DOES GOD KNOW EVERY FUTURE EVENT BEFORE IT HAPPENS? 

Part One

 

Leviticus 26:3-4

            'If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out,

            then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. (NAS)

 

Leviticus 26:14-16

            'But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments,

            if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant,

            I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that shall waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you shall sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies shall eat it up. (NAS)

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Most people assume that God knows every detail about the future.  This is one of the most poignant theological issues facing mankind.  Why?  Consider the following issues at stake in this quest for understanding the nature of God:

 

 

Throughout history people have often erroneously assigned responsibility to God for calamity and misfortune.  Perhaps the foremost cause of their misguided blame and anger is the belief that God’s omniscience includes the knowledge of all future events.  After all, if He knows the future, why didn’t He do something to intervene and help?

 

Complicating and confusing man’s concept of God is harmonizing His infinite love with His infinite foreknowledge of events.  For example, a grieving parent might ask God, “If You knew the future, WHY didn’t You prevent the car accident that took my child’s life?  I prayed and asked for Your protection upon my family, and yet You had already decided my daughter was going to be taken from me!”

 

Can you see the importance of understanding God’s nature?  Would the grieving parent respond differently if they understood God had no future plan for their child to be killed?  Would it change they way we view God, and make us less inclined to blame Him? 

 

If we knew future events were, for the most part, incidental and unknown by God until they occurred, how would this affect all of our decisions?  Would it increase our understanding of personal culpability?  After all, if events unfold simultaneous to the knowledge of God and man, aren’t we more liable for our response to them?  Yes.  God may allow suffering in the course of life, but it does not mean He “predestined” it to happen!

 

Some will argue, “Yes, I can see your point, but there are just too many prophecies with such specificity and detail of future events that have already been fulfilled for me to doubt God knows the future.”  This is a valid argument, and it will be discussed later. 

 

Suffice it to say there are two separate issues that are in question.  The first deals with what God DOES know, the second deals with what God DOESN’T know.

 

·         God’s preparation, plan and design for man’s future.  This plan is referred to in scripture as “prophecy.”  It can and does include the specific names of cities, people, and events that He intends on bringing to pass in the future.

 

·         Man’s response to God’s plan, including the specific choices, days, minutes, interruptions, etc.  We would liken this to someone designing a blueprint for a home.  They know what will be needed to build the house, where it will be located, and what the finished product will look like.  What they don’t know is the snags they will run into, the delays for building permits, which people will be involved in every aspect of the house, including the names of people who sell products at the hardware store, truck drivers who delivers roofing and other supplies, etc.

 

Once a Christian has determined their position on the issue of God’s knowledge of the future, it will impact their life forever.  When one realizes God does not know what they will do today, it creates in them a greater sense of responsibility.  No longer can they apathetically excuse their indifference to reaching the lost by saying, “Well, if God wants me to share the gospel, He knows exactly with whom and at what specific time and place it will happen.  After all, He knows the future, and has already determined when and where these events will happen.”

 

Without realizing it, most every believer has embraced the doctrine of Calvinistic predestination.  John Calvin was an early reformer who established the teaching of God’s sovereign foreknowledge.  He said God had all knowledge of the future, and on this basis had predetermined who would be His “elect” and who would be eternally damned.  While any logical person is repulsed by such doctrine, if ANYONE believes that God knows every future happening, they have naively embraced John Calvin’s theology.

 

Mainline church denominations such as Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Four Square, Assembly of God, Church of God in Christ, United Pentecostal Church, Church of God and a host of others, including non-denominational churches believe God knows the future.  Bible colleges and seminaries across the world instruct their students with the teaching God knows all future events, because He is all-knowing (i.e. omniscient).

 

There are many scriptures that have to be addressed on the topic of God knowing the future.  Like other areas of doctrine, the translations of our English versions of the Bible often present a confusing scenario.  There are numerous verses that seem to indicate God knows intimate details of the future, and our lives.  While it is not possible to tackle every passage of scripture, we will not shrink away from those that are challenging.

 

This study will challenge the orthodox view of God.  As is so often the case, the apparent contradictions in various texts of scripture will be considered and reconciled.  All scripture is God-breathed; that is, it is inspired by God.  Thus the holy writ cannot be contradictory, or else it could not be an inspired document.

 

The “IFs” of the Scripture

 

After the fall, Adam and Eve were banished from contact with the tree of life.  They had chosen to disobey God, and to live by the fruit (or byproduct) of the knowledge of good and evil.   This meant that they had only their conscience to live by to determine what was right or wrong (READ Genesis 2:15-3:24).

