Does God Predict or Direct Events?


I have in front of me where you wrote, “This is the very condition that God predicted.” I would qualify that by adding to that sentence the words “and directed” to complete the thought and show that it is God’s doing, not just God’s prediction. Revelation 17:17 is explanation enough, even though there is much more in the Word about God directing.


You raise a good question: Does God predict, in that He foreknows what will happen, or is He directly involved, “directing,” i.e. causing things to happen?

There is a basic difference between God foreknowing and God directing. God foreknowing does not imply that He has any direct influence on or control of what happens; He simply knows in advance what will be. If God directs, He causes things to happen, both good and ill. This suggests that He overrules human action, and that God, not humans, should receive the full credit or blame. This is contrary to the teaching of Scripture, where the various writers picture God as restraining evil, containing evil, hating evil, sending His judgments upon the evildoers (Gen. 6:6-7; 18:1-15). If God determines human conduct, good or evil, then human beings are not free moral agents but merely puppets in His hand, creatures which He makes to act according to His supreme will. Such an arrangement would void human responsibility and leave no place for human achievement, human progress, or for training us to use the minds and wills God has given us.

The Bible presents God as supreme in control and man as a free moral agent, free to serve God or not to serve Him as he individually chooses. “Choose this day, who you will serve” was the command of Joshua. And Moses stated the mind of the Lord when he said, “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil” (Deut. 30:15). Each individual was free to choose for himself, whether or not he would obey God, whether or not he would serve God.

But the points you question are regarding events, not individuals’ choices. The question, then, is: Do events happen as a result of chance, or are all events directed by God?

While God leaves humans to choose their own course of action, there are events which are directly acts of God; i.e., they are completely beyond human power either to make happen or to prevent. There have been times when God acted directly and visibly in history. When He was working with the nation of Israel, He frequently intervened to fight their battles, or to bring about that which He had decreed. At other times, He watched silently as events took their course, while men and nations interacted without recognizing His authority.

In either case, whether God was intervening or not, He knew what the outcome would be, and was able to state it in advance if He had any reason or purpose to do so. He was not interfering; He was simply able to see the drama in advance, and know the ending before it happened.

There are statements in the Bible which would suggest that God did everything that was done, as though every event was His direct responsibility. This arises from the fact that the Hebrews thought of all history as God-ordained, as the hand of God at work. In their language, to say that “it happened” was the equivalent of saying that “God did thus and thus.” It was not predestination but only Divine foreknowledge.

Were God directly responsible for all of history, where would there be any free choice? Where would we be left to choose our own course, or to use the resources God has given us? If our minds and wills were constantly overruled by God and we did only what we were foreordained or predestined to do, there would be no human victory, and no struggle and achievement; everything would be God’s doing. In this sense, all good (or evil) would be His doing. This is not the way God designed His plan. He distinctly commands us what to do, and reveals what is acceptable or unacceptable conduct in His sight, and leaves us to act responsibly or irresponsibly. There would be no point in giving us freedom of choice if He forced us to act in a predetermined manner. Nor would He be fair in punishing wrong doing if He was ultimately responsible.

What about distinct events that are part of His plan? God has decreed that certain events shall be, and nothing men may do can thwart that plan. In such cases we might say either that God directed it and/or that God foreknew it. One example would be the destruction of Jerusalem. God knew in advance that this would happen; Jesus foretold it. But we would not say that God directed Jerusalem to be destroyed; He simply foreknew what would happen—and prearranged a means whereby His people could be spared, if they heeded the warnings.

In certain events, God was the principle actor in the drama; i.e., the birth of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus; the ascension of Jesus to heaven. None of these events could have come about without the intervention of God into human affairs. Each event was predicted, and God also directed the happening, although even then, human actors made their own contributions by their own free choice. Other events (the death of Jesus, the fall of the Jewish nation, or the coming of the dark night of the apostasy) were foretold, but the human actors who brought about these events did not need God to overrule in order to make them possible. In most cases, they were the result of the wicked actions of wicked-minded men. Peter said of the crucifixion, “whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10; see also Acts 2:23).

When God sends Jesus Christ to earth, He will be directly intervening in human affairs, and taking charge of the course of events. Jesus, equipped with Divine authority, will break into human history. The event has been predicted; in this case again God will be making it happen.

The passage you cite from Revelation 17:17 refers to the time after Christ has returned and is judging the nations. It reads: “God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.” Here God is moving people to do what He wants done so that His words may be fulfilled. The same was said in the days of Daniel, that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, [and] Gives it to whomever He will” (Dan. 4:17). The apostle Paul made a similar statement, that “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13)—not that they exist directly by God’s action, but God oversees, to the extent that nothing is allowed to interfere with His long-range plans.

God is supreme in history, directing all toward His preordained end: the realizing of His plan for His earth, and in due time He will bring it to pass. In the meantime, He lets men and nations make their own choices, go their own way, build up and tear down as they purpose, and He does not interfere, except to fulfill a promise or to protect His own.