Who Did Jesus Die For?

  • A good question to ask on this Thursday before Easter, no matter how you believe the New Testament chronology works out.
  • A question of some controversy – really between Calvinism/Non-Calvinism
  • Without focusing on the controversy (the two sides are not as far apart as they often imply), let’s look at what the Bible says.

1. One must believe on Jesus (trust in, rely on, cling to) to have everlasting life

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

2. Jesus is the only Savior, and He saves those who believe

1 Timothy 4:10

For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

The Savior of all men: This emphasizes the idea that the priority must be kept on the message of Jesus Christ. It isn’t that all men are saved in a Universalist sense; but that there is only one Savior for all men. It isn’t as if Christians have one Savior and others might have another savior.

But notice Paul’s point: especially of those who believe. Jesus’ work is adequate to save all, but only effective in saving those who come to Him by faith.

“What God intends for ALL, he actually gives to them that believe in Christ, who died for the sins of the world [1 John 2:2], and tasted death for every man [Hebrews 2:9]. As all have been purchased by his blood so all may believe; and consequently all may be saved. Those that perish, perish through their own fault.” (Clarke)

3. In some sense, Jesus died for the whole world.

1 John 2:2

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

e. And not for ours only but also for the whole world: Though Jesus made His propitiation for the whole world, yet the whole world is not saved and in fellowship with God. This is because atonement does not equal forgiveness. The Old Testament Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:34) demonstrates this, when the sin of all Israel was atoned for every year at the Day of Atonement, yet not all of Israel was saved.

The words “but also for the whole world” announce to the world that God has taken care of the sin problem by the propitiation of Jesus Christ. Sin need not be a barrier between God and man, if man will receive the propitiation God has provided in Jesus.

“The reason of the insertion of the particular here, is well given by Luther: ‘It is a patent fact that thou too are part of the whole world: so that thine heart cannot deceive itself and think, The Lord died for Peter and Paul, but not for me.’” (Alford)

Hebrews 2:9

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.

4. Jesus is the Savior of the World

John 4:42

We know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world

  • It isn’t that Jesus saves the whole world – every person – that would be universalism, something that the Bible does not teach
  • It is that Jesus is the Savior for the whole world – every tribe, tongue and nation
  • It is that Jesus is the world’s only Savior

5. God will ultimately reconcile all things in view of what Jesus did at the cross.

Colossians 1:20

…and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

At the end, everyone and everything will be reconciled in Jesus Christ. They will either be reconciled under His gracious mercy, or they will be reconciled under His judgment. Jesus is not only the Savior of the World (as in John 4:42), Jesus is also the judge of all the world

John 5:22

For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.

Acts 10:42

And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.

So, who did Jesus die for?

In one sense, He died for the whole world, in at least two ways:

  • Jesus died on the cross to demonstrate the love of God for the whole world
  • Jesus died on the cross as the ground of righteousness from which He will judge all things, reconciling all things in Himself in light of the cross.

In another sense, Jesus’ death on the cross only effectively saves those who believe in Him. That can be you!

When it comes to what Jesus did on the cross, there is no limit on its capability to save all who come to Him in faith. The work of Jesus on the cross will never “run out” of saving power.

What is a sin against the body?

According to 1 Corinthians 6:18, fornication is against the body. Is this the only sin that is against the body? How about gluttony, drugs, alcohol, etc?

You’re absolutely correct. 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us that fornication that is a sexual sin in its broad definition. That is the idea behind the word that’s translated in some Bibles as fornication. The idea is of sexual immorality in a biblical sense. That is to sin against one’s own body. Now, nowhere does it say that is the only way someone can sin against their own body. So we don’t want to say something the Scriptures don’t say. And you’re right, there is a sense in which gluttony or drugs or alcohol can also be sins against one’s own body. But we would say that sexual immorality also is a particular way that a person sins against the body. When sexual immorality is associated with another person, Paul describes in 1 Corinthians that the person becomes one flesh with them in a sense. And that is a different dynamic than, let’s say, gluttony. Gluttony is a sin against my body in that I’m not treating my body well, by overeating or eating terrible things. But I’m not becoming one flesh with another person in an immoral way through gluttony. So in a special way, sexual immorality is a sin against the body. But if you want to take the broad definition of what constitutes a sin against the body, it’s not the only way that a person could sin against their body.

Are Revelation 11’s Two Witnesses a Jew and a Gentile?

Can you describe the importance of the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11, about being Jews and Gentiles?

