The Biblical Solution to Christianity’s Predestination Paradox
Ephesians 1:5 reads, “He [God] predestined us [Christians] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself[.]” If God predestines people to become Christian and one must be Christian to go to heaven, then does God also predestine people to burn in hell forever? This article debunks the nonBiblical assumptions underlying the above conclusion. Sound Biblical exegisis is validated by NDE’s. According to revelatory NDE’s, not all people are predestined. Furthermore, in light of what NDE’s have to say regarding which people are predestinated and why, the doctrine of predestination suddenly makes perfect sense and this once maligned doctrine transforms itself into an awe-inspiring testament to God’s fairness and love.
The Biblical Solution to Christianity’s Predestination Paradox
The doctrine of predestination is derived from Romans 8:29, Romans 9:9-24, Jeremiah 1:5, and Ephesians 1:5-14. Ephesians 1:5 reads, “He [God] predestined us [Christians] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself[.]” If God predestined people to become Christian and one must be a Christian in order to go to heaven, then God must also predestine people to go to hell since people are either Christian or they are not. Uncomfortable with the implications of these verses, many Christians try to explain them away. This is largely because many Christians are aware of a paradox in the Christian doctrine of predestination. Many Christians believe that the soul is created at birth, hell is eternal and people are predestined by God to go to heaven. Taking into account these three presuppositions, most Christians will immediately ask themselves, “If God predestines the saints to go to heaven, then he must also predestine people to burn in hell forever.” There is an apparent contradiction here. How could a loving God destine someone to go to hell forever? Most Christians will simply deny the doctrine of predestination in order to rectify this problem. What is remarkable about this common approach to fixing this contradiction is that the exact opposite is true. One should have denied the first two assumptions and kept the third. The doctrine of predestination is the only assumption out of the three mentioned above that is not only strongly supported by the Bible in its original languages but also abundantly confirmed by many people who have had revelatory near-death experiences (NDE’s). As will be explained below the presumption that the soul is created at birth and that hell is eternal are two doctrines that are hard to support based on an accurate translation of the Bible in its original languages, sound exegesis and reasonable standards of textual criticism. Once these two non-Biblical doctrines are removed, the predestination paradox breaks down. Furthermore, according to testimony from revelatory NDE’s, not all people on earth are predestined. When these two assumptions are taken away, especially in light of what revelatory NDE’s have said regarding which people are predestinated and why, the doctrine of predestination suddenly makes perfect sense.
Why do Theologians Assume that the Soul Must be Created at Birth? A Logical Conclusion with Faulty Assumptions
One of the reasons why the doctrine of predestination is so unpopular in modern Christianity is because most Christians today assume that the soul is created at birth. Why do most Christian theologians assume that the soul must be created at birth? Most Christians believe that there are only three realms; heaven, earth and hell; and that heaven and hell are both eternal for everyone. If this is true, then spirits should not be able to leave heaven or hell because if spirits could leave these realms at will, then heaven and hell would not be eternal for everyone. If spirits cannot leave heaven or hell, then spirits on earth cannot have an existence in either heaven or hell before their earthly incarnation. Spirits also cannot have a previous incarnation on earth because after death all spirits must go to either heaven or hell and from there, as already stated, spirits cannot leave to come back to earth. Therefore, since souls cannot have a pre-birth existence in heaven, earth or hell, souls must be created at birth.
This argument breaks down at its foundation. In Hell in NOT Eternal According to the Original Languages of the Bible the doctrine of hell is closely examined in the original Greek and Hebrew. In this essay, the reader will see that the Bible in its original languages actually states that souls are sentenced to hell for an age, not forever. Furthermore, as will be explained in more detail below, spirits in heaven ARE allowed to leave if they wish according to John 15:19, Hebrews 13:2, Romans 8:29, Enoch 39:1 and Enoch 39:8. Similarly, Satan is cast into hell only to be released a thousand years later according to Revelation 20:1-3. Before discussing this fact further, let us first turn our attention to the verses that have given rise to the doctrine of predestination.
Bible Verses on Predestination
The doctrine of predestination is found in Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . .” Echoing this idea, Ephesians 1:4-5 states, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will[.]”[i] Ephesians 1:11-14 also confirms this doctrine: “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will . . . you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance. . . .”[ii]
Uncomfortable with the idea that God predetermines the outcome of individual souls, many Christians have sought to explain away these verses by interpreting them to mean that God knows everything and therefore knows whether or not people will follow him before they are ever born. But the fact that God can foresee the outcome of individual souls before they are created proves the fact that these spirits are predestined because the fate that God foresees is the only possible outcome for that particular individual. Therefore, spinning this verse in this way still affirms the concept of predestination.
