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31 January, 2008 / theexpositor

R. Scott Clark on Limited Atonement

If one accepts that Jesus died as a propitiatory substitute for all his people, there are really only two alternatives, definite atonement or absolute (total) universalism. Either he saved everyone who ever lived, or he saved all those whom he loved.

As R. B. Kuiper said, “From the viewpoint of Scripture it is difficult to take unqualified universalism seriously.”(40) It seems clear from the Gospel accounts and Acts that Judas the Traitor is eternally condemned.(41) Our Lord Jesus himself taught that there are some in eternal punishment (Luke 16:9-31). This is the teaching of Revelation 20:15, that there will be some in hell. Can anyone doubt that Hitler or those like him are with Judas? One takes no pleasure in such things, but it is important to think clearly about this issue. If there are any in hell, then clearly not all are saved. If all are not saved, then either Jesus failed in his mission or he succeeded.

Indeed, Calvinism and Arminianism agree that Christ did not actually redeem everyone who ever lived, thus the question is not even whether there is a “limit” to the extent of the atonement, but rather, what is the nature of the limit? Is limited by God’s choice and design or by free human choices?

It is our contention that Scripture teaches that Jesus did not fail. Rather where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. As the Second Adam (Rom 5:14; 1 Cor 15:22, 44) Jesus actively obeyed God’s perfect Law perfectly, and suffered all the wrath which was due to us, his people, for whom he died (Phil 2:5-11).

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