Does the Bible Teach Universal Salvation?

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EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 160 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

NOTE: Below are links to a few related articles as well. Universal Salvation, Christian Universalism, or simply Universalism) is the doctrine that all sinful persons, who are alienated from God, because of God’s great divine love and mercy, will eventually be reconciled to God. Bible Scholar Richard Bauckham outlines the history of universal salvation,

The history of the doctrine of universal salvation (or apokatastasis) is a remarkable one. Until the nineteenth century, almost all Christian theologians taught the reality of eternal torment in hell. Here and there, outside the theological mainstream, were some who believed that the wicked would be finally annihilated (in its commonest form, this is the doctrine of ‘conditional immortality’).[1] Even fewer were the advocates of universal salvation, though these few included some major theologians of the early church. Eternal punishment was firmly asserted in official creeds and confessions of the churches. It must have seemed as indispensable a part of universal Christian belief as the doctrines of the Trinity and the incarnation. Since 1800 this situation has entirely changed, and no traditional Christian doctrine has been so widely abandoned as that of eternal punishment. Its advocates among theologians today must be fewer than ever before. The alternative interpretation of hell as annihilation seems to have prevailed even among many of the more conservative theologians. Among the less conservative, universal salvation, either as hope or as dogma, is now so widely accepted that many theologians assume it virtually without argument.[2]

CHRISTIANS: Salvation As a Work?

“Modern Universalists claim that this doctrine is contained in the New Testament in the teachings of Jesus, and conforms to the laws of nature as taught by science and sanctioned by reason and philosophy.”[3] One reason behind the Universalist mindset is, their dislike of the hellfire doctrine,[4] where the sinner is punished, i.e., tormented for an eternity. For the Universalist, eternal torment for one, who is born imperfect, with a natural desire toward sin, which Genesis argues is mentally bent toward wickedness, and has a heart, which is treacherous and unknowable, would be a sign of injustice, and an unloving God.


The Salvation Debate

 1 Corinthians 15:25, 28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to him, so that God may be all in all.

The Good News Translations renders that last clause and prepositional phrase, “God will rule completely over all.” The Universalist would say that if God were going to “be all in all or if “God will rule completely over all” he would need to reconcile all humans to himself eventually. Another text often used by the Universalist.

CHRISTIANS Do Not Try to Save Yourself

Philippians 2:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here the Universalist would argue that if “every knee should to bow” “and every tongue confess,” it must follow that every human that has lived up unto the time of Christ’s return will be reconciled to God in the end.

They would also point to,

Romans 5:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 So, then, as through one trespass there was condemnation to all men, so too through one act of righteousness there was justification of life to all men.

“One trespass”–“One act of righteousness”


“All men [in Adam]”–“All men [in Christ]”

It would seem at first that this text is a perfect balance, in that Adam’s one sinful act contributed to all of humanity inheriting sin and imperfection, and Christ one act as a ransom sacrifice would contribute to all of humanity receiving life. Before delving into a response to these verses, let us see what the Bible teaches. First, though, just know that, when you have a few Scriptures that appear to be in opposition to many Scriptures, you likely do not understand the few correctly.


The Bible Teaches

 The Scriptures, which make all too clear that some will not be receiving salvation, are so abundant from Genesis to Revelation. Adam committed the most egregious sin of any human alive, as he, in essence, murdered billions of humans, by his rebellion. For this reason, Adam was told, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19) Revelation 21:8 says, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” There is not one verse in the Bible that speaks of redemption or a resurrection from “the second death.”

Why Is Salvation for Christians a Journey, a Path, Not a Condition, or State of Being?

Matthew 25:46 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

46 And these [unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment [Kolasin, lopping off, cutting off],[282] but the righteous into eternal life.”

Kolasin “akin to kolazoo[5] “This means ‘to cut short,’ ‘to lop,’ ‘to trim,’ and figuratively a. ‘to impede,’ ‘restrain,’ and b. ‘to punish,’ and in the passive ‘to suffer loss.’[6] The first part of the sentence is only in harmony with the second part of the sentence, if the eternal punishment is eternal death. The wicked receive eternal death and the righteous eternal life. We might note that Matthews Gospel was primarily for the Jewish Christians, and under the Mosaic Law, God would punish those who violated the law, saying they “shall be cut off [penalty of death] from Israel.” (Ex 12:15; Lev 20:2-3) We need further to consider,

2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These ones will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, from before the Lord[3] and from the glory of his strength, 

Notice that Paul says, the punishment for the wicked is “eternal destruction.” Many times in talking with those that support the position of eternal torment in some hellfire, they will add a word to Matthew 25:46 in their paraphrase of the verse, ‘conscious eternal punishment.’ However, Jesus does not tell us what the eternal punishment is, just that it is a punishment, and it is eternal. Therefore, those who support eternal conscious fiery torment will read the verse to mean just that, while those, who hold to the position of eternal destruction, will take Matthew 25:46 to mean that. Considering that Jesus does not define what the eternal punishment is, this verse is not a proof text for either side of the hellfire argument.

