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I grew up in a well-known, mainstream Protestant church. The main difference between this church and other Protestant denominations was its belief in the predestination of all human beings. I learned of this central teaching at an early age.
We were generally taught to believe that our entire lives had been laid out in advance by God. Supposedly, this all happened before we were born. But I was later forced to question whether the Bible says this.
This was the church of my mother’s youth. My father grew up in a different denomination. Though my parents required me, my brother, and my sister to attend, neither parent accompanied us very often. When I was about 13 or 14, I decided to ask my mother why. Her answer was direct and revealing.
She explained that she could not accept the doctrine of predestination as taught by her church. She went on to tell me, through an analogy of a man with a heart condition, why she was troubled by this doctrine. She depicted the man as being aware of his condition and yet choosing to ignore it, as he rushed up and down the stairs of his house carrying boxes of books.
My mother refused to believe that such a man could suffer a heart attack without being responsible for having made the decision to ignore good judgment, thereby putting himself at risk. I will never forget this conversation because we were standing at the bottom of our staircase as she described her belief.
She went on to tell me that she believed that everything she decided in her life was, in fact, something that she decided. She felt that one who would deliberately jeopardize his health, while well aware of his condition, was mocking God with his action. This was a choice the person made. On the other hand, if such a man really did not have control over his actions, in the case she described, then God was mocking this man—and all men—because He has left people powerless to take action in the face of apparent danger.
My mother made a point, and I have never forgotten it. However, it was not until four or five years later that I came to understand the Bible truth about the matter of predestination.
Just the “Lost” and the “Saved”?
Think of it. If my mother was incorrect, it means that human beings do not really possess free moral agency. They cannot truly make their own choices or decide their own fates. It means that all people are simply playing a predetermined role in every matter that they face—even when they think that they are making their own decisions. In effect, the entire world is God’s stage and all human beings are nothing more than actors playing a scripted part!
Is this true? Is this what the Bible actually teaches when it makes reference to predestination? Did God pre-plan every sin, every act of immorality, and every crime that has ever been committed? Is God the author of every war—every act of civil disobedience—every divorce—every suicide—every murder? Did God pre-plan every rape—every act of child abuse—every lie ever told—every time one chooses to cheat on his income taxes? Understand. If God has already charted the course, in advance of everything that will ever happen, all acts of sin and unrighteousness cannot be excluded.
Now turn the coin over. Has God predetermined which people will obey Him? Has He decided in advance who will be righteous—and thus who will become Christians and ultimately be saved? If this is true, we must at the same time consider whether He has also decided who will be lost. And can the “lost” not choose to repent and be saved? Can the saved not fall back into, by choice, the way of life that will cause them to be lost? These are important questions.
Is anything missing? Yes, a great deal has been completely overlooked from the pages of the Bible. The doctrine of predestination has been shrouded in ignorance, confusion and misunderstanding for far too long.
We must ask some basic questions. What is the plan of God? What exactly is God doing with mankind? Is He trying to save all men now? Are all men in the category of either lost or saved? Are there any other categories that must be understood to properly grasp God’s Plan? Where, then, does the truth of predestination fit?
These are enormous questions. Not understanding their correct answers has caused millions to grieve needlessly about relatives who may have died in a supposed lost state because they never accepted Christ as their Savior.
Do not ever assume the accuracy of any purported understanding about a biblical matter unless you can prove it from Scripture. On the matter of predestination, people have made two common assumptions—neither of which is correct. They have assumed that every human being who has ever lived is predetermined to be either lost or saved—or they have correctly recognized that people have the power to choose their own fate but have assumed that all people fall into one of only these two possible categories.
These positions are both wrong. They are based on false assumptions. Most have assumed that God is trying to save the world now. Most have assumed that the role—the mission—of the Church is to “get the world saved.” Most have also been led to believe that God and the devil are in a great wrestling match over the fate of the world. It is as though God is desperately trying to save people from the clutches of the devil, and the devil is, just as desperately, striving to thwart God’s plan of salvation at every turn.
Of course, the devil certainly is striving to deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9). He is now the god of this world, seeking to blind people to the wonderful truth of the plan of God and the true gospel (II Cor. 4:4). However, this does not mean that God’s Plan is, on the one hand, out of His control—being lost to the devil—or, on the other hand, that His control means predetermining the fate of every human being.
