Does The Bible Teach It?
byHerbert W. Armstrong
Is your ultimate fate decided for you in advance?
No subject has baffled, perplexed, and worried people more. Here, for the first time, many will read the astonishing truth, so plain all can understand.
THE very fact of wartime casualties and accidental deaths has caused a great deal of added sorrow and grief that is entirely unnecessary - if we understand! Many have grieved in the belief that loved ones died eternally "lost" - when, if they understood the truth, these probably were not lost at all.
The Common Conception
Several years ago, a man, quite worried over the subject of predestination, went to a certain minister. "Do you believe in predestination?" he asked. "The Bible teaches it, brother," was the minister's reply.
The minister tried hard to explain. "But that doesn't really mean," he said, "that you have nothing to do with your own salvation. It doesn't mean that it is all set -your decision and eternal fate all determined for you in advance. You are to make your own decision. But God knows all things, even in advance. And so He knows beforehand how you are going to decide."
This didn't satisfy the troubled man at all.
"If God knows beforehand how I am going to decide," he reasoned, "then it is all predetermined. If He knows in advance I am to be LOST, then that's the way I'll have to decide in the end. And since I'll lose out anyway, why try? On the other hand, if He knows now I'm going to repent and accept Christ and be saved, I'll have to do it in the end anyway, whether I try or not. Then my ultimate fate is predetermined. Isn't that what predestination means - that the ultimate fate of each one is PREdestined - destined, or determined, in advance? And if that's so, then we simply are not free moral agents, and we have nothing to say about it."
The poor man was more discouraged than ever.
And no wonder. Neither could convince the other, because both were arguing from a false premise - that predestination has to do with whether each individual shall be lost, or saved.
Does the Bible teach that your ultimate fate is already predestinated?
Neither the preacher nor his perplexed questioner had read carefully what the Bible does say.
What confusion we are in today - what Babylon! Let's understand this!
All Unsaved Not Finally Lost
But all this perplexity and worry has arisen from another general assumption - one of the greatest errors of this time, yet almost universally taken for granted without so much as a thought to inquire into it.
That is the assumption that there are only two classes, living or dead - the saved, and the lost. How many sermons have you heard based on the theory "there is no middle ground. Either you are this minute saved, or you're a lost soul!" This teaching has led to untold suffering and unnecessary grief.
Thousands are grieving over departed loved ones who had never made a profession of Christ. Perhaps over one who really lived wickedly; perhaps over one who lived a good" life in the worldly sense, but still had never accepted Christ or been converted. Still others grieve because of a doubt - they are not sure whether some loved one died saved.
If this booklet does no more than dispel some of this needless grief, and bring a little enlightenment and comfort to some of our readers, it will have been worthwhile.
So listen! Notice carefully. It's important that you understand.
Supposing this universal assumption were true, see where it leads us.
This teaching comes from the supposition, also generally taken for granted without question, that this is the one and only age and time when God is trying desperately to save the world - that the mission of the Church is to save the world - that this is the only day of salvation, and it is now about over. "Probation" is about to close. Soon it will be too late.
What of the Ignorant Heathen?
We know, of course, the Bible plainly says there is but one name given under heaven among men whereby we may be saved - the name of Jesus Christ.
Over in China, India, Japan, other parts of Asia and Africa and many islands, are millions upon millions - probably at least two billion souls - who, in spite of the comparatively few missionaries sent to heathen lands, have never so much as heard that only name! Think of it. Two billion souls - two thirds of the earth's population - have never heard of Christ! They simply do not know about salvation from sin - God's plan for eternal life -have never heard the true gospel.
They cannot be saved! And now let us ask, can we believe that a God of love brought these individuals into the world without their knowledge or consent, permitted them to live and die without ever having heard the precious gospel - that God has simply consigned them to eternal punishment because they never had a chance?
Or, do we believe that in some manner God saves them, if they live up to the best they know, without having known and accepted Christ - without having been converted? Is there, then, some other name - some other way to salvation and life eternal, than through Jesus Christ our Lord? Certainly we can find no such teaching in the Bible.
Then what is the truth?
Not the Only Day of Salvation
The amazing, startling truth is that this is not the age in which God is trying to save all the world! It is not the only day of salvation.
Rather, we are nearing, now, the end of the six working days of the millennial week allotted to Satan.
Scripture plainly reveals Satan as the god of this world - this age; the prince of the power of the air; the actual spirit ruler of this present world. He is in power! He offered to turn over this power to Jesus, if He would only worship Satan. Jesus actually won the right to that power
- to dethrone and replace Satan in power - by resisting him in that temptation. When Christ comes to rule, Satan shall be dethroned and utterly shorn of power. But he has power, now!
