What Does the Bible Teach About Predestination?
Does the Bible really teach that people are predestined to go to either heaven or hell?
It is true that verses like John 6:44-45 , Acts 13:48 , and Ephesians 1:4-5 teach that we cannot come to God unless He first draws us to Himself. Such passages make it clear that those who choose Christ are people destined beforehand to be the eternal children of God. Other passages teach that the human will is so fallen and captured by sin that only the Spirit of God can give a person a desire to know God and be freed by Him.
This is a difficult claim, and not only for people of faith. The principle of determinism is one side of a greater paradox that has defied explanation not only by Christian theologians but by atheistic philosophers as well. Both sides have struggled with two seemingly irreconcilable aspects of human experience: freedom and determinism.
The Bible holds both sides in tension without trying to resolve the problem for us. While teaching that God is in control of His universe, the Scriptures make it equally clear that He offers salvation to all and holds all accountable for the real choice of accepting or rejecting His genuine offer.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).
He . . . is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:2).
The Bible isn’t fatalistic. From beginning to end it is a book of hope. God has given everyone the ability of choice. Yet in the midst of our choices is this truth: We do not rule God; He rules us. We are not sovereign; He is. We are responsible to choose Him, but we are so fallen in our own sin that when we do choose Him we sense that He has mercifully enabled us to do so.
Wise King Solomon wrote about this paradox when he penned:
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps (Proverbs 16:9).
A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24).
Only the eternal, infinite Creator is capable of reconciling both sides of this mystery. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever! Amen (Romans 11:33-36).