A gracEmail subscriber writes: “I have been trying to work out in my mind how God can give us free will to choose salvation and also know beforehand who will be saved. Can you explain this?”
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God has told us in Scripture that he will finally bring home to himself for all eternity a very great multitude of people, representative of all humankind (Rev. 7:9-10). The eternal blessing of the saved will not reflect any merit on their own part; it will rather be a free gift of God’s kind favor, based on Jesus Christ’s substitutionary work in their stead (Eph. 2:7-9). That is true whether those saved knew Jesus in this life or not (Rom. 3:24-25; Heb. 11:40).
We can also say from Scripture that God’s kindness to the saved did not begin on Judgment Day, nor even during their earthly lifetimes, but that he set his love on them before the world began — and that he gave them to Jesus for his inheritance even then (John 6:37-40; 17:1-4). Yet God’s grace in eternity past did not depend on anything he saw in his people, looking forward, any more than his grace will depend on anything his people deserve when God looks backward in review at the End (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 9:16).
Finally, Scripture assures us that God will not judge unfairly anyone who is finally lost, and that all who are not saved will themselves have freely rejected God’s kindness and friendship throughout their lives on earth (John 3:19; Acts 13:45:46; Rom. 2:14-16; 9:14). The whole human population will finally consist of those whom God chose, and those who did not choose God. Each of those realities stands alone, and neither is the cause of the other.