I was told, when I was young, that God predestined every Christian personally, each and every one individually, before the foundation of the earth (See here). And although that may sound very appealing, I always thought that this would be highly unlikely. And apart from the question whether this would be true or no, it also sounds very overbearing and arrogant. Can you imagine that God predestined me personally before the foundation of the earth? That would be quite presumptious and haughty to think or even claim that. I always thought that it would be much more likely that he did not predestine me personally before creation, but instead, that he predestined a heavenly people, as a qualified, non-quantified group. What one thinks oneself, nor what theologies say, is important. Only what the Bible says about it is, and we should only listen to that and nothing else and check from Scripture if things are as such.
One big problem is already that if there is individual predestination, the conclusion is that God, actively or passively, predestined the rest of the people to Hell. That does not sound like the nature of God at all, nor is it described in the Bible. Not only that, but this can, as a negative side effect, lead to large passiveness and uncertainty of being saved and even preaching the gospel may depend on certain factors and may not have such a clear appeal any more to really try to convert people; it all then namely for a great deal depends on the fact if someone is individually chosen by God or not; whether someone is predestined or not. Individual predestination is therefore, in many ways, a real and present danger; a threat to the gospel.
Predestination as the Bible describes it, is however, first and foremost, not individual, but speaks about a group. It talks not about a certain predestined (fixed) number of people, but about a special group of Christians to be His Bride in heaven. A predestination of a heavenly group, or a ‘special distinctive kind of breed’ one might say. As 1 Peter 2: 9 describes it: ‘But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.” (NASB). Who will personally attend that group, depends on who will convert and, with that, immediately becomes part of it. The conversion process is always partly an act of grace by God, who is working on each and everyone’s heart, but it also has to do with the free will of a person to choose, which includes the possibility to resist God's call. God loves everyone and does not want anyone to be lost and that anyone will come to the obedience of the truth. The promise is that everyone who believes will be saved, no one excluded. When one is saved, and when one has entered through the door, then, when looking back, once inside, there is, so to speak, a sign above the door saying ‘you now belong to the predestined group, which I had already planned before the foundation of the world’. On the outside of the door, there is a 'sign' above the door saying: " I am the Door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved...", appealing to the free choice of the individual.
Now let’s see what I found in the Bible that confirms the notion that predestination is not about individual/personal predestination, but about predestination as a group.
That there is indeed such predestination, can be found in Ephesians 1: 3-6:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” (NASB)
Now that there would be a personal or individual predestination, would mainly be deducted from a couple of Bible verses.
Romans 8: 28-30: “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. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” (NASB)
Note that exclusively the plural form is used (which also can clearly be seen in original Greek). Maybe the ‘those whom He foreknew’ is causing some confusion and has lead to the idea of individual predestination. It seems to suggest having predestined individual souls, but that is not what it says. It says that He foreknew a group (‘those whom’; plural) to be his bride and that they would be conformed to the image of His Son, because that is what they were predestined for. All the ones who become Christians are automatically part of that group that was predestined. That’s what it says. It does not say anything about about ‘individual chosen, pre-destined ones’ at all; that’s what has been made of it, theologically. If there would be individual “chosenness”, individuals being predestined, that would create a big problem. It namely raises the question: "On what ground?" Based on what? There is no partiality with God, however the idea of selected predestined individuals contradicts that completely. Then there would be some form of partially with God, based on whatever norms God has decided for it. Just saying that there is such a ground, but that we simply don’t know what God's ground is, is not enough, because it still is contradictory to the Bible. The main problem is, it goes against Gods nature, because He loves everyone and does not want anyone to be lost. God wants everyone