Let me clarify the question. To my understanding, there is nothing in the text in Revelation which indicates they are Jew and Gentile. We can speculate that that’s the case. And certainly, we know that the vision from Zechariah 4 is connected to the work of the Two Witnesses. The mention of olive branches which give a continuous supply of the Holy Spirit has intimations of the New Covenant, which includes Gentiles within it, of course, but I don’t see anything specific in the text of Revelation 11 saying that the identity of the Two Witnesses is Jew and Gentile, perhaps one being Jew, one being Gentile. So if you’re looking for a significance in the Two Witnesses, I don’t think that it’s necessarily that it would be Jew and Gentile. The Two Witnesses are significant because the Old Testament law specified that by the mouth of two or three witnesses any word would be established. The fact that God gives two witnesses shows that they speak forth an established word of God. That’s my more immediate connection with the number two having to do with the witnesses, not that one would have to be Jew and one would represent Gentiles.

Does God use prophets today to give specific direction to individuals?

Does God use prophets today, like he used the Prophet Gad in 1 Samuel 22:5? “And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.”

This is a question filled with landmines. Let me give you a basic answer to it, and then explain further. I would say, yes. God gives prophetic words to his people today which he uses to perhaps guide them in a specific situation. Now I say that, as someone who has received on more than one occasion, yet not dozens of occasions: I have received a prophetic word that has been very rich in guidance for me, and on one occasion, at least, in a very specific sense.

If I were to tell you all the circumstances behind that prophetic word, I think you would understand what I mean. And maybe we could do that another time.

Now, I’m not much on people claiming the title prophet today. I don’t like to speak in terms of people being prophets. I think God may bring a prophetic word through an individual. But my experience teaches me that once people start walking around with the title “Prophet” or “Apostle,” things get weird. And I don’t think we need that weirdness. If somebody genuinely believes that God uses them in a prophetic sense, they don’t need the title of “Prophet.” Who are you trying to impress with that title? You don’t need it. So leave aside the title. And if God wants to use you in such way, then let God use you.

Here’s the second thing I would say. Any claimed prophetic word needs to be tested. That’s what the Bible says: Test any purported prophetic word. You test it, first of all, through the Scriptures. Secondly, you test it through the agreement of mature people of God, who would discern whether or not something would actually be the voice of the Holy Spirit in a situation.

Number three: I think it’s wrong to seek out prophetic words. I don’t seek prophetic words; the profound occasions when God has brought to me what I believe to be genuine words of prophecy were not because I was directly seeking them. Don’t run after purported prophets to get a prophetic word; that’s more like fortune telling than it is seeking after the will of God. If God wants to bring you a prophetic word, He knows how to do it. You don’t have to go running after it. You want to seek the Word of God; seek it right here in the Bible. Again, I’m not disallowing that God may bring somebody a prophetic word, but my experience teaches me that nothing but bad comes when people start seeking out prophetic words— a lot of danger and corruption comes from that. But I believe that it is possible for God today to specifically guide people through a prophetic word. It may not be terribly common, but I believe it happens. However, it hasn’t been common in my life. In my life, fundamentally, God guides me through the Scriptures, but there have been occasions when God has given me a clear, specific prophetic word.

Which marriages does God join together?

When the Bible says, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate,” does that mean that our marriage is one that God did not join together? What does “God join together” mean? And then number two, are all marriages, male and female marriages, joined by God, even if one marries a non believer?

Number one: any legal marriage is a marriage that God has joined together. It has been sanctioned by God, because it’s done through the normal customary channels. There’s a sense in which a marriage relationship is a contract; of course, it’s much more than that. If there was some fundamental deception in the marriage, or some fraud in the contract, then you could say, well, God never joined together that marriage. But generally speaking, I would say yes, a marriage that is recognized by the state has been joined together.

Secondly, “Are all marriages, male and female marriages, joined by God, even if one marries an unbeliever?” The answer to that question is also Yes. The question came up in the Corinthian church, because people were coming to faith, and some of their spouses, whether husband or wife, were not believers. The teaching was going around in the Corinthian church that it would be better for them to divorce their husband or wife, rather than to remain married to them. Here is what Paul said — No. God is working in your marriage. God has a blessing on your marriage. Don’t you, Christian, be the one to break apart your marriage. If the unbeliever departs, then the unbeliever departs, but don’t you be the one to break apart that marriage covenant.