Is Today the Only Day of Salvation?
Is today the only opportunity for all to choose or reject Christianity? Must all people decide now to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Is this what the Bible teaches? The answer is an emphatic no! If it were yes, then God is failing miserably in His struggle with the devil for control over the fate of humanity.
Consider. In 1920, when my father was born, there were about two billion people on Earth. There are now almost eight billion—and more every day. Approximately one-third believe in the name of Jesus Christ. This represents a total that includes every conceivable brand of the over 2,000 different forms of professing Christianity. Approximately another one-third of mankind has heard of Christ but has not accepted Him and does not even claim to follow Him. Finally, the last one-third of all people on Earth know nothing about Christ. Many in India, Africa, Japan, China and parts of South America and Southeast Asia have never even heard of Christ, let alone know who He was, what He did, what He taught, etc. Are they condemned to be lost, having never had an opportunity to understand what they missed or why?
When speaking of Christ’s name, the Bible clearly says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Further, Romans 10:13 states that men must call on this name to be saved. Understand! All those who have not yielded to the God of the Bible and accepted Jesus as their Savior are certainly not saved! Billions have died in this condition. Most have assumed that the only other option for them is that they were lost to salvation and that God long ago predestined this for the vast majority who have ever lived.
On the other hand, if the war to win souls is as most professing Christian ministers depict it, then the devil is far stronger—and far more effective—in his effort than God. Be honest and admit that this is the only other possibility, unless there is a third category containing the vast majority of people. But it must be a category that has not been recognized!
Is God a monster who would doom the great majority without offering them an opportunity for salvation? This is, however unwittingly believed, what most have concluded. They have assumed that only a relative few have been chosen to receive an opportunity to enter the Kingdom of God. (To learn more about this, read the booklet What Is the Kingdom of God?)
God Is in Control
Few have understood the verses describing Christ’s coming reign, which will begin at the time of His Return to Earth. And they know nothing of the fact that Satan is soon to be removed.
However, he has not yet been removed from power. When Christ qualified to replace him (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) as the “god of this world,” having overcome sin, He assured that Satan will soon no longer be present to deceive and confuse mankind (Rev. 12:9; I Cor. 14:33). But, once again, we must understand that he has not yet been removed and he seeks to do everything, within the great power that he does possess, to thwart God’s Plan. He has certainly deceived his ministers (II Cor. 11:13-15) into believing that God has failed terribly in His Plan to save the vast majority. But it is only by God’s permission that Satan holds sway over this “present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).
God is not losing a wrestling match over which He clearly has full control. He knows exactly what He is doing, and the beauty of His Plan can be known. Be assured that no true God would ever choose to condemn the vast majority who have ever lived without giving them a full opportunity for salvation. Such a God would not be worth following—He would be an unjust monster whose primary business is condemnation.
Man (under the unseen direction of Satan) has been given approximately 6,000 years to try his own ways, governments, religions, philosophies, value systems, and forms of education. He has practiced sin—disobedience to God’s commands—under the sway of Satan. Man has then tried to treat all of the ill effects instead of treating the cause of having broken God’s laws.
God is allowing mankind to learn bitter lessons. The vast majority, who have never known the precious truth of God, are having to learn that their own ways do not work! (Read the booklet Why Man Cannot Solve His Problems.)
As mankind embarks on a path that would erase itself from Earth, God will intervene and save mankind from itself!
Notice II Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Did you notice that God wants to save everyone? Paul, when speaking of God (Christ), stated, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). That is the plain truth of this verse. God is not, and never has been, in the “mass condemnation” business.
Satan has proliferated many forms of false religion all over the Earth. He counterfeits the truth in endless ways. He is a master deceiver and the fruit of his efforts lies all around us. However, there is coming a “Sabbath rest.” Mankind will rest from sin and from the relentless deceit of the devil. His time will soon be up. He is angrier now than ever before.
It is vitally important to understand this tremendous truth.
II Corinthians 6:2—Terribly Misunderstood!
One verse is often cited to prove that now is the only opportunity for all mankind to achieve salvation. Let’s read this almost universally misunderstood verse: “He [God] says, I have heard you in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored you: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2).