Is the Soul Created at Birth according to the Bible?
One of the reasons Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of predestination is because most Christians believe that the soul is created at birth. If the soul is created at birth, then it has no past and should, therefore, be entirely innocent. How could God arbitrarily destine an innocent being to heaven or hell? Interestingly, the Bible does NOT teach innocence at birth. Isaiah 48:8 reads, “Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; And you have been called a rebel [transgressor] from birth [the womb].” This sin debt inherited at birth is called original sin. How could people be born with sin if they never had chance to do anything wrong? Theologians say that the sin inherited at birth was passed down from Adam and this may be so, but would a loving God punish the son for the sin of the father if the son was entirely innocent? Perhaps there is more to the concept of original sin? Perhaps souls are not innocent at birth because they did not begin to exist at birth?
Souls do not necessarily begin to exist at birth. In Revelation 21:2, John sees “the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.” What could this mean? How could heaven descend to earth? The answer to this question seems to be found in the Book of Enoch. In Enoch 39:1, the prophet writes, “In those days [the end times] shall the elect [the predestined] and holy race descend from the upper heavens, and their seed shall then be with the sons of men.” The descent of heavenly spirits to earth is also implicit in Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” In fact, the Bible sometimes calls saints or prophets angels or messengers of God as is the case in 2 Chronicles 36:15-16; Haggai 1:13; Malachi 3:1; Matthew 11:10; Matthew 24:31; Luke 7:24; 9:52; 1 Timothy 3:16; Revelation 1:20; 2:1, 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; 3:7; and 21:17. Interestingly, in 2 Enoch man is called “a second angel”: “I created man from invisible (spiritual) and from visible (physical) nature, of both are his death and life and image, he knows speech like some created thing, small in greatness and again great in smallness, and I placed him on earth, a second angel, honourable, great and glorious[.]” (2 Enoch 30:12) Similarly in The Prayer of Jacob, another extra-biblical book, Jacob refers to himself “[a]s an earthly angel.” (Prayer of Jacob 19) The fact that some people could be angels in the flesh suggests that at least some people may have an existence in heaven that pre-dates their earthly incarnation. These verses undermine the assertion that all souls are created at conception. These verses suggest that at the new heaven and earth, at least some souls are not created at birth. Many spirits appear to have an existence in heaven that predates birth.
As touched on above, the preexistence of the soul is a doctrine with both Biblical and extra-Biblical support. Footprints of this idea can be found in several places in the Bible. Throughout the Bible there are frequent references to the saints “not being of this world.” One example is John 15:19. Here Jesus says that the disciples “are not of the world.”[iii] Of means from. The implication behind this frequently used expression is that the saints are not of or from this world. They are from heaven and are destined to return there. Another example is Romans 8:29. Here Paul writes, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . .”[iv]
The soul’s preexistence is explicitly stated in Enoch 39:8. In referring to the heavenly dwelling of the righteous, Enoch writes, “There was I desirous of remaining, and my soul longed for that habitation. There was my antecedent inheritance; for thus had I prevailed with the Lord of spirits.” While seeing God in the presence of the heavenly host, Enoch remembers this as having once been his home, that is, before being born on earth. Of course, The Book of Enoch is not a canonical work. However, in his introduction to The Book of Enoch, R.H. Charles notes that the Book of Enoch’s influence on the New Testament authors “has been greater than that of all the other apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books taken together[.]”[v]
It should also be noted that Enoch 39:8 is not unlike Jeremiah 1:5: “Before I formed you [Jeremiah] in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 also seems to echo this notion of a pre-birth existence explicitly mentioned in Enoch 39:8.
Verses Often Cited Against a Pre-Birth Existence Actually Teach the Preexistence of the Soul
Those who believe that all human spirits are created at birth will often cite 1 Corinthians 15:45-48: “‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.” At its surface level, when v. 48 says that there are those who are of the earth it means that there are those who are composed of the dust of the earth as was Adam in Genesis 2:7. Verse 48 also says that there are some who are of heaven. “Of heaven” in this context means that there are also some who at the resurrection are to be composed of the spiritual material of heaven in the same way that there are also those who are composed of the physical elements of the earth. This is not the only message implied in v. 48.