 Hebrews 2:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

14 Therefore, since the children share in blood and flesh, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he could destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil,

Yes, Jesus’ ransom sacrifice will cause the destruction of Satan, the Devil. The unrighteous, also known as the wicked within the Bible are “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” (Rom 9:22) Yes, “the years of the wicked are cut short.” (Pro 10:27) According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, olothreuo means “‘to destroy,’ especially in the sense of slaying, while “katargeo” means, “to reduce to inactivity.” In addition, apollumi signifies “to destroy utterly.”

What Does the Bible Really Say About Born-Again Christian Losing Their Salvation?

The Universalist likes to stress one quality of God, taking it beyond its balanced limits, that is mercy. However, they ignore the other quality that mercy is balanced with, namely justice. God had clearly told Adam, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) The apostle Paul tells us, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) The prophet Ezekiel recorded God as saying, “the soul [person] who sins shall die.” (Eze. 18:4, 20) God is selective in his mercy/justice, as he said, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Ex 33:19) God has provided the ransom sacrifice of his Son (Matt 20:28), to cover over Adamic sin, not the willful unrepentant practicing of sin. (Heb. 6:4; 10:26; 2 Pet 2:21)

 Where did the Universalist go wrong? As they overplayed the mercy, while downplaying justice, they also overemphasize the God of love. (1 John 4:8) They are unable to wrap their mind around the God of love, who also possess the quality of justice, and even seeks vengeance on behalf of the righteous, which were treated wickedly.

However, it is also the unbiblical doctrine of hellfire and eternal torment, which moved them emotionally into another unbiblical doctrine, universal salvation. They would have been wiser to set aside the eternal torment in a burning hell as being unbiblical; recognizing that punishment for one’s actions that fit the offense is biblical. The position of the Annihilationist is that of eternal destruction as a punishment, which does not involve an eternal conscious torment, as it would not be compatible with the God of love, nor his justice.[7]

Exodus 21:24 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

Another possibility as to why they hold to the position of universal salvation is the other unbiblical doctrine of immortality of all souls. This belief is that once God created a human being, bring him or her into existence, they must live forever in some fashion (physical or spiritual body), and in some place (earth, heaven, or hell). Since the Universalist arrived at the correct conclusion that God would not torture an imperfect human, who sinned for 70-80 years, by burning him forever, they just removed the place of hell (wrongly thought of as a place of eternal torment) from the equation, and accepted that all would eventually be reconciled to God. They could have simply looked at the original language words, and rightly concluded that the Hebrew sheol and Greek hades are not places of eternal torment, but rather the gravedom of mankind, with the punishment being eternal death.

Athanasia lit., “deathlessness” (a, negative, thanatos, “death”), is rendered “immortality” in 1 Cor. 15:53, 54, of the glorified body of the believer.” (Vine 1996, Volume 2, Page 321) There are no verses within the Bible, which says that every human has an inherent quality of immortality. Rather, as we have already seen, Adam was sentenced to death for rebelling against God, as well as God himself saying by way of his authors, “The soul that sins shall die” and “the wages of sin is death.”

 Romans 6:23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift[48] of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If every human were created with absolute eternal life within him or her; then, there would be no gift for God to give. God has given humanity free will and the right to choose. He said to the Israelites, who wanted to be his people, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deut. 30:19) In other words, man can choose to live by the righteous laws of his Creator, or he can choose to lose his life in a rebellion against his Creator. God’s justice does not allow him to have wicked persons living forever among the righteous. Adam and Eve did not fully appreciate what God had done for them, such as the eternal life he set before them, a paradise garden that they were to grow until it encompassed the entire earth, and filling the earth with perfect descendants; therefore, they returned to the dust that they came from. The same exact choice is before each of us.

What about Philippians 2:10-11, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” A day is coming when all of the wicked will receive their punishment of everlasting destruction. Therefore, all who are alive on earth and in heaven will be submitting themselves to the sovereignty of God. Then, the verse will hold true, ‘every knee will bow,’ ‘and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.’ Thus, the knees and the tongues of the unrighteous, rebellious ones will no longer be in existence, as they will have been destroyed.

What Do We Learn From the Baptisms in the Book of Acts?

What about the argument of Romans 5:18 that Adam’s one sinful act contributed to all of humanity inheriting sin and imperfection, and Christ’s one act as a ransom sacrifice would contribute to all of humanity receiving life. As was stated earlier, when you have a couple of verses that seem to be in conflict with many verses from Genesis to Revelation, it means that you are likely misunderstanding a couple of verses. The Scripters clearly show that only the righteous receive life. Adam was not forced to receive eternal life; it was a gift from God, which was based upon his remaining faithful. Therefore, when he rejected that gift and was unfaithful, the gift of life was taken away. Thus, the same would hold true for Adam’s descendants as well.–Ezekiel 18:31-32

