Does Hebrews 2:9 teach universal atonement? (Part 2)

[See Part 1.]

Dr. Allen’s second argument against Limited atonement in relation to Hebrews 2:9 attempts to set the verse in the broader context of the soteriology presented by the author of Hebrews. Dr. Allen explains:

What precedes the issue of the extent of the atonement is… ‘why the Incarnation?’ … The… point of the author of Hebrews is that what Man messed up because of sin, Jesus, as the final Adam, is going to fix it up by virtue of His death on the Cross, His resurrection, and His ascension, and His reigning in heaven for all eternity, and therefore, He will fulfill what mankind could never fulfill in Psalm 8. And He did that, and a part of His doing that, and a part of His exaltation, and His kingship is not just that He is Lord by virtue of His deity (though that is true), it is (according to Hebrews) He is Lord by virtue of the fact that He died for all people, He rose again, He ascended to heaven, and as the perfect Man and the fulfillment of Adam– what Adam was, Christ has regained for all of humanity, and the key to it was his death on the Cross to make it happen. Does that mean everybody’s going to be saved? No! But it does mean that the Bible teaches Jesus died for all people.

Dr. Allen argues that the author of Hebrews teaches that, “Jesus died for all people”– by which Dr. Allen intends to indicate every person to ever live on the face of the earth. With this argument, it seems that Dr. Allen divides up the work of Christ is a similar way as those who argued that Jesus could be someone’s Savior and not their Lord. What I mean is this: If “Jesus died for all people,” was Jesus resurrected for “all people”? Did Jesus ascend to heaven for “all people”? Is Jesus now interceding to the Father for “all people”? Will Jesus bring salvation to “all people”? Dr. Allen wants to deny this last statement, but Scripture does not divide the work of Christ in this way. If Christ died for us, He will also freely give us all things (Romans 8:32)– this must apply only to the elect. In Hebrews itself, Christ’s death is directly tied to our sanctification (Hebrews 10:10) and to the perfection of those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).

There is a sense in which Christ died for all people– He died for people from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9), but Dr. Allen has indicated nothing in the Bible that requires us to define “all people” as every person ever to live.

Dr. Allen also makes an interesting point concerning Christ dying as the final Adam– the federal head over creation. This teaching may provide another reason why Calvinists should affirm with the Canons of Dort (the document that first identifies Calvinism as distinguished by 5 points) that the sacrifice of Jesus “is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world” (Canons of Dort, Second Head, Article 3). However, this teaching does not require us to reject the teaching that:

[T]his was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever. (Canons of Dort, Second Head, Article 8.)

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5 Comments on “Does Hebrews 2:9 teach universal atonement? (Part 2)”

  1. Paul Bollen Says:

    I wonder if people who believe like this, that is, not believing in “Limited Atonement,” ever stoped to consider if Christ atoned for all those who died between creation and the cross, that are now in torment? Did Jesus try to save or heal everybody during his short ministry? Too many people place too much on the blood that spilled on the ground. The OT priest caught the blood and they took it to offer it up on the mercyseat. The blood in OT sacrifice was for God’s people, alone. Matthew 1:21 Jesus came to save his people from their sins. He did that and he still is. In Christ’s teachings about the wheat and the tares, you don’t find tares turning into wheat. The wheat are the children of God, and the tares are the seed of the devil.

  2. Darrin Says:

    I appreciate these posts, as they encourage me to dig into the scriptures as well.
    Your note that “Scripture does not divide the work of Christ in this way” is excellent, and brings to mind Romans 8:34. Also, of course, the work of the Trinity is not divided: the Father elects, the Son dies for, and the Spirit calls, regenerates and sanctifies the same group of people.
    Dr. Allen’s comment that “He is Lord by virtue of the fact that He died for all people …” – What does that mean? Only universal atonement would qualify Him for lordship? So He must be Savior of those for whom He is not Lord in order to be Lord?
    This faulty effort by a prominent Baptist sadly reminds of Frank Page’s “Trouble with the TULIP” which I read recently. That book is so riddled with errors that it is tough to get through, even as lightweight as it is. What a shame for a man in a position of leadership in the SBC to put forth such rubbish.

