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Diffficult Questions 6

Time, Eternity, Predestination -
What happens when I die?

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You will need two hats – one clearly labelled Calvin and the other labelled Arminius. Have prepared a printed copy of this study to cut into paragraphs. Have also a box (with a lid) clearly labelled God. As each paragraph is read cut it off and put it in the box. For the second section you will need a tray, also clearly labelled God.

You will also need a pen and a pad of paper or book in which to write.

We will reference many scripture passages – they are listed on the notes you have been given.

Put on the hat labelled Calvin.

Please note that I shall be saying things that I don’t necessarily believe!

JOHN CALVIN (Hence Calvinism or Reformed Church) argued that besides ensuring that the Earth continues to obey the ‘Laws of Nature’ which he established, God is actually active in every single thing that happens. You can’t have an all-powerful God unless he’s in total control.

(Read through this section slowly. Remember to cut off each paragraph and put it in the box – with an air of finality!)

Read Job 37:6-13

6 He says to the snow, “Fall on the earth,” and to the rain shower, “Be a mighty downpour.”

7 So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labour.

8 The animals take cover; they remain in their dens.

9 The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds.

10 The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen.

11 He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them.

12 At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth

to do whatever he commands them.

13 He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water his earth and show his love.

(Remember to cut off each paragraph and put it in the box)

He literally feeds the birds: Mat 5:26

He controls every ‘chance’ event: Prov 16:33

He controls Nations: Job 12:23; Ps 22:28; Acts 14:16, 17:26


Nothing happens in the World that is not actually and deliberately planned and carried out by God. Things may appear to happen naturally: grass grows, wind blows, leaves fall, but there is not one minutest detail, no spin of an electron, which is not specifically planned and directed by God.

Amos 3:6, 4:6-13


However, our own decisions are real and we are held accountable for them – but they are at the same time totally decided by God.


It therefore follows that every evil action of man is planned and directed by God, although at the same time man is blamed for it.

[2 Samuel 12:11-12 links to 2 Samuel 16:20-22], [1 Chronicles 21:1 links to 2 Samuel 24:1, 10, 12-17]; Isaiah 45:7.


This means that the Serpent, Eve, and Adam were also directed by God in order for man to fall, and those who crucified Jesus were also directed by Him in order to bring about our salvation. The Fall was essential to God’s plan – in order to be saved you had to be saved from something.


Everything that happens in the world is the deliberate act of God, whether good and beautiful or foul degrading and evil.


Because God controls everything he also decides before creation who would be saved and who would be eternally condemned.


Read Ephesians verses 4, 5 and11:

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,


Since God chooses those who will be saved they can never lose their salvation, whatever they may do. Neither can they resist God’s saving call.

Because since the fall man is inherently evil, it is impossible for man to choose to accept Christ – it has to come from God alone.


If Jesus paid the penalty for all people, no-one would still be guilty – therefore no more punishment could be required of them so they would all be saved. Therefore it is obvious that Jesus only died for those whom God has chosen.


PUT THE LID on Calvin’s box and take off hat. Bring out the tray and put on the Arminius hat. As each paragraph is read cut it off and put it in the tray.

JACOB ARMINIUS remonstrated against Calvin (Hence Arminianism or Remonstrants). His arguments were that the world has been designed to work something like a clock – it has been set in motion and will continue to a predetermined end, and in that sense there is predestination.


It is true that the forces involved in nature emanate from God. The forces of Gravity, the atomic forces which control the electrons and which ultimately hold together every created object, rely continually on God’s power. If he were to withdraw, the World would cease to exist. But God’s initial design of the World means that it will work without his day to day control or intervention.


BUT – because of the nature of God he is able to override natural laws and processes – sometimes we would call these ‘acts of God’ and at other times ‘miracles’.


The way the World operates is generally planned by God, but since sin entered, God’s plan has been spoilt and what we now experience is not how God originally intended it.


Man is born sinful and unable to seek God, but God by his grace intervenes in man. His grace comes to all people, acts on all to convict them of sin, draws them towards salvation and enables the possibility of saving faith.


Man has free will. However man’s free will can always be limited by God’s sovereignty. God allows all men the free choice to accept Christ by faith, or to reject him. He can respond or resist.


Christ’s sacrifice of atonement is sufficient for all mankind, but man can choose to reject it.


All believers can have full assurance of their salvation, but they retain the ability of turning from Christ. Apostasy requires a conscious, deliberate, wilful rejection of Jesus and his salvation, and a renouncement of belief. (Hebrews 6:4-6)


Predestination is based on God’s ability to know everything from beginning to end.