 As you will see, “all” in Greek does not necessarily mean “all.” The Greek word behind “all” is pan, which comes in various forms. 1 John 2:2 says that Jesus is a covering “for the sins of the whole world.”[8] Paul says at 1 Timothy 2:6 that Jesus “gave himself as a ransom for all [pantōn, all (ones)].” Romans 5:18 says, ‘Christ’s one act as a ransom sacrifice would contribute to all [pantas] of humanity receiving life.’ Titus 2:10 says, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all [pasin] men.” While this seems quite clear on the surface, it is not really so. What do we do with the other verses that say only redeemable humankind will receive salvation, that is, those that repent and turnaround from their former course. (Acts 17:30, John 3:16, 1 Jn. 5:12)

Yes, not all is so black and white, once the interpreter looks beneath the surface. Many times the Greek word (panta) rendered “all” is often used in a hyperbolic sense. For example, at Luke 21:29, in speaking of a parable, it is said, “Look at the fig tree (suke), and all the trees. (panta ta dendra)” While the literal translation seems nonsensical, this is what pushes the reader to look deeper. The Good News Translation gives us the meaning in “Think of the fig tree and all the other trees.” “Other” is not in the Greek, but English translations add words to complete the sense in the English. Regardless, the “all” in many verses, including these, is being used hyperbolically.

WHO CAN BE SAVED? The Disciples asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” – Mark 10:26

In Acts 2:17, Peter at Pentecost speaks of the prophecy in the Old Testament book of Joel, saying, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all [pasan] flesh.” Was the Spirit poured out literally on all flesh at Pentecost? No, it was only 120 initially, and eventually a few thousand, out of millions then alive. Repeatedly when the term “all” is used in the Greek New Testament, “all” is not literally meant as “all,” but rather hyperbolically to emphasize. It can have the sense of “all others,” “all sorts, “all kinds,” and so on. Keep in mind that God did pour his Spirit out on ‘sons and daughters, young men and old men, even on my male slaves and on my female slaves.’

Another example would be in Luke 11:42, which reads, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every [pan] herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.” It should be noted that both the mint and the rue are herbs. Thus, the GNT[9] renders it, “all the other herbs.” While this author accepts the literal translations as being closest to the Word of God in English,[10] they can infer that the mint and rue are not herbs, while the dynamic equivalent translations clear it up.

Unbiblical Teaching

The universal salvation position that all humans will eventually be reconciled to God, receiving salvation, is unbiblical. God has given humanity free will, and as free moral persons, they have the ability to reject his sovereignty. Moreover, if universal salvation were true, it would be at odds with the very reason God allowed humanity to go on after the sin of Adam, as opposed to just starting over. Satan had challenged the sovereignty of God and the integrity of humans, saying that they would not remain faithful to God, if they faced adversity. If all, were to be saved anyway (including Satan), why would God have bothered to direct Satan’s attention to the integrity of Job, pointing out that humans can choose to be faithful in adverse times?

Universal salvation is a feel-good unbiblical doctrine that our imperfect flesh wants to be true, and Satan wants us to accept as true. It allows us to not be concerned about our actions or deeds, as one will receive salvation regardless. What they are doing is removing integrity and faithfulness from the equation. However, Like Adam, who betrayed God, Like Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Son of God, and all the rest, who have rejected God,

Hebrews 6:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away,[33] it is impossible to renew[34] them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put him to public shame.

Christ Jesus Came to Save Sinners?

Jesus, in speaking to the Father about his disciples, said,

John 17:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

The apostle Paul made it all too clear, as to the outcome of willful unrepentant sinners,

Hebrews 10:26-31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge[54] of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.”[55] And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”[56] 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

There have been many goodhearted self-declared Christians from the second to the twenty-first century, who have held to the unbiblical position of universal salvation. Again, this is not a biblical teaching. While it is true that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), it is just as true that he is a God of “justice” (Isa. 33:22; Ps 33:5; Job 37:23) As a God of love, he gives us free moral agents the choice between life and death, if we choose to live under his sovereignty, we receive eternal life. As a God of Justice, if we choose to reject his sovereignty, he rejects us, and we receive eternal destruction.

Scriptures Often Misapplied

1 John 2:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 and he is the propitiation[1] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

