Some questions people bring to us in this ministry are very challenging. Usually the tough questions have a variety of implications that go far beyond the questions themselves. The question we are dealing with in this article is one of those. If God created time, and if every moment of time is “now” to God, then God does not have a past or a future. He sees every moment of time at once, all the time. If you can wrap your mind around that concept, then you realize that God was aware of what was going to happen to you before you were even born. If that is the case, then I really have no say in what is going to happen to me. It has already been predetermined and in a very real sense I am predestined to whatever is going to happen to me. If you bring heaven and hell into that picture, then it has already been determined before my birth whether I will be in heaven or in hell. In fact, this is a teaching of one denominational school of thought, and underlies the theology of several large denominational churches.

What the Bible teaches about God and time is clear. God is portrayed as not experiencing time as we do, and as a being outside of time. Second Peter 3:8 tells us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Psalm 90:4 says, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” The biblical concept of time is that it is linear, flowing from beginning to end, as opposed to cyclical where time repeats over and over. The Hebrew word reshith translated “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 conveys that concept, and Revelation 22:13 makes it clear, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” There are many things portrayed in the Bible as happening before time began or after time has ended (see Psalm 90:2 and 1 Corinthians 2:7). There are also indications of God knowing people and their lot in life long before the events occur (see Psalm 139 and Acts 9:15 –16).

Romans 8:29 – 30 tells us, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” So the question remains, “Is life a giant charade in which our destiny has already been determined and our fate sealed?”

In this journal we have discussed the great “Belly Button Controversy” (see our September/October 2006 issue). The concept is expressed in the question of whether or not Adam had a belly button. Could God have created a man with a belly button as if the man had been nourished by an umbilical cord in his mother’s womb? Certainly God could do that. Could God have created a cosmos with light coming from an object 10 billion light years out in space so that we can observe it and think that what we are seeing happened 10 billion years ago? Could God give us this visual image of something that never happened? Certainly, He has the ability to do that. The question is not what God can do. The question is what God WILL DO. God will not lie, deceive, mislead, or misrepresent anything in any way. While God has the power to do these things, He will not do these things because it violates His very nature.

God could know the future. He has the power to do that. However, God has far grander and better purposes for mankind than that. We have been created for a purpose and that purpose involves our having the ability to choose between God and Satan, between good and evil. The whole Bible from Genesis 1 to Revelation centers around man deciding whether to follow God and good and righteousness, or whether man will reject God and follow Satan and evil and sin. The phrase “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) is the basis of most of the Bible. If God were to exercise His ability to know what we are going to do, then our ability to choose would be negated and the purpose God has in creating man would be aborted.

John 1:14 tells us that God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Have you ever considered what God had to leave behind to become flesh and dwell among us? Imagine how easy it would have been for Jesus (God in the flesh) to have aborted His mission or act in an overpowering, violent way. In Luke 9:51 – 56 there is the wonderful story of Jesus and His disciples coming to a town for the night, and having the town reject them and refuse hospitality. When James and John see this they want to “call down fire from heaven to consume them.” Jesus does not argue whether or not He could do that, but what He says is that He has “not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” What God can do is not the issue, but what He will do to fulfill His purposes is the issue.

One of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament is the story of Jonah. We tend to get absorbed in the story of the great fish, but there are many other messages in this story that are really more important. Jonah is sent to tell Nineveh that they have forty days to clean up their act or God is going to allow them to be destroyed. To put this in perspective, imagine a preacher marching into Congress and telling them to clean up their act within forty days or they are going to be put out of business. For whatever reason, the people of Nineveh believed what Jonah said and vowed to change their ways. In Jonah 3:10 we are told “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” God changed His mind, and apparently is surprised by their response. In Genesis 6:5  – 7, the familiar story of Noah, God seems surprised by man’s obsession with evil and violence and expresses regret for having created man.

You either have to say that God really does not have the capacity to do what the Bible says He has the capacity to do, or you must admit that God chooses to withhold His capacity to know the future in order to allow man to make a choice between God and Satan. The bottom line question is whether God’s purpose in creating man will be served or not. Ephesians 6:12, 3:9 –11 and Job 1 and 2 make it clear that we have a vital role in the eternal struggle between good and evil and God will not abort our ability to fulfill that role.

As a parent, there were times when my children would do something which I knew would have a certain result. I had a choice to make when that result was bad — would I let them suffer the consequences of the act I had told them not to do, or would I step in and stop what they were doing and prevent the undesirable result? We had some huge plastic blocks we had bought for our visually-impaired child, Tim, to allow him to build things which were large enough for him to see and handle. I had warned Tim and our youngest child Wendy not to build the structure too high, because it would fall. They seemed obsessed to build the “castles” as high as they could. I had a decision to make as a parent — would I let them build the structure too high, knowing it would fall and that they would get bumped and be crying, or would I step in and stop the construction. It was not life and death, and I figured they might learn something, so I gave them a last warning and left them to their own devices. About fifteen minutes later there was a huge crash and significant wailing. I knew what the ultimate future was going to be, but I allowed my children to make a choice and to suffer the consequences of that choice.

God has told us the ultimate results of our choices. Galatians 6:7 tells us “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Numerous biblical passages urge us to walk as God has called us to, because the consequences of not walking as God tells us to are going to hurt us. The eternal consequences of our actions are what God is primarily concerned with, and God allows us to experience some bad things knowing that they will help us in achieving what is of primary importance. Paul was a chosen vessel, but in 2 Corinthians 12:7 he indicates that God had allowed him to have a painful problem to make sure the eternal consequence of his actions were not bad. God knows there will be judgment, but the basis of judgment is always built on man’s obedience to God. God will not force anyone to go to heaven who does not want to go there, and such things as baptism and doing God’s will are choices mankind makes that will determine each person’s individual fate.

Paul’s discussion of predestination in Romans 8 is predicated on man’s response to God’s commands to make a choice. In chapter 6 Paul talks about being baptized into the death of Christ so our old man is crucified with Him (verse 6) and our body of sin destroyed. The next several verses talk about being made alive to God through Christ and being made free from sin (verse 22). After comparing obedient Christians who live differently by choice and who have left behind their past, Paul describes the ultimate result of having made the right choices. Those predestined in Romans 8:28 – 35 are those who have been crucified with Christ as discussed in chapter 6. This predestination is not an individual promise with man having no role. It is a promise made to those who make a choice for God and follow through with obedience to that choice.

The question of whether God knows the future or not is complex in many ways, but the simple answer is that God knows what the future is for those who obey Him and follow His teachings, but He leaves it up to each of us to decide whether we will accept the future God wants for us.
--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MayJun10.