The Divine Prescience

The Divine Prescience (Concluded)

The Adventist view of divine foreknowledge.

D. A. DELAFIELD, Associate Secretary. Ellen G. White Estate, Inc

God's purpose of redemp­tion for the world and of happiness of His universe will be achieved with success because of His foreknowledge. He is able to guide the affairs of men and angels because He knows what is going to hap­pen. Think of Christ's experience while on earth as a man. The remarkable foreknowl­edge of the earthly Christ was brought about by visions given to Him while in prayer, for example, in the wilderness of temptation following His baptism. He was indeed the Prophet, the fulfillment of Deu­teronomy 18:18. (See also Numbers 12:6.) He was a true Seer.

While in the wilderness, Christ fasted, but He was insensible to hunger. Engaged in constant prayer to His Father for a preparation to resist the adver­sary, Christ did not feel the pangs of hunger. He spent the time in earnest prayer, shut in with God. It was as if He were in the presence of His Father. . . . He saw the breaking of Satan's power over fallen and tempted ones. He saw Himself healing the sick, comforting the hopeless, cheering the de­sponding, and preaching the gospel to the poor,—doing the work that God had outlined for Him; and He did not realize any sense of hunger until the forty days of His fast were ended.

The vision passed away, and then, with strong craving Christ's human nature called for food. Now was Satan's opportunity to make his assault. He re­solved to appear as one of the angels of light that had appeared to Christ in His vision.—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Matt. 4:1, p. 1080. (Italics supplied.)

In prophetic vision God opened up to Christ scenes in the unfolding drama of His life and passion that prepared Him to meet the issues. This is a significant truth and explains the remarkable foreknowledge of the human Christ who received from God light to prepare Him for the eventual­ities of His public ministry. Perhaps in this manner the Father revealed to Him Peter's triple denial and Judas' betrayal. (See also Psalm 41:9.)

It is impossible to support scripturally the contention that God has no specific foreknowledge of particular sins. But there is much proof to the contrary. Think of the Israelites in the days of Samuel. The Lord had told Israel that the time would come when they would ask for a king (Deut. 17:14). That time came. They got their king, but they lost the sense of God's blessing. The children of Israel repented of their particular sin and they cried out, "We have added unto all our sins this evil, to ask us a king" (1 Sam. 12:19). (See Steps to Christ, pp. 38, 39.) The following com­ment in the The SDA Bible Commentary is apropos in this connection:

The kingdom of God is based upon the principle of free choice. The fact that God knows the end from the beginning does not in any way limit man's making his own decisions (see Ed 178). When God made known to the people before they entered Pal­estine that the time would come when they would ask for a king (Dent. 17:14), He was not expressing His will in the matter, but only unfolding to them the course events would take.—On I Sam. 12:1.

Again in 1 Samuel 2:34 the Lord pre­dicted the death of Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli, wicked men who had done vile things. The Lord warned of the results of their evil course: "And this shall be a sign unto thee [Eli], that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas; in one day they shall die both of them" (1 Sam. 2:34). But the two presumptuous sinners ignored God's Word. Here is an evidence of how the foreknowledge of God—made known to and understood by human be­ings—did not affect their conduct. The in­corrigible man will do what he wants to do, regardless. Note the following comment on Eli's sons:

As Hophni and Phinehas had dealt violently with the things of the Lord, so they were to meet violent deaths. Hoping to turn them from their evil course, God drew aside briefly the curtain of the future. It would have been natural to expect that when the sons heard this prophecy they would alter their lives, in order to avoid reaping its fulfillment. In making this prophecy, God simply foresaw their doom—He did not foreordain it. He who knows the end from the beginning knows all that affects the exercise of free choice. By warning individuals of what the future holds in store for them, God proves to the universe that men go so far of their own free choice that even that knowledge will not deter them.—Ibid., on 1 Sam. 2:34.

Jesus made this point clear in the para­ble of the Rich Man and Lazarus when, in response to the begging request of the rich man to send Lazarus to his brothers urging them to repent so that they would not come into the fires of hell, Jesus replied that they would not repent even though one rose from the dead and preached to them (Luke 16).