And he is the propitiation for our sins. The word rendered propitiation (ἱλασμός) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, except in chap. 4:10 of this epistle; though words of the same derivation, and having the same essential meaning, frequently occur. The corresponding word ἱλαστήριον (hilasterion) occurs in Rom. 3:25, rendered propitiation—‘whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood;’ and in Heb. 9:5, rendered mercy-seat—‘shadowing the mercy-seat.’ The verb ἱλάσκομαι (hilaskomai) occurs also in Luke 18:3—‘God be merciful to me a sinner;’ and Heb. 2:17—‘to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.’ For the idea expressed by these words, see Notes on Rom. 3:25. The proper meaning of the word is that of reconciling, appeasing, turning away anger, rendering propitious or favorable. The idea is, that there is anger or wrath, or that something has been done to offend, and that it is needful to turn away that wrath or to appease. This may be done by a sacrifice, by songs, by services rendered, or by bloody offerings. So the word is often used in Homer.—Passow. We have similar words in common use, as when we say of one that he has been offended, and that something must be done to appease him, or to turn away his wrath. This is commonly done with us by making restitution; or by an acknowledgment; or by yielding the point in controversy; or by an expression of regret; or by different conduct in time to come. But this idea must not be applied too literally to God; nor should it be explained away. The essential thoughts in regard to him, as implied in this word, are, (1,) that his will has been disregarded, and his law violated, and that he has reason to be offended with us; (2,) that in that condition he cannot, consistently with his perfections, and the good of the universe, treat us as if we had not done it; (3,) that it is proper that, in some way, he should show his displeasure at our conduct, either by punishing us, or by something that shall answer the same purpose; and, (4,) that the means of propitiation come in here, and accomplish this end, and make it proper that he should treat us as if we had not sinned; that is, he is reconciled, or appeased, and his anger is turned away. This is done, it is supposed, by the death of the Lord Jesus, accomplishing, in most important respects, what would be accomplished by the punishment of the offender himself. In regard to this, in order to a proper understanding of what is accomplished, it is necessary to observe two things—what is not done, and what is. I. There are certain things that do not enter into the idea of propitiation. They are such as these: (a) That it does not change the fact that the wrong was done. That is a fact that cannot be denied, and he who undertakes to make a propitiation for sin does not deny it. (b) It does not change God; it does not make him a different being from what he was before; it does not buy him over to a willingness to show mercy; it does not change an inexorable being to one who is compassionate and kind. (c) The offering that is made to secure reconciliation does not necessarily produce reconciliation in fact. It prepares the way for it on the part of God, but whether they for whom it is made will be disposed to accept it is another question. When two men are alienated from each other, you may go to B and say to him that all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of A are removed, and that he is disposed to be at peace, but whether B will be willing to be at peace is quite another matter. The mere fact that his adversary is disposed to be at peace, determines nothing in regard to his disposition in the matter. So in regard to the controversy between man and God. It may be true that all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God are taken away, and still, it may be quite a separate question whether man will be willing to lay aside his opposition and embrace the terms of mercy. In itself considered, one does not necessarily determine the other, or throw any light on it. II. The amount, then, in regard to the propitiation made for sin is, that it removes all obstacles to reconciliation on the part of God; it does whatever is necessary to be done to maintain the honor of his law, his justice, and his truth; it makes it consistent for him to offer pardon—that is, it removes whatever there was that made it necessary to inflict punishment, and thus, so far as the word can be applied to God, it appeases him, or turns away his anger, or renders him propitious. This it does, not in respect to producing any change in God, but in respect to the fact that it removes whatever there was in the nature of the case that prevented the free and full offer of pardon. The idea of the apostle in the passage before us is, that when we sin we may be assured that this has been done, and that pardon may now be freely extended to us.


And not for ours only. Not only for the sins of us who are Christians, for the apostle was writing to such. The idea that he intends to convey seems to be, that when we come before God, we should take the most liberal and large views of the atonement; we should feel that the most ample provision has been made for our pardon and that in no respect is there any limit as to the sufficiency of that work to remove all sin. It is sufficient for us; sufficient for all the world.

But also for the sins of the whole world. The phrase ‘the sins of’ is not in the original, but is not improperly supplied, for the connection demands it. This is one of the expressions occurring in the New Testament which demonstrate that the atonement was made for all men, and which cannot be reconciled with any other opinion. If he had died only for a part of humankind, this language could not have been used. The phrase, ‘the whole world,’ is one which naturally embraces all men; is such as would be used if it be supposed that the apostle meant to teach that Christ died for all men; and is such as cannot be explained on any other supposition. If he died only for the elect, it is not true that he is the ‘propitiation for the sins of the whole world’ in any proper sense, nor would it be possible then to assign a sense in which it could be true. This passage, interpreted in its plain and obvious meaning, teaches the following things: (1.) That the atonement in its own nature is adapted to all men, or that it is as much fitted to one individual, or one class, as another; (2,) that it is sufficient in merit for all; that is, that if any more should be saved than actually will be, there would be no need of any additional suffering in order to save them; (3,) that it has no special adaptedness to one person or class more than another; that is, that in its own nature it did not render the salvation of one more easy than that of another. It so magnified the law, so honored God, so fully expressed the Divine sense of the evil of sin in respect to all men, that the offer of salvation might be made as freely to one as to another, and that any and all might take shelter under it and be safe. Whether, however, God might not, for wise reasons, resolve that its benefits should be applied to a part only, is another question, and one which does not affect the inquiry about the intrinsic nature of the atonement. On the evidence that the atonement was made for all, see Notes on 2 Cor. 5:14, and Heb. 2:9 below.


For every man – For all – Ὑπὲρ παντὸς Huper pantos – for each and all – whether Jew or Gentile, bond or free, high or low, elect or non-elect. How could words affirm more clearly that the atonement made by the Lord Jesus was unlimited in its nature and design? How can we express that idea in more clear or intelligible language? That this refers to the atonement is evident – for it says that he “tasted death” for them. The friends of the doctrine of general atonement do not desire any other than Scripture language in which to express their belief. It expresses it exactly – without any need of modification or explanation. The advocates of the doctrine of limited atonement cannot thus use Scripture language to express their belief. They cannot incorporate it with their creeds that the Lord Jesus “tasted death for every man.” They are compelled to modify it, to limit it, to explain it, in order to prevent error and misconception. But that system cannot be true which requires people to shape and modify the plain language of the Bible in order to keep people from error!

