When reading 1 Peter 2:8 (NIV) I misinterpreted the meaning of 'destiny' when applied to the non-believers:

and, "A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for.

I interpreted the --which is also what they were destined for to mean that the unbelievers who disobey, were originally destined for good things as the believers were. However when comparing the NIV to other versions, it seems that the author is implying that they were destined for disobedience. See the ESV:

and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Are we to take away from this verse that there are those who are destined for stumbling and disobedience? In the original language, what is the meaning of 'destiny' when applied to unbelievers within this verse?

  • Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here.... Up until the last sentence, this is an excellent question. I could be wrong, but I think the request for scriptures that could support the opposite view is out of scope for BHSE. However, it would be appropriate at the Christianity SE in the form "What is the Biblical basis for the belief that ..." (An existing question most likely covers it, but I didn't find one quickly.)
    – ThaddeusB
    Aug 4 '15 at 14:48
  • 2
    @JackDouglas we must have simultaneously edited that question haha
    – Dan
    Aug 4 '15 at 18:03
  • 3
    Hey @BenPotter we have deemed questions that are 'searching for a text(s)" to be off topic here. It is perfectly fine to ask about a specific text but we don't allow questions asking for additional texts to support an idea. We start and work up from a specific text here. I've made a slight edit to focus this solely on the 1 Peter passage.
    – Dan
    Aug 4 '15 at 18:04

"Mr. Jones, you have an appointment . . .."

First, other versions of 1 Peter 2:8 translate the verse differently. The NASB Updated Version translates it as follows:

[Speaking of those who reject Jesus as the cornerstone:] ". . . for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed" (my bold print).

(By the way, the word doom is in italics in the NASB, meaning it was supplied by the translators to make the meaning of the verse clearer.)

The NASB's word for destined is appointed. We all, believers and unbelievers alike, have an appointment with death, and it is unavoidable and certain. Not all of us, however, have an appointment with spiritual death--that is, once we become believers in Christ! Our "appointment" is with Jesus in heaven for all eternity. As the writer to the Hebrews said,

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him" (9:27--Notice the writer's use of the word once in 9:12, 26, 27, and 28).

On the other hand, according to 1 Peter 2:8, unbelievers who are "disobedient to the word [of God]" do have a date with spiritual death, from which there is no escape, no do-over, and no hope. This is sad but true. Jesus, after all, spoke more of hell than of heaven--in part, I think, because he was that serious about it.

Just as a lifeguard at the beach posts warnings about undertows to make beachgoers aware of the danger of being swept out to sea, Jesus made his audiences aware of the danger of rejecting his message and refusing the lifeline, which he was more than happy to throw them if they in simple faith would grab it, realizing the spiritual danger they were in should they reject his lifeline.*

The Meaning of "Destined" (or "Appointed")

Here is how Constable explains your verse in question:

Election results in the salvation of some (1 Peter 1:2), but it also means destruction for others (2:8).

“'In the immediate context it is not so much a question of how Christian believers perceive Christ as of how God (in contrast to ‘people generally’) perceives . . . [His Christ], . . . [but] how God consequently vindicates both Christ and his followers'” (Michaels, p.104).'

"To what does God appoint those who stumbled . . .[?]. . .[Is it] unbelief, or [is it] the stumbling that results from unbelief? In the Greek text the antecedent of “to this” (eis ho) is the main verb “stumble” (proskoptousi), as it is in the English text. “Are disobedient” (apeithountes) is a participle that is subordinate to the main verb. Therefore we would expect “to this” to refer to the main verb “stumble” rather than to the subordinate participle “are disobedient.” God appoints those who stumble to stumble because they do not believe. Their disobedience is not what God has ordained, but the penalty of their disobedience is (cf. Acts 2:23; Rom. 11:8, 11, 30-32)."

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is certainly good news; it does, however, have an unpleasant flip side if the good news is neither believed nor received.

A Synechdo___What?

We have a synecdoche of sorts (i.e., a "part to whole, whole to part" relationship), played out for us on Mount Calvary, where two thieves are being crucified, one on Jesus' left and the other on Jesus' right. When their torture begins, they both rail against Jesus (Matthew 27:44). When their torture progresses, however, one of the thieves repents and asks Jesus for permission to enter his kingdom. Jesus told the repentant thief,

"Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43).

