world, i.e. before time began.
Therefore, we know that God, Who dwells in eternity, from before time began, transcending time altogether, foreknows all who will in the time continuum believe, trusting Him for salvation.
God Does Not Trick Himself into Not Knowing
It is not possible that God should to fail to know the people in the time continuum who will believe the “word of truth” and will therefore be adopted, and made like Jesus. Furthermore, there is no biblical reference to God limiting His knowledge; and to the contrary, as we have stated above, He alone declares, “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done…” (Isaiah 46:10)
Therefore to suggest that God somehow limits His foreknowledge and tricks Himself into not knowing all persons and all actions implies that He acts randomly in the work of grace thus predetermining the destiny of certain persons without discretion.
This will provide some room for discussion among theologians and those studying soteriology. However, the primary argument will be that God has therefore based His work of regeneration on man and not by His sovereign will.
I suggest that we first consider the fact that, were it not for God predetermining to save mankind from their sin, and therefore foreordain Christ to His incarnation and sacrificial work in the time continuum, no one would be saved. Furthermore, was it not for the person of God – the Holy Spirit, illuminating mankind to the truth, drawing men and women to Jesus, and granting faith to believe – by His marvelous grace, no one would be saved!
Secondly, it should also be noted that it was because God foreknew that Adam and Eve would sin, that sin would be passed down to all men, that all men would sin, and would all need a Savior, He preordained the incarnational work of Christ to save. This alone proves that God did not act randomly and did intentionally desire to save mankind. Therefore we conclude that man left to himself would not be saved, and could do nothing to provide for his own salvation. So, man has nothing to do with it. Salvation is all of God, by grace alone, through faith alone.
Finally, some might suggest that trusting Christ for salvation is an act of man and therefore suggest that believing the Gospel is a form of human merit or work. However, it should be remembered that faith and works are continually contrasted in the Scriptures and that salvation by works is clearly condemned in the Bible. In [reftagger title=”Ephesians 2:8–9“]Ephesians 2:8–9[/reftagger] we read “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Also please recall, as stated above, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise…” (Ephesians 1:13)
Therefore to suggest that believing is a “work” contradicts the whole of scripture.
Christ Crucified Before the Foundation of the World?
It has been commonly communicated that Jesus was “crucified before the foundation of the world”. However, a careful look at this will show that Jesus was not crucified before the foundation of the world, but was foreordained to His incarnation and sacrifice before time began.
According to Scripture we know that there is a book of life. It is often called the “Lambs book of life”. It contains the names of all who will be saved.
In [reftagger title=”Revelation 13:8“]Revelation 13:8[/reftagger] we read of those who during the Tribulation will worship the antichrist. It reads, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Note that there is a dilemma introduced in the verse. The question of sentence structure comes to the forefront. Are we reading that the names of those who worship the “beast” were not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, or are we reading that the names of those who worship the “beast” were not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world?
In other words, does the expression “from the foundation of the world” refer to the names or to the lamb slain?
In Revelation 17:8 we see a similar verse. It reads, “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.”
Note the omission of the phrase “of the lamb slain” in 17:8 that we find in 13:8. This supports the idea that the phraseology of 13:8 may refer to “the names” rather than “lamb slain”
Furthermore, there is a consistency in the concept of names being written in the book of life from before the foundations of the world throughout the Scripture. In Ephesians 1:4 we read, “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Additionally, in 2 Timothy 1:8–9 we read, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” Herein we see that the emphasis is on the believers blessing in Christ from before time, as purposed by God, and as a result of His grace.
Likewise the emphasis in New Testament writings on the timing of the crucifixion was not a suggestion that Jesus was crucified before time, but was foreordained to crucifixion from before time. This we read, “…knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” (1 Peter 1:18–20)
Please notice that “foreordained” refers to the plan and “manifested in these last times for you” refers to the timing of the actual event.
In Acts 2:23 we read that Jesus was, “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death.” Furthermore, in Hebrews 6:17 we read, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability [unchangeable nature] of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath.”
Therefore, I suggest that the correct reading of Revelation 13:8 should be that “the names” of those who worship the “beast” were not “written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
It is commonly understood that when God created the heavens and the earth, He also created what we know as time. The time continuum had a beginning. This is indisputable. However, there is still debate over the future of time. Will it come to an end in the New Heaven and Earth, or will time simply be without end? Either way, this issue does not require an answer at this point.
What we do know is that the above verses clearly show that the God Who cannot learn, knows all things, and does not trick Himself into not knowing, has known us from before time began, has chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world, and has therefore predestined His own to adoption, made like Jesus, and thus glorified.
We have also learned that Jesus was not crucified before the foundation of the world, but was foreordained to His incarnation and personal sacrifice before time began, in the eternal counsel of God, according to His own good pleasure.
His Good Pleasure
We know from the Scriptures that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He said, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…”. Paul the apostle wrote that God desires all men to be saved, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3–4)
We also can clearly see from Scripture that God loves the whole world. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) We know that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) Jesus said that as a result of His crucifixion He would draw all men to Himself. “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” (John 12:32) Finally, we know that God has made Himself known to all men, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19–20) Therefore, all men are given the opportunity to believe.
With this in mind, we can safely conclude that the calling is universal in the time continuum, and that the resulting work of grace (calling, justifying, and glorifying) is foreknown to God, and therefore the ones He knows will believe, are the ones predestined before time began – in eternity past. This is because the God Who cannot learn, Who knows all things, and does not trick Himself into not knowing, would otherwise have no choice but to trick Himself into not knowing who would respond in the time continuum; and would need to blind himself, or otherwise trick Himself into not knowing, in order to act indiscriminantly toward those He chose to save.
Where does this leave the Believer? The Conclusion
The fruit of this work is that every person can know that God calls, justifies, and glorifies those who believe; that He foreknows and predestinates them to adoption, and to the like Jesus. This should make every believer know the peace that passes all understanding, provide the greatest level of comfort, and experience an all surpassing rest in the complete work of Christ. And why? Because He who begins the work – completes it! And, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
Therefore, We Love Him Because He First Loved Us
God foreordained and initiates the plan of salvation, foreknows all of His own, illuminates and draws us to Himself, and does it all by grace. Mankind as undeserving sinners claim no right to salvation, have nothing to offer God in exchange for their souls, cannot do anything to save themselves, and therefore have nothing to do with their salvation. Therefore we know that salvation is all of God, and all of grace, by faith alone, in Christ alone.
We love Him because He first loved us.
Blessings upon you all,