(With the author’s views on the doctrine of atonement we accord in the main; yet are here tempted to ask if the advocates of universal atonement would not be under the like necessity, of explaining, modifying, or “extending,” such passages as limit, or seem to limit, the atonement of Christ; and if in framing a creed, the advantage would not lie about equal on either side? Neither party would be contented to set down in it those scriptures which seemed least favorable to themselves without note or explanation. If this remark appears unjust, in as much as the universalist could admit into his creed, that “Christ laid down his life for the sheep,” though at the same time he believed further, that he laid it down not for them only, nay, not for them in any special sense “more than for others;” let it be observed that the limitation could just as well admit into his, that “Christ tasted death for every man,” or for all people, (Υπερ παντος Huper pantos) though he might believe further, not for all especially, not for all efficaciously, or with Prof. Stuart on the place, not for all universally, but “for all without distinction” that is, both Jew and Gentile. It is indeed difficult to say on which side explanation would be most needed.

In the case of the limited passage, it would require to be observed first, that the atonement extended further than it intimated, and besides, that there was no special reference to the parties specified, the sheep, namely. There would be required, in truth, both extension and limitation, that is, if a creed were to be made, or a full view of opinion given. They seem to come nearest to the truth on this subject, who deny neither the general nor the special aspect of the atonement. On the one hand, there is a large class of “universal passages,” which cannot be satisfactorily explained on any other principle than what regards the atonement as a great remedial plan, that rendered it consistent with the divine honor, to extend mercy to guilty people at large, and which would have been equally requisite had there been an intention to save one, or millions; numbers indeed not forming any part of the question. On the other hand, there is a large class of “special” texts, which cannot be explained without admitting, that while this atonement has reference to all, “yet God in providing it had a special design to save his people by it;” see the whole subject fully discussed, on the author’s note referred to above, and in the supplementary note, on the same passages, which contains a digest of the more recent controversies on the point.)

Hence, learn Heb. 2:6-9, from the incarnation of the Son of God, and his exaltation to heaven, what an honor has been conferred on human nature. When we look on the weakness and sinfulness of our race, we may well ask, what is man that God should honor him or regard him? He is the creature of a day. He is feeble and dying. He is lost and degraded. Compared with the universe at large, he is a speck, an atom. He has done nothing to deserve the divine favor or notice, and when we look at the race at large we can do it only with sentiments of the deepest humiliation and mortification. But when we look at human nature in the person of the Lord Jesus, we see it honored there to a degree that is commensurate with all our desires, and that fills us with wonder. We feel that it is an honor to human nature – that it has done much to elevate man – when we look on such a man as Howard or Washington. But how much more has that nature been honored in the person of the Lord Jesus!


(1) What an honor to us it was that he should take our nature into intimate union with himself – passing by the angelic hosts, and becoming a man!

(2) What an honor it was that human nature there was so pure and holy; that “man” – everywhere else so degraded and vile – “could” be seen to be noble, and pure, and godlike!

(3) What an honor it was that the divinity should speak to people in connection with human nature, and perform such wonderful works – that the pure precepts of religion should come forth from human lips – the great doctrines of eternal life be uttered by “a man,” and that from human hands should go forth power to heal the sick and to raise the dead!

(4) What an honor to man it was that the atonement for sin should be made in his own nature, and that the universe should be attracted to that scene where one in our form, and with flesh and blood like our own, should perform that great work.

(5) What an honor it is to man that his own nature is exalted far above all heavens! That one in our form sits on the throne of the universe! That adoring angels fall prostrate before him! That to him is entrusted all power in heaven and on earth!

Young Christians

(6) What an honor to man that one in his nature should be appointed to judge the worlds! That one in our own form, and with a nature like ours, shall sit on the throne of judgment and pronounce the final doom on angels and human beings! Those assembled millions shall be constrained to bow before him, and receive their eternal doom from his hands! That prince and potentate – the illustrious dead of all past times, and the mighty men who are yet to live, shall all appear before him, and all receive from him there the sentence of their final destiny! I see, therefore, the most honor done to my nature as a man, not in the deeds of proud conquerors; not in the lives of sages and philanthropists; not in those who have carried their investigations farthest into the obscurities of matter and of mind; not in the splendid orators, poets, and historians of other times, or that now live – much as I may admire them, or feel it an honor to belong to a race which has produced such illustrious men – but in the fact that the Son of God has chosen a body like my own in which to dwell; in the inexpressible loveliness evinced in his pure morals, his benevolence, his blameless life; in the great deeds that he performed on earth; in the fact that it was this form that was chosen in which to make atonement for sin; in the honors that now cluster around him in heaven, and the glories that shall attend him when he shall come to judge the world.

