This is a common debate among Christians today…are our lives predetermined by God before we’re born as to whether we’ll go to heaven or hell regardless of the choices that we make or do we have the free will to make choices which ultimately determine where we end up eternally?
In this section, I will discuss both what free will and predestination is (including various scriptures on the topic) before ending with my own personal view on this area. There are plenty of verses (more than the ones that will be listed here) regarding this topic.
To begin with, predestination is when God predetermines who He will call and brings it to pass since what God wills can not be changed by humans. The idea is that God, before the earth was created and any humans were ever born, preordained that some would be saved and some would be condemned to an eternal judgment (i.e. election). Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV says “Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” Another good verse on this topic is John 6:44 ESV which says “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” These two verses clearly state that our lives have been predetermined by God to live with Him for eternity!
Second, when it comes to free will, you have the choice as to what you wish to believe, eat, where to work (or whether you don’t want to work), and so on. The choices that you make today affect how your future pans out! Joshua 24:15 ESV says “And if it’s evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
In Genesis 2:16-17, God told Adam that he may eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden but not of the Tree of Knowledge. Instead, Adam and Eve made the choice to eat from the forbidden tree when they were tempted by the Devil. Why would God predestine Adam and Eve to sin against Him if he gave them the command not to? I’m sure that God had a Plan B in place long before this whole situation happened but don’t believe that He wanted it to happen! Both Adam and Eve were given the free will to love and follow God and to also make the choice that led them to first sin.
To conclude, I believe that everyone has the free will to make the choice to follow God or not and that their fate is determined by these choices. I don’t believe that God predestines who automatically goes to heaven or hell before we’re even born. If that was true, what’s the point of everyone trying to follow God’s commands and reach salvation? The best example that comes to my mind is if someone is abusing children because they were themselves abused growing up, doesn’t mean that they’ll go to heaven if they don’t change their behavior…because they were predestined to due to their circumstances. Now, are they more likely to follow that dark path because of their experiences…possibly. But the fact of the matter, according to the Bible, is that they will go to hell unless they decide to make a change and act on it by repenting of their sins! I personally know people that were sexually abused as children but made the choice to seek help and to not go down that path. With that said, I also believe that God uses our experiences for the good of others; now whether you choose to use your experience to help others or not, is your choice. We’re all accountable for the choices that we make, both good and bad, which ultimately determines whether we end up in heaven or hell for eternity.
With all of that said, to further summarize, we have the free will to either reject or follow God and the choices that we make affect our fate as to where we’ll end up eternally whether it’s heaven or hell.