Think of the one thief as representative of unbelieving humanity, and the other thief as representative of believing humanity. In the approximately 2000 years since Jesus' cross-death and subsequent resurrection, the choices--one good and one bad--made by the two thieves at Golgotha have been played out in the lives of humankind, one soul at a time. "In the world there are two kinds of people," my pastor says, "and they are saints and ain'ts." How true.

Without even touching on the controversial--albeit biblical--topic of election, and without addressing the polarizing subjects of heaven and hell, I must confess I am not a universalist in my theology or outlook. By that I mean I do not believe every human being will eventually be saved, either in this life or the next. I wish I were a universalist, but as they say, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride . . .." If Jesus believed everyone would be saved "in the end," then reason demands he teach that belief accordingly. Instead, he taught that for a person not to believe in him is to have

"been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:17 NASB Updated).

Yes, there are dire consequences for unbelief. The path of belief, however, is not dire, but delightful! For those who are in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). Notice in particular the verse which follows perhaps the most famous verse in all of Scripture (viz., John 3:16):

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him" (John 3:16-17, my bold print).

If the main sticking point for you concerns the kind of election Peter implies (and you infer) in the verse in question, Constable has summarized my viewpoint well. I'll repeat it here in my own very liberal paraphrase:

God, in his love and mercy, does not appoint humankind to unbelief, inasmuch as we all are born in a state of unbelief and are separated from God because of sin. We all are sinners by nature and by practice. To continue in sin is to stumble over the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ; namely, that Jesus did all that was necessary to reconcile God to us and us to God.


  • Like the man sitting on top of his house during a flood, who was confident God was going to rescue him: When a man in a boat came rowing past his house and offered him a seat in his boat, he said, "No thanks, God is going to rescue me!" The same thing happened with a canoeist and a rescue helicopter. All he would say is, "No thanks, God is going to rescue me!" The man dies, he appears before God, and he asks God, "Lord, why didn't you rescue me?" To which God says, "I sent you a boat, a canoe, and a helicopter. What more did you want?"
  • I chose your answer as the 'right' one, mostly because of the quotes from Constantinople - perhaps what I found most helpful was this: "Their disobedience is not what God has ordained, but the penalty of their disobedience is". This seemed to clarify the verse completely. Thank you!
    – Ben Potter
    Aug 6 '15 at 11:16
  • @BenPotter: I think his name is Constable, but Constantinople has a nice ring to it! Oh, and thanks for your vote of confidence. Don Aug 6 '15 at 16:20
  • I've removed the entire last section which is an statement of belief in contemporary Christianity and has little to do with the text being asked about in its original context. Keep in mind that the main point of your answers should be to answer the question asked, not to proselytize.
    – Dan
    Sep 9 '15 at 6:22
  • Jesus did NOT speak about hell more than Heaven, He mentions Heaven and the Kingdom of God i think 190 times and hell and gehenna and hades approximatley 70 times, therefore He speaks about Heaven nearly three times as much as hell. you recited an urban myth and a damaging one at that.
    – steve
    Aug 1 '17 at 23:42
  • An urban myth? Nay nay. True enough, Jesus may have USED the word "heaven" more than the word "hell." He did not, however, speak of heaven as an ultimate destination as much as he spoke of hell as an ultimate destination. (Be sure to include such terms as "outer darkness.") As for being "damaging," Jesus' message of repentance, when rejected, is certainly damaging. The gospel (i.e., good news) is bad news indeed for those who reject it. On the other hand, the ultimate destiny for those who repent and believe is assured, and the gospel for them becomes healing, not damaging. Aug 2 '17 at 12:47

Appointed to Stumble, not to Disobey

The focus of 1 Peter 2:4-8 is the relation of believer and unbeliever to the "stone" or "rock" (identified here as picturing Jesus Christ). A series of parallels are in the passage. Since you note the ESV, I will use it for demonstrating these parallels (emphasis added):

4 As you come to him [the Lord, v.3; but cf. 1 Peter 1], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,

Two views of this stone are set up here. The stone is "rejected by men" (i.e. deemed worthless and of no need to pay attention to). But the stone is "chosen and precious" to God (i.e. greatly valued and worthy of attention).

