In Defense of the Faith |

Dave Hunt

Has God Predestined Some to Heaven and Some to Hell?

Question: I have a friend who turned his back on God after his third year in a conservative evangelical seminary. He was taught that God has already decided who will be saved and who will spend eternity in hell; who will have good things happen to him in life, and who will have bad. Can you help me to help him?

Response: There is no doubt that God is sovereign and could have predestined some to heaven and some to hell. Or He could send us all to hell because that is what we deserve. The question is not God’s sovereignty, however, but His love. And that God wants all mankind to be saved and to be in heaven is clear:

                        For God so loved the world…that the world through him might be

                        saved (John:3:16-17). The father sent the Son to be the Savior of

                        the world (1 John:4:14).

                        The Lord is…not willing that any should perish, but that all should

                        come to repentance (2 Peter:3:9). Who will have all men to be saved,

                        and come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy:2:4).

                        Who gave himself a ransom for all (1 Timothy:2:6). And he is the

                        propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins

                        of the whole world (1 John:2:2).

No one will be in hell because God wanted him there or didn’t do all He could to persuade him to believe the gospel He has so fully and freely provided for all. Those who perish do so because they reject the salvation that God offers with such loving persuasion. To suggest that God doesn’t desire all mankind to be saved is a libel upon His character and a contradiction of the Bible! How could it be that the God who tells us to love our enemies doesn’t love all of His? It is inconceivable that God would willingly send anyone He truly loves to hell. That many people nevertheless go there can only be because they rejected the salvation God provided and lovingly offered by His grace.

If we are to believe that God has predestined certain ones to go to hell, then we must also believe that He predestined that Adam and Eve should sin, and thus predestined all of the evil that followed. That is preposterous. The strict Calvinist says we are so utterly depraved that we cannot choose to receive Christ. But that argument cannot apply to Adam and Eve because they were created in innocence. If they, like us today, could choose only evil, then God’s warnings to them not to eat of the forbidden fruit (and His appeals to come to Christ) are a farce.

The rebellion in the Garden of Eden by creatures who were until then innocent and living in a perfect environment could only have been the result of their will acting against God’s will. And if it was not a genuine choice, then sin could hardly have entered the world by that act, since they must have already been sinners.

Yes, God foreknew that Adam and Eve would rebel, and He knew all of the evil that would follow. Therefore, He made provision for all sin and all sinners to be forgiven through Christ even before He created the world (Revelation:13:8). But He did not predestine the evil that began in Eden and pervades the world! If He did, then all of the rape, murder, hatred, jealousy, etc., that has occurred in history and continues to this day is because God predestined it. Again, that is totally inconsistent with God’s character as revealed in His Word.

Romans:8:29-30 declares, “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate…called…justified…glorified.” Clearly, God made certain to get the gospel to all He knew would believe it. Thus, foreknowledge is the key to predestination.

Strict Calvinists object that to make a choice is a “work,” and salvation is “not of works.” However, that a man chooses to accept the pardon that God offers in Christ does not constitute any work on his part. If a drowning man, helpless to save himself, accepted an offer of rescue, would he thereby have done anything to save himself? Could he say that he had been saved by his own works? Could he be proud (as some suggest of those who receive Christ by an act of their will) that his rescue from drowning was because he was “smart enough, loving enough, wise enough, righteous enough, or anything-else enough…”? Of course not!

Salvation is all of God and all by grace. Those who accept it have done nothing to earn it. In fact, to be saved, a sinner must confess his total unworthiness and inability to merit or earn salvation. He must simply receive it as a free gift of God’s grace.

A gift embodies two essential elements: 1) the giving of it, and 2) the receiving of it. One cannot give a gift to anyone unless that person is willing to receive it. God does not force Himself and His grace upon anyone. We must knowingly and willingly receive the gift of salvation. That is why the gospel is preached and must be believed for a person to be saved.