When did God decide to give us eternal life?
When is a time word, and the Bible uses words like that. And when the Bible speaks about the time frame in which God’s decision is made in respect to our eternal life, it generally puts the decision at the foundation of the world; that is, from all eternity God has chosen us to be among the redeemed.
I think Paul emphasizes that very clearly, particularly in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. We were chosen in Christ from the foundation of the world to be conformed to Christ and to be brought into a state of redemption. This, of course, touches immediately on the very difficult and controversial doctrine of predestination. I will say in passing, as we skate over the surface of it, that every church has some doctrine of predestination. There are great variances among the churches in terms of how to understand predestination, but every church historically has had to hammer out and forge some doctrine of predestination because the Bible speaks of it. So there is a certain sense in which from all eternity God has chosen his people for salvation.
Now, obviously, that gets into some very complicated side issues. On what basis does God make a decision like that from all eternity? Did God make a decision from all eternity that certain people would be damned? Does he destine people for hell? Does he destine people to fall? I think the church has shrunk from that concept and rightly so. I think God knew from all eternity that man would fall, that man would rebel against him, and he also knew that he was going to make a provision to redeem people from all eternity. God’s knowledge is as ancient and his omniscience is as eternal as he is. Everything that God knows, he knows from eternity. We need to keep this idea in front of us.
I would say that God’s decision to choose us was made prior to the fall of mankind but in light of the Fall. Let me say it again. He made the decision before the Fall, with the knowledge that the Fall will come and with the knowledge of its consequences. In other words, God couldn’t possibly make it his choice to save persons who were in no need of salvation. Only sinners are in need of salvation, so God must have considered us as being sinners and fallen as we were considered in the divine mind for salvation. Ultimately, the decision to save us was made in eternity, according to God’s divine knowledge of us.
©1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.