What Will Your Future Be?
IF GOD Almighty is omniscient, knowing all that is past, present, and future, are not all things destined to occur exactly as God has foreseen them? If God has foreseen and decreed the course and final destiny of every human, can it truly be said that we are free to choose our life’s course, our future?
These questions have been debated for centuries. The controversy still divides major religions. Can God’s ability to foreknow the future be reconciled with human free will? Where should we look for answers?
Millions of people around the globe would agree that God has communicated with mankind by means of his written Word as delivered through his spokesmen, the prophets. For example, the Koran refers to revelations as coming from God: the Taurāh (Torah, the Law, or five books of Moses), the Zabūr (the Psalms), and the Injīl (the Gospel, Christian Greek Scriptures, or “New Testament”), as well as what was revealed to the prophets of Israel.
In the Christian Greek Scriptures, we read: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Obviously, any guidance or enlightenment that we receive should ultimately come from God himself. Would it not be wise then to examine the writings of God’s earlier prophets? What do they reveal about our future?
Future Written in Advance
Anyone who has read the Holy Scriptures knows that they contain literally hundreds of prophecies. Such historical events as the fall of ancient Babylon, the rebuilding of Jerusalem (sixth to fifth century B.C.E.), and the rise and fall of the ancient kings of Medo-Persia and Greece were all foretold in detail. (Isaiah 13:17-19; 44:24–45:1; Daniel 8:1-7, 20-22) The fulfillment of such prophecies is one of the strongest proofs that the Holy Scriptures are indeed God’s Word, for God alone has the power both to foresee and to determine what will happen in the future. In this sense the Holy Scriptures indeed record the future written in advance.
God himself declares: “I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do’ . . . I have even spoken it; I shall also bring it in. I have formed it, I shall also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11; 55:10, 11) The very name by which God identified himself to his ancient prophets is Jehovah, which literally means “He Causes to Become.”* (Genesis 12:7, 8; Exodus 3:13-15; Psalm 83:18) God reveals himself as the One who becomes the Fulfiller of his word, the One who always brings his purposes to realization.
Thus, God uses his power of foreknowledge in the outworking of his purposes. He has often used it to warn the wicked of coming judgment as well as to give his servants hope for salvation. But does God use this power in an unlimited way? Is there any evidence in the Holy Scriptures of things that God has chosen not to foreknow?
Does God Foreknow Everything?
All the arguments in support of predestination are based on the supposition that since God undeniably has the power to foreknow and determine future events, he must foreknow everything, including the future actions of every individual. Is this supposition sound, however? What God reveals in his Holy Scriptures indicates otherwise.
For example, the Scriptures say that “God put Abraham to the test” by commanding him to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac, God stopped him and said: “Now I do know that you are God-fearing in that you have not withheld your son, your only one, from me.” (Genesis 22:1-12) Would God have made that statement if he knew in advance that Abraham would obey this command? Would it have been an honest test?
Furthermore, the ancient prophets report that God repeatedly spoke of himself as ‘feeling regret’ over something he had done or was thinking of doing. For example, God said that he “regretted [from the Hebrew na·chamʹ] that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:11, 35; compare Jeremiah 18:7-10; Jonah 3:10.) Because God is perfect, these verses cannot mean that God made a mistake in selecting Saul to be Israel’s first king. Rather, they must indicate that God felt sorry that Saul turned out to be faithless and disobedient. God’s using such an expression in referring to himself would be nonsensical if he had foreknown Saul’s actions.
The same term appears in the most ancient of the Scriptures where, in referring to the days of Noah, it says: “Jehovah felt regrets that he had made men in the earth, and he felt hurt at his heart. So Jehovah said: ‘I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground . . . because I do regret that I have made them.’” (Genesis 6:6, 7) Here again, this indicates that man’s actions are not predestined by God. God felt regret, grief, and even hurt, not because his own actions were mistaken, but because man’s wickedness became rife. The Creator regretted that it had become necessary to destroy all mankind except Noah and his family. God assures us: ‘I take no delight in the death of the wicked.’—Ezekiel 33:11; compare Deuteronomy 32:4, 5.
So did God foreknow and even decree Adam’s fall into sin, as well as the calamitous consequences that this would bring upon the human family? What we have considered shows that this cannot be true. What is more, if God did foreknow all of this, he would have become the author of sin when he made man, and God would be deliberately responsible for all human wickedness and suffering. Clearly, this cannot be reconciled with what God reveals about himself in the Scriptures. He is a God of love and justice who hates wickedness.—Psalm 33:5; Proverbs 15:9; 1 John 4:8.
Man’s Two Destinies
The Holy Scriptures do not reveal that our individual future is somehow determined in advance, or predestined, by God. Instead, what they reveal is that God has foretold just two possible destinies for man. God gives to every man the free will to choose which destiny will be his. The prophet Moses long ago declared to the Israelites: “I have put life and death before you, . . . and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him; for he is your life and the length of your days.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20) God’s prophet Jesus forewarned: “Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it; whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14) Two roads, two destinies. Our future is contingent upon our own actions. To obey God means life, to disobey him means death.—Romans 6:23.
God “is telling mankind that they should all everywhere repent. Because he has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness.” (Acts 17:30, 31) Just as the majority of mankind in Noah’s day chose to disobey God and were annihilated, so today the majority do not obey God’s commandments. Yet, God has not already determined who will be destroyed and who will receive salvation. In fact, God’s Word says that he “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Even very wicked people can repent, become obedient, and make the changes necessary to gain God’s favor.—Isaiah 1:18-20; 55:6, 7; Ezekiel 33:14-16; Romans 2:4-8.
To those who are obedient, God promises everlasting life in a peaceful paradise, an earth cleansed of all wickedness, violence, and war, a world where there will be no more hunger, suffering, sickness, and death. (Psalm 37:9-11; 46:9; Isaiah 2:4; 11:6-9; 25:6-8; 35:5, 6; Revelation 21:4) Even the dead will be resurrected and given the opportunity to serve God.—Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29.
“Watch the blameless one and keep the upright one in sight,” says the psalmist, “for the future of that man will be peaceful. But the transgressors themselves will certainly be annihilated together; the future of wicked people will indeed be cut off.” (Psalm 37:37, 38) What will your future be? It all depends on you. The publishers of this magazine will be happy to supply you with further information to enable you to ensure for yourself a happy, peaceful future.
The name Jehovah appears more than 7,000 times in the Holy Scriptures; see the tract The Greatest Name, published in 1995 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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God uses his power of foreknowledge in the outworking of his purposes
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God “does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
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If God knew in advance that Abraham would be willing to sacrifice his son, would it have been an honest test?