“Princes to his imperial name.
Bend their bright scepters down;
Dominions, thrones, and powers rejoice,
To see him wear the crown.
“Archangels sound his lofty praise.
Through every heavenly street,
And lay their highest honors down,
Submissive at his feet.
“Those soft, those blessed feet of his,
That once rude iron tore –
High on a throne of light they stand,
And all the saints adore.
“His head, the dear, majestic head,
That cruel thorns did wound –
See – what immortal glories shine,
And circle it around!
“This is the Man, th’ exalted Man,
Whom we, unseen, adore;
But when our eyes behold his face,
Our hearts shall love him more.”


That if one died for all – On the supposition that one died for all; or taking it for granted that one died for all, then it follows that all were dead. The “one” who died for all here is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus. The word “for” (ὑπὲρ huper) means in the place of, instead of; see Php 2:13 and 2Cor. 5:20. It means that Christ took the place of sinners, and died in their stead; that he endured what was an ample equivalent for all the punishment which would be inflicted if they were to suffer the just penalty of the Law; that he endured so much suffering, and that God by his great substituted sorrows made such an expression of his hatred of sin, as to answer the same end in expressing his sense of the evil of sin, and in restraining others from transgression, as if the guilty were personally to suffer the full penalty of the Law. If this were done, of course, the guilty might be pardoned and saved, since all the ends which could be accomplished by their destruction have been accomplished by the substituted sufferings of the Lord Jesus; see the notes on Rom. 3:25-26, where this subject is considered at length.

The phrase “for all,” (ὑπὲρ πάντων huper pantōn) obviously means for all mankind; for every man. This is an exceedingly important expression in regard to the extent of the atonement which the Lord Jesus made, and while it proves that his death was vicarious, that is, in the place of others, and for their sakes, it demonstrates also that the atonement was general, and had, in itself considered no limitation, and no particular reference to any class or condition of people; and no particular applicability to one class more than to another. There was nothing in the nature of the atonement that limited it to anyone class or condition; there was nothing in the design that made it, in itself, anymore applicable to one portion of mankind than to another. And whatever may be true in regard to the fact as to its actual applicability, or in regard to the purpose of God to apply it, it is demonstrated by this passage that his death had an original applicability to all, and that the merits of that death were sufficient to save all. The argument in favor of the general atonement, from this passage, consists in the following points:

(1) That Paul assumes this as a matter that was well known, indisputable, and universally admitted, that Christ died for all. He did not deem it necessary to enter into the argument to prove it, nor even to state it formally. It was so well known, and so universally admitted, that he made it a first principle – an elementary position – a maxim on which to base another important doctrine – to wit, that all were dead. It was a point which he assumed that no one would call in question; a doctrine which might be laid down as the basis of an argument, like one of the first principles or maxims in science.

(2) It is the plain and obvious meaning of the expression – the sense which strikes all people unless they have some theory to support to the contrary; and it requires all the ingenuity which people can ever command to make it appear even plausible, that this is consistent with the doctrine of a limited atonement; much more to make it out that it does not mean all. If a man is told that all the human family must die, the obvious interpretation is, that it applies to every individual. If told that all the passengers on board a steamboat were drowned, the obvious interpretation is, that every individual was meant. If told that a ship was wrecked, and that all the crew perished, the obvious interpretation would be that none escaped. If told that all the inmates of an hospital were sick, it would be understood that there was not an individual that was not sick. Such is the view which would be taken by 999 persons out of 1,000 if told that Christ died for all; nor could they conceive how this could be consistent with the statement that he died only for the elect, and that the elect was only a small part of the human family.

(3) This interpretation is in accordance with all the explicit declarations on the design of the death of the Redeemer. Heb. 2:9, “that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man;” compare Joh_3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 1Tim. 2:6, “who gave himself a ransom for all.” See Matt. 20:28,” The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many.” 1Jn 2:2,” and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

(4) The fact also that on the ground of the atonement made by the Redeemer, salvation is offered to all people by God, is a proof that he died for all. The apostles were directed to go “into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature,” with the assurance that “he that believeth and is baptized shall he saved;” Mark 16:15-16;[2] and everywhere in the Bible the most full and free offers of salvation are made to all mankind; compare Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; Rev. 22:17. These offers are made on the ground that the Lord Jesus died for people; John_3:16. They are offers of salvation through the gospel, of the pardon of sin, and of eternal life to be made “to every creature.” But if Christ died only for a part, if there is a large portion of the human family for whom he died in no sense whatever; if there is no provision of any kind made for them, then God must know this, and then the offers cannot be made with sincerity, and God is tantalizing them with the offers of that which does not exist, and which he knows does not exist. It is of no use here to say that the preacher does not know who the elect are, and that he is obliged to make the offer to all in order that the elect may be reached. For it is not the preacher only who offers the gospel. It is God who does it, and he knows who the elect are, and yet he offers salvation to all. And if there is no salvation provided for all and no possibility that all to whom the offer comes should be saved, then God is insincere; and there is no way possible of vindicating his character.

