Predestination -v- Free will
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will....
Following the publishing of The Two Greatest Objections to Christianity Refuted a couple of my brethren have raised the issues of free will verses predestination in Christian doctrine.
Has God given us free will to decide whether to believe in Christ or not?
Or are we predestined to salvation?
I'm going to try and put some perspective into the matter and see whether we can make any sense.
Hell fire damnation stands at one end of the spectrum, universal salvation stands at the other, between is very little ground of compromise, and both stances raise seemingly unfathomable questions.
Let us look at predestination...
Ephesians 1 makes a perfectly clear statement that we ARE predestined..."According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world"....and if this is correct, then obviously we had no option in the matter, God CHOSE US, which is great news.... unless you want to believe that we chose Him and submitted our will to His.
This is not some random decision of Gods, for it continues..."being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will...."
God has considered our 'case' and decided that we should be predestinated.
Now setting a destination, in our existence, is not equal to reaching the destination.
We have all set off somewhere only to find that circumstances beyond our control has meant that we ended up somewhere else, or never arrived at all to the destination we had started out for.
You may change your mind about where you wish to go, and in the forums we have excellent examples of this, with some of the atheists who try to dismiss the existence of God....atheists who have at some point in their lives had a belief in God, but who have lost or abandoned that belief due to circumstances which made them reject the whole notion of there even being a God to accept or reject.
Are they simply folk who God did not predestine, or are they those who were predestined, yet exercised their free will to reject the concept totally?
God tells us in 1 Timothy 2....
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
God tells us that he desires 'all men to be saved' so is God unable to do this?
Or does it indicate that God respects our decisions, that He accepts that despite the fact that He desires ALL men to be saved, He also recognises that forcing them to be saved would be the action of a perverse God, not a loving God?
Predestination leads us to the inevitable conclusion that 'universal salvation' may be the reality we live with.
That no matter what we do, in the end God will win our affections and lead us to desiring to spend eternity with Him.
Obviously if God desires to, He can make His promise irresistible to all mankind....someone stated the other night in the forums, that they could not see why God did not simply show Himself to all humanity, whereupon all argument and discussion would cease and all would fall at His feet to worship.
Well God WILL make Himself known to ALL at some point, for everyone will stand before God in judgement, some to salvation and their rewards, others to damnation and their penalty, or so the traditional church holds will happen.
But the ONLY evidence we have available to us on this earth was given to us two thousand years ago, and we were told then that...
.... Master, we would see a sign from thee.
But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
God has not changed His opinion, we have seen all the signs and wonders we can expect to witness from God.
Predestination therefore was Gods plan for our lives, plans to bless our existence, but God allowing us free will was the random card that we all hold that determines whether Gods PREdetermination for us will be completed, or whether we will have to settle for something less.
Adam and Eve (or early mankind if you are squeamish at taking the bible literally) were offered choices, to eat from the Tree of Life, or to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil, they chose wrongly, and subsequently had to accept penalties that limited their lifespan, and made their lives harder than they needed to be.
We face the same choices in our lives.
We are born with a predestined propensity for rebellion, not predestined by God, but predestined by our birth into flawed humanity.
Most everyone who has ever lived will chose the wrong road at some point in their lives, and keep riding that wrong route until something wakens their awareness that they are heading in the wrong direction. Even then most folk will carry on down that road until they hit a brick wall.
This is why so many folk come to faith in Christ AFTER their lives have imploded, and why those smug atheists all cite us as failures finding religion as a prop.
They are right, we were dumb enough to carry on in non belief even though we were losing big time to whatever was draining our life energies, and heading to damnation here on earth, without even considering our eternal destiny.
Atheists tend to be blinded to this, which is not surprising because their 'rational' rejection of the supernatural aspect of God enables their master, Satan, to deceive them fully with their atheist desires.
Satan is a good paymaster, you can do whatever you want and succeed, as long as it is not showing any interest in Christ. Satan will allow you to feel like a real winner and superior to those pesky 'believers' with their fantasy fairy god.
Why not, after all he owns your butt, and will have eternity to enjoy his treasure if he can only keep you separated from God for a comparatively small amount of time.
Which brings us to Hell.
God wants everyone saved, but has chosen to allow us the privilege of choosing our own destiny, which is where we come into the equasion.
God has needed, in His infinite mercy, to accommodate those who really and truly refuse His offer of eternity with Him.
Now most atheists believe in nothing, so the concept that they may continue with their existence after physical death is alien to them. The concept of annihilation however is accepted.
I followed that path for a long while, content to believe that I would simply cease to exist, then as I experienced more supernatural events, it required me to change the opinion to one where I died, then became 'one with the universe' which I saw as the combined 'energies' of all humanity, a sort of co equal force where I would have no personality, yet still be a part of the 'life-force'.
Many pantheists hold this viewpoint, and again, Satan has no problem with allowing this, after all, it's wrong and it keeps them away from Christ... no loss to him there.
The mere consideration of a conscious eternity creates too many problems for atheistic 'rational' minds to contemplate, and their master makes good and sure that they are steered well clear of those problems.
But they are eternal beings, we all are, whether we wish to be or not.
So God will need to create somewhere where He is not present, but they are.