to be saved, as the Bible makes clear, not hypothetically, but as a reality. If everyone would believe, everyone would be saved. God, however, made it dependent of the free will of men to choose and that is, most probably, because God is a God of love and he wants a truly loving relationship with us. God has made us in such a way that a real loving relationship with Him, implies a completely free will; it can apparently not be forced (which is something we can understand and relate to). It cannot be forced, even not by an all powerful God. Because of the nature of the love He wants to see, and by the nature of His own being, God is love, free will is needed. That may seem contradictory, when looking at it superficially, that an omnipotent God would not be able to do something, but it does not contradict at all. Even an all powerful God, who is at the same time love, light and pure holiness and for ever the same, cannot go against his own nature. It is not that He, strictly spoken, would not be able to do so, but He deliberately chooses never to do so, because He is a reliable and consequent God on which we can totally trust at all times; He is for ever faithful, for ever trustworthy, never lying, never doing any evil or sin. He is absolutely holy, and there is even no shadow of darkness with Him. By this very nature of Him, being reliably for ever and ever the same, being the great I am, in past, present and future, He simply cannot go against His nature. One could say that if God would ever sin, He would instantly cease to be God. And because God is, and has all these qualifications, He won’t sin, He can't, although strictly and humanly spoken, because of his omnipotence, He hypothetically could. One would say nowadays: ‘He can, but He can’t’. But, most importantly; He won’t and never will, because of who He is. We, however, were made differently from God, although Genesis says that we were made after His image. Psalm 8: 4-5 says: “What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty!” A ‘little lower’ is still yet by no means imperfect. God made us perfect, and things may have gone differently if Adam and Eve had consistently chosen the right thing. God however controls the future in the way that He knows what is in the heart and mind, and on the tongue of people and completely sets what happens to his hand. He is not in control in the way that everything happens as a definite, fixed and completely set out path, for which there is no room for any adjustments at all. No, there are several examples in the Bible that God gives the opportunity to steer things so that things go differently as possibly initially planned and intended, and then He goes further from there (and still gets where He wants and it was no surprise because he knew already that would happen). So there is completely free will and yet, at the same time, God completely knows the outcome in advance. We can call upon Him in prayer, to change the course of things and He’ll listens to that. But because He is always in control and holds the future, in the way that He, no matter what happens, is still able to reach his plan, whatever happens. He absolutely knows what will happen (Isahia 46: 10). He is able to predict things, as can be read all over the Bible, because it will eventually still develop and results in the way He wanted it, the way He planned it. He clearly and definitely wants certain things to happen, as is written in God’s Word and it will happen. God is in constant control over everything and steers it towards the end goal, and the outcome as He has planned beforehand is therefore fixed (See: God is in control). To us that may totally feel like everything is pre-determined and fixed, but it is not the same. If God knows the future, the outcome of free will, He also knows what our choices will be. He knows our heart and therefore He will know whether we choose for Him or not. He knows who will believe, each and everyone individually, but that is something different from that He would have predestined everyone individually beforehand, as if they have no choice at all. They have completely free choices, but because God knows the future, he knows the outcome. That is also why that order is maintained here, 'those whom He foreknew (firstly), He also predestined (secondly)'. One might say, those whom He beforehand knew who would believe, are of course as a consequence of their faith, predestined to be conformed like the Son, because they belong to the predestined group which qualifies as such. So, it is not that God did not know the people individually who would choose for God, He did, but they still had a completely free choice. He knew in advance who would believe and, as a consequence, would be predestined (by faith), but not the other way around! It is grace by faith, like Ephesians 2: 8-9 says it: 'For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.' We are saved, not as results of works but by the grace God has granted to us that only faith in Him is entirely enough to save us.