The Adventist View

The position held by Adventists on God's foreknowledge is expressed in the follow­ing paragraph:

God foreknows because He is omniscient, that is, He knows all things. Of Him the Scriptures affirm: "AD things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4:13); "de­claring the end from the beginning" (Isa. 46:10). . . . The past, present, and future are all equally known to Him. Nothing short of absolute knowledge would satisfy our fundamental concept of God's perfection. Because He knows the future, He is never taken by surprise. The apostasy of Satan and the fall of man were both foreseen by Him and provision was made to meet the emergency (1 Peter 1:20; Rev. 13;8; DA 22). Predictive prophecy is the supreme evi­dence of His foreknowledge. Prophecy predicts what God's foreknowledge has seen will be (see EGW RH Nov. 13, 1900). The forecasted events do not take place because they are foreseen; they are foreseen because they will take place. This truth has been well stated by Milton, who, in comment­ing on the fall of Satan and his angels, makes God declare:

"If I foreknew, 

Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, Which had no less proved certain unforeknown. So without least impulse or shadow of fate, Or aught by me immutably foreseen,

They trespass."—Paradise Lost, Book III, lines 117 ff.)—Ibid., on ROM. 8:29.

In this connection the Commentary ob­serves that "divine foreknowledge and di­vine predestination in no way exclude hu­man liberty."—Ibid.

God's Total Knowledge

The writings of Ellen G. White provide most helpful guidance in this connection. Specific related ideas are suggested in many statements: The most remote events in past history are known to God. The far-distant future is seen by Him with clear vision. God foresaw Satan's apostasy and man's fall (The Desire of Ages, p. 22) and also the existence of sin. All of man's doings are as an open book before the eye of the Lord. He knows what your future will be:

I was shown that in case of sickness, where the-way is clear for the offering up of prayer for the sick, the case should be committed to the Lord in calm faith, not with a storm of excitement. He alone is acquainted with the past life of the individual and knows what his future will be. He who is ac­quainted with the hearts of all men knows whether the person, if raised up, would glorify His name or dishonor Him by backsliding and apostasy. All that we are required to do is to ask God to raise the sick, up if in accordance with His will, believing that He-hears the reasons which we present and the fervent prayers offered. If the Lord sees it will best honor Him, He will answer our prayers. But to urge recovery without submission to His will is not right.—Testimonies, vol, 2, pp. 147, 148.

Note also in Counsels in Stewardship,. pages 74, 75, the following:

I entreat my brethren and sisters throughout the world to awaken to the responsibility that rests upon them to pay a faithful tithe... Keep a faithful account with your Creator. Realize fully the im­portance of being just with Him who has divine foreknowledge. Let everyone search His heart dili­gently. Let him look up his accounts, and find out how he stands as related to God. (Italics supplied.)

We should keep a faithful account with-our Creator in tithe paying and realize the importance of being "just with Him who has divine foreknowledge." This would in­dicate that if the tithe were withheld, the sin of withholding the tithe would not be unknown to God.

A Trap With Many Jaws

Those who toy with the doctrine of a lim­ited foreknowledge of God fall into a trap that has more than one set of jaws. First of all, they limit God and thus rob Him of that omniscience which all finite creatures expect God to have and to exercise. And in doing this they accept an incorrect esti­mate of God's character and the preroga­tives of Deity. They deprive Him of that greatness which causes reverence and wor­ship. Thus the whole outlook on God's na­ture is affected adversely. Such persons' wor­ship becomes limited to their own limita­tions of the Lord. They create their own God, a creature like themselves.

In The Great Controversy, page x, we are told that Satan causes men to cherish a false concept of God. And on page 583 Satan's purpose in misrepresenting God is made plain. It is clear that worship and heart allegiance is not possible when God is misunderstood or misrepresented.

God is infinite in knowledge.' And om­niscient! Nothing is hid from the all-see­ing eye of God.' The chambers of men's souls are open to Him.' Every work and every secret thing is open to Him.' Men's motives and deceptive acts are discerned by God.' Nothing is too small for the attention of God.' It is an error to think that what is great or small to us must be great or small to Him.' He reads hearts and discerns mo­tives.' He is acquainted with every action performed on earth." He knows every act of men's lives.' (See Spiritual Gifts, p. 49.) He knows every person by name," every secret of the soul; " everything that happens in every part of the universe." Man's most se­cret thought is known to Him.' Nothing occurs on earth or heaven without the knowledge of God." Yet there are those who hold that life is a drama of which the Lord Himself knows not the conclusion, and that the universe is rushing on in the dark like an express train without lights or an engineer and that at any moment we may plunge into the abyss.

