What We Believe About Predestination
Because of those prophecies, you might suppose that we teach that all things happen by fate. But that isn’t so. We have learned from the prophets (and we believe it to be true) that punishments and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions [Romans 2:6, 7].
If this were not the case, and all things happened by fate instead, then nothing would be in our own power. If it were predestined that one person be good and another be wicked, then the first person would not deserve praise nor would the second be worthy of blame. In short unless humans have the power to choose good and avoid evil, they are not accountable for their actions.
However, I will demonstrate that humans, by their own free choice, may either live uprightly or stumble in sin. For example, we observe that some persons change their course of life. If it had been predestined that those persons would be either good or bad, how would they be capable of doing both good and evil? How can they change from one extreme to the other? Does fate act in opposition to itself? Actually, if predestination were true, we could not say that some people are good and others are bad. Rather, unavoidable destiny would be the cause of evil, not man. In the end, we would have to say that there is neither good nor evil, but that things are only considered such by opinion. But that is the greatest impiety and wickedness, as truth shows.
I will concede that one thing has been predestined: those who choose good will receive worthy rewards, and those who choose the opposite will receive worthy punishment. God did not create man in the same way he made the trees and the unreasoning animals. A person would not be worthy of reward or praise if he did not choose to do good on his own, but was merely created for that purpose. Likewise, an evil person would not deserve punishment, because he would not be evil of his own doing. He simply could no nothing other than what he was made for.
The Holy Spirit of prophecy has taught us that man has the freedom of choice. Through Moses he told us that God said to the first man, “Look! Before your face are both good and evil. Choose the good” [Gen. 2:16, 17; Deut. 30:15, 19]. And again, God the Father said through the prophet Isaiah: “Wash and be clean! Put away all evil from your souls. Learn to practice righteousness. Care for the orphan and plead for the widow. Come, let us reason together, says the Lord. Although your sins may be scarlet, I will make them white as wool. Even though they may be crimson red I will make them white as snow. And if you are willing and obey me, you will eat the good of the land. But if you do not obey me, the sword will devour you. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” [Isa. 1:16-20].
You should note that the expression, “the sword will devour you,” does not mean that the disobedient shall be slain by the sword. Rather, the sword of God is fire. Those who choose to live wickedly will be the fuel for God’s fire. That is why the prophet added, “for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” If he were referring to a literal sword that cuts and immediately kills, he would not have used the word “devour.”
Plato himself taught similarly, saying, “The blame is on the one who chooses. God himself is blameless.” Actually, Plato took this teaching from the prophet Moses, for Moses is more ancient than all the Greek writers. In fact, as I’ve said before, all the things that the philosophers and poets have taught about the immortality of the soul and punishments after death have come from the writings of the prophets. So have their sayings about heavenly things. It was the writings of the prophets that enabled the Greek poets and philosophers to understand such things. In fact, there seem to be seeds of truth scattered among all peoples [Romans l :21]. But often their teachers do not accurately understand the truth, and they end up teaching contradictory things.
When we say that future events are foretold, we do not mean that they happen by fatal necessity. Rather, we mean that God knows in advance everything that everyone will do [Isa. 46:9,10]. And he decreed in advance that these future actions will be rewarded according to their merits. So he foretold through the Spirit of prophecy that he would bestow just rewards according to the merits of each man’s actions. He constantly urges humans to repent, demonstrating that he cares and provides for mankind [2 Pet. 3:9: Acts 17:30].
But by the instigation of the demons, governments have decreed that those who read the books of Hystaspes, or the sibyls, or the Jewish prophets will be put to death. The demons wish to keep men from receiving the knowledge of the good by reading those works. Instead, they want to retain mankind in slavery to themselves. Fortunately, they have not always succeeded; we not only fearlessly read them, but we bring them in the open for your inspection, knowing that their contents will be pleasing to everyone. Even if we persuade only a few, our reward will be very great. As good stewards, we will receive the reward from the Master.