Take a look around the world at those places where God is not present because they have chosen to follow their own paths, it's not pretty....Rwanda and Haiti spring to mind....maybe that would be hell, because in that environment there would be no rules, no commandments to break, no restrain on your free will and no Holy Spirit to limit anyone's inhumanity to others.
A perfect atheist paradise, I don't think.
Try rational thought processes with Idi Amin or Stalin, or Pol Pot and Hitler, with every serial killer, rapist, child molester and pervert that has ever died.... I think you will be quickly wishing that you could be annihilated, but you are stuck there for eternity, knowing that you actually chose to be there, by default.
You want to know whether the rest of the universe is occupied, well God has lots of space to fill with those who reject His Grace in favour of their own wisdom.
So what's my take on the whole thing?
I seem to be predestined to spend eternity with God, which is good to know, but I spent forty one years avoiding the issue and living for myself.
Forty one years is a long time to be selfish, and you get set in your ways when you live like that. I had managed to create my own reality, and to be truthful it was pretty good, I was a happy sinner and had no problem with what I did wrong, for I always knew when I was in error, just accepted that this was the case and got on with my life.
I never had doubts, because I did know right from wrong, so when I did wrong I never tried to self justify my guilt away and in this manner I never had to feel uneasy, I simply shrugged and moved on.
But one day, on my 40th birthday I hit a brick wall in my 'philosophy', and sat alone, sober and isolated in my villa in Spain wondering what this was all about.
My son was the catalyst for my pondering, he was two years old and his birth had stirred in me emotions that I had never allowed to surface.
I finally cared for someone else more than myself.
That was strange and uncomfortable, yet oddly totally acceptable.
In a fit of pique I stood in an olive grove that adjoined my property and raised a fist to the sky, challenging God to make Himself known to me IF He existed.
That's when God started to show His plans for my life, plans that I had never considered and did not really want anyway, but which I could not ignore indicated that SOMETHING other than me was out there and making contact with me.
As I had drifted into the clutches of Satan by my actions, he also started to make moves on my life, and slowly I realised that there was a choice to be made.... step up to the plate and take what Satan was tempting me with, or see what God had to offer me.
I decided to read Gods bible and rip it apart, to expose all the conflicts and errors in it, and finally put this imposter out of my life.
I guess I saw God and Satan as coequals, and Satan told me a lot more that I found attractive.
"Why do you have so many rules" I enquired of God, and He seemed to smile and say, "At least you know my rules, what's your contract with Satan look like" and I realised that I had a relationship with a powerful spiritual entity, yet had no idea what his rules were, except that I knew that his 'mantra' was "Do as you will is the extent of the law"
Now that sounds great, but remember it's a two way street, and if I could do as I wished, then so could he, and he seemed to have some bizarre concepts of fun, that I found kinda scary, even when I was enjoying his playmates.
So I chose to explore Gods word more, which led to Christ, which led to my defection from Satan's team to Gods team, which 17 years later has brought me here speaking to you.
Was my free will trodden down, no way, I just realised that Gods rule book did tell me exactly what was permissible and showed me what was advantageous in any given circumstance.
I accepted early on that the best policy was to submit my authority over my life to Christ, and in that way I would be guided through the complexities that had previously confounded me, into 'pastures green and pleasant'.
I have not kept to that path all the time, but then again most of the character God introduces us to in His word have not, indeed the ONLY sinless, perfect man was Christ, and He will always be the ONLY perfect man that has ever lived.
Atheists love to point out our 'sins', even when they declare that they are sinless! - but there is one vital difference between those who have chosen to follow Gods predestined course for their lives and those who are their own god, or choose no god at all....
My God has forgiven me for my sins, past, present and future, because I have surrendered my will to His will.
He does not require me to be perfect, He just expects that I will stop trying to pretend that I am.
So YES our lives are predetermined by God, but YES we do have the free will right to chose not to accept the eternal blessings that God predetermines are ours for the taking.
We have free will to accept a lesser life and a unpredictable eternity.
Which is why God stated that a fool says there is no God.
Like the old slave trader sung, I once was lost, but now am found, was blind but now I see.
Now concerning eternal damnation, for I only briefly gave an opinion on this vital subject.
It's entirely possible that God will send Christ to every mortal passing over into eternity to offer salvation at the point of death.
God is not in time, we view time as linear, God is outside of time entirely, and God can do with time that which He wishes, so if He desired, He could suspend time and make one second, or one thousandth of a second, last for as long as He wished, and certainly you could see your life 'flash' before your eyes at the point of death, and many have reported this happening.
In this instance, you could get down on your spiritual knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and theoretically be saved at that point.
Scripture tells me that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, and shows that God reserves the right to pay us whatever He wishes, no matter whether we have laboured for a day or one hour, and why would He tell us that if it had no significance?
So maybe God gives us that last chance to be sure that we really do not want to be with Him for eternity.
But frankly, it's not a bet that I would make, especially as you have been exposed to the truth whilst you have lived.
It's also questionable whether the arrogance that has declared there is no God, will allow the humility that would be required to confess and believe at that point, added to which Satan will be hovering awaiting delivery of your soul for his pleasure.
The Bible states;
Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse;
A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:
And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. (Deuteronomy 11 26:28)
Chose wisely, please do not allow your choice to be made by default.