Having now established that the names of the elect of God have been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, we want to begin to deal with some of the problems that men have with this fact. This part of our study will have to do with the issue of God's ultimate purposes in His creation.
The names of those that will be saved have been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. One of the most obvious questions that arises from this fact, in light of the fact that all men who live have their names written in that Book, is: Why would God 'go through the motions' of writing names of men into that Book if He knows that they will not be saved unless they have been written from the foundation of the world? And, similarly, why would God exhort men, whose names have only been written from their physical birth and to whom God does not intend to extend the grace to become believing, to "repent" and "believe"? This is, at the heart, a question of what God is ultimately doing.
There are those who say boldly that God would not do such a thing. Their claim is that such an offer without a corresponding enablement would only be a mockery. And they reject, out of hand, that the Bible declares that God does do somewhat of what this doctrine implies. The question is whether their analysis of this kind of action on God's part is, in fact, mockery and gross insincerity.
In any accurate analysis of life and its difficulties, sooner or later one must begin to deal with the issue of ultimate purposes. If we conceive of God as having a purpose in mind, which He, in fact, does NOT have in mind, we will distort His declarations to fit OUR conception of HIS intentions. This will, inevitably, mean misinterpretation of His words. On the other hand, if we understand what it is that God is about, then our comprehension of what He says is more easily reconciled to His purposes. And, no one can dismiss this question as of little or no importance. It is critical to the entire matter of biblical revelation that we have some degree of understanding of what God is doing so that we may understand His statements about the process.
There are many conceptions floating around which men have posited as the purpose of God in creation. We want to look at some of them and put forth one which we feel gives the greatest degree of clarity for the details of His revelation.
First, there are those who think that God's ultimate purpose in creation has to do with the salvation of mankind. Their claim is that there is nothing more important to God than this because He was willing to give His only begotten Son in order to procure it. That it is a matter of great importance to God is undeniable. That it is His highest priority is impossible both biblically and philosophically. The Bible tells us that God values certain other things MORE. Philosophy tells us that it is a patent contradiction of logic to say that something is God's highest priority that is not going to be. That it cannot possibly be true is clear. The unalleviated impact of death is everywhere attested to. The fact, that there is horrible suffering that goes beyond human capacity of description, declares that God holds something to be more important than the salvation of mankind. And, Jesus' solemn words:
"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and MANY THERE BE WHICH GO IN thereat; because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT" (Matthew 7:13-14; KJV);
are blunt testimony that more will perish than will live. This awesome fact is clear enough testimony that God's ultimate purpose must be greater than the general salvation of mankind.
Then, there are those who claim that God's ultimate design in creation has to do with the preservation of the freedom of man's volition. They say that it is more important to God for men to make their own choice than it is for them to be saved. These object strenuously to the biblical concept of individual election because by it men are supposed to be made into robots who have no real personality. By so objecting they demonstrate that they have never considered the possibility that God may be using the events of time to work toward a future freedom of man's volition, which is now enslaved to sin. And, in all of their heated objections, they never seem to realize that THEIR position is that God thinks more highly of the need of freedom of volition than of the salvation which that volition is supposed to be able to bring to pass. They accuse biblical electionists of making men perish by divine decree. Yet their own position is that men perish by divine decree -- that decree being that God will not violate their freedom to choose, no matter what! And, since the Scriptures plainly teach that no one will seek God of his own inclination, this doctrine patently dooms EVERY MAN WHO LIVES. Thus, it cannot be biblical because the Scriptures teach that some will be saved -- who do not seek God of their own initiative.
And, because Paul declares:
"...it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure..." (Philippians 2:13; KJV);
it cannot be true that God will not contradict the natural inclination to rebelliousness and turn the will to the accomplishment of His pleasure. That He turns the will of man is proof that He has not exalted the matter of "freedom of choice" above all other eternal considerations.
And, besides this, the very fact that Paul declares that:
"...at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:10-11; KJV);
means that God WILL bring men to bow their knees -- willingly or unwillingly.
Then, too, there is the fact that the freedom of man's will, if sacrosanct and inviolable, would mean that men could simply tell God, "I do not will to be judged", and they would thereby escape the judgment of God! That anyone believes that the volition of man is sacred to God is beyond belief!