So, that gives us the idea that, yes, even a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever is something that God has joined together. I don’t know if you’ve seen the video that I have on this very same YouTube channel about marriage, divorce and remarriage. But I think you might be interested in watching that. So again, “what God joined together” applies to all marriages that are legally recognized.

In the Bible, did angels appear commonly? And why?

In Luke 1, Zechariah was afraid of the angel that appeared to him. Why was it common for angels to appear? Or did they only appear when they pronounced judgment?

That’s a great question. First of all, we don’t have any indication that it was common for angels to appear. So you would expect that Zechariah would be afraid just because of shock. When he was in the temple, the Holy Place, he was in there all alone. If you’ve ever been in that situation, when you’re in a room all alone, and then suddenly you find out you’re not alone, and somebody you didn’t know was there with you, that itself can give you a fright. Well, how much more if that being is of a different order or class of being — an angelic being. It wasn’t just the shock of having another person in the room; it was also the shock of being in the presence of a glorious Angel.

When you go through the Bible, take a look at the words that angels speak when they first appear to someone. The words almost always begin like this: “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.” Why? Because apparently, many people’s first reaction to an encounter of the angelic is fear. There’s something glorious, something powerful, something awesome, awful, awe-filled, you could say, about simply being in the presence of an angel. Zechariah’s reaction to the angel there in the temple was very common, Scripturally. Most of the time, when a human being in the Bible comes in the presence of an angel, the human being is terrified. That has something to tell us about the the presence of the angelic.

Should spiritual gifts be more commonly seen today?

First Corinthians seems to convey the idea that the church was experiencing the full array of the spiritual gifts. Why aren’t more modern churches seeing this, for example, the working of miracles, prophecies?

I don’t know if we have an absolute answer to that question. There could be many reasons. But I would say there are at least two errors that we fall into. The error on the one side is believing that God no longer works, or desires to work, today in such spiritual gifts. I believe that he does. But there is another error of which we can be guilty. That error is the attitude that there’s something upon our shoulders to make these gifts happen. Friends, that is a very dangerous attitude to have. We should not be of the mentality that it is our responsibility to make the gifts happen. And whenever Christians get into that mentality, a lot of trouble comes from it. Remember what the Bible says in 1 Corinthians, that the Holy Spirit gives the gifts as He wills. Now, it’s our job to be open. It’s our job to not hinder Him. But it is not our job to make the gifts happen. It needs to happen by the Holy Spirit of God.

The other thing I would say is that we do notice, by historical observation, that there are times or seasons, when you would say there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The church movement that I am associated with, the Calvary Chapel church movement, is something that started in the late 1960s in Southern California through the ministry of a very blessed, wonderful man named Chuck Smith. God mightily used Pastor Chuck Smith. He was one of a handful of people that God really raised up during the Jesus movement, during the hippie days of the late 1960s and early 70s. In that season, there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, related to spiritual gifts. And I’m going to be very straightforward with you. It’s not like that today in the Calvary Chapel family of churches. Now, somebody could start listing reasons. But I’ll tell you, I don’t believe that the main reason is that we just decided we don’t want those things. I understand, it’s complicated. There’s a lot of things to discuss in this.

But I also think that there is a measure of sovereignty of the Holy Spirit; there are seasons when God just says, “I’m going to pour out My Spirit, in a certain time, at a certain place.” Now, it’s not to say that those other times are devoid of the work of the Spirit. I’m not trying to imply that at all; the Holy Spirit is at work among His people all the time. The Holy Spirit is at workin and among the very ordinary means of preaching the Word of God, teaching the Bible verse by verse, calling people to salvation, worshiping God, praying, etc. We understand this and we do not despise the ordinary work of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, we recognize there are times when there is a particular outpouring for a particular season, when God specially pours out the presence, the manifestations, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I would suggest to you that what we see in 1 Corinthians was just one of those seasons. Again, it’s not to say that we shouldn’t be open to supernatural things, or that we shouldn’t pray for them. But we should not try to manufacture them —God forbid, no. We want to be open. We want our hearts to be believing and expectant, but without trying to create things, or thinking we’re doing a favor for the Holy Spirit.

Will there be stress in heaven?

They say the sufferings and trials of this life are preparation for our future assignments and heaven? Is heaven going to have stress? The Bible says there are no sorrows in heaven. What do you say?

That is a great question. First, I want to apologize for the sometimes sloppy theology that comes forth from preachers and teachers today, like me and like others. Now let me see if I can explain it a little more clearly for you.