5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The "you yourselves" are those who "have tasted that the Lord is good" (v.3). These ones are deemed precious as well, a multitude of "living stones," destined (the word is not used, but the end purpose is being described) to become "a spiritual house ... holy priesthood ... spiritual sacrifice" givers, partly because their faith is "more precious than gold that perishes" (1 Pet 1:7).

6 For it stands in Scripture:

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

God prophesied of this coming stone that He deems precious. For "whoever believes in him" there is no shame destined for them (again, the word is not used, but the end result given that they will "not be put to shame").

7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,

   “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

8 and

   “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

Verse 7a summarizes the destiny of believers just articulated in v.5-6, that they will have "honor"—this is their destiny.

Verse 7b-8 articulates the destiny of "those who do not believe," who are those who "disobey the word." Because they disobey, that is, because they have not "purified [their] souls by [their] obedience to the truth" (cf. 1 Pet 1:22), which truth is "the living and abiding word of God" (1 Pet 1:23), then they are destined to stumble (this is their end result).1 That is, to not consider the stone God values as precious, and therefore worthy of attention, but to ignore it and its position of prominence God has placed it in, one will not pay attention to the cornerstone of the foundation, but rather trip over it as one passes by it, paying it no attention.2


So there are two destinies—honor or stumbling—based upon if one views Christ as a precious stone or as a mere rock, which view depends upon whether one obeys God's word to believe on what He has done in and through Christ or not.

1 The Greek of v.8 is this (no variants among rival Greek textforms):

καὶ λίθος προσκόμματος καὶ πέτρα σκανδάλου οἳ προσκόπτουσιν τῷ λόγῳ ἀπειθοῦντες εἰς ὃ καὶ ἐτέθησαν

The final word, ἐτέθησαν is what is translated "they were destined." It is the aorist passive indicative of τίθημι, which has the basic idea of to "put" or "set" something, and hence "appoint" or "destine" in some contexts, as one is "set" to some end result.

More important to determining what is destined is the relative pronoun ὃ ("this"), which is neuter singular. If the pronoun were pointing back to ἀπειθοῦντες ("disobedience"), a masculine plural word, then the relative pronoun would have matched gender and number (i.e. itself have been the masculine plural form, οὕς). Instead, the neuter singular is used here to point to a conceptual antecedent, rather than a noun, in this case the verb προσκόπτουσιν ("strike against" or "stumble").

This link to a relative pronoun having a conceptual antecedent is noted by Daniel Wallace in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Zondervan, 1999), stating on page 342:

The RP [relative pronoun] is often used after a preposition [it is here in 1 Pet 2:8, after εἰς]. Frequently, such prepositional phrases have an adverbial or conjunctive force. In such instances, the RP either has no antecedent, or else its antecedent is conceptual, not grammatical.

The verbal concept of "to stumble" in the preceding antecedent clause cannot be linked to grammatically, because verbs do not have gender (hence the use of neuter here for the pronoun), and the number associated to the verb matches to the subject of the verb (containing an inherent subject, but here matching the plural of οἳ). It would not be appropriate to link to the number of the verb then, as it is not the people themselves (the subject) that are being referenced, but the concept of "to stumble" contained in the verb which action occurs upon them that is referenced—so the relative pronoun ends up singular to point the reader to the fact that this concept is what is being referred to.

2 The NASB has the clearest translation of the idea of verse 8, but does add a word in English ("doom") for the translation to clarify that.

and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

The addition of "doom" points the reader back past the causal phrase to the result of the cause, the stumble. This is one way of helping the English reader to see that the referent of "this" is the "stumble" not the "disobedience."

  • This has really helped a lot, thank you for going into the original language, but what I gleaned as most valuable was the distinguishing of the focus of the destinies - honour and stumbling.
    – Ben Potter
    Aug 6 '15 at 11:15

Romans 9:33, NIV: "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.'"


All of this quoting of Constable without just interpreting the verse as it reads. It is clear and plain that God appointed them for disobedience. He ordained this. Just as before Jacob and Esau were born and did good or bad, God chose. His purpose in election stands.

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