 

Within one thousand years, Adam’s choice had catastrophic consequences.  Mankind became so corrupt, that violence filled the earth.  Therefore God destroyed the earth and its’ inhabitants, sparing only Noah and eight souls (READ 1 Peter 3:20).

 

After the flood, mankind returned to his own devices.  With a conscience as his guide, right and wrong became muddied in the waters of human reasoning.  The perception of good or evil varied from one person to the next.  Only a small remnant of men and women sought after God.

 

Abraham became a prominent figure as a leader of God’s people.  He was a friend of God, and enjoyed the benefit of direct communication with the Almighty.  However, even Abraham and his descendents were subject to their passions, and often wobbled in their faith.  Eventually, this led to compromise with heathen nations, and Israel was enslaved by Egypt.

 

God raised up a deliverer when He heard the cries of His people in bondage to Pharaoh. 

Moses would lead God’s people out of Egypt, and they escaped the edge of the sword when Yahweh parted the Red Sea.  Once safe on the other side of the sea, Israel erected a golden calf to symbolize their worship.  By this time, God decided that it was time for a set of rules and regulations for man to live by; these would be etched in stone.

 

In God’s communication with man, it became necessary for Him to institute divine ordinance and statutes.  In the scripture, the ordinance is referred to as the “Law.”  Sometimes called “the Law of Moses,” because God gave them first to him, the Law was replete with divine decrees and rules to live by.

 

The Law of God told His people what they could and could not do.  It also made them aware of the consequence of their actions.  If they obeyed God’s commandments, He promised to bless them.  If they disobeyed Him, He promised they would reap the consequence of divine judgment. 

 

Below are listed a few of the multiple “if” statutes found in the Law from the Book of Leviticus, Chapter Twenty-six (Please read the entire chapter).  The key words from this text show the “if” clauses of the Law (i.e. the stipulations and conditions of the Law; indicated in bold type).

 

·         If you walk in My statutes… then I shall give you rains…'So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you.’”  (LEV. 26:3-4, 9)

·         “But if you do not obey Me… if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances… I, in turn, will do this to you…” (Lev. 26:14-16)

·         If also after these things, you do not obey Me, then I will punish you…and I will also break down your pride…”  (Lev. 26:18-19)

·         If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins.  (Lev. 26:21)

·         “And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you…”  (Lev. 26:23-24)

·         Yet if in spite of this, you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you…”  (Lev. 26:27-28)

·         If they confess their iniquity… or if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled… then I will remember My covenant with Jacob”  (Lev. 26:40-42)

 

These verses of scripture are typical of the theme seen throughout the Old and New Testament.  God makes a promise to His people with requisites.  That is, He requires those who enter into a covenant with Him to fulfill their part of His divine contract. 

 

A good example from the list above is found in LEV. 26:3-4, 9.  God emphasizes obedience to the statutes contained within the Law.  He says, “If you walk in My statutes… then I shall give you rains…” In other words, God is leaving no room for doubt; even the rains and other favorable weather conditions needed for a fruitful crop and harvest are dependent upon Him.

 

God does not want those who claim His name to become lackadaisical and indifferent.  He doesn’t want them to take anything for granted.  While the rain falls upon the just and the unjust, it is quite often dependent on whether His people respond in obedience to His righteous requirements.  This point is more evident by the phrase found in LEV 26:9,”'So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you.’” 

 

If God knew the future response of His people; if He knew they would, in fact, obey His statutes, He most certainly would not say, IF and THEN.  Instead, He would tell them, “WHEN you walk in My statutes… THEN I will give you rains.

 

If He knew in advance that their response would be obedience, He would have no need to say, “‘SO I WILL TURN toward you…” and again, “and I will CONFIRM My covenant.”  These conditions would be omitted from the text, or may even be completely reworded to read, “YOU SHALL SEE THIS PREDICTION COME TO PASS.”

 

The fact that God does not know whether His people will say, “Yes” or “No” to His commandments is a vital part of our relationship with Him.  God created mankind with the ability to accept or reject Him.  Our choice is something God cannot and will not interfere with.  This would be contrary to His nature, and would eliminate the concept of love as we know, and as scripture defines it.

