It’s an awful thought that God would actually create some people for the very purpose of tormenting and torturing them for all eternity, but that’s what some Christians and churches believe, even today!

The belief that God predestines some people for hell comes from what I believe to be a misinterpretation of Romans chapter 9, which has been the subject of some controversy over the centuries. John Calvin and his followers used Romans 9 as proof of God’s predestining some people for heaven and some for hell (before they’re even born!).[i] This is not what Paul is teaching in the three illustrations he uses in this chapter:

  1. God loves Jacob and hates Esau
  2. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and
  3. Clay in the Hands of God

(Please note, it would be helpful for you to read Romans 9 before reading the rest of this blog).

God Loves Jacob and Hates Esau

The word translated as “hate” can also mean, “to love less” or “put in second place”. “Love” infers a positive relationship whereas “hate,” indicates a lack of relationship. It’s important to note that God’s choice of Jacob had nothing to do with salvation, but rather with who would be the Father of the Nation of Israel. This honour first belonged to Esau, but he chose short-term satisfaction over long-term blessing. “Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:29-34).

The author of Hebrews describes Esau as a godless person “who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done” (Hebrews 12:16-17).  

Romans 9 is not teaching about salvation but rather is speaking about the nations that resulted from Jacob and Esau. God has chosen people for greater or lesser degrees of service often based on their willingness, choices, and behaviour. Paul is addressing service rather than salvation.

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

The apostle’s second illustration is the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Hardening is a symbolic word which means “to twist” in the same way as you would ring out a dishcloth. When you ring out a cloth, you find out what’s in it. Through the ten plagues, God twisted Pharaoh’s heart to squeeze out what was inside, simply revealing what was already there!

Clay in the Hands of God

The final illustration is “Clay in the Hands of God” quoting from Isaiah chapters 29 and 45 as well as Jeremiah 18. “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”

Once again, the apostle is speaking about serving God rather than salvation. God does not create some people so that He can damn them to an eternal hell. If that were true, he’d be contradicting his nature as well as the entire intent of the Gospel that is very clearly for ALL people. Why would Jesus die for everyone if everyone could not access salvation?

The Apostle finishes this chapter by quoting from Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16, “As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Zion was the hill in Jerusalem that lay opposite Mount Moriah on which the temple stood. On Zion was built the palace of David and the seat of justice. Sometimes Zion was applied to the whole city of Jerusalem as well as the Jewish people. Paul uses the symbolic language of a foundation stone that God would lay from and for the Jews.  A rock of salvation for all, but to many of the Jews, it became a stumbling block because they wanted to be right with God by obeying the Law rather than by trusting in Jesus as their Messiah.

Paul continues this same theme in chapter 10 of how Israel came to miss salvation while the Gentiles found it. The Jews are zealous for righteousness, but their zeal is misguided. They’re trying to be right with God by obeying the entire law, but that’s impossible. Paul says, “It’s not that hard” because “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.”

Being right with God is not impossible like trying to get up to heaven to bring Jesus down or to bring Jesus back from the dead. God has already done this for us by his power. Salvation is simple, accessible and available just like the words you speak. Being right with God is achieved by declaring Jesus to be Lord – words that flow out of a heart that believes God has done the impossible by raising Jesus from the dead. Paul uses the word “everyone” twice in this chapter to declare that the gospel is not just limited to some people.

God doesn’t make some people be objects of wrath to be eternally tortured, Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Now that’s Good News![ii]


[i] According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Calvin taught, “God for His own glorification, and without any regard to original sin, has created some as “vessels of mercy,” others as “vessels of wrath.” Those created for hell He has also predestined for sin, and whatever faith and righteousness they may exhibit are at most only apparent, since all graces and means of salvation are efficacious only in those predestined for heaven.” Others credit Augustine as the author of this heresy. In Christianity, the doctrine that God unilaterally predestines some persons to heaven and some to hell originated with Augustine during the Pelagian controversy in 412 CE.

[ii] Consider also 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” And 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord … is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That is the desire of God.



A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog responding to some comments made by Wallabies superstar Israel Folau. [1] He was asked on an Instagram post what he thought God’s plan was for gay people.  Israel’s answer was, “HELL … Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”  He later wrote, “My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings.”  In my blog, I respectfully disagreed with Israel Folau’s understanding of God’s Plan and explained why.