Satan's Millennial Week
Satan retains that power only by God's express permission. God has, for all practical purposes, turned over six days of one week - an approximate millennial week, each "day" an actual thousand years - to Satan. A day is as a thousand years with God, and a thousand years as a day. It forms an overall period of time (II Peter 3:8).
God's principles never change. Applied to this millennial "week," God has said to Satan, in effect: "Six 'days' shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt not do any work."
Satan's work is a labor of deception - of deceiving mankind upon earth - of turning God's truth upside down - causing honest sincere people to accept a counterfeit for the genuine - deceiving the people into sin. And how successfully he has worked at his occupation for six thousand long years!
We are nearing, now, the end of the first six days of Satan's "week." And the coming seventh millennial day shall be the Sabbath of the Lord our God. The first six days God has turned over to Satan, and given him free reign to influence and to deceive. But the coming seventh millennium is God's Day - it shall belong to Him. In it, Satan shall not do any work - he shall be chained, restrained, thrown into the symbolic "bottomless pit" (Rev. 20:1-4) - he shall not deceive a single soul. That day shall not belong to him, thank God - it shall belong to God, who shall rule through Christ!
Jesus plainly said He is "Lord of the Sabbath." And as this millennial Sabbath dawns, Jesus shall return to earth in person - as King of kings not only, but Lord of lords. He is coming not only to reign and to rule, as King of kings. But as Lord of lords, He is coming as High Priest to SAVE!
The fact we must now see - the astounding fact, almost unbelievable in the light of erroneous traditions, yet true - is that we have been living in the age of Satan's dominion - while Satan, with God's express permission, has been ruling - and not in the age when God has set His hand to save the world!
Not Given to Many to Understand
Notice carefully, now. Shocking as this truth may seem to many, yet it is the plain truth. During this time while Satan has been permitted to reign, it is simply not given to all to understand God's truth!
For instance, most people suppose Jesus spoke in parables in order to make His meaning clearer. But He didn't. He spoke in parables to hide His real meaning - to cover it so they could not understand. After Jesus had spoken the parable of the sower and the seed, notice: Mark 4:10-12; Matthew 13:10-13.
Notice, Jesus plainly said that except to His disciples whom He had called, "it is not given" to even know of the Kingdom - even to them who actually saw Jesus and heard Him speak in person. They were not permitted to understand!
That's astonishing! But there it is, in your own Bible - read it!
Not All Called Now
But there is no injustice with God. He denies no one an opportunity of salvation. These many are simply not called now - at this time - in this, Satan's age. This is simply not the time when God is trying to save everyone.
If He were - and of course we know Satan is trying to deceive people into loss of salvation - then Satan surely would be getting the better of the contest. But it is not a contest between God and Satan, at all. God alone rules in high heaven, and what Satan does he does not do in competition or in spite of God, or contrary to God's will -he does it only by God's express permission - and God gives that permission for an express and wise purpose. Some day we shall fully understand!
But God denies no one a chance. There is no injustice with God. Everyone is to have his full chance. But God does things His way and in His time, and in His plan all are not being called now. Millions who have died without a chance shall be resurrected and given their full chance -and without a devil to tempt them. The space of this booklet does not permit a full explanation of this here, but the 37th chapter of Ezekiel is one very definite revelation of this fact. (Write for our free article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?" for a full explanation.)
Notice, I Corinthians 1:24-26: "But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called."
Notice, "unto them which are called." Some are called. All are not called, at this time - during this age of Satan's dominion. "For ye see your calling, brethren" -Paul is speaking only to those he calls "brethren" - those who had been called - "how that not many" - notice it, "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble" - not many of these in the world are called!
Gospel Preached for a Witness
Did Jesus say the gospel was to be preached to CONVERT all nations? No, only as a news announcement for a WITNESS! "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" - the end of the age! (Matt. 24:14.) Then follows the new age when the reign of Christ shall replace that of Satan.
While, during the present age, many in number are called, yet it is a few comparatively. And those who are called are called to a calling, and what is it? First, a calling to a changed life - a life of overcoming sin and self. And notice what Jesus said of those now called, who do grow in grace and in knowledge, who endure unto the end, and who overcome. Notice their ultimate calling.
Revelation 2:26-27: "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron....
