Has God Decided Your Fate?
MANY people are convinced that God does predetermine a person’s fate. And they feel sure that the Bible proves this to be true.
For example, some may point to the case of Esau and Jacob. They were still in the womb when God foretold: “The older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23) Similarly, God knew in advance that Samson, Jeremiah and John the Baptizer would perform mighty works in his service. (Judges 13:3-5; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:13-17) Would this not mean that such individuals were predestinated to eternal salvation?
Moreover, what about Judas Iscariot? Long before he was born, Scriptural prophecies spoke of the Messiah’s betrayal. (Psalm 41:9; 55:12, 13) The Bible even says that “from the beginning” Jesus Christ knew who would betray him.—John 6:64.
In the light of the foregoing points, what would you say? Does the Bible teach that God has predestinated some to eternal salvation and others to condemnation? Has God decided your fate?
Before answering these questions, consider the implications of predestination. If this doctrine were true, it would mean that God foreknew all that would result from his creating man—the deflection of Adam and Eve, the wars, the crime, the immorality, the oppression, the lying, the hypocrisy, the disease. By speaking the words, “Let us make man,” then, God deliberately would have been setting all this wickedness in motion! (Genesis 1:26) God’s placing before Adam and Eve the prospect of everlasting life would, therefore, have been a sham. So would the Bible’s invitation, “Let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.”—Revelation 22:17.
But the Bible says that Jehovah is a God “abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:6) He would never offer something he knew that it was impossible for one to obtain. Jesus Christ asked: “Who is the man among you whom his son asks for bread—he will not hand him a stone, will he? . . . Therefore, if you, although being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will your Father who is in the heavens give good things to those asking him?” (Matthew 7:9-11) Furthermore, if God long ago foreordained precisely who would gain eternal salvation and who would be eternally destroyed, why does the Bible say that “Jehovah . . . is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance”?—2 Peter 3:9.
Predestination, therefore, runs counter to what the Bible actually teaches about God. ‘But would not limiting God’s knowledge of the future undermine his almightiness?’ you might ask. Not at all. At Titus 1:2, for example, we learn that “God . . . cannot lie.” But does this undermine God’s almightiness? No, rather, it highlights God’s truthfulness.
The apostle Paul counseled Christians endowed with the gift of prophecy: “Gifts of the spirit of the prophets are to be controlled by the prophets. For God is a God, not of disorder, but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:32, 33) Such prophets would not speak out indiscriminately but would share their prophetic messages in an orderly way. To do this, self-control was needed. Certainly, then, God is also able to use his foreknowledge selectively, using it only when there is a reason or a purpose for doing so.—Compare Genesis 22:1, 12.
Just 40 years after the organizing of the Israelites as a nation, God foretold that they would break his covenant with them. Nevertheless, this foreknowledge was not without basis, as national insubordination and rebellion already had occurred. Hence, God said: “For I well know their inclination that they are developing today before I bring them into the land about which I have sworn.” (Deuteronomy 31:20, 21) Just as a competent builder might predict the collapse of a structure built with inferior materials, so Jehovah could see the direction in which the nation was heading. Individuals, however, could and did respond to and thus benefit from counsel given by God’s prophets.—Jeremiah 21:8, 9; Ezekiel 33:1-20.
Jesus Christ likewise foretold doom for the religious leaders known as scribes and Pharisees. (Matthew 23:15, 33) Nevertheless, this did not mean that each and every Pharisee or scribe was headed for Gehenna. The apostle Paul himself was formerly a zealous Pharisee!—Acts 26:4, 5.
True, God did predict the course of certain individuals, such as Jacob and Esau. But this was not predestination. In the case of Esau and Jacob, God simply foreknew which of the national groups descending from them would gain dominance over the other. (Genesis 25:23-26) However, there is no indication that God had fixed their eternal destinies. Much of a child’s general disposition and temperament appear to be shaped by genetic factors. Jehovah may have considered the genetic makeup of unborn Esau and Jacob in determining which son would dominate.—Compare Psalm 139:14-16.
Similarly, Jehovah used his foreknowledge regarding Samson, Jeremiah and John the Baptizer. This foreknowledge, however, did not guarantee that they would remain faithful until death. God also foretold that one of David’s sons would be named Solomon and that Solomon would be used to build the temple. (1 Chronicles 22:9, 10) Solomon, nevertheless, fell into apostasy in his later years.—1 Kings 11:4, 9-13.
But what of Judas Iscariot? Was not the traitorous course of one of Jesus’ disciples clearly prophesied in advance? Yes, but the prophecies did not specify which disciple would be the betrayer. Indeed, what if Jesus had known that Judas would be the betrayer? Then Jesus’ appointing Judas as an apostle would have made Him a “sharer” in that betrayer’s sins. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:22.) God himself would also be an accomplice, since Jesus preceded his selection of Judas with fervent prayer to Jehovah.—Luke 6:12-16.
Nevertheless, Jehovah was ‘not ignorant of Satan’s designs.’ (Compare 2 Corinthians 2:11.) He knew that Satan the Devil had previously used a man’s close friend as a betrayer, as he had done in the case of David’s friend Ahithophel. Therefore, it was Satan, not God, who “put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray” Jesus Christ. (John 13:2; 2 Samuel 15:31) Rather than resisting satanic influence, Judas allowed sin to gain the mastery over him. And at some point Jesus was able to read Judas’ heart and therefore foretell his betrayal. (John 13:10, 11) Thus Jesus knew of Judas’ betrayal “from the beginning”—not of his acquaintance with Judas, but from the “beginning” of that one’s acting treacherously.—John 6:64.
Foreordained by God
God’s exercise of foreknowledge is, therefore, never due to some whim. The apostle Paul told fellow anointed Christians: “We were foreordained according to the purpose of him [Jehovah God] who operates all things according to the way his will counsels.” (Ephesians 1:11) Since man’s fall into sin, it has been God’s purpose to vindicate His name by means of His Kingdom. To that end, God has at times used his ability to foresee the future. For instance, he foreordained that there would be a class of joint heirs with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom, although individuals must prove faithful to be part of it.—2 Peter 1:10, 11.
Knowing the Bible’s clear teaching on this matter can help you to have a healthy view of the future. God does not predetermine your fate. Instead, you can exercise the free will that Jehovah God has given to creatures made “in his image.” (Genesis 1:27) You can make the wise choice and wholeheartedly respond to Jehovah God’s offer of everlasting life.—John 17:3.
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If God knew that Adam and Eve were doomed to failure, placing everlasting life before them would have been a cruel hoax
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When did Jesus realize that Judas would betray him?