Does God predestine people to hell?
This is really a question about what we call “double” predestination. It is a serious question and, therefore, should not be answered in any sort of joking way.
The easy side of talking about predestination is to talk about the way in which God has elected some sinners to life. God has determined from eternity to give the gift of life and faith to some sinners. The hard part of talking about election is related to this question: Is it also true, then, that God has decided from eternity not to give the gift of faith to some and to leave them in their sins? As Reformed people, we believe that this is what the Scripture teaches.
This is a somewhat disturbing doctrine. Even Calvin referred to it as the decretum horribile, “the horrible decree.” It’s a horrible decree because those of us who know Jesus are confronted with the reality that we might not have been chosen to faith. It should humble us before God and fill us with gratitude that He has acted in our hearts.
The Scripture makes very clear that some are not elected to faith, and the great example of that is Judas. Although Judas fellowshipped with Jesus, knew Jesus, and heard Jesus, he was lost because he was a son of perdition and had not been chosen to faith. The reason it is important to believe that is because the Scripture doesn’t teach anything that is not spiritually profitable.
Some people have said, “There is no spiritual profit in knowing that some people are not elected to life.” The spiritual profit of knowing about Judas is to know that Jesus did not fail with Judas. Judas did not frustrate the plan of Jesus or the plan of the Father. Jesus always succeeds in what He’s doing, and that’s important for us to be comforted. He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of the Lord. So, predestination is a comforting doctrine to us.
For anyone who is not believing, or who is perhaps wondering: “Am I one of the non-elect? Am I one of the reprobate?” the word of the gospel goes to you now: “Come and believe.” When you believe, you’ll know that you’re elect.
This transcript is from a live Ask Ligonier event with W. Robert Godfrey and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.