God's Right to Determine Man's Destiny
It is God's right and his alone to decide the eternal destiny of man. Many preachers, when preaching funerals, act as this is their "right." They pronounce Mom or Dad or Uncle Dave or Aunt Mary to be residing in heaven with Jesus in order to comfort families when they have no right to give such assurance. I’ve heard well-meaning people ask, “If you were to die today, do you know where you would spend eternity? Many people speak as if it were within their "rights" to decide whether they want to spend eternity in heaven or hell. The majority of people today believe they can determine their eternal destiny simply by making a carnal decision—I say carnal because all men are carnal until God gives them a spiritual nature. Carnal decisions are the only decisions they can make. So we have preachers all over this country exhorting carnal men who know nothing about spiritual things, and cannot know about spiritual things, to make a spiritual decision in determining their final destiny. However, determining the final destiny of man is a "right" which God has kept for Himself. God, through His Son, determines the eternal destiny of man.
Let's consider Ephesians 1:4. 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. So many people hate this verse simply because it contradicts what they want to believe. Paul says, “He (God) hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world.” What could be plainer? God chose His children before the foundation of the world—before any of them were created—before Adam and Eve were created. God chose His children in Christ. God gave those He chose to Christ and Christ came to earth to seek and save them. They are the ones Christ died for. They are the ones Christ is talking about when He says in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
The ones the Father gave the Son are the ones the Son knows. They are His and He knows them. He died to redeem them because they belonged to the Father and were lost in the Fall. Jesus is buying back what already belonged to God. You can’t redeem something that didn’t belong to you in the first place. Today’s text clearly states that God’s children were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and they will come to Christ when the Holy Spirit calls them. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus clearly speaks of those that He knows and those He doesn’t know. In John 10:14, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” And in verse 27, He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Jesus knows His sheep, the ones the Father gave Him before the foundation of the world. Jesus tells what will happen to the sheep in Matthew 25:32-34: And before him shall be gathered all nations: 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 from the foundation of the world.” The sheep belong to the shepherd. They know the shepherd and the shepherd knows them. Jesus calls them blessed of my Father. He says they will inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Their eternal destiny is already determined. God loved them and chose them from eternity past and His right to determine their eternal destiny has already been exercised.
Jesus also speaks of those He doesn’t know. He says in Matthew 7:21-22, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the 10 virgins. The bridegroom came while the 5 foolish virgins were out buying oil for their lamps and he went in to the Marriage Supper and shut the door. Matthew 25:11-12 says, “Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Jesus speaks in a similar manner in Luke 13:25-28, “When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.
Here Jesus uses a familiar phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” which describes the agony of eternal torment experienced by those who are cast into outer darkness or the furnace of fire. In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches about what will happen to the unrighteous in two parables. The first is the parable of the wheat and the tares. A land owner sows good wheat seed in His field. During the night his enemy sows tares among the wheat. When the land owner’s servants discover what has happened, they tell the land owner. He tells them not to pull up the tares for fear of damaging the wheat, but to let them grow until they mature and then they will be separated when it is easier to distinguish between them.
When the disciples ask, Jesus explains this parable to them. The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world. By implication the sower—the Son of Man—owns the field. He holds in his hand the title deed to it. He is its sovereign monarch, and he cultivates his crop there. What does he sow? Jesus said, “As for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom. The children of his kingdom are true believers, those submissive to the King. And he sows them throughout his field, the world. “The tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. These are unbelievers.
The meaning of this parable is not at all complicated. The Son of Man—Jesus—sowed the children of his kingdom in the world. The enemy—Satan—ruined the purity of the crop, mingling his children with those the Son of Man had sown. These unbelieving children of the Evil One live together with believers in the world. In the final judgment God will separate the wheat from the weeds. Jesus’ explanation of this parable ends in verses 39-42: the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The second parable in this chapter of Matthew is the parable of the net in verses 47-50: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In Matthew 22, Jesus teaches the parable of the wedding feast. A king prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to tell them to come to the banquet but they refused. So he sent more servants to bid the invited to come, but some of them ignored the king’s servants while others seized the servants, mistreated them and killed them. The enraged king destroyed those who killed his servants.
Then the king sent more servants into the highways to bid as many as they could find to the marriage. They gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good, and the wedding was furnished with guests. But the king found a man there who had no wedding garment. When asked about his condition, the man was speechless. The king had him bound and cast into outer darkness. Jesus ends with “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
In this parable, all but one had the proper wedding attire. Since the guests were bidden from the highways, they had no time to go home and put on the proper wedding garments. This means the wedding garments they were wearing had to be supplied by the king himself. God supplies the garment of faith and repentance to those who are chosen. The man without proper attire had slipped in the back door and had not been clothed by the king. He was cast into everlasting torment.