 

·         Josh 24:14-15 "Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness.  Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."  (NIV)

 

The Lord Jesus reiterates and expounds the “if” clauses of God’s Law.  An example that runs parallel to Leviticus Chapter Twenty-six puts a greater weight of responsibility on the believer under the terms and conditions of the new covenant.  Note the prerequisites in bold type in the passage of scripture below:

 

Matthew 5:43-48

43.      "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.'

44.      "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you

45.      in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on {the} evil and {the} good, and sends rain on {the} righteous and {the} unrighteous.

46.      "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?

47.      "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

48.      "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NAS)

 

Jesus establishes the terms under the new covenant contract with His Father God.  He does not abolish the Law; instead he reveals the heart and spirit of the statutes.  His testament is proof that God does not know what our future choices will be.

 

The phrase in Matt. 5:45, “In order that you MAY be sons of your Father,” is predicated on obedience to the command to “love your enemies” (Verse 44).  The implication is obvious; IF you DON’T love your enemies, you will not be considered to be a true son of God. 

 

Verses 47 and 48 contain more “IF” clauses, and precede yet another commandment, “Therefore you are to be perfect…” If God’s knowledge transcended our future decisions, He would not have had Jesus utter these words.  Rather, He would have had Jesus say, “And you WILL love your enemies, and THEREFORE you will be sons of your Father.” 

 

 

Calvinism, Predestination and Choice

 

The reformer John Calvin is perhaps one of history’s most influential theologians.  While he contributed greatly to the proliferation of the gospel according to the scriptures, the basis and foundation for his view on God’s foreknowledge and predetermination has skewed and corrupted the doctrines of the Christian church.

 

The notion that God knows the future is a deep-seated, and truly inexplicable.  One of the chief “proofs” that Mr. Calvin utilized to perpetuate his doctrine of divine foreknowledge is found in the Book of Romans.

 

Romans 8:29-30

29.      For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;

30.      and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.  (NAS)

 

Modern Calvinists espouse a modified form of John Calvin’s original teaching.  The terms are essentially the same, and therefore no time will be given to detailed commentary on the subject.  Suffice to say this; Calvinism is a doctrine that lays claim to a perverted form of divine sovereignty by assuming He knows the future, and predetermines man’s fate solely on this basis.

 

Calvinistic foreknowledge and predestination claims God knows in advance who will choose to be saved, and who will not choose to be saved.  On this basis, according to their doctrine, God predestines some to be saved, while He predestines others to eternal damnation.  According to Calvin, man cannot REALLY choose God; God CHOOSES MAN BASED ON HIS KNOEWLEDGE OF THE FUTURE.

 

As ludicrous as Calvinism seems to the logical mind, many, if not most Christian adhere to it in ignorance.  The proof for this statement is simple; anyone who believes that God knows every single future decision of every single human being, prior to those decisions being made, must in turn believe He predestines His “elect.”

 

Some may argue this point, “No, God only knows what we will do, but does not interfere with the decision.  On that basis He knows who will choose heaven and who will deny it.”

If you believe this statement, your premise is founded completely on God’s foreknowledge; therefore He MUST predestine some to heaven and others to hell on that basis; logic demands this conclusion.  How could he know the future, and then not know who would end up in heaven and hell?

 

The belief in a God who knows the future is in direct conflict with numerous scriptures.  Even the passage in Romans 8:29-30 verifies this conclusion (if read in its’ entirety), and particularly if the original Greek is consulted as well.  Note the words in bold type from the context of Romans Chapter Eight below:

 

Romans 8:12-28

12.      So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--

13.      for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

14.      For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

15.      For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"

16.      The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

17.      and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

18.      For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

19.      For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.

20.      For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope

21.      that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

22.      For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

23.      And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

24.      For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?

25.      But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

26.      And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;

27.      and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

28.      And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NAS)

 

The passage above is replete with requisites; unless these are fulfilled, one cannot make an application to the words in Ro. 8:29-30.  In other words, the same God who “predestined” in Ro. 8:29, also “called” (Ro. 8:30) for obedience.  God’s calling demands we obey the stipulations spelled out in the context preceding verses 29 and 30.  Furthermore, God makes it apparent He does not know how we will respond, as noted in isolated phrases from the context of Ro. 8: 12-28:

 

·         We are under obligation, not to…live according to the flesh…(Ro. 8:12)

·         For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit… you will live. (Ro. 8:13)

·         For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (Ro. 8:14)

·         Heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him. (Ro. 8:17)

·         Waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons (Ro. 8:23)

·         For in hope we have been saved… for why does one also hope for what he sees? (Ro. 8:24)

·         All things to work together for good to those who love God (Ro. 8:28)

 

In light of words, “but if” and “if indeed” and “in order that we may also be” there can be no doubt that the future choices we make remain an unknown to God.  An essential element to our interpreting scripture is to deduce the enigmatic verses in view of the perceptible verses.  When there appears to be a contradiction, it is vital to consult with the original Greek text, which often varies from the English Bible translation.

