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.)