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Is Forgiveness Available to All?
by Bob Wilkin
I received a letter from a reader regarding a comment I made in the March Newsletter. I had said regarding the "goats" of the Matthew 25:31-46 judgment, "Since those cast into eternal fire did not believe in Christ, their sins were not covered by His blood and hence they were doomed to eternal damnation (cf. Matthew 25:41-46: John 8:24)." In light of that I was asked if I believe in unlimited atonement (i.e., that Christ died for the sins of the whole world rather than only for the sins of those who would trust in Him) and if so, how I understand the relationship between Christ's death and the sins of unbelievers.
First, I do believe in unlimited atonement. 1 John 2:2, 2 Peter 2:1, and even John 3:16 are clear on this point. Christ died for everyone - including those who would reject Him.
Second, I believe that while Christ died for the sins of all, that forgiveness is not actualized or realized until one believes in Christ alone as his sinbearer. John 8:24 clearly says that. Christ's death for our sins is available to all, intended for all, and powerful to save all; however, the potential of His shed blood is lost if a person rejects the gospel his entire life.
In the middle of the last century in the U.S. a convicted murderer was pardoned by the President. Surprisingly, however, he said he didn't want the pardon, that he wanted his execution to be carried out. His case went to the Supreme Court. The Court ruled that a pardon is not actually a pardon until it is received. The man was executed. So, too, although Christ died for everyone s sins, if we reject His pardon, we will experience the wages of our sins. (physical and) eternal death.
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