There will be nothing in heaven that stresses us out. Not at all; we’ll be beyond that. Yet there will be ways that we serve God. And I believe that this is true in at least two senses. First, I believe that after the glorious Second Coming of Jesus, He will establish an earthly kingdom that will go on for 1000 years. Now that doesn’t limit the reign of Jesus; Jesus Christ reigns forever and ever. But there will be a special 1000 year period where we, the people of God, reign with Him. And we will be given different responsibilities during that period, to be sort of the civil servants: the administrators, his servants, his underlings, so to speak. His workers will be given different responsibilities based on our faithfulness in the here and now. So we are being prepared for those things. That’s one aspect.

But even beyond the 1000 years of Jesus’ reign on this earth — which again, I want to emphasize, does not limit the reign of Jesus; He’s going to reign forever — in the reign of Jesus in eternity beyond, we will have ways that we serve God. Revelation 22 says that in heaven His servants shall serve Him. His servants: I hope that’s you, I hope that’s me. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? That our service to God will not be exhausted on Earth, but in some way, we will serve Him in heaven — and it may very well be not only on what I would call the Millennial  Earth, but also in eternity in the future heaven. We will have ways that we serve God and our capability or responsibility and service may differ compared to the faithfulness that we’ve displayed on this earth.

But no, there will be nothing in that situation in heaven that stresses us out in the slightest way. Every tear will be wiped away. And even as we are co-workers with Jesus on the Millennial Earth, it will be very much in God’s peace, and in God’s empowering. I don’t think we’re going to be stressed; we will be moved to an existence beyond the stress and the cares of this world.

Why was Cain’s offering not accepted by God? Was it because it was not a blood offering? What does it mean to give in faith?

We read the account of the offerings of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis, chapter 4. It would be easy from that reading to come up with the idea that the difference between the two offerings was that Abel brought a blood offering, a lamb from the flock, and Cain brought a non-blood offering, a grain offering. We could think that was the difference between the two, one wasn’t the right kind of offering. But two things change our mind about that opinion.

First, in the Law of Moses, God accepted both kinds of offerings. God accepted grain offerings, and he accepted blood offerings. Grain offerings were not accepted for the atonement of sin, but they were accepted as fellowship offerings or thank offerings. We’re not told specifically what kind of sacrifice Cain and Abel were offering. But the later system of sacrifice in the Law of Moses does not exclude the offering of grain.

Secondly, we know from Hebrews 11 that the real difference between the offering of Cain and the offering of Abel was that Abel brought his offering by faith. Blood was not the difference. Faith was the difference. Friends, whatever we offer unto God, whether we offer to God our time, our treasure, our material resources, our talents, our gifts and abilities, we must offer to God in faith.

What does that mean? I think it means a lot, but one of the things it definitely means is this: Whatever we offer to God, we offer unto him, never trusting in ourselves or our offering, but trusting in Him. We’re saying, “God, I offer you this, but I’m not trying to earn my way. I’m not trying to buy You off with this sacrifice. No, Lord, I’m offering it to You, in faith of a perfect sacrifice that You will later provide. And I understand that this sacrifice points towards that sacrifice.” That is what it means to offer such a sacrifice in faith. So whenever we offer such things, looking to ourselves, or trying to make ourselves worthy before God, we get nothing but trouble. But when we operate in faith, God does great and mighty things in and through that.

How can Jesus’ death on the cross be explained to young children?

How do we explain the death of Jesus on the cross to young children of around three to five years, without unnecessarily upsetting or frightening them?

That’s a great question. I don’t know if I have the best answer on that, to tell you the truth. But first of all, the child would need to grasp the concept of death. I don’t know at what age children begin to really develop the concept of death, and what it means for a person to die. I’m sure it’s different for different children. If the child really doesn’t grasp the concept of death, then I would just talk about it mainly in the terms of love: of what Jesus did in terms of love.

Now, when a child comes to have a concept of death, then they also need to really understand what Jesus did on the cross. They have to come to an understanding of a sacrificial death, of a substitutionary death, of dying on behalf of somebody else. If a child is of an age to understand those things, we can explain it to them more straightforwardly.

But if child is not of the age to understand such things, then I would express it mainly just in the terms of what Jesus did to show us how much he loves us, and what Jesus did to rescue us. Secondly, after love and after rescue, you can bring up the idea of a substitution. He did something in our place; the punishment that we deserve, He took for us.

Thirdly, you can bring up the point about it being as unto death. He did it unto death. I don’t know if I have the best answer on that question but those are kind of the things I would think about in order to explain the work of Jesus on the cross to a very young child.