The position of biblical electionists is that man has a volition which he can, and does, exercise. But, his exercise of it is encompassed by his bondage to sin. In other words, man has some choice about which sins he will do, but he cannot do righteousness because he is bound by sin.
Then, there are those who say that the ultimate purpose of God is the manifestation of His own glory. They make their appeal to verses like Philippians 2:11:
"...to the glory of God the Father..." (KJV);
And Ephesians 1:6:
"...to the praise of the glory of His grace..." (KJV);
And Ephesians 1:12:
"...that we should be to the praise of His glory..." (KJV).
This also is a slight distortion of the facts. It is true that God is seeking to manifest His glory. It is not true that that is an ultimate end. For instance, in Ephesians 1:6 the "glory" that is "praised" because of His predestination is that characteristic of God called "grace". However, in Ephesians 3:10 the "glory" that is 'made known' is God's "manifold wisdom". It is made known, not as an ultimate goal, but "unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places" (KJV). And, in Romans 9:22, the 'glory of God' that is manifested is His "wrath" and "power". The point of what we are attempting to say is that though a part of the purpose of God has to do with the manifestation of His glory, it is not an ultimate purpose. This purpose has to have a feasible objective.
To whom would God make His glory known and why? The answer to that question will bring us to a sharper focus upon the ultimate purpose which God has in creation. In order to answer it, all we need to do is look at the issue of who will behold that glory. In the final analysis, every personality in the universe will behold His glory. However, the beholding will have a different impact upon the beholders because of their differences. When the Son beholds the glory of the Father, He will not be seeing something that He does not already know exhaustively and completely. That manifestation will not enhance the Son's appreciation of the Father. Thus, He will not be greatly affected by it. When the fallen hosts behold the glory of the Father, they will see a great deal about God that they have not known, but it will only cause their torment in Gehenna to be greater. When the elect of God, both angels and men, behold His glory, they will be seeing much of Him that they had little previous concept of, and their experience of life will be directly proportional to the growth of their perception of that glory (John 17:3).
Before we go further, let us consider what we know for sure about the eternal purposes of God. To be established, they must be included in biblical revelation concerning the coming eternal state. We know the Scriptures reveal that some men will be saved. This is true regardless of one's position on election. We know that they reveal that God's glory will be revealed. We know that the volitional responses of men are taken into consideration. We know that Jesus Christ will be highly exalted -- that He will receive a higher name than any other. And, though sin is a part of this segment of the eternal counsels, we know that the elimination of sin and its impact in the lives of those who will inherit God's eternal kingdom is a part of the divine plan. We know also that an eternal kingdom is within His ultimate purposes. We know that righteousness is decreed as the standard of that kingdom. These things, and many more, we know are sure for the future.
Our task is to attempt to put these known facts together is such a way as to establish some kind of valid rationale for the statements of the Scriptures concerning the elect of God.
One of the conclusions that we can draw is that, if personalities are going to continue to exist, but sin is going to become a future impossibility, something is being done to ensure both.
From the perspective of God's purpose to manifest His glory we need to ask and answer some questions concerning that purpose in time. For instance, does God's plan to manifest His righteousness also include a design to manifest the character of sin? Does God's design to manifest His wrath and make His judgmental power known also include a plan to create certain objects of that wrath and power? And, if the simple manifestation of His glory cannot be a final purpose, what is that purpose, and how does it include the salvation of some of the sons of Adam? If we can answer these questions biblically, we have some hope of coming to an understanding of what it is that God is about.
First, does the eternal counsel concerning the exaltation of righteousness give us any basis for understanding history? It seems generally valid from Scripture that a part of God's exaltation of righteousness is the manifestation of the character and impact of sin. This is a process of exaltation by means of contrast. We know that sin was introduced into God's creation before the creation of the world. We know also that sin's introduction into this world was accomplished by that original sinner (the serpent) and the original man (Adam). The fact that God deliberately did not step into the process of temptation until after sin had occurred, shows that His eternal design included the fall. (The fact of the fall also shows this.) That He could have stepped in at any point and kept Adam from sinning is undeniable. When the serpent first began to speak, God could have come and banished him from the presence of men. He did not. When the conversation between Eve and the serpent had progressed to the point where Eve began to believe what the tempter was saying, God could have stepped in and shown her the error of the tempter's claim. He did not. When Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit and Adam's resolve was being challenged, God could have stepped in and salvaged the entire human race by showing Adam the futility of sin.
