“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” Ephesians 1:3-14.

Here is where I am about to run afoul of generations of theologians, entire denominations, and many religious publications. I don’t think predestination means what they think it means. And most important, I don’t think the New Testament, and Jesus Himself, agree with what they think it means. I will do the best I can to make the point in a couple of paragraphs, which is like reducing the Book of Psalms to a limerick.

To predestine simply means to plan. And God has planned lots of spiritual blessings, including eternal life, for every person on the planet. Every person? Yes. Because Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the whole world. And we were all chosen IN CHRIST before the foundations of the world. That is God’s plan. He has predestined all people to be saved. But people can opt out of that plan by unbelief. Even after you have believed.

Paul himself had already written that you can be cut off from Christ AFTER you were grafted in. (Romans 11:17-21). How? By unbelief. When we preach Christ, we are announcing that all of mankind’s sin has been forgiven IN CHRIST. The people who believe us are then IN CHRIST, where they have every spiritual blessing. They are then sealed (marked as with a signet ring, according to Strong’s Greek dictionary) with the Holy Spirit IN CHRIST.

Although Christ died for the sins of the whole world; although the whole world was crucified, buried, and resurrected IN CHRIST, only those who believe are going to receive the benefits that come with that. Stop believing, and we all know people who have, and you have opted out of what God has predestined for you.

God’s Eternal Perspective

“I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’ And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'” Romans 9:1-13.

This is a hard chapter for most people, because this is the place a lot of preachers go to show us that God has chosen who will be saved, and who will not, in advance. And Paul does appear to be saying that, until you realize that God’s Perspective is much different than ours. After all, He knows all things throughout all time. He knows the end from the beginning. He knows who will choose Him, who will hate Him, and who will just be going through the motions. So He can tell us who He will save and who He won’t without having to make it happen. He can accurately predict our free will decisions.

From our perspective, the choices are ours. This is why we were given commands and promises: so we can act on them. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-11.).