Can You Control Your Destiny?
IS OUR ultimate destiny predetermined? Do the choices we make in life have no effect on our future?
Suppose man is master of his own fate. In this case, could any individual be foreordained to perform a specific task or occupy a certain office? And how could God accomplish his will for the earth if humans were free to shape their own destiny? The Bible provides satisfying answers to these questions.
Predestination and Free Will—Reconcilable?
Consider how Jehovah God made us. “In God’s image he created [man]; male and female he created them,” states the Bible. (Genesis 1:27) Made in God’s likeness, we have the ability to reflect his qualities, such as love, justice, wisdom, and power. God has also given us the gift of free will, or freedom of choice. This makes us unique among his earthly creation. We can choose whether we will follow God’s moral guidance or not. That is why the prophet Moses could say: “I do take the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you today, that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the malediction; and you must choose life in order that you may keep alive, you and your offspring, by loving Jehovah your God, by listening to his voice and by sticking to him.”—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
The gift of freedom of choice, though, does not mean absolute freedom. It does not free us from the physical and moral laws that God made for the stability and peace of the universe. These laws were set up for our good, and any violation of them could lead to serious consequences. Just think of what would happen if we chose to ignore the law of gravity and jumped off the roof of a tall building!—Galatians 6:7.
Freedom of choice also binds us with a restraint that creatures lacking such freedom do not have. The writer Corliss Lamont asks: “How can we attribute ethical responsibility to men, and punish them for wrongdoing, if we accept . . . that their choices and actions are predetermined?” Of course, we cannot. Instinct-driven animals are not held morally responsible for what they do, nor are computers deemed accountable for the functions they are programmed to perform. Freedom of choice, then, places upon us a heavy responsibility and makes us accountable for our actions.
How unloving and unjust Jehovah God would be if before we were born, he predetermined the course we would take and then held us responsible for our actions! He does not do this, for “God is love,” and “all his ways are justice.” (1 John 4:8; Deuteronomy 32:4) Having given us freedom of choice, he did not at the same time ‘determine from eternity whom he would save and whom he would damn,’ as believers in predestination assert. Freedom of choice precludes predestination.
The Bible clearly shows that the choices we make will alter our destiny. For example, God appeals to wrongdoers, saying: “Turn back, please, every one from his bad way and from the badness of your dealings . . . that I may not cause calamity to you.” (Jeremiah 25:5, 6) This appeal would be pointless if God had already fixed each individual’s destiny. Moreover, God’s Word states: “Repent, therefore, and turn around so as to get your sins blotted out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the person of Jehovah.” (Acts 3:19) Why would Jehovah ask people to repent and turn around if he knew beforehand that they could do absolutely nothing to change their destiny?
The Scriptures speak of some who are invited by God to rule as kings in heaven with Jesus Christ. (Matthew 22:14; Luke 12:32) However, the Bible says that they will lose that privilege if they do not endure to the end. (Revelation 2:10) Why would God invite them at all if he had already decided that they would not be chosen? Consider also the apostle Paul’s words to his fellow believers. He wrote: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left.” (Hebrews 10:26) Such a warning would be valueless if God had foreordained their destiny. But has not God foreordained at least some individuals to be rulers with Jesus Christ?
Foreordained—Individuals or a Group?
“[God] has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ,” wrote the apostle Paul, “just as he chose us in union with him before the founding of the world . . . For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself.” (Ephesians 1:3-5) What has God foreordained, and what is the meaning of being selected “before the founding of the world”?
This passage states that God has chosen some descendants of the first man, Adam, to rule with Christ in the heavens. (Romans 8:14-17, 28-30; Revelation 5:9, 10) However, the assumption that Jehovah God foreordained thousands of years before they were born specific individuals to receive this privilege conflicts with the fact that humans are endowed with freedom of choice. What God foreordained was a group, or class of people, not individuals.
To illustrate: Suppose that a government decides to set up a particular agency. It predetermines the agency’s functions, its powers, and its size. The agency finally goes into operation some time after it was set up, and its members issue a statement saying: “The government determined a number of years ago what our job would be. Now we begin the work assigned to us.” Would you conclude that the government must have predetermined some years earlier who the individual members of that agency would be? Surely not. Similarly, Jehovah predetermined that he would set up a special agency to remedy the effects of Adam’s sin. He foreordained the class of people who would serve in that agency—but not the individuals. They would be chosen later, and the choices they would make in life would have a bearing on whether they were finally approved or not.
What world did the apostle Paul have in mind when he said: “[God] chose us in union with him before the founding of the world”? The world that Paul refers to here is not the world that God started when he created Adam and Eve. That world was “very good”—absolutely free from sin and corruption. (Genesis 1:31) It did not need a “release” from sin.—Ephesians 1:7.
The particular world that Paul meant is the one that came into existence after Adam and Eve rebelled in Eden—a world very different from the one originally purposed by God. It was the world that began with the children of Adam and Eve. That world consisted of people alienated from God and enslaved to sin and corruption. It was a world of people who, unlike the willful sinners Adam and Eve, were redeemable.—Romans 5:12; 8:18-21.
Jehovah God was instantly able to meet the situation resulting from the rebellion in Eden. As soon as the need arose, he foreordained a special agency—the Messianic Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ—that he would use in connection with the redemption of mankind from Adamic sin. (Matthew 6:10) God did this “before the founding of the world” of redeemable mankind, that is, before rebellious Adam and Eve brought forth children.
Humans usually need a plan of action in order to accomplish what they want to do. Predestination is linked with the idea that God must have a detailed plan for the universe wherein everything is predetermined. “It has seemed to many philosophers,” writes Roy Weatherford, “that anything less than a complete specification of every event would be incompatible with God’s Majesty.” Does God really need to specify every event in advance?
Being infinite in power and matchless in wisdom, Jehovah can meet any emergency or contingency that might result as his creatures exercise their free will. (Isaiah 40:25, 26; Romans 11:33) He can do this instantly and without forethought. Unlike fallible men with their limited abilities, Almighty God does not need a detailed, cut-and-dried plan that sets out beforehand the destiny of every individual on the earth. (Proverbs 19:21) In a number of Bible translations, Ephesians 3:11 speaks of God’s having an “eternal purpose” rather than a fixed plan.
How You Can Affect Your Future
God has a purpose for the earth, and that purpose is preordained. Revelation 21:3, 4 states: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Yes, this earth will become a paradise, just as Jehovah originally intended. (Genesis 1:27, 28) The question is, Will you be there? That depends on the choices you make now. Jehovah has not fixed your destiny.
The ransom sacrifice of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, makes it possible for anyone who exercises faith in him to receive everlasting life. (John 3:16, 17; Acts 10:34, 35) “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life,” says the Bible. “He that disobeys the Son will not see life.” (John 3:36) You can choose life by learning about God, his Son, and His will from the pages of the Bible and by applying what you learn. The person acting in accord with true wisdom recorded in God’s Word is assured that “he will reside in security and be undisturbed from dread of calamity.”—Proverbs 1:20, 33.
[Pictures on page 5]
Unlike animals, humans are morally responsible for their actions
Eagle: Foto: Cortesía de GREFA