So, let’s get this straight; if Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary according to God’s plan was sufficient to pay off the debt for the sin of every person that ever lived or that ever will live, and:
“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).
Why then would there be anyone in hell if Jesus died for all the sin that would ever be committed; leaving no more sin for which the price would have to still be paid by anyone, anywhere?
Someone once said, “Atonement not appropriated is not atonement.” Think about that for a minute. We may have heard that Jesus died and paid the price for the sins of every person that has ever, or will ever exist. We may have also heard that it’s up to each person to believe so that Jesus’ payment will be “appropriated” or applied to these believers. This assertion however, is saying that Jesus’ death on the cross merely made salvation possible for believers (contingent on their belief.) To this, we must ask for the chapter & verse references that this assertion is built upon. (I’m still waiting for those verses, by the way.) In fact, Jesus death on the cross did not merely make salvation possible (ready to be distributed once someone believes) rather His death actually saved all believers throughout all time at that moment. His death was the sacrifice that was sufficient being offered once for all.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, Hebrews 10:12.
Here’s an example, if Jesus literally paid for all of your sin, and you proceed not to believe in Him for your salvation and you go to hell, what exactly will you be doing there? What debt are you paying off? The debt for your sins against God? Are you paying the debt that Jesus already paid in full? If so, how does that work? Wouldn’t hell be empty if that were true? Why does Matthew 7:13-14 talk about hell being more populated than Heaven?
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
Will anyone be in hell for eternity? (Yes.) If so, why? Does God require a double payment for the debt of sin; one paid by Jesus, and once more paid by unbelievers? That’s not justice. And we serve a perfectly just God. So what does that mean for how we should view Jesus’ atoning work on the cross? For whom (exactly) did Christ die?
The Bible says that He died for His sheep. That is, all believers, everywhere, throughout all time; all those who believe in Him alone for salvation by grace through faith.
As for those who would say that Jesus died for the sins of the whole “world,” there is a legitimate question we should ask. Which of the 10 different meanings of the Greek word “world” (kosmos) are they using? Did you hear that? The apostle John himself uses the word “world” to mean 10 distinct things in his own gospel. We always need to be faithful to the text, in context, to rightly understand what is being said. By doing this, we will be less likely to make the Bible seem to say what it isn’t actually saying.
For reference, I list the 10 distinct ways the word “world” is used in the gospel of John here:
1. The Entire Universe - John 1:10; 1:3; 17:5
2. The Physical Earth - John 13:1; 16:33; 21:25
3. The World System - John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11 (see also similar usage in Gal 1:4)
4. All humanity minus believers - John 7:7; 15:18
5. A Big Group but less than all people everywhere - John 12:19
6. The Elect Only - John 3:17
7. The Non-Elect Only - John 17:9
8. The Realm of Mankind - John 1:10; (this is very probably the best understanding of the word "world" in John 3:16 also)
9. Jews and Gentiles (not just Israel but many Gentiles too) - John 4:42
10. The General Public (as distinguished from a private group) not those in small private groups - John 7:4
The Bible is God’s word, and we should always strive to understand what it actually says and what it actually means. By the same token, we should always be on guard against making it say anything it doesn’t actually say just so that our own traditions are upheld.
Jesus’ death certainly paid (in full) the debt that was incurred by every single person that would believe and put their trust in Him, the Messiah, for salvation. No one that would ever genuinely call upon His name to be saved would not receive salvation from Him. He provided the all-sufficient sacrifice for all of His people, once and for all. And for that, we as His sheep, are forever grateful in ways that cannot be expressed by words.
What do you believe?
Pastor Steve Lawson preaches a great message about this here. Please take a listen.