Does God Know the Future?


Does He know whether and when we will sin? Does He know how prophesied events will come to pass?

The answer depends on the circumstances.

First, let us quote from chapter 3 of our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?”:

“The Bible contains many unconditional prophecies—most of which are for the end-time—to be fulfilled just ahead of us. Many are familiar with the Olivet Prophecy that Jesus Christ gave to His disciples prior to His death. Also, the book of Revelation is a prophecy for our time. The longest cohesive and uninterrupted Old Testament prophecy can be found in the eleventh chapter of the book of Daniel. Biblical scholars understand that that prophecy culminates in end-time events. Some recognize that many verses in the 11th chapter describe historic events that have already come to pass, events that were still future at the time Daniel wrote them down…

“God clearly has determined—predestined—well ahead of prophesied events, what will happen in the future. Isaiah 42:9 quotes God as saying: ‘…”Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”‘ Isaiah 46:9-10 adds: ‘Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, “My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure.”‘ Isaiah 48:5-7 continues: “Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you… I have made you hear new things from this time, Even hidden things, and you did not know them. They are created now, and not from the beginning; and before this day you have not heard them…”’

“How is this even possible? How could God know thousands of years ago what would happen and what certain men would do?

“Part of the answer is revealed in Scriptures such as Ezra 1:1: ‘Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom.’ We find here that God gave a prophecy to Jeremiah, and when the time of fulfillment had arrived, He influenced King Cyrus to act as prophesied. There are numerous examples in the Bible where such a course of action by God is described…”

To interject, we might also consider Isaiah 44:24-26. Sometimes, God inspires His servants to pronounce future events, and God “confirms the word of His servant and performs the counsel of His messengers” (verse 26). The NIV says that God “carries out” the word of His servant; and the revised Luther Bible writes that God “makes it true.”

To continue with the quote from the above-mentioned booklet:

“When the sixth angel sounds his trumpet, ‘four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind’ (Revelation 9:15). This Scripture tells us plainly that, thousands of years ago, God had decreed… that four angels would kill a third of man at a very clearly designated time…  Verse 16 continues: ‘Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them.’ Continuing in verses 18-21: ‘By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed—by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone… But the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, that they should not worship demons, and idols of gold, silver, brass, stone, and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk. And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.’

“We should take note here of several facts: First, God told John almost 2,000 years ago that just prior to Christ’s return, an army of two hundred million would kill a third of mankind. But God also knew that the rest of mankind who would survive that attack would NOT repent. This is remarkable, as in another situation, man WILL repent (compare Revelation 11:13). So God knew when some would repent and when most would not. How does God know when some will repent? We can answer this question in part: Because it is GOD who grants us repentance (Romans 2:4)—so He knew in advance to whom He would offer the gift of repentance at a certain time. What escapes human understanding is the fact that, in addition to knowing when to offer the gift of repentance to some, God also knew in advance who would accept His gift…

“In addition, God outlines the history of the New Testament Church in the first three chapters of the book of Revelation, pointing out, among other things, that there would be seven eras… God also describes the predominant characteristics of the Christians in each of those eras, well in advance of their existence (compare chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation).

“In subsequent chapters of the book of Revelation, God outlines the history of the false church, and of the political system which it will rule, pointing out that the Roman Empire would be resurrected ten times, and that the false church would direct seven of those resurrections. Further… both a religious leader [the false prophet] and a political leader [the beast] are clearly identified who will fight against the returning Christ, while two Christian leaders, the Two Witnesses, will prophecy for exactly 1,260 days, before they will be killed by the political leader in the city of Jerusalem. God knew all of this in advance. It is predestined to happen. These prophecies… are certain to occur.”

On the other hand, we must realize that generally speaking, God has decided NOT to know whether human beings sin, and that is particularly true for those whom He decided “before time began” (Titus 1:1) to call to the truth in this day and age. God has created man as a free moral agent, and even though God knows that we are dust, and that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21; compare Ecclesiastes 7:29), He has generally chosen NOT to know how we will act specifically in a particular situation. That is why He tests us in order to know how we will respond (Exodus 15:25; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2, 16).

As we have seen, there are exceptions. God knows, of course, how the beast and the false prophet will act in the future, but we must also realize that God will not call them for salvation in this day and age. Their opportunity to repent and follow God will be given to them later, in the Great White Throne Judgment period. Also, Christ knew “from the beginning” that Judas Iscariot would betray Him (John 6:64; 13:11; 17:12; Acts 1:16)… but Judas was never called for salvation, and he will be offered repentance in the Second Resurrection.