When Jesus was here on earth it was His custom, as recorded in Luke 4:16, to preach the gospel every Sabbath day. And when this great millennial Sabbath dawns Satan will be imprisoned, and Christ will come not only to rule - He shall also preach! The Pharisees thought it wrong for Him to heal on the Sabbath - and the religionists of this day, mostly, seem to believe it would be wrong for Him to heal sin-sick people during the millennial Sabbath! But He shall do it, just the same.
When Most of Israel Shall Be Saved
One of the most wonderful chapters in the Bible is the eleventh of Romans. Few seem to understand it - yet it's plain. Some, today, say God has rejected and utterly cast away the Jewish people. They suppose the Jews are Israel, whereas actually they are of the House of Judah, which separated from the House of Israel in the days of kings Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Nevertheless, Romans 11 speaks undoubtedly of all the tribes of Israel.
This marvelous chapter says God has not cast away His people Israel. But it reveals that only a small portion of Israel (our English-speaking peoples are the birthright tribes of Israel) are of the election of GRACE at this time.
The rest are blinded spiritually, and GOD blinded them - deliberately and for a purpose - not permanently, but until the "fullness of the Gentiles be come in" - and then what?
Then, we read in Romans 11:26, "all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer" - Christ, at His second coming - "and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob." Israel is spiritually blinded, now. God blinded them. They are not now being called to salvation. They are not being given any chance, now, at all! The wonderful opportunity that shall come to them after the fullness of the Gentiles has come in - after the Deliverer comes, and they are no longer blinded -shall not be a second chance - they have never yet had any chance.
And, if we can but understand, this chapter dealing with national fleshly Israel refers to our own race - our American and British Commonwealth peoples, as well as to the Jewish people. (For proof, write for our free book The United States and the British Commonwealth in Prophecy.) It includes, undoubtedly, most of these departed loved ones who died without having accepted Christ and becoming converted. They may have heard the name of Christ, but they did not understand. God never called them, during their lifetime in this age. Of course they did not die automatically saved - but, on the other hand, neither did they die lost!
That's the comforting truth. The overwhelming majority of our peoples, today, are neither saved nor lost - they simply have not, yet, been called.
The Purpose of the Christian Calling
But if God is not trying to save the whole world now - if most are not now called, or given opportunity for salvation - why does God call any during this age? What's the purpose of calling some now?
That great purpose is to be trained to rule with Christ, and to teach, under Him, when He comes in His Kingdom - when all Israel shall be saved. We are being trained, prepared, fitted, through trial and test, through hardship, through persecution, through tribulation, with continual Bible study and prayer, growing in grace and in knowledge, to be able, then, to fill the high office of a king or a priest - either to rule in the civil sense, or to preach God's truth when the time comes that all may be privileged to understand, and to be called.
What a glorious mission is the true Christian life!
So don't grieve over departed ones you have felt were lost. The chances are they were simply not then called - it was not given to them to understand - their chance had not yet come. But they shall be resurrected, their spiritual blindness removed, and, if you are one of the called, and if you are faithful and finally chosen, you may be used then to minister to them, and to lead them into salvation and life eternal.
Oh, what a glorious hope! What truly good news, is the true gospel of Christ, which most people today simply have never heard. They are hearing a false gospel today!
But Paul in Romans 11 shows that salvation has come to the few, the elect in Israel, and to some of the Gentiles. And why? He explains it in verse 31. They are blinded, now, that through our mercy who are now called, they may obtain mercy and salvation then - when Jesus comes as the great Deliverer. How plain, and how wonderful!
Great Harvest of Heathen People
But now, how about the hundreds of millions of heathen who never heard?
Will Gentiles - heathen Gentiles - have a chance of salvation after Christ returns? - after the Kingdom is set up to rule over all nations?
Flesh and blood, remember, cannot inherit the Kingdom. Only those finally born again - born of the Spirit -those who shall have become Spirit, and no longer flesh and blood (John 3:1-8) shall be in the Kingdom.
And they are the saints of this time, now called, changed, then, to immortality. (See I Corinthians 15:50-54.) They are those called during this dispensation who have endured unto the end, and proved overcomers. And they shall rule, and teach, the nations (Rev. 2:27; 3:21; Dan. 7:18,22,27).
They shall reign on the earth, not up in heaven (Rev. 5:10). They shall rule the nations - ordinary mortals of all races, on earth (Rev. 2:26-27). They shall thus rule, and teach, for one thousand years - Christ's millennial "Sabbath" (Rev. 20:4, 6).