No Speculation on God's Prerogatives

So the doctrine of God's perfect fore­knowledge is bracing and reassuring, yet we do not understand this matter per­fectly. The human intellect may wear itself out in conjectures regarding God." We are not to speculate regarding God or to try to penetrate beyond what is revealed in His word.' The highest intellect cannot under­stand God. Much remains to be understood regarding God." He conceals more of Him­self than He makes known to man.' We are not to attempt to explain that which has not been revealed!' Eternity will not suffice to comprehend all about God." We are not to speculate regarding the prerogatives of God.' His prerogatives are a subject which we dare not touch."

It is also a mistake to think that God has no control over His own laws or that He is bound by them.

Again, worldly wisdom teaches that prayer is not essential. Men of science claim that there can be no real answer to prayer; that this would be a viola­tion of law, a miracle, and that miracles have no existence. The universe, say they, is governed by fixed laws, and God Himself does nothing contrary to these laws. Thus they represent God as bound by His own laws—as if the operation of divine laws could exclude divine freedom. Such teaching is op­posed to the testimony of the Scriptures. Were not miracles wrought by Christ and His apostles? The same compassionate Saviour lives to-day, and He is as willing to listen to the prayer of faith as when He walked visibly among men. The natural co-op­erates with the supernatural. It is part of God's plan to grant us, in answer to the prayer of faith, that which He would not bestow did we not thus ask.—The Great Controversy, p. 525.

We should remember that in God's deal­ings with humanity He employs only such means as are consistent with truth and righteousness.' God is not a hard and exact­ing taskmaster." He is a compassionate, understanding, knowledgeable God who re­joices in the free moral agency of His creatures and in volitional love and alle­giance. Nevertheless, He is all-powerful and directs nature as He pleases!' He or­ders what His providence sees best." At times, when judgment is due, He puts a restraint upon His own attributes and de­fers judgment."

In the light of God's foreknowledge we should rejoice, particularly because our freedom to decide the way we choose to take in life is unimpaired by God's pre­science.

Indeed, God's foreknowledge provokes special acts of kindly providence and cau­tions to protect and keep His children in times of imminent danger and temptation.

God's prescience gives Him an advantage over His creatures, but it should bring a sense of relief to us to know that He uses this knowledge to our advantage, not our disadvantage. So prescience is used consist­ently with God's character of love and com­passion.

God's omniscience and omnipresence are "protective as well as detective."

The text Gen. 16:13—"Thou, God, seest me"—has been used as a restraint from evil more than as a stimulus to good. To the child of the devil it should as certainly be the former. God should not be regarded as an exacting overseer or a standing threat, but rather as one who understands us, loves us, and helps us. Ps. 139:17, 18—"How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, 0 God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: When I awake, I arm still with thee."—A. H. STRONG, Systematic Theology, p. 284.

In Whittier's poem, "The Eternal Good­ness," was expressed his confidence in the foreknowledge of God regarding future events and the restitution of all things:

Yet, in the maddening maze of things,

And tossed by storm and flood,

To one fixed stake my spirit clings; 

I know that God is good!

I know not what the future bath Of marvel or surprise,

Assured alone that life and death His mercy underlies.

I know not where His islands lift 

Their fronded palms in air;

I only know I cannot drift

Beyond His love and care.


1 The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Isa. 40:12-14, p. 1145.

2 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Stewardship, p. 172.

3 White, Messages to Young People, p. 266.

Steps to Christ, p. 34.

Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 646.

6 Ibid., vol. 1, p. 501.

7 The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Job, entire chapter 38, p. 1141; Steps to Christ, p. 100; Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 260.

8 White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 337.

9 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 513.

10 White, My Life Today, p. 209.

11 The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Acts 10:1-6, pp. 1059, 1060.

12 /bid., p. 1059.

13 White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 645.

14The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Job 42:11, P. 1141.

15 White, Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 147.

16 White, 31, Life Today, p. 291.        

17 The Ministry of Healing, p. 429; Testimonies, vol. 8, p. 279.

18  The Ministry of Healing, pp. 429, 430; Testi­monies, vol. 8, p. 297.

19 White  , Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 444.

20 The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Job 38, p. 1141.

21 White, Medical Ministry, p. 92.

22_____ , Education, p. 172.

23____ , The Ministry of Healing, p. 430; Testimonies, vol., 8, p. 279,

24______ , Medical Ministry, p. 92.

25 White,Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 42.

26 _____ , Steps to Christ, p. 103.

27               , Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 259, 260.

28_____ , The Ministry of Healing, p. 417.

29 _____  Counsels to Parents and Teachers and Students,  pp. 415, 416; Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 356, 357; Prophets and Kings, p. 276.

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D. A. DELAFIELD, Associate Secretary. Ellen G. White Estate, Inc

November 1963

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