He did not. That God waited until Adam had sinned to come walking into the garden shows that God had a higher purpose in His creation than the prevention of the eruption of sin into it. What was that purpose in view of the coming, eternal, righteous kingdom? Our persuasion is that it had to do with the establishment of the necessity of the implicit trust which created personalities, who are finite and limited in what they can know of infinity, must constantly exercise in their infinite Creator if there is to be such a thing as an eternal and righteous kingdom. If we learn nothing else from the fall, we should surely learn that the heart of the problem was unbelief. It is this truth that is yet unlearned by the majority of men today. They continue to think that they are free to set God's clear declarations aside with impunity simply because they do not have an exhaustive understanding of His meaning. Adam had no foundation in experience to know what 'death' was. It was his to BELIEVE that it was not in his best interest, simply because God said so, not because he had enough experience to test God's claim and then agree with it. We have that same responsibility.
Thus, a part of God's purpose in relation to the ultimate establishment of a kingdom of righteousness has to do with the provision of an historical and experiential basis for personalities to understand the primacy of unqualified faith in their Creator.
That God uses events to teach His elect is a fact that many who oppose individual election seem to overlook. They tend to argue that individual election means a "means-less" implementation by God of His decreed intentions. But, God is not only sovereign. He is also immanent in His creation, working to bring the facts of history into accord with the decrees of eternity. And, He uses means to accomplish it. The production of faith is one such means -- which also requires means such as the Word and the Spirit.
However, one of the difficulties with the motivation of personalities to eschew sin has to do with establishing a reason for such avoidance. That unqualified faith is necessary means nothing to men unless they can understand the character and impact of the sin that will result if they are unbelieving. Originally the reason for such an avoidance was the warning, "Ye shall surely die". But, that reason was set aside in unbelief. Now, God is giving an experientially based reason in the form of the experience of death at all levels of human experience. So far we have had about six thousand years of experience.
It is our contention that part of God's plan to establish a kingdom of righteousness was to expose those who would inhabit it to a kingdom of unrighteousness so that they might better understand the tremendous benefits of righteousness and life, and thereby be motivated to constantly choose life. The "death" that Adam had to take by faith, we have firsthand experience of. For this cause, we who have experienced death, will never be motivated to seek it once we are comfortably established in the bliss of the kingdom of righteousness, and the contrast between life and death has been sharply drawn.
But, there is another part of this lesson that needs to be learned that is demonstrated by the fact today that men who have tasted of life and peace will yet, on occasion, still choose sin and death. How can this be? The problem is one of understanding and unbelief. No one ever chooses sin and death after the experience of life unless he first lapses into unbelief in respect to the realities that they represent. He who does not doubt that God's will is "good" and "acceptable" and "perfect" will never choose his own way in defiance of God's. It is only after a man has begun to believe that his way is better than God's that he will turn from life and go backwards into death. This shows two things clearly: first, that he has not finally learned his lessons about sin and death in spite of all of his own personal history and almost six thousand years of testimony from other men's experiential history; and second, that he is not yet fully exempt from the blinding seductiveness of sin, though he be a believer and a possessor of life.
That the issue of sin and its impact is a critical lesson for the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness is easily seen from the fact that God has spent all of human history in making it plain. Shortly after the fall, murder demonstrated the impact of sin in dominion over men. The grief and despair that resulted from that act for all concerned was the first stark testimony of what sin meant in man's experience. From that initial point, sin progressively developed until God destroyed the whole race, except for eight whom He preserved to continue the process. After the flood God introduced another aspect of sin -- that, for men under its domination, the awesome consequences were not, in themselves, sufficient reason for the avoidance of it. For, it was less than a half millennium until men again were so rebellious that God had to enter into judgment with them again. The first go-around had taken over 1600 years to come to a head. The second took less than 500.
Then, God began another aspect of His teaching of men about sin. He set up a situation with a man of great faith (Abraham), who showed the benefit of acting by faith and turning away from sin. But, it was less than four generations later when the offspring of this man were so ignorant of the lesson, that God had to ship them off into Egypt to keep them from being so polluted by the impact of sin as to require catastrophic judgment.