One of the primary purposes of blogging is “to present a person’s thoughts, feelings, opinions or experiences.”  [2] That’s what I attempt to do each week and, unlike some bloggers, I open my blog for others to comment to generate a healthy discussion on the issue.  While some of those commenting lack virtues such as kindness, gentleness, and self-control, most add to the conversation with their comments, questions, and suggestions.  It’s one of those comments that form the basis of this blog.

In response to my blog on God’s Plan, one reader suggested I was wrong because of Paul’s words in Romans chapter nine:

“Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honourable use and another for dishonourable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…” (verses 21-23)

The person’s comment went on to suggest, based on these verses, that God makes some people for Hell while He makes others for Heaven (glory).   Romans nine has been used for centuries to teach this untruth.  Any church that includes the word “Reformed” in its name probably has this as a fundamental doctrine, which is enshrined in the Westminster Confession of Faith…

“By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” [3]

Now, if this were true, which I don’t for a moment think it is, this view contradicts both the Nature of God and His Word.  Consider John 3:16, that teaches “This is how God loved the world …” and goes on to explain that salvation comes through God’s Son, Jesus, which is God’s Plan for the world God loves.  In other words, God doesn’t make some people for Hell; He has provided salvation, and eternal life and made both available to all.

In the context of the Day of Judgement, the apostle Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should reach repentance.”  I agree with Israel Folau about the importance of repentance [4] in order to access God’s Plan, but I maintain that God’s Plan for people is NOT Hell, because God is not willing that ANY should perish.  God “wants ALL people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  [5]  In fact, “EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [6]

The Reformed view of Romans 9 also contradicts the nature of God who “is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” [7] James warns us not to “be deceived” about God’s unchanging goodness. [8] God is good and always good; He doesn’t make people and prearrange for them to be tortured forever in burning sulphur, don’t be deceived!

So, what is Paul referring to in Romans chapter nine?  It’s important to realise that Paul wrote a letter to the Roman Church. This letter didn’t have chapters and verses. In fact, these weren’t added to the New Testament until 1551.  These coordinates are a great help in locating various parts of the Bible, but they can also be a hindrance because we tend to read the Bible in bite-sized pieces and ignore context.

The Letter to the Roman Church was written by Paul to communicate the beauty and depth of the grace of God that is available to Jew and Gentile alike.  The first chapter highlights that all Gentiles are sinners; chapter two emphasises the sinfulness of the Jews, and chapter three teaches, “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” [9] Upon this dark background of human sin, Paul places the gem of grace, and it stands out like a diamond on black velvet.  Salvation by faith in God’s grace is God’s plan for every person says Paul – not just for the Jews (as many Jews believed in the First Century) but also for the Gentiles, the people of all nations.

This theme continues through the first eleven chapters of Romans.  In 9:21-23 Paul is referring to Isaiah 64:8, “O Lord, you are our Father.  We are the clay, and you are the potter.  We all are formed by your hand.”  These verses are not teaching that God is arbitrary in choosing some and damning others. Paul is not speaking of individual people here at all but is instead instructing the church that God is Sovereign and can resolve to save Gentiles as well as Jews ~ a truth that was excellent news in the predominantly Gentile City (and Church) of Rome, and truth that is Good News to all people today.  In fact, the next verse in Isaiah 64 is the clincher, “Don’t be so angry with us, Lord. Please don’t remember our sins forever.  Look at us, we pray, and see that we are ALL your people.

If you are seeking forgiveness and a relationship with your creator, be comforted that He is not a torturing tyrant but a wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God, and it is His kindness that is intended to turn you from your sin. [10] Come toward Him and He will run to you and adopt you into His family. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.





[4] On the topic of repentance, I encourage you to read my blog, “They need to repent.

[5] 1 Timothy 2:4

[6] Romans 10:13 in which Paul quotes Joel 2:32.  The context here is the wonderful truth that Jews and non-Jews are all included in God’s plan, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” (Romans 10:12, quoting Isaiah 28:16)

[7] Psalm 145:9

[8] James 1:16-17

[9] Romans 3:23

[10] Romans 2:4