In our current series we’ve been going through an old list of questions and answers contained in the Westminster Larger Catechism published in 1648. In previous articles we’ve been looking at the decrees of God: what God has planned and then wills to happen. Last week we saw that God decrees some humans to have eternal life. This week I want to look at the opposite: that God decrees some to eternal wrath.

The fact that God decrees some people to hell is one of the more controversial doctrines in Scripture. So is it taught by the Bible? Yes. The writings of Paul and Peter clearly teach this doctrine. In Paul’s letter to the Romans we read: ‘For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden’ (Romans 9:18). God hardened Pharaoh’s heart which was shown in Pharaoh’s rebellion against God. And the same could be said of anyone who does not embrace Christ – God has hardened their heart. Peter also teaches that God decrees people for judgement: ‘But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, ” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message–which is also what they were destined for’ (1 Peter 2:7-8). Why do people stumble on Christ and not obey his call to repent and trust in his death? Because that is what they were destined for.

Thus Scripture not only teaches us that God elects some to eternal life, but also that God decrees that some will be eternally damned. Now that doesn’t seem fair. And so that is what Paul says in the next part of Romans 9: ‘One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?”’. So what is the answer? ‘But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ “’ (Romans 9:19-20). In the end, God is free to do what he wants with his creation.

But we must also remember that we are not robots. The Scripture also says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. So if we choose not to follow Christ, we only have ourselves to blame.

So do you recognise that God alone decrees who has eternal life and who doesn’t, or do you worship a different god?

Joel Radford.