After that, God brought the offspring of that man out of Egypt where they had lived under the dominion of sin as it was exercised by the Pharaoh. This offspring was to live by faith. But, they understood so little of what God had been saying for the past two millennia of human history that they immediately challenged the necessity of faith and the avoidance of sin. In order to show just how deeply sin was ingrained in human hearts, God gave these sinners His Law. For another millennium and a half, these men refused to hear what the Law declared -- that sin was such a part of man that only implicit faith in God alone could stop its progress in their lives. They, like men today, believed in their power of volition and ability to do what was demanded of them. This false beginning point in their thinking made them understand the Law as a means to righteousness. Paul, however, teaches that God never intended the law for that purpose. God's purpose for giving the Law was to expose the extent of sin's dominion in human hearts (Romans 5:20; and Galatians 3:22- 24). They, again like men today, appealed to the false premise that demand implies ability. But, they did not have the ability they prided themselves in having.
Then, having spent some 4,000 years in demonstration of sin's impact upon man and its domination of him, God turned to yet another facet of His lesson. He began to clearly offer salvation to man with only one requirement -- that man believe Him in one thing: a promise of life through a substitute Sin-bearer (something God had always done; but the giving of the Law overshadowed it with the result that many thought salvation was through obedience rather than faith). Now, almost 2,000 years later, men have not learned; for now, more than ever, men are rejecting the principle of salvation by grace through faith in God's promise. God still has even more plans for establishing the death-effect of sin. He is coming again in awesome judgment. Though that judgment will purge the earth of all who believe not, after another millennium of earth-history we will again behold that men are rebels at heart. The testimony of history and prophecy tell us the same tale: sin is a great and awesome destroyer which cannot be overcome by men alone, apart from the effective grace of God.
At this point, let us summarize what man has been exposed to, and will be exposed to, in order for God's elect to learn, in a final sense, the necessity of unqualified faith. First, he had the blessings of righteousness and peace. He lost them through unbelief. Then, death rapidly spread and sin conquered men. The conquest was so complete that God destroyed all but eight. But, He had not purged out the problem even then. Noah and his seed had the seed of sin within themselves. Its presence again became apparent -- but this time it was worse in that it arose in spite of the continuing evidence of judgment which the flood had left upon the earth. Then, for 2,000 years God showed that the problem was not the lack of information about righteousness. The problem was in the heart. Men would not and could not produce the righteousness demanded by the Law. To magnify the problem even further, God took away the Law and made the fact that righteousness was by faith even more obvious. But, even though He did this, men have not flocked to Him in faith to acquire that righteousness.
One of the lessons of history, which God has intended to teach, has to do with the domination of men by sin. It is in their hearts -- not their environment. The coming millennium will have three major factors that will not stop sin. First, it will begin after the most awesome display of the wrath of God against sin that the world will ever see (Daniel 12:1). Second, it will have a righteous King dominating its course and structure (Revelation 20:6). And, third, the tempter will be restrained so that he cannot come in to create havoc. (Revelation 20:2). The final result? A worldwide rebellion against the King and His kingdom of righteousness (Revelation 20:7-9). This is the final act in the plan of God to teach His elect about sin. His process has been, and will continue to be, excruciatingly thorough. But, the outcome will be that the elect will finally understand. And, because they understand, they will never, in the eternal kingdom, again choose sin as their master.
This has been, admittedly, a brief overview of what God has planned from eternity past so that some personalities can inherit an eternal kingdom of righteousness. Though those who object to the doctrine of individual election may object with the question of why God would adopt this method for bringing His eternal purposes to pass, they cannot refute the facts that history has told us of sin. Why God has adopted this process is His business. But, by this overview of what God has been doing, we hope to have shown that the lessons concerning sin must be learned before God can effectively establish an enduring kingdom of multiple personalities which has righteousness as its standard. God's eternal purposes include a temporary (howbeit quite long) demonstration of the contrast between righteousness and life and sin and death. God's purposes, then, are edificational for His elect.
The conclusion to the preceding argument is that one of God's higher priorities is the teaching of His elect about sin and its impact so that He may free them in an eternal kingdom and have its standard of righteousness continue, willingly unchallenged, forever.
