What Is ‘Predestination’?

Does the Bible say we are prejudged before we are born? Has God already decided if humans are guilty or innocent even before they act? Some believe yes—because of a misunderstanding of the biblical teaching on predestination.

The truth is that God created man with free will, not to be a mere string puppet in the theater of life. In the Garden of Eden, He told Adam and Eve about the tree of life and the tree of death, and then gave them free choice which to take. To ancient Israel He said, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Each one of us must make that choice—not just once, but each day of our lives—of our own volition and will, and then live with the consequences.

What then is “predestination”? The word predestinate appears only twice in the King James Version of the Bible, in Romans 8:29 and 30. Predestinated appears in Ephesians 1:5 and 11. The root word comes from the Greek proorizo, which means to ordain, or to predetermine.

In these passages, this term applies to only a small group of people—people for whom God has a special purpose, and who play a vital role in God’s majestic plan for mankind.

Who are the predestined? The answer is revealed in the book of Ephesians. This is a letter the Apostle Paul addressed “to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1). He is not speaking of the general population.

These “saints” and “faithful in Christ Jesus” are those few God has spiritually begotten and leads with His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14). Romans 11 and many other passages show that only a few are called now to repentance, faith in Christ, and spiritual salvation with eternal life. Other scriptures describe these individuals as firstfruits—people who are being “harvested” in advance of, and in preparation for, a much larger harvest to come (for more on this subject, read our article “What Is Pentecost?”). Those in this group have been invited to marry Jesus Christ, to reign with Him and help Him extend salvation to the rest of mankind (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 19:7-8; 20:4).

What an honorable assembly! It is no wonder that Satan, for thousands of years, has striven to mask the truth concerning this issue.

When were these saints chosen? Paul explains: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world …” (Ephesians 1:4). Here is the key. Even before the foundation of this world—when Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree—God had prearranged to call a select group of people and open their minds to spiritual truth, even as He closed that understanding to the rest of humanity for a time (Genesis 3:23-24; Matthew 13:10-11).

That such a group would exist was decided before anyone in that group was born! God “foreknew” that He would call a group of people—though it is not indicated that specific knowledge of specific persons was involved.

Those who are predestined are called in accordance with a plan God has had for the ages—not individually prejudged or pre-condemned.

Why were these saints chosen? Here is the primary reason: “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption [or more accurately, sonship] of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” (verses 4-5). These “saints” were selected to become actual sons of the Most High!

Continuing in verses 11-12, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.” It was predestined that those who “first trusted in Christ” would receive a special inheritance.

At this time, these “firstfruits” are now only heirs, not yet inheritors of that reward (Romans 8:17). God’s overall plan is fixed, but the position of each person has not yet been determined. That depends on the actions—the free-will choices—of each individual.

Those called now are called for the purpose of getting a job done. There is a Work to do, of preaching the gospel as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14), and “prophesying again” a warning of the suffering that will precede Jesus Christ’s return (Revelation 10:11). To these individuals, God gives the Holy Spirit for this purpose.

No matter what our station in life, if we have been called of God, we have been predestined to directly assist with this end-of-the-end-time Work! Each of us has been handpicked to assist Gerald Flurry in accomplishing a weighty mission. Collectively, our fervent prayers, our words of encouragement, and our tithes and offerings can help hold up the arms of our pastor general as he labors to complete this important task. This responsibility is God’s way of developing in us His own perfect character. As with Abraham (Genesis 22:12), God wants to know beyond doubt that we will unswervingly obey Him.

So, is predestination unfair? Is it unfair that only a handful of people are called out of spiritual darkness now, ahead of the rest of humanity? No. God will eventually offer salvation to every human being as He brings to fruition His 7,000-year master plan. Until then, those of us who are called now must finish the Work—for the whole universe longingly awaits the revealing of the sons of God! (Romans 8:19). That is the meaning of predestination.