  3. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    …what Adam was, Christ has regained for all of humanity, and the key to it was his death on the Cross to make it happen. Does that mean everybody’s going to be saved? No! But it does mean that the Bible teaches Jesus died for all people.

    Well, well, this does paint a pretty bleak picture doesn’t it. I mean, Christ regained this for all humanity, but cannot give it to them. So, I guess it didn’t really gain anything at all.

    But, wait, it does say that if we died with Christ, past tense, then we will be raised with Him, that He will raise us up with Him on the last day, and isn’t this that day, Matthew 11; Matthew 12:28; Revelation 12; Then the key was His death by the spilling of His blood. Now if that is the case, then Allen has painted a picture of Universalism, capital U, and not orthodox Christianity. And what Allen fails to recognize is the establishment of the Kingdom is heralded right there in Hebrews with the anointing of the One called Melchizedek who is both High Priest and King of (Jeru) Salem; the King of Peace, the Rest of God, Lord Sabbaoth. It is to Him through Abraham that we make offering by faith, giving him honor to whom honor is due for the rest that we have entered, the battle over. There is much to be said about Mel, but it is hard to understand for those whose hearts are hardened in rebellion against the One whose Kingdom has come. A King who will exact revenge upon those who do not know Him as the One whose blood has purchased a people for Himself out of ever kindred, tribe and tongue. He will exact revenge upon those as Hebrews 10 says, that make the blood of Christ (a symbol of His death) a common thing that is sacrificed anew by those claim they were not sanctified by it when it was spilled. The put him to an open public shame. It simply outrages the Spirit of Grace to say that it was not at Calvary that the blood was applied to those being saved. For it was there, and there alone, to Christ and his body alone that it was applied. It was there that it was once and for all for those given to Him by the Father who are being saved that it was spilled. It was not spilled for any others. Such blasphemy will not go unpunished.

    Deeper into the maze the Arminian goes, he does not have a clue how to escape his self-contradiction and circular reasoning. But then there is no exit by the efforts of man, for the maze was given by God and man placed in it with no way of escape except a ladder that comes down from above. The man without the Spirit, without the mind of Christ has no wisdom from above so as to know the things of God. As long as a man looks for his own way out he will never find it. The question is, who will look up? And if they see a ladder, why would they climb it seeing that it only leads up and not out? Unless of course they are able to see what is on the other end of that ladder. Who can see except he who is born again, however?

  4. Jack Winter Says:

    I don’t think Dr. Allen is a Universalist. His arguments are consistent, in an Arminian sort of way. It’s the old monergism – synergism thing. It seems to me the question is very simple. Either Christ died for the elect alone, (the atonement limited by the Father), or he died for all and and the atonement is limited by sinners who chose to accept it or reject it.

    The Bible says, and my own salvation experience confirms, that man is not sick in his trespasses and sins, but dead as a doornail, wholly unable to respond to the Good News apart from the gift of faith.

    John Gill points out that IN CONTEXT, Heb. 2:9 does not teach universal atonement:

    “not for every individual of mankind; for there are some he knows not; for some he does not pray; and there are some who will not be saved: the word “man” is not in the original text, it is only (uper pantov) , which may be taken either collectively, and be rendered “for the whole”; that is, the whole body, the church for whom Christ gave himself, and is the Saviour of; or distributively, and be translated, “for everyone”; for everyone of the sons God brings to glory, (Hebrews 2:10) for everyone of the “brethren”, whom Christ sanctifies, and he is not ashamed to own, and to whom he declares the name of God, (Hebrews 2:11,12) for everyone of the members of the “church”, in the midst of which he sung praise, (Hebrews 2:12) for every one of the “children” God has given him, and for whose sake he took part of flesh and blood, (Hebrews 2:13,14) and for everyone of the “seed” of Abraham, in a spiritual sense, whose nature he assumed, (Hebrews 2:16) . “

  5. […] On June 3, I sent Dr. Allen, dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, links to my articles on this site critiquing his arguments against Limited atonement [the last one can be found HERE]. […]

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