The second question has to do with His purpose of manifesting His wrath and making His judgmental power known. In John 17:3 we are told that Jesus' concept of the essence of eternal life is "knowing God". If this is so, the more created personalities know of God, the greater will be their experience of that `life'.
We believe that this is the rationale for God's desire to make Himself known in all of the aspects of His character. If God is a God of wrath, but this characteristic cannot be shown to those whom He has created, this lack of knowledge will mean, for them, a permanent restriction in the degree of their experience of life. The issue of knowing God (entering into a personal, experiential knowledge of Him that includes the intelligent comprehension of the facts about His character) is the issue of life. In fact, to keep any characteristic of His from manifestation is not merely to stifle the degree of life possible; it is, rather, to make life impossible.
How so? To answer, we must exercise great care, for we are entering into the realm of 'logic' and 'the general tenor of Scripture' (both of which have, in the past, generated tremendous error because of their use by illogical men).
First, John tells us in I John 1:5 that there is no darkness in God at all. In his use of light and darkness, and in his flow of thought within I John, John is declaring that all that God is, is in perfect harmony with all of Himself. For instance, God is love. But, God is also hate in its pure form. God is just, but He is also longsuffering, merciful, and gracious. God is wrath, but He is gracious. Thus, all that God is characterized by, is in perfect balance with all of the individual characteristics, and all of the individual characteristics are individually in harmony with each other. This is shown by two clear texts: I John 1:5; and, Romans 3:26.
In I John 1:5 we read:
"THIS then is THE MESSAGE which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that GOD IS LIGHT, AND IN HIM IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL" (KJV).
Darkness, in light, is caused whenever the light waves are reflected or refracted in such a way as to cause them to become out of synchronization by exactly one-half of a wave length. When this occurs, the two light waves become competitors and effectively annul each other. Thus, instead of light, there is the elimination of light (darkness). In harmony, the two waves produce brilliant light. In discord, they produce darkness. This statement by John, therefore, means that in God there is no competition of characteristics.
In Romans 3:26 we read:
"To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be JUST, and the JUSTIFIER of him which believeth in Jesus" (KJV).
Here Paul is referring to the fact that, with men, justice and mercy or grace can easily become competitors. And, with men, when that happens, the result is neither justice nor mercy -- it is either overly harsh revenge, or it is a 'bleeding heartedness' which mocks justice. But, in God, they harmonize perfectly. Justice, which alone would eliminate grace, is coupled in Jesus with grace, which alone would eliminate justice. And, in God's action in Christ, it is demonstrated that God is 'righteous' -- i.e., He has not become unjust by showing grace because His justice has been satisfied.
These two verses tell us that each of God's characteristics are in perfect accord with all of His other characteristics.
Now, seeing that this is true, it remains for us to understand that God's creatures cannot learn true wisdom and act in true righteousness unless they learn of all that God is and perceive what the boundaries of each characteristic are. That is not to say that we must know God exhaustively in every detail of every characteristic (for that is impossible for finite creatures), but it is to say that we must know SOME details about every characteristic. Thus, in order for mercy to be kept within its legitimate boundaries by the creature, he must know what boundaries are placed upon it in the character of God. Those boundaries are, in part, defined by the wrath of God. Thus, wrath is the complement of mercy. Mercy unbounded becomes distorted. Distortion is sin. Any of the characteristics of God, if left unbounded by the other characteristics, will run wild among men, and, thus, become sinful distortions.
Therefore, for God to produce life for SOME of His creatures, He MUST demonstrate His wrath. And how will He do that unless there are objects of wrath which He can use to demonstrate that wrath? Paul declares that there are such:
"What if God, WILLING TO SHEW HIS WRATH, AND TO MAKE HIS POWER KNOWN, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction" (Romans 9:22; KJV).
That these vessels of wrath must be created beings goes without saying. But, what we are saying is this: The text clearly establishes that God desires the manifestation of His wrath for the sake of His vessels of mercy MORE than He desires the salvation of those vessels of wrath. That He must be very longsuffering is a reference to the fact that His justice demands that these vessels be destroyed. But, justice is here tempered by longsuffering and God's desire to produce life for some through the demonstration of wrath against those who will not have life.
Thus it is that for life to be possible for any, some must be kept under wrath for the day of wrath. In other words, for some creatures to go into life, some must die. This means that in God's eternal counsels, He decided to have certain vessels of wrath "fitted to destruction" for the benefit of those who would be His vessels of mercy and who would inherit life.
