Posted by: the watchmen | November 10, 2007

Is Universal Atonement True? -Rev. Angus Stewart.

Is Universal Atonement True?

For whom did Christ die? This question is especially important because many evangelicals today believe that Jesus shed His blood for everyone head for head excluding no one. This view is preached in many pulpits and widely promoted in books and pamphlets. But this position must be analysed very carefully. Is it really true that Jesus gave His life to save absolutely everybody without exception? Let us ask some questions of this view.

(1) How could the Triune God, who is possessed of infinite wisdom and understanding, send His dearly beloved Son to ransom from sin and Hell those who were already in Hell, a place from which the damned have no way out (cf. Luke 16:26)?

(2) God sent His Word to only one nation, the Israelites, during the Old Testament age, and “He hath not dealt so with any [other] nation” (Ps. 147:19-20; Acts 14:16). Moreover, Jehovah does not send the gospel in the New Testament age to everybody either (cf. Acts 16:6-8; Matt. 24:14). Why then would God send Christ to die for those who never hear the gospel and hence could never be saved (Rom. 10:14, 17)?

(3) The Bible teaches that Judas was “the son of perdition” (John 17:12), that is, a man wholly characterized by perdition, ruin and eternal destruction. Did Jesus really die for Judas when He knew that the Old Testament had already prophesied that Judas would betray Him (Ps. 41:9) and “go to his own place,” namely Hell (Acts 1:25; Ps. 109; John 17:12)?

(4) Scripture states that God hated Esau (Rom. 9:13) but everywhere Christ’s atonement is spoken of as the fruit of God’s love (e.g., John 3:16; 15:13; Rom. 5:8; I John 4:10). How then could God send Christ in His infinite, eternal and boundless love (Eph. 3:18-19) to die for Esau whom He hated?
(5) Christ died for His “people” (Matt.1:21) and His “friends” (John 15:13). The “people” whom Christ redeemed are further described as “his seed” (Isa. 53:10) and not the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15); His “sons,” “children” and “brethren” (Heb. 2:10-14) and not “bastards” (Heb.12:8); His “sheep” (John 10:15) and not “the goats” (Matt. 25:33); His “church” (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25) and not the “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 3:9); and the “many” (Isa. 53:11-12; Matt. 26:28) and not everybody head for head.

(6) In John 10, Jesus teaches that He, the good shepherd, died for His sheep (11, 15). Later Jesus told some people that they were not His sheep and that this was the reason why they did not believe: “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep” (26). Our argument is simple: Jesus died for His sheep; He told certain people that they were not His sheep; therefore Jesus did not die for them. Jesus also said that His sheep were given to Him by His Father (“My Father, which gave them me;” 29). The Father gave the sheep to Christ in His eternal purpose of election so that He might die for them and gather them out of all nations (16). Since Christ died for His sheep, and His sheep are the elect, Christ died for the elect.

(7) In His high priestly prayer, Christ says, “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:9). If Jesus did not do the lesser thing (pray for the world), is it likely that He did the greater thing (die for the world)? Moreover, intercession is one of the two aspects of Christ’s priestly work. If Christ did not pray for the world (one aspect of his priestly work), is it possible that He died for the world (the other aspect of his priestly work)? This would destroy the unity of Christ’s priestly office for He would be dying for those for whom He did not (and does not) intercede. Consider also that Christ prays on the basis of His finished work of redemption. Therefore if Christ did not pray for the world, it is because He did not die to redeem the world.

Remember also that Jesus is here praying just hours before the cross and with a view to His sacrificial death, for He says, “Father, the hour is come” (1). Throughout John 17, Christ’s prayers (and therefore His redeeming work) are particular, only for the elect, those whom the Father gave Him (2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 24). Christ says, “And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified” (19). Christ’s sanctifying Himself is His setting Himself apart from all sin to do the will of Him who sent Him. Christ especially set Himself apart as our willing sacrifice on the cross. And this, He tells us, was “for their sakes,” those whom the Father gave Him, the elect. Thus Christ’s prayers and sacrifice are not only particular – “for them which thou hast given me” (9) – but also exclusive, “not for the world” (9).

Rev. Stewart (


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