However, generally speaking, God has decided not to know ahead of time, whether or not we will sin, and because of this decision, He “learns” from human conduct. That is, when He noticed how evil and wicked mankind had become prior to the Flood, His reaction of surprise and dismay is clearly revealed in Genesis 6:5-7:

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every human intent of the thoughts of the heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was SORRY that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth… for I am SORRY that I have made them.'”

After God had anointed Saul to be king over Israel and had given him the Holy Spirit, He decided to take the Holy Spirit away from him and to replace him as king, when he rebelled against God. It is clear from the context that God did not know ahead of time—because He had CHOSEN not to know—that Saul would turn his back on God. We read that “the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel” (1 Samuel 15:35).

Also, we read that later, Israel and mankind in general would act in such a horrible way that God was utterly surprised that man could reach such a depraved state of existence, saying that man’s behavior never entered His heart and His mind (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). The Living Bible gives the intended meaning, as follows: “… a deed so horrible I’ve never even thought of it, let alone commanded it to be done (7:31)… something I never commanded, and cannot imagine suggesting. What an incredible evil…” (32:35)

On the other hand, when God calls us and gives us His Holy Spirit, He is totally convinced that we can make it (Philippians 1:6). He even said about young David when He anointed him to be king, that he was a man after His own heart who would do all His Will (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). This does not mean that David would not sin, but it means that God knew and looked at his heart (1 Samuel 16:7), and He knew that David would repent of his sins, once they came to his attention. We also read that after God had studied and tested Abraham, He knew that he would teach God’s way to his children. God said: “For I know him, that he WILL command his children and his household after him, and they SHALL keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment…” (Genesis 18:19, Authorized Version.)

This then raises the question as to whether God knew that Adam and Eve would sin and eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The answer is that God did NOT know, as He CHOSE not to know, but He realized, of course, that Adam and Eve could sin by disobeying Him, as they had been created as free moral agents. As to the questions as to what would have happened IF they had rejected the tree of knowledge and had chosen instead to eat from the tree of life, please see two of our Q&As on this topic, and We explain that they would not have become immortal right away, and that even after eating from the tree of life, they still would have sinned from time to time, as we do today, since NO HUMAN BEING exists who does not sin (1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8). (There is only one exception of a sinless human being, see below.) This means that regardless of Adam and Eve’s original decision in the Garden of Eden, Jesus Christ still would have had to come in the flesh to die for our sins. He was indeed predestined, from the foundation of the world, to be our Sacrificial Lamb (compare Revelation 13:8).

This brings up another question. Did God the Father and Jesus Christ KNOW, when it was decreed that the Son of God would become a man to overcome sin in the flesh, that Jesus, as a human being, would NEVER sin, so that He could become the perfect Sacrifice for us, making possible the forgiveness of our sins and our entry into the Kingdom of God?

First of all, both the Father and Jesus Christ had the absolute conviction and complete confidence that Jesus would NOT sin. This does not negate the fact that Jesus, as a man, having become totally flesh as we are today (John 1:14; Hebrews 2:14; Romans 8:3), COULD have sinned. He had to struggle against sin so that He remained sinless throughout His human life (compare Hebrews 5:6-9; 12:3-4).

But more is involved. We read throughout the Old Testament, long BEFORE Jesus became a man, that He, as the Messiah, would succeed in the flesh (Isaiah 52:13, so the Luther Bible and the Menge Bible; the Revised English Bible says: “My servant will achieve success…”) and that He would subsequently rule as a glorified God being–with the glorified saints –on and over this earth in the Kingdom of God (compare for instance Isaiah 2:1-4; Daniel 2:44; 7:9, 13-14, 27; Zechariah 14:3-5, 9). That rule would only be possible if Jesus never sinned. Apart from the complete confidence that He would not sin, it APPEARS that God, who inspired the Old Testament prophecies, might have looked into the future… beyond Christ’s first coming, knowing that He would remain sinless, as otherwise, none of the Old Testament prophecies predicting as a certainty His rule on earth as the Messiah could come to pass.

This brings us to another important question. Even though God has decided NOT to know whether and when WE will sin and also, whether we will commit the UNPARDONABLE sin, He has the utmost confidence in us that we will NOT fail Him. He knows that MOST of those whom He has foreknown, predestined, called, chosen and justified in this day and age WILL remain faithful and will make it as glorified beings into His Kingdom (Romans 8:29-30; Revelation 17:14). He wants YOU to be successful. But then, even though King Saul had received God’s Holy Spirit, he lost it and will apparently end up in the lake of fire. And so, God warns all of us: “Hold fast what you HAVE, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11). The decision is ours.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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