What Is the Bible’s View?
Does Fate Rule Your Future?
EACH year accidents claim the lives of many thousands of people in their homes, at work or while traveling. Thousands more suffer severe injuries when the unexpected happens. Why? And why is it that at times unforeseen benefits brighten the lives of individuals? Most people view these things as accidents, chance happenings. Are they really accidents?
Certain persons say No. They believe that every event in one’s life, including the moment of one’s death, is foreordained by fate. Napoleon Bonaparte once wrote: “Our hour is marked, and no one can claim a moment of life beyond what fate has predestined.”
Among those who hold that fate rules their future are many who believe in God. They feel that God must foreknow all future events. And, based on that assumption, they reason that all future events are predetermined, for what God foreknows cannot fail to take place. Some extend this idea to belief in divine predestination, which means that God has foreordained certain ones of the human race for salvation and the rest for eternal punishment.
Has God actually foreknown all things that have taken place throughout history? Does he now definitely know everything that his creatures will do in days to come? Does such a fate rule your future?
The Bible makes it plain that many things that happen to people are bona fide accidents, for “time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” (Eccl. 9:11) Then, too, Jehovah God extends to his intelligent creatures the privilege and responsibility of free choice. Ancient Israel was admonished to “choose life” by listening to Jehovah God. The prophet Zephaniah urged meek ones to “seek Jehovah.” (Deut. 30:19, 20; Zeph. 2:3) God’s Word, at Revelation 22:17, extends the invitation to “anyone that wishes” to take advantage of God’s provisions for salvation.
The inspired Scriptures portray Jehovah as a merciful, righteous, impartial and loving God. (Deut. 4:31; 32:4; Acts 10:34; 1 John 4:8) Would such a one encourage people to choose what is right if he already knew that fate prevented many from doing that?
Foreknowledge Different from Fate
It is true that God can foreknow things. The Scriptures refer to him as “the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.” (Isa. 46:10) But knowing something in advance is not the same as causing it. A meteorologist, for example, might make an accurate forecast because of his acquaintance with weather patterns. But no one would claim that he caused the predicted weather.
When God does predict what individuals or groups will do, it is frequently on the basis of observing already evident thought patterns. Thus, when prophesying that the nation of Israel would break his covenant, Jehovah said: “I well know their inclination.” (Deut. 31:21) Prophecies concerning Jesus’ faithful earthly course were based upon Jehovah’s prior knowledge of him during his millenniums of prehuman existence.—John 6:62; 17:5, 25.
If Jehovah chooses to do so, he can read the genetic code of future offspring and thereby know what traits they will develop. It was evidently on this basis that, in the case of Isaac’s twin sons Jacob and Esau, Jehovah foretold: “The older will serve the younger.” (Gen. 25:23) In a few cases (such as those of Israelite Judge Samson and King Cyrus of Persia) God foretold before their conception certain things that individuals would do. (Judg. 13:3-5; Isa. 44:28-45:3) But in no case did fate rule every act or event in the lives of these persons.
But if God has the ability to foreknow things that will happen, does not his capacity to foreknow amount to an unchangeable fate that rules all future events? No, it does not. Why not? Because that view incorrectly equates what God can do with what he actually does. Though Jehovah God has the ability to foreknow things, he can choose not to exercise that ability to the full. Consider, for example, God’s use of power. Though Almighty, God does not expend his full strength in every situation, but uses it to the extent necessary to accomplish his purpose. Similarly, God restricts his use of foreknowledge.
This can be seen from Bible texts that describe God as making an examination of certain situations to obtain knowledge of them. We note that Jehovah advised Abraham of his decision to investigate matters at Sodom and Gomorrah to “see whether they act altogether according to the outcry over it that has come to me, and, if not, I can get to know it.”—Gen. 18:20, 21.
What About Predestination?
But what of scriptures that speak of certain ones as being “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God,” ‘chosen before the founding of the world,’ ‘foreordained to the adoption as sons of God’? (1 Pet. 1:1, 2; Eph. 1:3-5, 11) On the basis of Bible references like these, religious leaders such as Augustine, Martin Luther and John Calvin taught that Adam and Eve were fated to disobey God even before being created; and that all their posterity were selected in advance for either salvation or eternal ruin.
But do those verses really teach such a predestination of individuals? If so, it would be impossible for any of the chosen ones to lose God’s favor. Yet the same apostles who wrote the foregoing words (Peter and Paul) showed that some who were “bought” and “sanctified” by the blood of Christ would fall away beyond repentance and bring destruction upon themselves.—2 Pet. 2:1, 2, 20-22; Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-29.
Consequently the aforementioned texts must refer to the foreordination of the Christian congregation as a class.
How was the Christian congregation chosen “before the founding of the world”? Jesus, at Luke 11:50, 51, connected that “founding” with Abel. Thus it was before Abel’s birth, but not before Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, that he foreordained the class that would become heirs with Christ in his kingdom.—Rev. 20:6.
As in the case of ancient Israel, God urges people today to ‘turn back from transgression and keep living.’ (Ezek. 18:23, 30-32) Peter wrote that God “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9) How sincere would that desire be if fate had already consigned many, perhaps millions, to reprobate lives? And could the Bible’s teaching be true that Christ Jesus “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all” if fate ruled out any benefit from it for many?—1 Tim. 2:6.
No, fate rules neither your future nor that of any other intelligent person. You are free to choose to serve God or not to serve him. But “each of us will render an account” for the choice that he makes. (Rom. 14:12) What will your choice be?