Spirituality

Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians – A Mini Series Part III

I’m taking a break from a teething baby and a busy week to update the blog with my final Thessalonians post. My questions this morning revolve around predestination. I’ve never taken a side on this issue, but I have a hard time with it! What are your thoughts? I’ll start with scripture. I’ve highlighted the portions that I have questions about. 2 Thessalonians 2: 8-13 states:

  • 8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 13But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruitsd to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

I know this question is not original, but I still struggle with it.  How do predestination and free will exist together in harmony? The New Testament tells us that salvation is within our reach if we accept Jesus. But it is also peppered with verses that seem to indicate that some people are simply destined for Hell. Notably, Romans 8:29-30 specifically references predestination. In verse 11 above, I’m particularly intrigued by the idea that God actually prevents certain people from seeing the truth. I realize that these are people who had already refused God, but considering the number of born-again Christians who also have refused God at some point in their lives, this seems strange. Romans gives us another example of this: Romans 9:18-23:

  • So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”h 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory—

I’m not questioning God’s prerogative, only wondering if Christianity has softened some of the harder truths. It also occurs to me that if in fact some people were “…prepared for destruction…” perhaps the “hardening” or “delusion” that God imposes on those individuals is merciful. Okay, I’m starting to free-associate a bit…

I think the problem for me boils down to morality. I believe that my moral compass, the intuitive instinct for right and wrong, comes from God (if you want an interesting argument that supports that statement, check out Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis). I also think that it isn’t always that simple, but, when I consider that same God creating people with thoughts and feelings only to subject them to eternal suffering, well…. let’s just say it doesn’t seem “right.”

So, thanks for reading! I’m looking forward to the usual comments that make my questions seem positively dense. 🙂 Truly, thank you to everyone who has commented on my posts. It has been really enlightening!

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5 thoughts on “Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians – A Mini Series Part III

  1. Please notice that the words “refused to love (accept) the truth and be saved” come BEFORE “therefore (i.e. because of their rejection of Christ) God sends them a strong delusion… so that they might be damned”.
    Grace is offered to all, but grace may be resisted and refused. From God’s eternal viewpoint, the “predestined” are those who receive his offer of mercy. In context Romans 9 deals with God’s chosen method of salvation, described by the words. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy”. This mercy is available to all through trusting in Christ; and all may do this if they wish.

    In dealing with the difficult subject of predestination, one must always refer to simple and clear teachings of God’s word. A difficult teaching cannot be correct if it contradicts one which is easy to be understood. So as you seek answers, remember: God loves the world (everyone) and is NOT WILLING that any whould perish (a clear indication that he has not arbitrarily predestined anyone to damnation), “that whosoever believes on him” (indicates free will of man).
    By the way, the word “predestined” as used both in Romans and Ephesians is a reference not to the choosing of individuals, but to what they are chosen for (i.e. heaven). Hence, those in Christ, who have trusted him alone for mercy, are predestined to enter heaven. The blessing of predestination, as with all of God’s blessings, is not given us for our own merit, but when we receive Christ we receive them all (Eph. 1:3).
    I’d be happy to send you a free copy of my Ephesians commentary if it would help your search for answers (?)
    NB For the theologians among you, this view is generally known as Wesleyan Arminianism.

    1. Thank you! I’d love to add your Ephesians commentary to my reading list. 🙂 I like your comment about simple and clear teachings. I’m also interested in the idea that predestination is not necessarily bestowed prior to our creation. However, I still find Romans 9:21-22 confusing. The verses seem clear that some are “prepared for destruction.” As for the passage in 2 Thessalonians, I duly note that rejection of Christ is a precursor to the “delusion,” but again, how many have rejected Christ at some point only to accept him later? Thanks for responding!

      1. Before we came to know Christ we were all “objects of wrath” (Eph. 2:3) and so I suppose the term “fitted to destruction” would have rightly applied to us. Our sinful nature being fit only for destruction, we must either receive a new nature (John 3:3), or be damned.
        Paul is answering a question “who has resisted his will?” The answer is of course, very many have done so, in particular in the context, those Jews who refuse to accept the righteousness of God by faith in Christ. That God is still longsuffering toward these is the point which Paul drives home, for the sake of his purpose: to save as many repentant Jews and Gentiles as possible.

        When exegeting Romans 9 as a whole, Paul’s concluding verses 9:30-33 must be allowed to interpret the preceding text. It is a summation of all he has been saying. You will note that the idea that God has “predestined” some for damnation, in the sense of making them predisposed to reject his Son and arbitrarily hardening thier hearts, is no where found in this text, and so should not be assumed.

        The verse in 2 Thessalonians concerns the end of time. Those left behind after the parousia are so hardened in their hearts, that no further opportunity for repentance is possible. God allows the “delusion” to occur, rather like a cop letting a criminal commit a crime before arresting him. The cop knows the guy is evil, but can’t pin a jail term on him until he offends. The worldwide worship of Satan, which is the delusion implied, and the receiving of the mark of the beast, will demonstrate that there is no more scope for reformation – and even as God pours out his wrath, rather than repent, they curse God to his face.

        PS if you’d like to send me an email address I can send you the Kindle book as a pdf. You could email it to me at admin@biblestudiesonline.co.uk . Write a line such as “please send me a free copy of your Ephesians book” and I will. Same goes for anyone else involved in this study/discussion. Hope my comments help your delving into Scripture. Thankyou.

  2. Here is how I understand the 2 Thessalonians text. God offers the gift of salvation to everyone. Some choose it and some do not. Those who actively choose against God are allowed to do so, and their acceptance of “false signs” is a consequence of their personal choices that God also allows. However, throughout their lifetime people have repeated chances to “choose again,” and may eventually God to accept God’s invitation and gift.

    1. Thank you for your insight! I just finished reading Romans and your understanding ties in beautifully with a passage I found after posting today’s entry. Romans 11:23 (part of the olive shoot metaphor, which I found really cool 🙂 ): “And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.”

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