EPHESIANS 1:4: Are some chosen (predestined) to eternal salvation, and others to eternal condemnation?

(5) If this interpretation is not correct, and if Christ did not die for all, then the argument of Paul here is a non sequitur, and is worthless. The demonstration that all are dead, according to him is, that Christ died for all. But suppose that he meant, or that he knew, that Christ died only for a part, for the elect, then how would the argument stand, and what would be its force? “Christ died only for a portion of the human race, therefore all are sinners. Medicine is provided only for a part of mankind; therefore all are sick. Pardon is offered to part only; therefore all are guilty.” But Paul never reasoned in this way. He believed that Christ died for all mankind, and on the ground of that he inferred at once that all needed such an atonement; that all were sinners, and that all were exposed to the wrath of God. And the argument is in this way, and in this way only, sound. But still, it may be asked, What is the force of this argument? How does the fact that Christ died for all, prove that all were sinners, or dead in sin? I answer:

(a) In the same way that to provide medicine for all, proves that all are sick, or liable to be sick, and to offer pardon to all who are in a prison, proves that all there are guilty. What insult is it to offer medicine to a man in health; or pardon to a man who has violated no law! And there would be the same insult in offering salvation to a man who was not a sinner, and who did not need forgiveness.

(b) The dignity of the sufferer, and the extent of his sufferings, prove that all were under a deep and dreadful load of guilt. Such a being would not have come to die unless the race had been apostate; nor would he have endured so great sorrows unless a deep and dreadful malady had spread over the world. The deep anxiety; the tears; the toils; the sufferings, and the groans of the Redeemer, show what was his sense of the condition of man, and prove that he regarded them as degraded, fallen, and lost. And if the Son of God, who knows all hearts, regarded them as lost, they are lost. He was not mistaken in regard to the character of man, and he did not lay down his life under the influence of delusion and error. If to the view which has been taken of this important passage it is objected that the work of the atonement must have been to a large extent in vain; that it has actually been applied to but comparatively a small portion of the human family, and that it is unreasonable to suppose that God would suffer so great sorrows to be endured for nothing, we may reply:

(1) That it may not have been in vain, though it may have been rejected by a large portion of mankind. There may have been other purposes accomplished by it besides the direct salvation of people. It was doing much when it rendered it consistent for God to offer salvation to all; it is much that God could be seen to be just and yet pardoning the sinner; it was much when his determined hatred of sin, and His purpose to honor His Law, was evinced; and in regard to the benevolence and justice of God to other beings and to other worlds, much, very much was gained, though all the human race had rejected the plan and been lost, and in regard to all these objects, the plan was not in vain, and the sufferings of the Redeemer were not for nothing. But,

(2) It is in accordance with what we see everywhere, when much that God does seems to our eyes, though not to his, to be in vain. How much rain falls on ever sterile sands or on barren rocks, to our eyes in vain! What floods of light are poured each day on barren wastes, or untraveled oceans, to our eyes in vain! How many flowers shed forth their fragrance in the wilderness, and ‘waste their sweetness on the desert air,” to us apparently for nothing! How many pearls lie useless in the ocean; how much gold and silver in the earth; how many diamonds amidst rocks to us unknown, and apparently in vain! How many lofty trees rear their heads in the untraveled wilderness, and after standing for centuries fall on the earth and decay, to our eyes in vain! And how much medicinal virtue is created by God each year in the vegetable world that is unknown to man, and that decays and is lost without removing any disease, and that seems to be created in vain! And how long has it been before the most valuable medicines have been found out, and applied to alleviating pain, or removing disease! Year after year, and age after age, they existed in a suffering world, and people died perhaps within a few yards of the medicine which would have relieved or saved them, but it was unknown, or if known disregarded. But times were coming when their value would he appreciated, and when they would be applied to benefit the sufferer. So with the plan of salvation. It may be rejected, and the sufferings of the Redeemer may seem to have been for nothing. But they will yet be of value to mankind; and when the time shall come for the whole world to embrace the Savior, there will be found no lack of sufficiency in the plan of redemption, and in the merits of the Redeemer to save all the race.


(A measure of truth is, doubtless, involved in this controversy concerning the universality of atonement; and the discussion of the subject in America, and more recently in this country, cannot fail ultimately to produce the most beneficial results. Yet, we must express our conviction, that the seeming difference of opinion among evangelical people, has arisen from mutual misunderstanding, and that misunderstanding from the use of ambiguous phraseology. One says Christ died for all people. No, says another, for the elect only. The dispute goes on and on, until at last the discovery is made, that while the same words were used by the disputants, each attached his own meaning to them. This ambiguity is painfully felt in the treatise of a distinguished writer, who has recently appeared on the limited side of the question. He does not explain until he has advanced very far in the discussion, what sense be attached to the common phraseology of “Christ dying for all men.”