Many people will read these verses quickly thinking that they imply that the spirit is created at birth without realizing that Paul actually appears to be stating the opposite. In v. 46 Paul indicates that the natural comes before the spiritual meaning that life on earth precedes the afterlife. Paul then illustrates this idea by saying that Adam, the first man from the dust of the earth, came before Christ, the second man from heaven. Paul then goes on to say, “As was the earthly man [Adam], so are those who are of [from] the earth; and as is the man from heaven [Jesus], so also are those who are of [from] heaven. This phraseology is strikingly similar to that of John 15:19. In John 15:19 Jesus says that the disciples “are not of the world [cosmos].” In John 15:19 and its context, Jesus explicitly teaches that there are some people who are of or from heaven before their physical incarnation on planet earth. Using wording similar to John 15:19 which explicitly teaches the preexistence of the soul, 1 Corinthians 15:48 also indicates that there are some people who are of or from the earth and there are some people who are of or from heaven. When Paul says that the natural comes before the spiritual he is merely setting his stop watch to start at birth in order to draw the connection between Adam and Christ. He then goes on to clarify his message that when he said that the natural comes before the spiritual, he did not mean to contradict the fact that there are people who are of or from heaven before their earthly incarnation.
One might object to the above interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:46-48 by quoting John 3:13: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.” Some ancient manuscripts of this verse have a different ending: “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the man who is in heaven.” In other words, according to these ancient manuscripts, Jesus is actually saying that no one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the man who is in [the kingdom of] heaven. The kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God denotes Jesus and his people, the saints. This textual variant conveys the opposite message of what is found in most modern Bibles. This verse suggests that as part of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus and the saints have an existence in heaven that predates their present incarnation on earth.
The preexistence of the soul is also implied in the immediate context of this verse. John 3:11-13 reads, “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven . . .” The central theme of Christ’s ministry is to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of heaven. In John 3:1-10 Jesus addresses what it takes to enter the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus says “we speak of what we know,” he is speaking primarily about heaven and what it takes to get there. What is interesting is that Jesus does not say, “I speak of what I know.” The plural is used here to allude to Jesus and his disciples. Verse 11 is actually evidence in favor of the preexistence of the soul. This verse implies that both Jesus and the disciples have seen heaven. If the ending of v. 13 where truly “the Son of Man,” then there would appear to be a contradiction between the plural “we” in v. 11 and the singular tense of “the Son of Man” at the end of v. 13. By saying “we testify to what we have seen” in v. 11, Jesus suggests that both he and his disciples have seen heaven. However, if v. 13 truly ends with the “the Son of Man,” then this verse implies that only Jesus, not his disciples, has actually seen heaven. This is a contradiction. The alternate reading harmonizes these verses since “the man who is in heaven” can refer to both Jesus and his disciples as the context demands. This alternate reading most likely represents what was written in the original manuscript because it not only fits the context, it also explains the existence of the current rendition.
Uncomfortable with the possibility that readers of the New Testament might interpret John 3:13 as evidence of the preexistence of the soul, a doctrine frequently hinted at in the Bible though never fully explained, a well-meaning scribe seems to have altered this text in favor of his interpretation that the man who is in heaven mentioned at the end of the verse is Jesus himself, and not necessarily the saints. Because this ancient variation that ends with “the man who is in heaven” better fits the verses in its immediate context and appears to explain the existence of the current rendition, this ancient reading is almost certainly what was written in the original manuscript.[vi]
Testimony from Near-Death Experiences confirms the Preexistence of the Soul.
Predestination and the preexistence of the soul is a doctrine with a plethora of NDE support. Arthur Yensen, a survivor of clinical death, wrote, “Once in heaven, a person may feel as if they had been there before. They may remember that heaven is their real home. They may remember that on Earth, people are visitors and homesick strangers.”[vii]
Many people who have had transcendent near-death experiences describe a multidimensional afterlife. Though spirits may elect to stay in any given heavenly realm for an eternity if they desire, spirits are allowed to ascend to higher realms if they qualify or even descend to lower realms to volunteer. According to the testimony of many near-death survivors, the ultimate purpose of existence is to grow in love and knowledge. In doing this, a spirit will ascend to higher heavenly realms. One quick way to ascend is to come to earth. This environment is perfectly designed for quick soul growth. Therefore, many spirits will choose to take “the earth test” to see if they are ready to ascend to a higher heavenly realm. Though a quick method of ascension, it is risky for a soul to come to earth. It is possible that after an earth incarnation, a soul may not display the qualities necessary for ascension and may even descend to a lower realm or even be sentenced to hell.
Are All Spirits Predestined?
