Bible Question:

Did God predestine people to hell? – Double Predestination

Bible Answer:

The doctrine of Double Predestination claims that God predestined people to go to hell, just as He predestined people to go to heaven. Some object to the doctrine because the Bible teaches us that God is love, and they believe that it is not loving to predestine people to go to hell. Those who believe in the doctrine of Double Predestination say that Romans 9:22-23 is proof that God does predestine people to go to hell. The question we are concerned with is, “Did God predestine people to hell?”

Did God Predestine People For Hell?

Double Predestination — Romans 9:22-23

Those who believe in the doctrine of predestination appeal to Romans 9:22-23.  It says,

22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory . . . Romans 9:22-23 (NASB)

A plain sense reading seems to teach that the phrase “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” means God prepared some people for destruction, or hell. Also, in verse 23, the phrase “vessels of mercy , which He prepared beforehand for glory ” seems to teach that God prepared some people for glory, or heaven. That is, God has determined which people will go to heaven and hell.

The key to understanding the meaning of these two verses is to realize first that God is the subject of both verses. It says, “What if God.” Next, we must notice there are two different Greek words that are translated as “prepared” in both verses. The Greek word that is translated as “prepared” in verse 22 is katartizo. It has the basic meaning of “made ripe or completely ready.”[1] That is, the vessels of wrath were completely ready for destruction. It is also important to know that the tense of this verb is a perfect passive participle. Therefore, since God is the subject, the passive tense tells us that God is passive in the action. That is, God did not do anything to these vessels. The message is that the vessels of wrath made themselves completely ready for God’s wrath. Since God did not it, then they did it. How did they do that? First, when Adam disobeyed God, the entire human race became sinners (Romans 5:12, 18-19). Second, every human demonstrates they are sinners when they sin.  Romans 3:23 says,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 (NASB)

John 3:18-19 tells us that men love darkness or evil more than light or righteousness. That is, they have prepared themselves and they are continuing to demonstrate they deserve destruction by their behavior. Here is the passage,

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. John 3:18-19 (NASB)

The Greek word that is translated as “prepared” in verse 23 is proetoimazo. It has the meaning “to make ready or prepare in advance.” This is a completely different meaning than the word prepared in verse 22. The tense of this verb is an aorist active. The active tense tells us that God took this action. The aorist tells us that God has already completed the action. That is, when we are told that “He prepared beforehand for glory” the message is God, Himself, had prepared already the vessels of mercy for glory—for eternal life.

In summary, verse 22 says the vessels of wrath made themselves ripe for destruction, and verse 23 says that in time past God prepared vessels of mercy for glory.

Double Predestination — Error of Human Logic

Critics and Christians often run into theological error when they use human logic to draw conclusions that are not explicitly stated in Scripture. One example is the common interpretation of Isaiah 6:3. The verse quotes some Seraphim who said,

Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts . . . Isaiah 6:3 (NASB)

Some people claim that “Holy” is repeated three times because our God is a trinity. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Logically, that seems like a great answer. But the context and verse does not say that. In fact, in Hebrew grammar a superlative is created by repeating the word, such as “Holy, Holy, and Holy.” That is, the message of Isaiah 6:3 is that God is incredibly holy! It is emphasizing that God is holy. That human logic ends in the wrong place. If it does refer to the trinity, that conclusion cannot be held to dogmatically since the verse does not give us that information.

The difficulty with reading the Scriptures that do teach God chooses people to have eternal life (Matthew 19:25-26; John 6:37, 44, 65; Acts 13:48; Romans 8:29-30; Ephesians 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 2 Peter 1:1), and then concluding that it means God has also chosen people to go to hell uses human logic that results in an unbiblical statement! That logic is in violation of the Scriptures that consistently teach that unbelievers are responsible for their own destiny and not God (Matthew 7:21-23; 21:31-32; John 3:18-21, 36; 5:24; Romans 10:13, 14-17; Hebrews 12:25; 1 John 3:23; 5:10). I do not believe that God lies or is deceptive since He is holy and cannot sin.

We must remember that all of Scripture is true and does not contradict itself. The testimony of Scripture encourages us to trust that God fully understands this antimony (Isaiah 55:7-8; Romans 11:33-36). God understands how it all works. God has chosen some people to have eternal life, and if people go to hell it is because they rejected Christ. That is a biblically accurate statement. To venture beyond that is to make statements that God has not made in His holy Word.


The Bible student must focus on the words of the Scriptures, and not venture into territory not given in Scripture. If Scripture is silent, then we need to be silent. If Scripture were to explicitly state that God predestines people to eternal condemnation, just as it does that God has predestined men for eternal life (Ephesians 1:3-4), then we would conclude that God has predestined men to hell. But such a statement cannot be found in the Bible. The concept of double predestination is not explicitly stated in Scripture. We cannot find a verse that says God predestined some men to hell. Yet, everyone is responsible for choosing to believe in Jesus Christ. Here are two important passages,

 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. 1 John 3:23 (NASB)

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)



1. Ceslas Spicq and James D. Ernest, Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), 20.

Suggested Links:

Predestination and Human Responsibility
Did Dr J Vernon McGee believe in predestination or freewill?
Who are the elect or the chosen in salvation?
What is the role of man and God in salvation?
What must I do to become a Christian?
I Never Knew You!