 

Below is a literal rendering of Romans 8:29-30 as it appears in the Nestlé’s Greek text:

 

·        Romans 8:29 Because those who were foreseen (i.e. forecast, anticipated & predicted) to be jointly formed in union with the nature of the likeness and the representation of His son, who was the one who reached the point of existing as His God’s firstborn in a fixed position among many brethren.   

 

·        Romans 8:30 Moreover, those who were marked out as excellent, (of higher quality), and foreseen (i.e. forecast, anticipated & predicted), these also he called aloud to, and those whom He called aloud to, He rendered as just and innocent, and those whom He rendered as just and innocent, these also He esteemed glorious.

 

Romans 8:29 can be interpreted to refer to those believers whom God anticipated, and predicted, to eventually become united together with His son Jesus.  These would be jointly formed as one body of believers with Jesus as the head (chief in position) among many brethren.  These brethren would exist together in the likeness of Jesus, and act as his visible representatives.  This refers to the CORPORATE body of Christ, and gives us no individual names or specifics about the future of their lives.

 

Romans 8:30 can be interpreted to mean: Whom God anticipated, He marked out as being more excellent in virtue and moral quality than others.  To these ones He calls aloud to, having regarded them as justified and innocent, and esteems them as being altogether glorious.

 

This interpretation fits with the context, and breaks the paradigm of sovereign comprehension with regard to every choice made by mankind in the future.  God can anticipate, and even predict that there will be a people who follow after Him, and who use His son Jesus as a pattern for moral excellence.  These ones desire to be made in the likeness of Jesus, and thus represent his nature in a more excellent way than others do.

 

Those who are “jointly formed” together, by virtue of their companionship and association with Jesus Christ, are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, particularly in Paul’s epistles.

 

§        Eph 4:14-16 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, {even} Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (NAS)

 

There are numerous other “if” clauses pertaining to our responsibility.  A few have been listed, and bold type added to isolate the requisites upon us by God.

 

·         Rom 10:8-11 But what does it say?  "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed."  (NAS)

·         Rom 11:22-23 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.  And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.  (NAS)

·         1 Cor 15:1-2 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.  (NAS)

·         2 Cor 13:5-7 Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?  But I trust that you will realize that we ourselves do not fail the test.  Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we should appear unapproved.  (NAS)

·         1Thes 3:8-9 For now we really live, if you stand firm in the Lord.  For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account.  (NAS)

·         Heb 3:6-15 But Christ was faithful as a Son over His house whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.  Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tried me by testing me and saw My works for forty years.”  Therefore I was angry with this generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart; and they did not know My ways'; as I swore in My wrath, 'they shall not enter My rest.'"  Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me."  (NAS)

·         Heb 4:7-14 He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."  For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.  There remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God.  For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.  For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.  Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  (NAS)

·         1 Pet 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth.  (NAS)

 

These and many other scripture passages show a conditional relationship with man and God.  The bold type above indicates the requirements of a loving God who, not knowing our future destiny, gives us ample warning and commands to keep us from falling away from the faith.  Consider these excerpts from the texts listed:

 

·         That if you confess…and believe…you shall be saved (Rom 10:8-11).

·         If you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off (Rom 11:22-23).

·         By which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word (1 Cor 15:1-2).

·         Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith…unless indeed you fail the test (2 Cor 13:5-7).

·         If you stand firm in the Lord (1Thes 3:8-9).

·         whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end…Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God… For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end (Heb 3:6-15).

·         Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience… let us hold fast our confession. (Heb 4:7-14).

 

Prophecy…God’s Plan for the Future

 

Many people confuse prophecy with the knowledge of the future.  Prophecy must be viewed from two vantage points. 

 

First is God’s view.  Simply stated, prophecy is God’s plan for the future.  It is divine revelation given to mankind.  When men penned the scripture under inspiration from God, they sometimes wrote of God’s future design.  The best example of this are the many prophecies of the Messiah (Christ).  The prophet Isaiah is perhaps the most renowned in this regard, for his writings spell out many of the details of the anointed one that would be born as the Prince of Peace Counselor, and so on (READ Isaiah Chapter Nine).

