The word, predestinate, means to predetermine a destination. Therefore, when we say that someone is predestinated to heaven, it seems that their salvation has nothing to do with their choice. However, that is not the case at all. God chose or elected us to receive all the benefits of salvation, but He did so based on our faith in Jesus Christ--faith that was exercised according to our own free will. Let me try to explain.
- In time, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour by believing in Him. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12).
- Before time and in eternity, God foresaw that I would in time receive Jesus as Saviour. This is called the foreknowledge of God.
- Based on this foreknowledge, God foreordained that I would be His and would receive all the benefits and privileges of salvation. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29). Therefore we are, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:2).
However, it is most important to understand that the reason for our predestination or election is the fact that God foresaw our faith. Therefore, in the end, it is our faith that causes us to be elected. Also, He did not predetermine that we must believe. Rather, He predetermined the blessings and benefits of salvation.
I seem to confuse people when I teach this. However, it is important to understand that I am not removing our ability to refuse God's salvation. God's choice of us is based on our faith in Him. He clearly states that He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus said to the people of Jerusalem, "how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matthew 23:37).
It is true that we cannot come to the Lord unless the Father draws us. John 6:44 states, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." However, Jesus clearly stated, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). The error of many is to think that man cannot resist God's call to salvation. The verse most often used to teach this (Romans 9:19) is not dealing with personal salvation. The examples in Romans 9 (Pharaoh and Jacob and Esau) are not dealing with salvation, but with other issues. It is true that when God determines something absolutely, it will happen that way. But He often has a desired will which He will not force on man. This is the case with salvation.
1 Timothy 4:10 states, "For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." Here, in one verse, we have the distinction. Jesus is the Saviour of all men. That is, He died potentionally to save all. However, He is specially (by true application) the Saviour of those who believe in Him. We accept Him by believing in Him. He chose us based on His knowledge of that acceptance. But we freely decided to receive His free gift of salvation. I know this is difficult, but it is also a great blessing to those who accept God's teaching on this subject by faith.
Since God predestinated those He foreknew and since He foreknows all things, I think it is safe to say that all who are saved were predestinated by Him.