In this article we will examine the teachings of William Branham relating to Predestination and Eternal Security. These two doctrines are closely related and are best explained together. First we want to establish what Bro. Branham actually believed.
What did Bro. Branham believe?
Many critics argue that Bro. Branham believed in unconditional election, or that God pre-chose who would receive eternal life based on his own will, who would and would not receive eternal life. This is, however, not what Bro. Branham taught. Bro. Branham believed in conditional election, wherein people were pre-chosen by God to receive eternal life because he foreknew those who would repent and turn to him.
As I firmly believe in the–in the foreknowledge of God, the predestination, not that God is willing that any would perish, but all might come to repentance; but being God, He had to know, and does know the end from the beginning. See? If He doesn’t, then He isn’t infinite; and if He is not infinite, He isn’t God. So He wasn’t willing, certainly, that any should perish, but He–He, knowing who would perish and who would not perish…
Why Cry? Speak! (63-0714M)
That’s the reason, the very purpose that Jesus came to the earth was to save those that God through His foreknowledge seen that wanted to be saved, because the whole world was condemned. And I don’t see how we could teach it any other way than the foreknowledge of God. And the Bible plainly says that He knows the end from the beginning and could tell it.
Where most critics become confused is in how Bro. Branham also believed in Eternal Security. Eternal Security and Conditional Election are from two different streams of Protestant Christianity and can appear contradictory. Most churches of the Wesleyan tradition believe that a person can be saved, but subsequently lose that salvation as a result of their actions. They believe this ability to become “unsaved”, or backslide, is a critical element that is necessary for salvation to be truly based on the free will choice of the individual. Bro. Branham however believed the Holy Spirit in the life of a person was the seal of Eternal Security.
If you’ll read Ephesians 4:30 right quick, you’ll find out what the Seal of the living God is. Ephesians 4:30 says, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby you’re sealed until the day of your redemption,” not till the next revival, but’s got eternal security. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby you are sealed until the day of your redemption.” See if Ephesians 4:30 doesn’t say that; then take your margin readings and run it all the rest the way through the Scriptures there and find out. Now, “… sealed until the day of your redemption.” Having the seal of the living God:…Questions And Answers On Hebrews #1 / 57-0925
Bro. Branham however did not find the teachings mutually exclusive but rather harmonized the two teachings. Doug Weaver acknowledged this but described this combination of doctrines as a “double predestination” that was “confusing and contradictory”.1
Two Doctrines Predestination
In Protestant Christianity, predestination comes in two primary interpretations which are incompatible with each other. John Calvin and and Jacobus Arminius are the originators of the two streams of thought. Here are the encyclopedia entries for the two competing doctrines.
Unconditional election (also known as unconditional grace) is a Lutheran and Reformed doctrine relating to Predestination that describes the actions and motives of God in eternity past, before He created the world, where he predestinated some people to receive salvation, the elect, and the rest he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God’s law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconditional_election
In Christian theology, conditional election is the belief that God chooses for eternal salvation those whom he foresees will have faith in Christ. This belief emphasizes the importance of a person’s free will. The counter-view is known as unconditional election, and is the belief that God chooses whomever he will, based solely on his purposes and apart from an individual’s free will. It has long been an issue in Calvinist–Arminian debate.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conditional_election
To begin, let’s look at the applicable scriptures so we can begin to understand the biblical picture of Predestination.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, Elect [chosen] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father1 Peter 1:1-2
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.Romans 8:29
From these verses, we can clearly see that God’s foreknowledge was key to his choice, and his predestination was based on what he foreknew. His decisions were not made arbitrarily, but based on what he foreknew.
Before the world began, God looked through time and knew every person that would ever live. He saw their lives, their choices, and he knew who would accept his grace and who would reject it. He knew who would want to be saved, and who would not. Based upon his advance knowledge of their choice, he chose them first.
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen youJohn 15:16
The Apostle Paul elaborates on what this predestination means to a believer.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 1In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:Epheisans 1:4-11
Christians are predestined to be made like Christ, and their reward and position in the Kingdom of Heaven was likewise predestined. In other words, God determined our reward and position (inheritance) in the Kingdom of Heaven before he began making the world. The Apostle Paul elaborates further.
For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.Romans 9:11-14
As we apply the verses speaking of the foreknowledge of God to these passages of scripture, we can see that God already foreknew that Esau would despise his birthright, but that Jacob would covet it. Based on that foreknowledge, God had already chosen which child he loved and which he hated before they were even born. Jacob and Esau both came to manifest what God already knew would happen. God did not make Esau to despise his birthright, he did that of his own freewill.
Finally, Peter confirms to us yet again that our election was based on the life and choices of a Christian, and he encourages his readers to make sure of their election.
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:1 Pet 1:10
Scriptural Eternal Security
The bible makes it clear that those who have received salvation through baptism of the holy spirit cannot lose the eternal life that the spirit has brought to them. Consider the implications of receiving eternal life; if eternal life can be lost, then is is truly eternal life? Eternal life, by definition is not something that can be lost.
Paul describes a believer who has been saved as “sealed until the day of redemption”. (Eph 4:30) Sealed means “conclude, establish, or secure (something) definitively, excluding the possibility of reversal or loss.” In other words, our salvation is irrevocable. Jesus also emphatically endorses this concept by saying:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.John 10:27-29
And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.John 6:39
The implication of these scriptures is that someone who has received salvation has received it irrevocably. Nothing is possible to take it from him. Even our own failures cannot cancel our salvation. Paul concludes:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:35-39
Reconciliation of Eternal Security and Conditional Election
The difficulty many theologians face in reconciling the dichotomy of these two doctrines is how to handle a “backslidden” Christian, or someone who has repented and lived for God for a period of time, but then abandoned Christ again for a life of sin. The scripture however provides the means for reconciling this issue.
First, the concept of the foreknowledge of God indicates that he already knows those who will serve him for a time, but then walk away. Thus, having already known of their failure, God had not predestinated them to eternal life. They may have not ever been truly saved. Jesus explains such cases in Matthew 13:18-22.
Alternatively, they may have been truly saved. Their own mistakes would not cause them to lose eternal life. 1 John 5:9-17 explains how a brother can commit a sin which is “unto death”. Paul elaborates how such a person can still be saved, explaining that “through the destruction of the flesh the soul can still be saved” and that he will suffer the loss of his reward. (1 Cor 3:15) Jesus also categorizes the believers along these lines in Matthew 5:19.
The scriptures offers these two alternatives for ultimately destiny of “backsliders”. Ultimately God is the judge of all men, and he has decided who will be saved and who will not be.
See also Serpent Seed
Some critics allege that in teaching Serpent Seed, Bro. Branham he made predestination related to genetics, indicating some people were descended of Cain and thus predetermined to go to Hell, whereas others were descended from Adam and predetermined to be saved. This, however, is an incorrect interpretation of his teachings. Bro. Branham clearly believed that all men were of mixed seed, as a result of all men being descended from Noah. He believed all mankind carried the traits of the serpents seed, which is the source of man’s fallen nature.