Does God Predestine People to Hell? A Bible Study

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Does God predestine the lost to hell just as He does some to heaven? Are people helpless in the sense that if they are not chosen, they are doomed to hell? Are we helpless victims of God’s will?

What is Predestination?

The definition for the word predestination is: to destine something in advance, to foreordain, or predetermine something. That is the secular definition but here is mine: predestination means to make a decision about something and determining to do it. This is closer to what God does. He determined, before time began and earth existed (including you and me of course) that some would be called into a state of eternal life. That some would be ordained to become the children of God and would live with God and enjoy Him forever. Listen to what Paul wrote in Romans 8:29-30, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

For whom He foreknew, or knew of in advance, and before they even existed, He would have them conformed to the image of His Son…that is Jesus Christ. These would be the “first born” among many brethren. This seems to indicate that since these were the first born, many others would follow. This brings meaning to Isaiah 9:7 which says “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.”   This means that the Kingdom of God will, forever and ever, expand and increase and those who are born again in this age will be not only the first born…but the first born of countless other brothers and sisters in Christ.

These same ones that are the first born will be “foreknew”, they have been “predestined”, they will be “conformed” (means pressure molded literally) to be like Jesus Christ, and these that have been “called” He will also “justify” and then “glorify.” What an amazing teaching this is from the Bible and it matches completely what is in Ephesians 1: 4, 11, 14; “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…[and] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” So believers were chosen before the foundation of the earth, they were chosen to be blameless and holy in Christ, and chosen according to His will, who then guarantees this inheritance, until we acquire possession of it. We will acquire or take possession of this because God determined that we will. My simple little mind can’t grasp this! It’s almost too incredible.

Predestination in the Old Testament

Predestination is not a new doctrine or confined only to the New Testament as Paul alludes to it in Romans 9:15-16 speaking of Moses; “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’ So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” and in Romans 9:11-13 about Esau and Jacob, “for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls, it was said to her, The older shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.”

Are People Predestined to Hell?

Some believe that predestination does away with free will but how do you explain Jesus saying, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35) and “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37) and of course the famously known “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16, 18). These many “whoever comes to me” and “whoever believes in me” makes it clear that people choose Jesus Christ or they choose to reject Him. God is not forcing anyone to choose or sending anyone to hell. People go to hell because they fail to choose to believe in Jesus Christ. That is their freewill choice. God doesn’t force them to choose or to not choose, however God knows exactly who will and who will not choose and has disposed them to do so. I know this is a difficult concept but how can my tiny, finite brain explain the infinite mind of God? How can this be? My answer: I don’t know and who can know the mind of God anyway (Romans 11:33-34, 1 Corinthians 2:16 )?

We are not helpless pawns in God’s game of chess.

We are not helpless pawns in God’s game of chess.

God Chooses But So Do We

When my wife and I were planning for our second child and we found out she was a girl, we chose to have certain shades, colors, toys, and other accoutrements that are befitting a girl. We bought her dolls and stuffed toys with the knowledge that she would prefer these things. We knew, in advance, that she would likely prefer playing with dolls and not toy trucks. We allowed her to make her own choices as her older brother had trucks still around to play with. She was free to play with them but she preferred having tea parties with her dolls and stuffed toys. We had a good idea she would prefer these but she was free to choose. We didn’t make her play with these things any more than we prevented her from playing with trucks. We didn’t force her but we did know what she would probably like. We were right. Since God is omniscient and knows the future as if it already existed, how much more will God know what we will or won’t do…before we even do it? And He is always right!

Freewill or Predestination?

One of the most difficult passages of Scripture in the Bible is a great stumbling block for believes and non-believers. It is found in Romans 9:21-24 and says, “Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?”

Let’s break these mind-numbing Scriptures down. First of all, we can’t question the sovereignty of God. He is the Potter and we are the clay. How can the clay question the Potter? We are blessed to even exist as a clay vessel. He did not have to create us in the first place.


Is it freewill or predestination? Yes! How’s that for an answer. It is both freewill and predestination. Freewill and predestination are like two parallel lines that run together and never oppose one another. God planned these lines and ensured that they would run the exact pattern that they would but this doesn’t mean that He predestined those to reject Christ or predetermine to send them to hell. They made their own choice.

Adam and Eve had freewill to obey or to not obey God in the garden but God knew they would disobey and had prepared a way ahead of time as it says in Revelation 13:8 “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Notice that the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, was slain from the foundation of the world. What? Yes, He was, in God’s eyes, already slain before Adam and Eve existed because God knew that they would fail to obey. Even though the earth did not exist, Adam and Eve did exist in God’s mind and so did their disobedience. That is why Christ was appointed to die for all of humanity before humanity even existed. His desire is that everyone would repent, confess their sins, and place their trust in Christ (2 Peter 3:9).


You are free to choose. Don’t think that you are a helpless victim of God’s predestination or predetermining you to go to hell or to heaven. God never sends anyone to hell. People choose to send themselves there by rejecting Christ. God never forces anyone to hell just as He doesn’t twist anyone’s arm or force anyone into heaven. God told Israel long ago…and He tells us today to choose this day whether you will live or whether you will die eternally. Let God tell you Himself as He did in Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” The choice is yours. God has not made you to choose or to reject Him. You are free to repent, confess, and trust in Christ or you are free to choose to send yourself to everlasting judgment and eternal separation from God. We are not helpless pawns in God’s game of chess.

Click on the article below to learn more about Adam and Eve:

Adam and Eve Bible Story Summary

Resources: New International Version Bible THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. YouTube video “I’d Rather Have Jesus” by Crystal Lewis. YouTube video “I Choose Jesus” by Moriah Peters

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