In Matthew 24, Jesus tells about the faithful and unfaithful servant. In verse 51, the master shall take the unfaithful servant and “shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And in the next chapter, in the parable of the talents, an unprofitable servant is cast into outer darkness and there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Notice in each of these parables, it is the king who executes judgment and separates those who are his from those who belong to the evil one. No one else can make that determination. When Jesus separates the sheep and the goats, He will put the sheep on the right and the goats on the left. Matthew 25:41 says, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Verse 46 says, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
In Luke 16, Jesus tells about the eternal destiny of a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments The rich man said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
The rich man assumes that his five brothers can do something to keep themselves from ending up in hell. In Abraham’s statement to the rich man, Jesus refutes any means of convincing anyone to avoid hell simply by making a decision. Abraham says to the rich man, your brothers have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. What would the rich man’s five brothers learn from Moses and the prophets? They would have learned about God’s right to choose a people in Deuteronomy 7:6 and 14:2. Moses tells the children of Israel: For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. They would have learned the same thing from the prophet Isaiah who said in chapter 44 verses 1-2: Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb. From reading Moses and the prophets, the rich man’s brothers should already know that God chooses His people But the rich man said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Why wouldn’t one being raised from the dead persuade the rich man’s five brothers to alter their eternal destiny? Because man’s eternal destiny is not his decision to begin with, so no amount of persuading would do any good. The doctrine of the rich man in hell is that man can testify and preach to other men and persuade them to choose heaven as their eternal residence rather than hell. This is a false doctrine that is believed by the majority of people in the world. Jesus makes the point in the story of the rich man and Lazarus that no amount of persuading on man’s part can determine the eternal destination of any man. This is what has created mega churches and huge denominations that have grown in numbers simply by exhorting men to make a choice between heaven and hell. And this is what has created evangelists with multi-million dollar ministries and preachers with six figure salaries who are worshiped more than God. They are preaching a doctrine straight from hell rather than God’s doctrine.
There isn’t a single example in all of scripture where man is asked to choose where he wants to spend eternity. I don’t know how man ever came up with that idea in the first place. And God never leads us to believe that we are waiting for him to decide in some future time who is going to heaven. The Bible clearly tells us that the decision has been made. We are told in today’s text that God’s children were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. When the end of time comes, there are those who will be surprised to find out their eternal destiny is not heaven. Jesus says at the end of the Sermon on the Mount is Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” These are people who thought heaven would be their eternal destiny, perhaps because of a decision they had made. They profess to have done many wonderful works in Jesus’ name, which indicates their belief that they were in control of their eternal destiny. They must have believed that they could do something to make heaven their eternal home or they would not have protested Jesus’ verdict—I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is the clearest evidence in all of scripture that eternal life is not of man’s free will. Jesus is speaking to the Father about himself when he says in verses 2 and 3, “ As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. Christ has power over all flesh because God has given him that power. The phrase “as many as thou hast given him” is used seven times in this prayer—in verses 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 24. It is a reference to God’s choosing of His elect, those who will come to Christ, because they were given to Christ before the foundation of the world. They are His sheep. He knows them and they know him. In John 6:37-39 Jesus said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” Christ affirms the sovereign will of God in the selection of those who will spend eternity in the kingdom prepared for them before the foundation of the world.
Jesus gives eternal life to those God has given him, and in verse 3, He tells what eternal life is—“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Eternal life is the life of God in every believer. Believers don’t have to go to heaven to experience eternal life. Knowing the Father allows the true believer to experience a foretaste of that divine quality of life that will not be fully manifest until their resurrection. The Holy Spirit that dwells in the true believer is God in us, Christ in us, because the three are one. True believers begin eternal life now because God has revealed himself to them, He is in them, and they are one with Him. Eternal life begins with the new creature in regeneration. Eternal life does not begin with the grave; it begins with the new birth.
In verse 4 Jesus says, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” On the cross Jesus cried, “It is finished.” The redemptive work is completed. There is nothing left that can be done. Man can make no decision. The decision was God’s, and it was made before the foundation of the world. Man can perform no work. Christ performed the work 2000 years ago on the cross. God’ elect have been redeemed. Their home is in heaven. They have been sealed until the day of redemption by the shed blood of Jesus Christ and not one of those Jesus paid the price for will be lost.
Man can argue all he wants to about whether or not God has the right to determine the eternal destiny of man—it won’t change a single thing. Those for whom Christ died have been sealed with the blood he shed on Calvary, and nothing can pluck them out of his Father’s hand. They were sealed 2000 years ago, and preachers all over this country—even all over the world—can exhort men to make a decision, to decide where they want to spend eternity, but it won’t do any good. The seal is in place—it has been in place for 2000 years. Satan isn’t strong enough to remove that seal from a single one of God’s children and no man is strong enough to place that seal on a single one who isn’t one of God’s elect.