 

The second view is that of mankind.  We read of prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled, and others that have come to pass.  Still others are progressive, and we experience their contemporary fulfillment.  Still other prophetic scriptures have a sort of timeless implementation; that is, these prophecies address the general nature of man and his behavior, and are therefore being accomplished throughout the course of history.

 

When considering the details of Old Testament prophecies, the minute specifics can be mind boggling to us.  For example, regarding the birth of Jesus as the Christ, even the name of the town he was to be born in is given (READ Micah 5:2-4).  Isaiah writes in his prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (READ Isaiah 7:14-17).  These are but a few of numerous particulars found throughout the Old Testament regarding the Christ.

 

What are distinctively absent in all the prophecies about the Christ are specific names of the people involved.  For example, while God tells us that a virgin shall give birth to him, He does not mention Mary by name.  Another missing element regarding the birth of Jesus is exactly where he would be born.  Nothing in Old Testament prophecy is indicative of a manger; only the name of the town.

 

If God knows every detail of man’s future, why omit specifics like the examples given above?  Wouldn’t such details serve to strengthen our understanding of Him?  It is my opinion that God has a plan for man, and He works with those who are willing to cooperate with that plan.  He is able to fulfill His plan by directing the minds and hearts of those willing to hear His voice, and will obediently follow after Him.

 

God has an immeasurable ability to comprehend knowledge of mankind’s history.  God’s memory of the past transcends every record kept by every nation, ethnic group, culture, society or individual.  This divine memory gave God an advantage when providing the inspiration to those who penned scripture containing prophecy. 

 

History repeats itself; more accurately, men behave and act repetitiously.  This means that those who love and serve God reveal a pattern of behavior, showing a willingness to do and say what God asks or commands.  On the other hand, evil people repeat their disobedience, and the consequences of their sinful conduct are duplicated over and over.

 

The patterns of godly behavior are a very important element in prophecy.  Long before the Law, men like Abraham exemplified faith in and reliance upon God.  Abraham was called the friend of God (READ James 2:20-24) because his “works” were proof of his faith.  He offered up his own son Isaac as a sacrifice in obedience to God.  This type of willingness and faith belongs to all who follow Abraham’s example (READ Romans 4:16-24).

 

James and Paul write their epistles hundreds of years after Abraham.  Still, they recognized the church as being, “of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Roman 4:16).  In hope against hope Abraham believed, in order that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So shall your descendants be” (Romans 4:18).  The Creator saw in Abraham the spiritual “seed” of those who would imitate his faith.

 

With this in mind, God could confidently use His prophets to record His divine plan for Abraham’s descendents to execute in both Old Testament and New Testament.  In the case of the Messianic prophecies mentioned earlier, God knew there would come a time when a godly virgin (Mary) espoused to a godly man (Joseph) who would hear His voice, and like Abraham, obey His instructions.  Once God finds the right people to implement His plan, He in turn completes His part of the prophetic design.

 

There is further proof for this assertion, because all who bring to pass the fulfillment of God’s prophetic word are, in deeds, following after Abraham who, “with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:20-21). 

 

One can see how prophecy is not God’s foreknowledge of our decisions and choices, but a confident plan.  Consider how important it was for Joseph and Mary to imitate the faith of Abraham, and find justification through their works.  Had Joseph been disobedient to the voice of God, it is quite likely Jesus would have been born in obscurity and shame.

 

Matthew 1:18-25

18.      This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

19.      Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20.      But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21.      She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

22.      All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

23.      "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-- which means, "God with us."

24.      When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

25.      But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.  (NIV)

 

Prayer and the Future

 

Prayer is a desire for and communication with God.  In an ideal relationship between man and God, prayer would be man’s grateful expression to do the Father’s will.  If God knew every detail of man’s behavior, why would there be any need for prayer? 

 

Think about it this way:  Assuming the Lord knows every event that will ever happen, how would your prayer, or lack thereof change the outcome?  To say anyone knows the totality of future history presupposes they can peer through timeless eyes, and see the finish or completion of every occurrence, every event, every sickness, disaster, quest, war etc.  If God already knows the outcome, what would it matter that one beseech Him?  The future would already be fixed and stable.

 

To put this into perspective, think of it this way:  If God sees the future as already having been accomplished, there would be no need to finish the painful and tragic scenario we refer to as the history of man (after the fact).  Events would have already happened, and God would merely be waiting for those things to play out.  Doesn’t this thought paint God onto a negative canvas?  Is the divine Being simply waiting for human suffering to play itself out?

