Predestination in Ephesians 1? Did God Predestine the Saints Before the Foundation of the NEW Earth Predicted in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 or the Old Earth of Genesis 1 Which was to be Destroyed?
The doctrine of predestination is found in Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . .” Echoing this idea, Ephesians 1:4-5 states, “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will[.]”[i] Ephesians 1:11-14 also confirms this doctrine: “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will . . . you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance. . . .”[ii]
I believe that context of Ephesians suggests that the foundation of the world mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 1:4 does not appear to refer to the original creation of the earth in Genesis 1. If this is true, then the doctrine of predestination may lose its most explicit verse. (Though there are other vs. suggestive of predestination in the Bible of which Jeremiah 1:5 and Romans 8:29 are two examples) As I shall explain below, when Paul mentions the foundation of the world in Ephesians 1:4 he appears to be referring to the foundation of the new creation; the new heaven and earth, predicted in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 and 22; not the previous creation of Genesis 1. If this is true, then Ephesians 1:4 is not saying that God predestined people before Adam and Eve and the creation of the world in Genesis 1. Rather what seems to be stated in Ephesians 1 is that God chose or predestined the Christian saints before the creation of the then future new heaven and earth predicted in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21:1. Thus I believe that the idea that God predestined spirits to go to heaven or hell before they were ever born on earth, whether true or not, may not be found in Ephesians 1:4-5.
The fact that the foundation of the earth mentioned in Ephesians 1:4-5 is a reference to the foundation of the new earth predicted in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21 seems to be implied eight verses later. Ephesians 1:13-14 reads, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” Thus Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 appear to suggest that those Christians alive before the new heaven and earth predicted in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21:1 (the new foundation of the earth) were predestined to become citizens of this new heaven and earth at the end of the age BECAUSE they had received the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing entrance into the kingdom to come. In other words, those first-century Christians addressed in Ephesians and Romans were predestined to receive God’s salvation in the future new heaven and earth (the new foundation of the earth) because they had received the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing entry into the new heaven and earth predicted in 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21.
The foundation of the earth mentioned in Ephesians 1:4 seems to be defined in the following chapter. Paul defines what he means by the foundation of the world in Ephesians 1:4 in Ephesians 2:19-21:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord [emphasis mine].
In Ephesians 2:19-21 Paul defines the foundation of the earth as Jesus and His apostles and prophets. Thus this expression as it is used in Ephesians does not appear to point back to Genesis 1 as is often supposed, rather it might point ahead to the Messianic reign. I believe that when Ephesians 1:4 mentions the foundation of the earth it refers to the time in which the new heaven and earth would replace the old creation or the previous heaven and earth. This point is implied in Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away[.]” 2 Peter 3:10-13 echoes this point:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.
2 Peter 3:10-13 and Revelation 21:1 imply that the new heaven and earth were to be officially established when the old heaven and earth were destroyed. The fact that the old foundation of the earth was to be destroyed at that time is stated in Hebrews 1:10-11: “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.” The fact that a new foundation would replace the old is implied in Isaiah 54:11, Hebrews 11:10 and Revelation 21:14.
The destruction of the old heaven and earth had not yet occurred when Ephesians and Romans were written. Thus the foundation of the earth referenced in Ephesians 1:4-5 was most likely the foundation of the future new heaven and earth, not the old foundation of the earth that was to be destroyed in Hebrews 1:10-11, 2 Peter 3 and Revelation 21. Because heaven and earth were to be recreated in the future, the first-century saints who were predestined before this new creation were predestined to enter this new creation built upon the new foundation of the earth once they received the Holy Spirit as implied in Ephesians 1:13-14. What exactly is the foundation of the earth? And could the old heaven and earth have already been destroyed? See What is the Foundation of the Earth?