If God decreed all things, did He actively decree that some would sin, be unbelievers, and thus be punished forever? If we were to ask Jesus for an answer to this question, He might point us to His words in Matthew 25, a prophecy of the judgment of believers and unbelievers to come at His return.1
In this setting, Jesus will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matt 25:34). Those on the right were blessed by Father to inherit a kingdom that He planned to give them even before the time He created the world. The Father knew who these kingdom citizens would be and planned to bless them in this way. To state it in terms of this article’s title, He decreed in eternity past that there would be a kingdom and that these blessed would be its citizens.
As for unbelievers, however, Jesus does not state that a place of damnation was prepared by the Father in like manner for them. He states to those on His left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). There is no mention of the Father, and the place of punishment was not even prepared for them but the devil and his angels. The implication is that the unbeliever is not guilty of not being one for whom the Father prepared the kingdom. Rather, the unbeliever, like the devil and his angels, rejected God and was cursed and would be held responsible for his unbelief by being punished forever.
In short, the Father prepared a kingdom for those would believe. The Father is not said, however, to have prepared eternal fire for unbelievers. In all of this, we see one of the texts in the Bible that holds the mystery of the sovereignty of God side-by-side with the responsibility of man. God did not prepare a kingdom for some, but these outcasts chose to shun His kingdom, for which they find themselves cursed and forsaken to eternal fire.
Seeing that men shall answer to God for how they have loved and lived for Him, may we implore the lost all the more to repent and turn to Him!
Says Spurgeon from his Rom 9:15 sermon “Jacob and Esau,” commenting on Matt 25:41, “At the last great day, when all the world shall come before Jesus to be judged, have you noticed, when the righteous go on the right side, Jesus says, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father,’—(‘of my Father,’ mark,)—‘inherit the kingdom prepared’—(mark the next word)—‘for you, from before the foundation of the world.’ What does he say to those on the left? ‘Depart, ye cursed.’ He does not say, ‘ye cursed of my father, but, ye cursed.’ And what else does he say? ‘into everlasting fire, prepared’—(not for you, but)—‘for the devil and his angels.’ Do you see how it is guarded, here is the salvation side of the question. It is all of God. ‘Come, ye blessed of my father.’ It is a kingdom prepared for them. There you have election, free grace in all its length and breadth. But, on the other hand, you have nothing said about the father—nothing about that at all. ‘Depart, ye cursed.’ Even the flames are said not to be prepared for sinners, but for the devil and his angels. There is no language that I can possibly conceive that could more forcibly express this idea, supposing it to be the mind of the Holy Spirit, that the glory should be to God, and that the blame should be laid at man’s door.” To see this sermon in whole, go to http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0239.php. ↩