It is critical to understand that the word “the” in the King James Version is not found in the original Greek or Hebrew text. Translators added it thinking that they amplified the meaning of the verse. Instead, they clouded and confused it.
The apostle Paul is actually quoting Isaiah 49:8: “Thus says the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard you, and in a day of salvation have I helped you.” Neither the Greek of II Corinthians 6:2 nor the Hebrew of Isaiah 49:8 contains the definite article “the.”
The Knox Bible most accurately reflects the Greek meaning of the first part of II Corinthians 6:2: “I have answered your prayer, He says, in a [not the only one] time of pardon, I have brought you help in a [not the] day of salvation.”
Those who misread this verse have not considered that if salvation was only open during the time of Paul, then it is not open to anyone now—including you and me! Just as Paul lived approximately 2,000 years before our time, do not forget that he also was quoting a verse that was recorded many centuries before his time. To which age should these two references to the verse be assigned?
It is certainly true that for all those who have been called, having their minds opened to God’s truth, such people are having their opportunity for salvation now! Once people understand the truth (Jms. 4:17; Heb. 10:26), there is no turning back. If God is revealing His truth to you at this time—then you must now act on it! This is, then, “a” day of salvation for all those being called today. There will be no second opportunity for people who reject God’s truth.
The Gospel Preached as a Witness
Nowhere in the Bible did Christ or anyone else say that the gospel of the Kingdom was to be preached by His servants for the purpose of converting the entire world now. Try to find such verses. You will see that there are none.
Notice Matthew 24:14: “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” This was part of Christ’s answer to a question in verse 3 of the same chapter. It is actually a prophecy of one of many great events that would precede His Return to begin His Kingdom. The reference to “and then shall the end come” means the end of the age of man’s rule under the sway of the devil. But do not miss the phrase “for a witness” in Christ’s words. He did not say the gospel would be preached “for the purpose of converting all mankind” or any similar thing. It is this Church—The Restored Church of God, the publisher of this magazine—that is preaching this gospel today.
Few will heed and respond to God’s wonderful truth, made available to them in this age. You have been blessed to read it now. Most will ignore the opportunity to qualify to rule with Christ over the nations (Rev. 5:10; Matt. 5:5; Luke 19:11-27). Reading the truth contained in this article will prove to be little more than “for a witness” for many because they will not grasp the tremendous significance of God’s Plan and their potential role in it.
Few Now Given Understanding
As stated, very few are being given true understanding in this age. Because most have assumed that they understand God’s purpose, they remain totally blind to the great truth of what it is!
I ask you a question. All who know anything about the Bible recognize that Christ spoke many principles, points and truths through the use of parables. Why do you suppose that He did this? Have you not been led to believe that He did it to illustrate His purpose? This is what I was taught—and, like most, I swallowed it hook, line and sinker! This theory is false. It is not what the Bible says—it is wrong! More importantly, the correct answer reveals a vital truth.
Christ’s disciples asked Him this very question. Notice: “The disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speak You unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever has not, from him shall be taken away even that he has. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand” (Matt. 13:10-13).
This is an amazing verse. The implications are stunning! Christ stated that He actually spoke in parables to hide the meaning of what He was saying. He explained that the “mysteries” of God’s Kingdom were “given” to some and “not given” to others. This can only mean that some are called now and others remain blind. Yet God is perfect. In many verses, He describes His justice and fairness with all mankind, in every matter. And we have seen that He is “not willing that any should perish” and would “have all men to be saved.”
Consider Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians: “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God…For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” (I Cor. 1:24, 26).
Several times Paul speaks of a “calling.” There are those who are called and those who are not. He explains that those called now are generally not the “wise, mighty and noble.” Most of these people will not listen to what God tells them because they do not think they need Him. For now, God is willing to let them have their way and learn bitter lessons that will later help them grow and learn faster, when He does call them.
In John 6:44 and 65, Christ stated, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which has sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day…no man can come to Me, except it were given unto him of My Father.” Only through God’s Spirit can one be drawn into and be given God’s truth. Without this calling, “drawing” or giving of the truth to a person, “no man can” come to the truth. It is that simple.
To learn more, read my article Are You Being Called?