 

This explains the actuality of the doctrine espousing a divine foreknowledge of every single future event.  It would be as if God had everything that has happened, and everything that is yet to occur recorded on a gigantic DVD, and He could view at will any time. 

 

The problem with such dogma is that it unconsciously detaches God’s involvement in our lives.  It also belittles the importance of His divine influence upon our every decision in life.  It also distances God from the notion that our prayers make any difference in the outcome or fulfillment of what is already prerecorded (so to speak).

 

When Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them HOW to pray, he gave them a response laced with conditions and stipulations.  His prayer involves God’s DAILY provision, and man’s active participation in doing His will.  This is especially noted when Jesus emphasizes the need to forgive.  He said that if they don’t forgive men their trespasses, their Father in heaven would not forgive their trespasses.

 

 

Matthew 6:9-15

9.          "In this manner, therefore, pray: our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.

10.      Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

11.      Give us this day our daily bread.

12.      And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13.      And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

14.      "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

15.      "But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (NKJ)

 

Why would we pray for God not to lead us into temptation He already knows the future?  It seems redundant to mention it again, but picture yourself in a position where you know everything that will ever happen before it comes to pass:  Would you allow your son or daughter to be led into temptation and danger if you knew it was just around the corner?  If it were 5 minutes from now?  What if your child failed to cry out to you just one time, but with catastrophic results?  All you could say from a divine vantage point is, “It must happens according to My supernatural ability to see it coming.”

 

Can you see from this example how belief in a God that knows the future before it even happens engenders concepts of an uncaring and unfeeling deity that doesn’t step in to alter horrific wars, rapes, brutal murders, painful ailments and disease etc?  Quite often, if not most often, God intervenes BECAUSE WE ASK; not because He knows the future.

 

·         Matt 7:11 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!  (NAS)

 

Disaster and Human Tragedies

 

There are so many tragedies in the course of life that seem to make no sense whatsoever.  Many of these tribulations and human suffering appear even worse when someone responds to personal loss by making a statement such as, “Well God knew it was going to happen ahead of time, so it must have been His will.”

 

Explain this to a grieving parent whose 6-year-old daughter is maimed in a car accident, tearing her tiny right arm and leg off.  Now imagine her parents are followers of Jesus.  They have been taught and always believed that God knew the future.  Now He has let their beautiful little girl be crippled and scarred for life.  If their marriage survives this ordeal, how do they reconcile the anger and bitterness they feel towards God?

 

Let’s say someone we love is killed in an automobile accident while in the prime of his or her life.  Let’s say the one killed is a 30 year-old single mom (who we will call “Debbie”) with two young children, and she is a dedicated Christian.  If we believe God knows the future, this scenario becomes very confusing to us.

 

After all, this young mother would have raised both children to know, serve and love the Lord.  On the other hand, the birth father is not a devoted Christian, nor is he a loving parent.  In fact, he is very apathetic and indifferent towards his children, and has all but rejected them.  Does it make ANY SENSE AT ALL that God, who knows the future, would allow Debbie to be killed, and her children left to fend for themselves?

 

Now consider the example above from the view of a God who is unaware of future events prior to their occurrence.  First of all, whether or not He knows the future does not necessarily determine if He will or will not intervene in a particular situation. 

 

Let us assume God does not know the future and sees the car accident unfolding.  Could He have prevented the accident, or at least spared Debbie’s life?  Of course!  Then why didn’t He?  Doesn’t He care?  Does He realize the pain and grief that will unfold because He did not prevent this tragedy?  Why does He spare some, and yet for no apparent or legitimate reason He lets others more deserving perish?  The answer is not simple, nor is it accurate to answer it from only the limited human perspective.

 

First, whether God did or did not know the future, (the future as we understand it), is not what is in question here.  The most pressing and daunting inquiries are “Why?”  Assuming God does NOT know the future, He allowed this young mother to be instantly killed while being fully aware of the incident.

 

·         Job 34:20-21 "In a moment they die, and at midnight people are shaken and pass away, and the mighty are taken away without a hand.  For His eyes are upon the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps.”  (NAS)

 

We know from scripture that God sees all of man’s ways.  His familiarity with what is happening throughout the world and even the universe must be segregated from the notion of His foreknowledge, or what we term His knowledge of the future.

 

When tragedy strikes, the answer to the age-old question “Why” is not immediately revealed.  We experienced a time of grief, and in the case of Debbie, we shake our heads in utter bewilderment. 

