If God decreed all things, did He actively decree that some would sin, be unbelievers, and thus be punished forever? If we were to ask Jesus for an answer to this question, He might point us to His words in Matthew 25, a prophecy of the judgment of believers and unbelievers to come at His return.
In this setting, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). Those on the right were blessed by Father to inherit a kingdom that He planned to give them even before the time He created the world. The Father knew who these kingdom citizens would be and planned to bless them in this way. To state it in terms of this article’s title, He decreed in eternity past that there would be a kingdom and that these blessed would be its citizens.
As for unbelievers, however, Jesus does not state that a place of damnation was prepared by the Father in like manner for them. He states to those on His left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). There is no mention of the Father, and the place of punishment was not even prepared for them but the devil and his angels. The implication is that the unbeliever is not guilty of not being one for whom the Father prepared the kingdom. Rather, the unbeliever, like the devil and his angels, rejected God and was cursed and would be held responsible for his unbelief by being punished forever.
In short, the Father prepared a kingdom for those would believe. The Father is not said, however, to have prepared eternal fire for unbelievers. In all of this, we see one of the texts in the Bible that holds the mystery of the sovereignty of God side-by-side with the responsibility of man. God did not prepare a kingdom for some, but these outcasts chose to shun His kingdom, for which they find themselves cursed and forsaken to eternal fire.
Seeing that men shall answer to God for how they have loved and lived for Him, may we implore the lost all the more to repent and turn to Him!
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.