In a previous blog I wrote about “Predestination and Free Will”. I believe that Christians who don’t accept the Bible’s teaching on predestination are forfeiting the great assurance and comfort that this doctrine affords. On the one hand, I think they may misunderstand God’s sovereignty, and on the other hand, human free will. If God is sovereign, surely salvation is 100% all of God. If we are utterly sinful, surely we will not use our free will to turn to God.
In our current series on Revelation there is a fascinating verse that speaks to this topic. Revelation 13:8 speaks about non-Christians, those who worship the beast, as those “whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain”.
I hope you’ll excuse some technical discussion, but the verse has some complications in translation regarding the Greek. A perusal of different English translations will illustrate this. I’ll try and give a literal Greek translation: “it has not been written the name of him in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world”. One can see from the ESV translation above that it has connected the final words “from the foundation of the world” with almost the start of the sentence, with the word “written”. This clearly teaches predestination.
Some would argue however that this translation is incorrect and that the phrase “from the foundation of the world” describes “the Lamb who was slain”, which comes immediately before. That is, the Lamb was slain from the beginning of the world. God’s plan for Jesus to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins was ordained before creation. This is indeed true (1 Peter 1:18-20). And it would be unusual for the phrase “from the foundation of the world” to be separated so far in the Greek from “it has not been written”. So those who argue that against the ESV translation could be correct.
However, Revelation 17:8 speaks of “the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world”. There is no issue here with the order of the words, as in chapter 13. This verse clearly teaches predestination. So it is likely that the ESV translation of Revelation 13:8 is quite correct. Even if it isn’t, the point it makes still stands anyway in Revelation 17:8.
That is, here is a verse, most likely two verses, that clearly teach predestination, as do many other verses in the New Testament. Those who refuse to repent, who refuse the gospel, do not have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world. Christians however do have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life before creation. God predestined you and me to accept the good news of Jesus and be saved before creation! What a great comfort this teaching is.