 

Our view is limited, and is clouded by human judgment, analysis, emotion, etc.  Because we are unable to conclude with certainty, and provide our mind and heart with a satisfactory answer, we relegate the tragic incident as being a part of “God’s plan.”  We comfort ourselves with speculation, “Well, God knew this horrible accident was going to happen long before she was killed, so it must be His will.  He must see something we don’t see, because only God knows the future.”

 

We take solace and comfort in our conclusion that God knows every event before it actually happens.  In so doing, we can put the matter to rest, and go on with our lives.  Yet deep inside, something is missing.  In the course of weeks, months and years to come, our minds and hearts will be nagged and confused when comparing our personal experience with tragedy to other situations and circumstances.

 

For example, a year after the accident, we hear of a young mother involved in an automobile accident on the same stretch of highway where our beloved Debbie was taken from us.  In this case, the second young mother was miraculously spared, and left uninjured. 

 

The paramedics at the scene are quoted in the local newspaper, testifying in astonishment, “This lady must have had an angel on her shoulder.  It was an absolute miracle that she is alive.  We have seen several fatal accidents in this same location; in fact, just last year a young mother was killed here.”

 

Our mind reels as we read on, “I guess I’m just a lucky person,” quotes the accident victim.  “I’ve always been a lucky person,” the young mother says ungratefully.  She seems oblivious to the divine intervention that unquestionably saved her life.

 

After reading the newspaper article, painful wounds are reopened.  Your mind is reeling with unanswered dilemmas, “WHY did God spare this ungrateful woman, and let my Debbie, who loved the Lord, be killed?  It makes no sense at all!  This lady will, most likely, never train her children in the ways of the Lord, and yet she is supernaturally saved from death or injury.”

 

At this point, our belief in a God who knows the future, yet allows unnecessary suffering, can waver.  Many a Christian man, woman or child has all but forsaken their faith in a so-called “loving God” who knew misfortune was coming, yet in spite of many prayers for His protection, let fate take its course.

 

On the other hand, if you can break the paradigm and doctrinal position so deeply entrenched, and you can view God as a loving Father who works within the parameters of events as they unfold, there is far less if an inclination to blame Him.  In other words, if you can say, “God did not know Debbie was going to be instantly killed in this car accident before it happened; but when it happened, He saw the big picture.  He knew there were other godly people who, given the opportunity, would take Debbie’s children under their wing.”

 

The “big picture” is not God’s understanding of future events; rather, it is His knowledge of people’s lives that He wants entwined together.  Yes, He could have saved Debbie’s life, and He knew her children’s father was a dead-beat dad.  However, He also knew that the grandparents were God-fearing and that they would do everything in their power to obtain custody of Debbie’s children.

 

God also knew that He would use everything in His power and divine arsenal to bring to pass the tutelage of Debbie’s children by the grandparents.  This was no guarantee that His will for the children would come to pass, but the likelihood was greatly increased by virtue of His interest and involvement.

 

God knew the history and proven record of the godly lives of Debbie’s Christian parents.  He knew they would make an ideal replacement for parental guidance.  While ideally it may have been best to spare Debbie’s life, God knew He could and work all things together for good to these young ones who loved Him, and had been called according to His purposes (READ Romans 8:28).

 

The fact that God does not know the exact outcome of the future, and the fact He cannot predict our cooperation with His will and plan by knowing the future in NO WAY diminishes His greatness, nor is it a degradation of His understanding.  Instead, when we realize that God experiences events simultaneous with their occurrence, it motivates us to be alert and ready to work together with Him to bring to pass His will.

 

Put another way, God is intimately acquainted with all the ways of mankind.  He knows everyone’s past, and He knows with immeasurable detail each individual person’s level of willingness to hear His voice, and yield to His plan.  He knows who will, and who will not say, “Yes Lord, here am I, send me” (READ Isaiah 6:1-9).  He does not how we will react and/or respond to His each and every beckon  However, God can say, with incredible mathematical probability, who will or will not collaborate freely and willingly with Him.

 

Why?  Because God knows what is in the heart and mind of man (READ Psalms 44:21).

 

 

 

Psalm 139:1-18

1.          O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

2.          You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off.

3.          You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.

4.          For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.

5.          You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.

6.          Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it.

7.          Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

8.          If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.

9.          If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10.      Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.

11.      If I say, "Surely the darkness shall fall on me," even the night shall be light about me;

12.      Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13.      For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother's womb.

