First of all, let’s have a look at certain well-known Scriptures, quoted from the Authorised Version.
Romans 8:29 “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be firstborn among many brethren.”
Ephesians 1:4-5 “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 sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”
2 Thess.2:13 “We are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.”
Here we are treading on THE TULIP FIELDS beloved by the Calvinists. The word TULIP refers to the acronym of the five points of Calvinist theology, which are as follows –
- Total depravity: born in sin and wholly unable to respond to God.
- Unconditional predestination: God has a master list of those He intends to save. The rest go to hell.
- Limited redemption: Christ did not die for all, but only for those predestined to life.
- Irresistible grace: the Holy Spirit draws the company of the elect to God, and guides them subsequently.
- Perseverence of the saints: a child of God, once saved, cannot be lost.
Horror of all horrors! None of these items are taught in the Bible in the manner in which Calvinists understand them. So let’s investigate the words “predestination” and “foreknowledge” to see what they mean.
Foreknowledge. The Greek word is PRO-GINOSKO. Pro- means “beforehand”, and Ginosko is the usual verb for “knowing”. My Greek Lexicon says about Proginosko, “to know beforehand, to be previously acquainted with.”
Predestination. The Greek word is PRO-ORIZO. Pro- means “beforehand”, and Orizo is the root from which we get our English word Horizon. The Greek Lexicon says about Pro-orizo, “to mark out beforehand, to ordain beforehand.”
This provides us with the possibility of making a better translation of Romans 8:29 “For whom He was previously acquainted with, these He ordained beforehand to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
The words clearly indicate that God knew these people as people, not just as thoughts in His mind prior to creating them. Furthermore, the Ephesians passage tells us that the choice was made “before the foundation of the world,” or to the Thessalonians, “from the beginning”, which must have virtually the same meaning.
One can only assume that during the early stages of spiritual life in the heavenlies, there was the possibility of polarisation between God and Satan, and that beings were able, by virtue of their freewill, to veer towards one or the other by persuasion. God, seeing and knowing those who showed Him sterling loyalty, set them apart. He “was acquainted with them beforehand”, and He therefore “marked them out beforehand” for blessing. When they came down to the earth, the Holy Spirit drew them unto God their Father, as Jesus said in John’s Gospel.
Where this differs radically from Calvinism, is that God’s “selection”, (if one has to use a rather distasteful word) is for the purpose of furthering His greater work in coming ages, rather than making it seem as though God has favourites, and consigns the rest to an everlasting furnace of torture. The “elect” of God are like firstborn sons in Israel, who were given “a double blessing”, not to spend on their own pleasures, but to hold in store to “redeem” a brother from slavedom, or “restore” a brother from insolvency, or “deliver” a brother from an enemy’s hands, or “save” a brother from some form of disaster.
If the Lord has, by His grace, called us unto Himself, then we should consider this privilege a “double blessing”, whereby we may, under the Lord’s leadership, assist in the salvation of the rest of the world in the coming days of His Kingdom. When all that is achieved, we may sit at “grass roots level” with the rest, and “cast our crowns before the throne”, no longer needed when “the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away.” (Rev.21:3-4) This is the end of God’s works, as foretold by Paul in 1 Cor.15:28, “When all things are subdued unto Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
This is the end of our Biblical expositions on the theme of pre-existence. The following numbers will show how the subject has been viewed in the past by the Jews and early Christians, by Greek philosophers, and modern poets.