While there are some spirits who come to earth for the purpose of soul growth, there are also those who have volunteered to come to earth in order to help others in their spiritual development. According to the testimony of people who have survived clinical death, souls who have volunteered to come to earth to help others are given a guaranty by God that they will return to the heavenly realm in which they came. In other words, these spirits are “predestined” to return to heaven. The Bible confirms this idea. According to Ephesians 2:10 predestined people have chosen to descend to earth in order to perform a certain task which God had prepared for them in advance to do. Enoch 38:2 confirms Ephesians 2:10 as to why the elect have descended to earth: “When righteousness shall be manifested in the presence of the righteous themselves, who will be elected for their good works duly weighed by the Lord of spirits.” The fact that the predestined descend to earth presumably in order to volunteer to perform certain tasks is echoed in Enoch 39:1: “In those days [the end times] shall the elect [the predestined] and holy race descend from the upper heavens, and their seed shall then be with the sons of men.” The elect is a term used to describe people who are predestined to go to heaven. Notice that according to Enoch 39:1, the elect or predestined descend from heaven to become part of mankind. Revelation 21:2 confirms Enoch 39:1. In Revelation 21:2 John sees spirits from the new Jerusalem that is in heaven descending to earth presumably as instruments to aid the world in its spiritual development according to Ephesians 2:10.
Faith and Love
According to seemingly unanimous testimony from revelatory NDE’s, growing in love and knowledge is necessary to ascend to higher and higher heavenly realms. If these NDE’s are correct, then what about all the passages in the Bible that state that faith in Christ is necessary for salvation?[viii] Faith in Christ may be necessary for entry into heaven, but it is not sufficient. One must also display sufficient love for others in order to qualify for higher heavenly realms. This is stated clearest in James 2:14-24:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the essay above, I have shown that the doctrine of predestination is clearly and unequivocally expressed in the Bible especially in verses like Ephesians 1:5: “He [God] predestined us [Christians] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself[.]” Because the Bible suggests that it is necessary to be a Christian in order to enter heaven and because one is either a Christian or not, therefore, if God predestines people to go to heaven he must also predestine people to go to hell. This conclusion is reprehensible because most people assume that ALL Christians are predestined to become Christian and consequently enter heaven and thus ALL non-Christians are predestined to become non-believers and, therefore, subsequently enter hell. This is not true. People are not predestined to go to hell and not all believers are predestined to become Christians according to the combined testimony of Scripture and revelatory NDE’s. According to Ephesians 2:10, Revelation 21:2, Enoch 39:1 and testimony from NDE’s, the predestined referred to in Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:5-14 are those who have voluntarily left heaven to come to earth in order to perform a certain task. Because these people have already qualified to enter a certain level of heaven in the past through faith in Christ combined with possessing sufficient love and knowledge in order to enter that realm, these people are given a guarantee by God that they will return to the level of heaven to which they voluntarily left. In other words, they are predestined to become Christian and to later enter the level of heaven from which they came.
[i] NASB. It should be noted that the expression “foundation of the world” in Ephesians 1:4 is not a reference to the creation of the earth in Genesis 1. The foundation of the world is a symbol of Jesus and his twelve disciples. The fact that Jesus is part of the foundation of the world is implied in Isaiah 28:16: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.” This verse is quoted in Romans 9:33 and 1 Peter 2:6 where the cornerstone of the foundation is identified as Jesus Christ. The cornerstone is the first stone laid down in a foundation. The cornerstone is often put in place during a ceremony celebrating the construction of an important building. In these verses one can see that Jesus, the cornerstone, is part of the foundation of the world. The foundation of the world mentioned in Ephesians 1:4 is also mentioned in Revelation 21:14: “And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Here it is shown that the foundation of the world is also composed of the twelve disciples. These men are called the foundation of the world because they were the founders of the Christian church, the New Jerusalem of Revelation 21 and 22.
[iv] Hebrews 11:13 is another v. that I believe implies that there are people who have an existence in heaven that predates their incarnation on earth: “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” An exile is someone from somewhere else. If Abraham and his descendants are “exiles on the earth,” then these strangers and exiles in Canaan, I believe, were also exiles or strangers from heaven since heaven is the promise referred to in Hebrews 11:13-16. This idea is signified in Ezekiel 37:1-15. In these verses Ezekiel predicts that the Jews who were exiled to Babylon would return to their homeland. The return of these Jewish exiles is depicted in resurrection imagery in Ezekiel 37. Why is the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon portrayed in resurrection imagery? I believe Hebrews 11:13 implies the answer. The return of the Jews to Israel, the earthly Promised Land, was an earthly shadow, type and symbol of the return of the saints, the holy exiles from heaven, back to heaven, the true Promised Land (Hebrews 11:1-16).
[v] R.H. Charles, ed., The Book of Enoch, trans. Dilmann (Oxford, 1893), 41, cited in Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 488.
[vi] The field of study dedicated to the pursuit of what was written in the original manuscripts of the Bible is called textual criticism.
[vii] http://www.near-death.com/experiences/research18.html#a01a (9/13/12).
[viii] Ephesians 1:3 refers to heaven as “the heavenly realms” implying the fact that there is more than one heaven. This idea is corroborated in the testimony of many people who have had NDE’s.