Those now called, during this time, are called to a life of training - spiritual character training, - to fit them for positions of high responsibility in the Kingdom. The one, for example, who multiplies ten times over in spiritual character what God gives him at conversion shall be qualified to rule ten cities. The one who overcomes, and grows in grace and knowledge only five times shall be qualified to rule over five cities. The one who thinks he "got saved" merely by "accepting Christ" and, deceived by the "no works" teaching, did not grow or develop in his Christian life at all, will have taken from him even the salvation he thought he had. See the parable of the "pounds," Luke 19.
But who shall these converted immortals reign over?
One glimpse into this millennial rule is found in Isaiah eleven. It portrays Christ ruling the world in righteousness. It is a time when wild animals are tamed. Babies are being born, and nursing babes and weaned babies shall be playing with wild animals and deadly snakes - now tamed and harmless. Now notice:
Isaiah 11:10-11: "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse [Christ], which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it [the Root - Christ] shall the Gentiles seek ... and it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people [Israel]
To Christ, then ruling, shall the Gentiles seek! And then, as the returned Deliverer, shall He set His hand again the second time to recover Israel and Judah - the time when the spiritual blindness is removed! Notice again Micah 4:2, "And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Eternal, and to the house of the God of Jacob [the Kingdom of God]; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths...."
And now what of those Gentiles who never heard? Notice!
Isaiah 66:15, 19: "For, behold, the Eternal will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury [last plagues]. . And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud [Gentile nations] ... and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither seen my glory: and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles."
The Great Fall Harvest
When Jesus, the Great Deliverer shall come, the dead in Christ (those who have been called, and who have accepted the call and been finally saved) shall be resurrected out of their graves immortal (I Cor. 15:50-53); and together they shall be caught up into the air to meet the coming King, with whom they shall reign.
Thus they shall be separated from all earth's mortals - mark that! The separation between mortal and immortal is made before Christ ever touches this earth.
They meet the King Eternal up in the clouds. Where do they go from there? The first four verses of Zechariah fourteen reveal that in that same day - not a thousand years afterward - Christ's feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, from whence He ascended.
Then, upon this earth He shall take over His throne - the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32). That, then, is the throne on which the saints made immortal shall sit with Him (Rev. 3:21).
And then what shall happen, during the thousand-year reign from then on?
Matthew 25:31-34, 41: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations [Gentiles and Israelites]: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.... Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire...."
Notice, all those called and saved prior to Christ's second appearing on earth had been separated from the unsaved before Christ stood upon earth - while still in the clouds of the air - before He sat upon the throne of His glory.
The separation going on after He sits upon that throne ruling over the nations, therefore, is a different, and a succeeding separation.
Here are earth's nations - earth's mortals - all nations. And now begins a process of separation. It is according to the decisions they make, and the actions they take. Those who turn to a life of righteousness are set on the right hand. They are converted - given immortality - because Christ says to them: "Inherit the kingdom" - and mortal flesh and blood cannot inherit that Kingdom! (I Cor. 15:50.)
Those who do evil then receive the full penalty of the law - death! They are sentenced to depart into the lake of fire.
Certainly this passage pictures nothing but a process of salvation going on, after Christ's return, during His millennial "Sabbath Day."
That is the great "fall harvest of souls"!
The astonishing fact is that the present human harvest corresponds to the early spring grain harvest of Palestine. It is so pictured in the annual round of festivals God gave to Israel to keep His people continually in the understanding of His plan. This is the preliminary harvest of humans. This is the time of Satan's dominion. And out of it God is calling a people for His name, that through our mercy who now are called, the great majority not now called may, then, obtain mercy. Those now called to salvation are merely the "firstfruits" of God's salvation (James 1:18). They are called, now, to prepare for the office of "king" or "priest," to become the instrumentality through which Christ will really save the world, when His time comes. What a glorious plan and gospel!
Not a Second Chance
But, some will say, is not this the doctrine of a second chance?
One text ought to make that plain. Hebrews 10:26-27:
"If we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation...."
Those to whom it has not been given to understand - those not now called - have not received the knowledge of the truth.
Most do not really grasp it - they do not really understand. Because the truth is spiritual knowledge, and spiritual knowledge cannot be transmitted naturally to a mortal human mind. Spiritual truth is revealed! None receive it, though their ears hear the words, or their eyes read them, except as God opens their understanding, and by His Spirit reveals to them the truth.
But, if one has been truly called of God, convicted by God's Spirit, his mind opened to the precious spiritual knowledge of the truth, then if that man sins willfully, deliberately, intentionally, without resistance - that man is through! He has had his chance. He shall have no other during the coming millennium.
Those who shall then be saved are those who have not, until then, been called. They are those who never had a previous chance.