Predestination does not apply to every individual activity but is rather the comprehensive purpose of God which is the structural context in which history moves.


As we are free to make choices God is not usually involved. But he does respond to our choices and actions in such a way that his purposes are ultimately accomplished.


These purposes could be accomplished through many different specific events. God’s plan is not a blueprint encompassing all possible future contingencies. It is rather a dynamic program for the world, the outworking of which depends in part on us.


Take off Arminius’s hat.

Calvin had a very tight and controlled theory of God. But because of the almost mathematical way his theory developed, he had no room for manoeuvre.

IF God is all powerful he must be in control.

IF he is in control he would not have allowed sin if he didn’t want it.

Therefore he wants sin and as God he controls it.

All sin is therefore from God and directed by God.

IF God is all-knowing he knows who will be saved.

IF he knows now, he knew before creation.

IF he knew before creation, then he created a few people to be saved, but most he created for damnation.

(Let people ponder what that means. Allow time for discussion but don’t let the study get side-tracked!)

Let’s read five passages that are inconvenient for Calvin to read:

Ezekiel 33:11

11 Say to them, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?”

1 John 1:5

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 4:8-10

8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

1 Timothy 2:3-6

3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people.

Pause to allow people to understand what you have read.

Things like that don’t fit in the box. And perhaps for Calvin we should rewrite the Christmas story (Luke 2:9-10):

9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said to them ‘so you should be. I bring you terrible news of great sorrow and misery that will be for most people’

Arminius also had some problem scriptures:

Read again Ephesians 1:4-5 and 11

4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,

Arminius fudged the issue. He stated that election allows us to make a choice so that ‘whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’. And the plan by which this is accomplished is predestination – a general plan for saving all people.

Calvin tried to put God in a box. Arminius recognised that God was bigger than that and allowed him more freedom, which we’ve represented with a tray.

But in comparison with Calvin’s box or Arminius’ tray God is too big to fit in this room! Or this building! Or go outside and look out – and up! – It is impossible to contain God.

If what we understand of God limits him, it is our understanding that is flawed. If we find ourselves saying ‘God can’t do that’ then it’s us who are wrong.

Read Isaiah 55:8-9

8 ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’

declares the Lord.

9 ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Does this suggest that we can begin to understand what God chooses to do? (His ways) Can we even understand his thoughts?

Now let’s consider us and our choices.

Do we believe that we have free will?

Yes – but at the same time we want God to respond to our prayers and cause changes to occur which can limit the free will and choices of other people.

And God can and does intervene supernaturally whenever he pleases. However he never causes us to make choices which we would regret. Once we detect the way that God’s hand has controlled or directed us we respond in thanks and praise!

Read Genesis 45:8

8 ‘So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.

What happens if I exercise my free will and choose not to do what God desires?

But of course as God is sovereign he can force us to listen and obey:

Read Acts 9:1-6.

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.

‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’

Usually we are free to make our own choices. We are free to accept Christ or reject him. So where does predestination come in?

Put the length of dowel in the centre of the room again.

Hand the pen and pad of paper to someone farthest from it.

. (Name) . . . . . is writing the names of those who are saved, in the Lamb’s book of life.

Some more questions without answers:

When exactly is our name written in The Lamb’s Book of Life?

Is it compiled as the Earth progresses to its end?

Or is it left to the last day?

Or was it written before the World started?

As there is no time in eternity how could anyone say?

In our next study we will try to answer the question: ‘Does God have a plan for my life’ – and we will also look at the whole problem of ‘original sin’.

If people still struggle with contradictions:

I want you to imagine for a moment - if it helps close your eyes – you are in a shop where a whole wall is given over to a Pick-n-Mix sweet display. You are standing there with a paper bag in one hand and a plastic scoop in the other. What are you going for? Fizzy sherbet? Dolly mixtures? Toffees? Chocolates? Liquorice allsorts – being careful to leave the ones you don’t like? OK you can open your eyes.

The Bible is just like that. Calvin chose all the hard sweets and Arminius preferred soft centres. Actually we have to take the lot. We can’t be choosy. It’s best we don’t try to eat it all in one go – it needs to be savoured over a lifetime. And yes, you can go back again and again to your favourites, the display is refilled overnight! You can even say ‘I don’t like the taste of those’. That’s fine because we are all different. This display has been carefully put together to cater for the needs of everyone. And anyway, over time people’s tastes change and as you mature you may well grow to like something you passed by before.

BUT you have to just accept that Barley Sugar is not a Jelly sweet!

Difficult Questions 5 Difficult Questions 7 NIV Copyright