Some Christians believe that God, before he created the world, had already made up his mind who will receive the penthouse suite in the heavenly city and who will spend eternity with the worms. Quite a few Christians reject that view. God had indeed selected a few individuals specifically to further his plan of redemption. But that does not mean he has decided the fate of every individual.
Let me tell you why I believe this. The Bible says, “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). In this section of the chapter, Paul tells his Christian readers that before they were saved, they were without hope. Now, if they were saved before the world’s creation, wouldn’t Paul write that they had always had hope? Also, they were “by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). How can you be chosen by God and be a child of wrath? In Romans chapters 1-3 Paul shows that the whole world was condemned. Is it possible for God to select you ahead of time and then condemn you? Therefore, God chooses individuals after they receive Christ, not before.
What about the passages that seem to say that God chose us ahead of time? I believe that God did not choose individuals in advance but a class of people who would respond to God’s plan. I like to explain it with an analogy. A large corporation’s personnel department creates notices to attract people of a particular skill set to make up a new large department in their company. The department has predetermined the type of people who will qualify, but they have not selected particular individuals. The notices are published widely, just as the gospel goes out everywhere. Every person who meets the criteria is accepted and called an employee. Similarly, when a person meets the standard of faith in Jesus, he is chosen by God and becomes one of the elect. Election based on an individual’s pre-selection is false teaching. He is of the elect because he meets the criteria of continuing in faith. God saw in advance that thre will be a class of people who will live in faith. We are his own special people because we are willing to continue to trust him and participate in his purposes.
Do you think you’re going to hell and there’s nothing you can do about it? Not so. Paul the apostle, who wrote most of the section of the New Testament that follows the four gospels, wrote that God saved him as an example of God’s grace. Paul had put Christians into prison and had cast his vote to put them to death. Is there a better candidate for hell? Yet God saved this murderer to tell us that no sin is too great to put us beyond his love and forgiveness (1 Timothy 1:12-17).
What Do You Think?
a. Most colleges have specific prerequisites a person must fulfill before his application would be accepted. For instance, if you do not have a high school diploma, you will be rejected outright from certain campuses. What if you had not finished high school? If you wanted to enroll in such a campus, would you protest the limitation, or take the classes needed to meet the requirements?
b. God has revealed the simple process by which he will judge us fit for entering his kingdom. Since his decision is final and irreversible, and he has all power to place you in a place of surpassing enjoyment and fulfillment, does it make sense to resist his offer? Why or why not?
c. In hindsight, we can look back on our lives and wish we had made a different decision and improved the condition of our lives or the lives of others. Since you are going to live forever, what choice regarding heaven and hell will you not regret?