In God's own time, according to His plan, all shall have their chance. But each in his order. Those who were born and lived first receive theirs last. And those born last come in first. The illustration of the "valley of dry bones" in Ezekiel 37 shows the whole House of Israel - those spiritually blinded who lived and died without a chance - resurrected in mortal bodies to mortal life, as before. It shows their understanding being opened - the knowledge coming to them for the first time. Then God puts His Holy Spirit within them, and they are saved!
Those Who Died Unsaved
And so it follows, now, that most of our loved ones who have died unsaved in all probability did not die lost. In all probability they were not called, during this age. But their call is coming later. They shall be resurrected back to life, and given their fair chance. And you, if you are called - if God reveals this wonderful truth to your mind - are having your one and only chance now - your chance to prepare and fit yourself to be used of Christ in the loving labor of helping to save them, then!
Oh, what great meaning we begin to see in the Christian life! What glorious purpose! What grave responsibility! Will you make your calling and election SURE?
And now, in the light of this wonderful revelation of truth, we should be able to understand this matter of "predestination."
What "Predestination" Is Not
Very few understand what "predestination" is. First, consider what it is not. There is no teaching in the Bible that says the decision you are to make - your final fate of becoming either saved or lost, is already pre-determined, and that you are destined finally to arrive at that fate.
Absolutely no text anywhere in the Bible says anyone is predestinated to be lost.
But doesn't the Bible say anything about predestination? Certainly. But it does not say what people seem to think. People seem to think it says we are predestinated to be either saved or lost. Some to be saved - others to be lost.
Let us read the only texts in the Bible speaking about "predestination." And see if you can find anything in any of them about anyone being predestinated to be lost. The difficulty is that people have assumed and taken for granted what is not true.
There are just four places where the word "predestinated" occurs in the Authorized Version.
Romans 8:28-30: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 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."
Ephesians 1:4-5,11-12: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will ... 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."
Notice, none of the places in the Bible where predestination is mentioned says anything about anyone being predestinated to be LOST - predestinated to reject Christ. No one is predestinated to make a certain decision - to accept or reject Christ - to be saved or lost. But some have been predestinated to be called to salvation, now!
When We Were Called
Of those called now, in this age, notice when we were called!
II Timothy 1:9: "God, who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began."
And, as in Ephesians 1, quoted above, notice carefully what it says:
God chose us in Him, when? "Before the foundation of the world"!
"Having predestinated us" - what for? To be lost? No, "unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ."
"Being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." Were any predestinated, then, to be lost? Is it God's will that any be lost? He says it is not! Then can't we see that "predestination" has nothing to do with whether we shall be lost or saved - with our decision - with our ultimate fate?
Notice carefully, now!
"Being predestinated... that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ." Those predestinated are the first to trust in Christ - merely the first preliminary soul-harvest.
And now do you begin to see the glorious truth - that predestination has nothing to do with your making a decision or your fate - it has only to do with the time of your calling - whether you are called now, in this age, or later.
Notice it in the passage in Romans 8:28-30:
"For whom he did foreknow " How great is God! If you are one now called, God "foreknew" you. And "whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate" - to be lost? No "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 Not will call in the future - called, now, in this age.
There it is. Note it.
"Whom he did predestinate, them he also called."
Predestination has to do with being called. Not with being saved or lost. Those now being called, in this age, were foreknown, and PRE-destinated to be called now - to be the first to put their hope in Christ. All others have their call later.
God does not decide for you, in advance, whether you shall be saved or lost. He did decide far in advance which ones He would call in this first calling, to be a priest or a king in His Kingdom - to have part in the saving of others.
How wonderful are God's ways, when He opens our understanding to reveal them to us.
Let us make our calling and final election sure. Let us not grieve over departed loved ones who probably were not called, in this life. God is able to raise them up again. They will come up in the Great White Throne Judgment. And in that judgment, the book of life shall be opened, and many shall then find it. Judgment, now, is upon the true Church of God - those now called (I Pet. 4:17). And we are later to judge the world!
The overwhelming majority on earth today are neither saved nor lost. Their chance has not yet come. This is not their time. But it is coming as certainly as God's Word is true.
This is not the age when Christ is desperately contesting Satan as to whether all humanity shall be saved or lost. If it were, as most seem to believe, a controversy for souls now, between Christ and Satan, then Satan surely is winning the contest, and a one-sided contest it is.
But Satan is not more powerful than God. We near, now, the close of the sixth working day of Satan's week. Soon will come "the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." Satan shall be chained, Christ shall rule - and preach, and save!