14.      I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.

15.      My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16.      Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

17.      How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!

18.      If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You. (NKJ)

 

Whom Shall I Send?

Isaiah 6:8-11

8.          Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

9.          And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.'

10.      "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, lest they see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed."

11.      Then I said, "Lord, how long?" And He answered, "Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, houses are without people, and the land is utterly desolate, (NAS)

 

This passage of prophetic scripture adds more clarity to our theology.  It is obvious proof that God does not know the future, yet works together with men who have demonstrated a willingness to hear and obey His voice of command. 

 

In verse eight, God asks the question, “Whom shall I send?”  If He knew Isaiah’s reply would be affirmative, wouldn’t He have made the statement, “I know whom I will send?” 

 

Certainly Isaiah had a proven record of saying, “Yes” to God, and there is a divine degree of certainty that Isaiah would respond, “Here am I Lord send me!”  We can draw a positive conclusion from the text, and affirm that God did not know Isaiah’s future reply, therefore He phrased His desire in a question format.

 

CONCLUSION

Many Unanswered Questions In Light of Definite Facts

 

This short study cannot address all the scriptural apologetics and arguments regarding the topic of future knowledge.  It is not my intention to do so.  This treatise is for those who have ears to hear, and eyes to see.  It is a revelation from God to those who are willing to break with tradition, and assume the awesome responsibility of saying, “Here am I Lord, send me.”

 

It is my hope that those who have suffered extreme hardship and personal loss will now view the Creator as both loving, and as a God who works within the parameters of what He does know, NOT what he doesn’t.  When God opened my eyes to this truth, I began to take more responsibility for my own actions.  I stopped blaming God for my suffering and pain.

 

By knowing that God cannot possibly know what we will do or say, we have demonstrated how compulsory it is for His people to work with His plan, as it unfolds.  The following are facts that will help you interpret the hard-to-understand verses of scripture that may seem to contradict this understanding:

 

1.      God does not know what our future choices will be, but he works to influence us in every way possible to be one with Him and His plan for our lives.

2.      Prophecy of scripture regarding future events should be viewed as God’s PLAN; it is NOT His foreknowledge of future events as they unfold.  It is His blueprint; similar to the plans an engineer would design for a building.  In this divine scheme, God does not know all of the names and individual events and choices leading to the completion of His plan, but He is certain there will be men and women of faith that will cooperate with Him in it.  His incomprehensible knowledge of the past historical record of those who walked in faith, from the beginning of His creation until now, provide an accurate mathematical probability there will be others in the future whom He can rely upon with certainty to say “Yes” to Him, and bring about a successful completion of His design (or prophecy).  History and human behavior repeat themselves; God uses this knowledge to His advantage.

3.      While God does not know future events (i.e. the specifics of each individual life before they happen), He works with what He has, and intervenes for our ultimate good.  It is difficult to perceive this at times, especially when tragedy strikes and when we are subject to the extremes of human suffering.  Knowing that He is working within the parameters of the ‘now’ as opposed to knowing the future, we are motivated to pray fervently, and seek Him for direction.  He truly works all things together for good:

·         Rom 8:26-28 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (NIV)

4.      Certain verses of scripture may, in isolation, appear to support the doctrine that God does indeed know the future before it happens.  These particular verses are limited in number, and must be interpreted in their full context.  That is, you must read the entire passage, including numerous verses that precede and follow each verse.  If the context conflicts with our interpretation of one verse we think supports the idea of divine foreknowledge, we should then consult the original Hebrew and Greek languages in their entirety.  Translators universally accepted the doctrine of divine foreknowledge, and were thus biased when translating.  They translated many verse unintentionally to support their skewed view of God.  Thus many Bible translations contain numerous verses and passages that lend themselves to this view. 

5.      God loves you, and He gave His only begotten son as a ransom for you.  He never mentions the name of “Jesus” in the entire Old Testament, and this omission is indicative of the position taken by this author.  God mentions Jesus’ birthplace, his various titles, and his role as Messiah, but most of the particulars are left to time and the willingness of those who will obey His voice.  Neither Joseph or Mary, nor any of Jesus disciples who were to become apostles are mentioned by name.  The apostle Paul, who scribed nearly ¾ of the New Testament, is not even alluded to in the Old Testament.  Thus we conclude God has His future plans for man, and does not know the exact players and events.  This prompts us to seek Him, and know the One that made us in His likeness and image.  SELAH

 

 

Selah

 

Continued in Part 2

 

 


 

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