Acts 13: 48: “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (NASB)
Notice that also here only plural forms are used. With the theology of individual predestination in mind one might think that this says: ‘those who were individually predestined, actually became believers’, and when that number was reached, it stopped. But that is not what it says. The original Greek text goes like this: ‘καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον’. 'Eπίστευσαν is the 'aoristus' form, and τεταγμένοι is a 'participium perfectum pluralis passivum'. The Greek literally would translate as follows: ‘And those believed (as a finished form of event) as many as were (passively) being appointed (as a perfected activity) to eternal life'. (The Greek word 'τεταγμένοι' is from the verb τάσσω, meaning: 1. to put in a certain order, 2. to point ones place, 3. assign to a specific department, 4. to count someone to belong to a certain group/species, pass. belong to, 5. determine or establish as fact.) So this can very well mean a passive, but automatic and immediate consequence, namely suddenly belonging to the ones with eternal life, caused by their own active act of conversion and responding to the gospel in accepting it and believing it. Those who opened the door of their heart got saved and with that received eternal life immediately as an automatic, but passive consequence! It happened to them, it was given to them immediately (probably without them even realizing it yet). That is actually truly what happens, because the Bible say that anyone who believes receives eternal life at once(!) and not somewhere in the future, let alone only yet after death; John 6:47 says; "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has (ἔχει) eternal life', that is in the present and very instance of believing (in the present tense at the very instance of believing). I think what may have been the case here is that they may have somehow forgotten to count, maybe by the spectacular excitement of Gentiles suddenly starting to rejoice and glorify, which may very well have come as a totally overwhelming surprise. They may just have forgotten to count, or for whatever reason just did not count the number of the converted and therefore it may have been formulated like this (elsewhere often numbers of converted are mentioned). So, one could read it like: ‘Although we don't know the exact number of the ones who got converted, it is not exactly known, because we did not count it, but what we do know and can say with certainty is that those who obeyed to the call and converted, were appointed to eternal life immediately (even the Gentiles; see also: Acts 11: 18, Acts 14: 27). Interpretations may therefore put too much weight on 'as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed', as a sort of a select and predestined individual elect, while in fact the order may also be the other way around (a bit like 'what was first the chicken or the egg'). I think it means: 'As many believed, who, as a consequence of receiving the gospel at that point in time and place, were being appointed to eternal life'. Those who decided to believe became immediately part of the elect group and its qualifications, so to speak, and therefore instantly received eternal life. The original Greek does not prove a given number of individual predestined ones here (and no more than that). To read predestination in it, may more be given in by theology than what it says. Moreover, that would totally contradict the Biblical claim that anyone who will believe will be saved and so there could have been more, but there weren't any more, simply because there weren't any more who accepted it and believed it. It stopped because no more responded to the gospel and converted and not because the number of pre-elects or predestined individuals was reached.
And also 1 Peter 1: 1-2; “To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen (Ἐκλεκτοῖς=plural) according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.”
Again this is plural. It does not say ‘individually chosen’, but ‘those who reside as aliens’; as group, namely the ones who, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, obeyed Jesus. It does not say anything about individual predestination and if one would search on related search terms in concordances and Bible software, it confirms the predestination of a group, namely those who believe in Christ and are added to the body of Christ, to be predestined, not at all each and every person individually and separately (See: predestined).
So, based on what I found in the Bible, I reject the theology or idea of individual predestination. Instead of that, the Bible consistently talks about a group that is predestined. One can at most say that someone is predestined, because one knows to belong to that group, and based upon the fact that the group is predestined, one may consider oneself predestined as well, bu only based on personal faith, and not because God individually picked him or her out, before the foundation of the world, to become a believer. By no means. That would be reading something into the Bible that the Bible does not say. We are not allowed to add or take away anything that is written in the Bible! Individual predestination is not what the Bible teaches. It is what man made of it and what has become theology. The latter should not be the decisive factor, no matter how big or famous the names of persons or churches related to it may be. Foreknowledge of who would individually believe (foreseen faith) can be deducted from the Bible (it does not say that literally; it still remains in the plural), as a consequence of God knowing the future and therefore the outcome of personal decisions. That is still a great enough miracle for me. That God knew already that I would believe, and solely based on that faith, and nothing more, I'm saved. Amazing grace, how sweet that sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind, but now I see.