Now, we come to a third consideration: that of the implications of a plan to make His glory known as it affects the question of human salvation and life for only some. If God's purpose is to make Himself known for the benefit of some of His creatures, then those who claim that God's purpose in creation was to manifest His own glory are partially correct. Also, those who claim that God's purpose in creation was salvation for men are partially correct. It seems that what God is doing is making His glory known so that some will have salvation and life.
This brings us to the original questions. First, why would God 'go through the motions' of writing the names of men who could not be saved (not because He would turn them away if they desired salvation on His terms, but because they refused to seek Him and He did nothing to change their direction) into the Book of Life. If they are not going to be saved and the decision that He would not guarantee their salvation was made from eternity past, why would He go through the futile exercise of writing their names in a book which would ultimately only have the names of the saved in it?
Now, it is true that if the writing of the names there was INTENDED to bring about their salvation, or its possibility, it WOULD BE an exercise in futility. However, if the writing of the names there was INTENDED to demonstrate that there was NOTHING IN GOD that was keeping them from salvation, but, rather, that they were so bound by sin that they could not even do the smallest thing to procure their salvation (simply exercising faith), then the act was not one of futility if those who were intended by God to learn about sin's dominion and power actually learned FROM THE ACT.
The lesson that God IS teaching His elect from His action of writing the names of the non-elect in the Book of Life concerns the nature and power of sin as it functions in the lives of those who do not believe His Word. Since that is God's INTENT, and since it is fulfilled in the lives of His elect, it cannot be said that God is simply 'going through the motions', or acting in futility.
Then, there is that second question: is the offer of salvation to men who are not going to be saved simply a mockery? In a sense it is, and in another sense it is not.
In Proverbs 1:26 God, in a personification of wisdom, says:
"I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh" (KJV).
The offer of salvation to men who refuse to admit their inability to do what is required, and maintain their pride of volition, is a mocking of them. Because they refuse to admit their blindness and pride and, by that refusal, say to God, "Look, you just tell us what we must do to work your works, and we will do it", God's answer, "OK, make your unbelieving selves believe by the strength of your own might" is a mocking retort. A human parallel would be for someone to say to one who has boasted of strength like unto God's, "If you are so strong, pick up that building over there". There is mockery in the response. It is a deserved mockery.
In the other sense, however, the offer of salvation is sincere. When God offers men salvation freely, He is offering it sincerely. That He will not go beyond certain Self-proscribed limitations to see to it that they accept His offer does not make the offer insincere. Those who claim that His choice to set no such limitations upon Himself in respect to some automatically means that He is insincere in relation to the rest are incorrect. Their charge does not take into account that the entire point of God's offer is to show that there is nothing IN GOD to keep them from salvation. The thing that keeps them from the salvation is found IN SIN, and in its domination of them. Thus, the charge of insincerity is unfounded. It is because men have not first considered the doctrine of sin, as the beginning point for understanding election, that they misunderstand God's offer of salvation to the non-elect. The proof of this is found in the fact that no man who has admitted his inability and humbly asked God to act for him has ever been turned away. The offer is sincere. Those who charge insincerity are those who are guilty of the precise point we are making: they refuse to admit their volitional incapacity and boast of their strength of will. Thus, when faced with God's truth, they must make themselves look better by calling it 'false' when, in reality, they are the ones who are false. This is perfectly in harmony with the nature of sin in man.
Thus, the charge of insincerity is false. And, the charge of futility is false. God's actions, to be properly understood, must always be understood in view of His purposes for His elect. Paul, God's man, himself said that ALL he did, he did for the sake of the elect (II Timothy 2:10). Because this is true, it is erroneous to attempt to harmonize God's statements with some other perspective. To attempt it is to fail; and to attempt it requires the twisting of His words.
So, in summary, let us make clear what we hold to be a major controlling priority of God: that which God is doing in history has to do with the making of life possible for certain individuals (both angelic and human) who are known as His elect, and who were chosen before the foundation of the world for this life. One of His major methods is the manifestation of Himself through history and special revelation. And, one of His major 'lessons' focuses upon the "death-effect" of sin -- so that His elect will, for all of future eternity, freely choose to do righteousness and partake of life.