Predestination to Heaven
By Rev. W. Cairns Henderson
In view of the fact that not everyone is saved, how are we to understand the teaching of the Writings that all are predestined to heaven, and none to hell? It is quite clear, of course, that there is no predestination, either to heaven or to hell, in the sense that the Lord predetermines or foreordains who shall be elected to eternal happiness and who consigned to unending misery. The Lord indeed foresees who will go to heaven, and who to hell; yet in so doing He does not foreknow what will happen because He has predetermined what shall happen. What He foresees is the choices that people will make in freedom.
Evidently, then, this teaching can mean only that in creating each and every man and woman the Lord has no other will for them than that they shall become angels. To every person whom He creates the Lord gives all the means of salvation, all the faculties and abilities necessary to use those means, and the power to choose to use them for that purpose. If the Lord were to withhold any of these gifts from those He foresees will not use them, then it might be said that He had denied them the opportunity to be saved. But the Lord never does so; His love goes out equally to everyone. In this way, and in this way only, is it said that all are predestined to heaven, and none to hell, and that people themselves are is at fault if they are not saved.
It might be argued whether, if the Lord wills the salvation of all people, His will is not thwarted by the fact that not all are saved. This was one of the problems that confronted Augustine and Calvin. They believed, rightly, that if the will of God could be thwarted it would not be absolute; but they erred in trying to remove the difficulty by concluding that reprobation as well as salvation was of the Divine will. The Writings resolve the problem at last by revealing that what the Lord really wills for the human race is that they shall be free, since without freedom there can be no salvation. When we realize this, we may see that whether people go to heaven or not the Lord's will is not thwarted, since they always do so in freedom. It is true that in the case of those who are lost the Lord's will is done to a far lesser degree, that His love is satisfied to a far lesser extent; but that is not the same thing as His will being thwarted.
-New Church Life 1960;80:252-254