He tells us afterward, however, that he understands it in the highest sense of securing salvation for them; when we are convinced, that much of the argument might have been spared, or at all events better directed, than against a position which few or none maintain. The author is himself sensible of this. “The question,” says he, “might, perhaps, have been settled at the outset by a careful definition of terms; but I have purposely deferred doing so, judging, that it might be done with better effect as the discussion proceeded. In speaking of the Savior’s dying for people, or dying for sinners, I have used the expression in what I conceive to be the strict and proper meaning, namely, as signifying his dying with an intention to save them. This, however, is not the only meaning the expression will bear, For all people, for sinners in general, the Savior died. He died in their nature, he died in their stead, he died doing honor to the Law which they had violated; in other words, he died removing every legal obstruction that lay in the way of their obtaining life.”


The Death of Christ, the Redemption of his People, p. 70. Now, it is only in this last sense, that any rational advocate of general aspect in the atonement will maintain that Christ died for all people. Nor could he desire better language in which to express his views, than that which is furnished in the above quotation. That the atonement has certain general aspects is now nearly admitted on all hands. “General it must be in some sense,” says the author already quoted, “if in some sense it be applicable to all, and that this is the case the foregoing statement undeniably proves,” p. 68. The general aspect of the atonement is argued, from those well-known passages in which it is declared to have a reference to people, all people, the world, and the whole world. The reader will find some of these passages quoted above in the commentary. Of this universal phraseology various explanations have been given.

Some have supplied the qualifying adjective “elect” in these places, where the design of atonement is said to embrace the “world.” Modern writers of the highest name, however, and on both sides of the question, have vied with each other in their indignant repudiation of any such expletive. “I have felt myself,” says Dr. Wardlaw, “far from satisfied with a common way of interpreting some of those texts which express the extent of the atonement in universal terms by means of a convenient supplement. According to this method of explanation, the world is, in such occurrences of it, made to signify the ‘elect world,’ the word ‘elect’ being inserted as a supplement, conceived to be necessary for the consistency of scripture. An ‘elect world’ indeed, has become a phrase in common use with a particular class of commentators and divines; being employed with as much matter of course freedom, as if it had actually had the sanction of ordinary usage in the sacred volume; but it is not to be found there.”


And subjoins Dr. Marshall, writing on the limited side of the question, “It certainly is not to be found there, and with every word of this well-deserved censure I cordially agree.” Here then is one principle of interpretation fairly exploded, and few nowadays will have the hardihood to espouse it. Again, the phraseology has been explained of the world of Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately, Gentiles as well as Jews; and those who adopt this view tell us, that the Jewish system was narrow and exclusive, embracing only one people, the progeny of Abraham; that it was the design of God, in the fullness of time, to enlarge his church and to receive within her ample arms people of all nations, Jew and Gentile, Barbarian and Scythian, bond and free; that the death of Christ was at once the fulfillment and abrogation of the typical system with all its special and exclusive rites; that by it the middle wall of partition between the Jew and the rest of the world was thrown down; that, therefore, it was natural to represent it as having a reference to all people and to the world, even when absolute universality was not and could not be intended. Such a vast enlargement of the scale on which spiritual blessings were now to be conferred, in consequence of the death of Christ, could not well have been expressed, it is alleged, in any other or in less universal terms. See this view of the subject well exhibited in Hill’s System, vol. ii., 2 Cor. 5.

To this principle of interpretation, we have no great objection. There is doubtless much truth in it. It lends valuable assistance in the investigation of many passages. But is there not some sense in which that atonement has an aspect absolutely to all, and every man? As much we have seen admitted above. Now, if the Savior “died in the nature and stead of all, removing every legal obstruction that lay in the way of their obtaining life,” how comes it to pass, that this universal aspect cannot be found in any of those confessedly the most universal passages in the Bible? If it be true, it must be found somewhere in the scriptures, and nowhere so likely, as in this class of texts; and the language, moreover, is just such as is naturally suited to express this sense. While then we allow, that the phraseology in question may be in part explained by the admission of Gentiles as well as Jews into the kingdom of God; we maintain at the same time, that there is nothing in it which prevents us from including all in each of those divisions of mankind. Nay, if the apostles had wished to express this idea, how otherwise could they have done it? “Say if you will,” says Dr. Wardlaw, commenting on

John 3:16-17, “that the ‘world’ means Jews and Gentiles, still if it is not any definite number of Jews and Gentiles, it is Jews and Gentiles as together composing the world of mankind.”

That the atonement, indeed, has a certain benign aspect toward all people, appears from its very nature. The exact equivalent view, as it has been not inappropriately termed, is now nearly abandoned. Rarely do we find any one affirming, that Christ endured exactly what the elect would have suffered and deserved, and that, therefore, there can be sufficiency in his death for that favored number and for none besides. What then is the light in which the atonement of Christ ought to be viewed? We think the only rational and scriptural account of it, is that which regards it as a great remedial scheme, which rendered it consistent with the divine honor and all the interests of the divine administration, to extend mercy to guilty people at large, and which would have been equally requisite, had there been an intention to save one only, or a million; numbers indeed not forming any part of the question. Here then is something done, which removes legal obstructions and thereby opens the way to heaven for all. And if any do not enter in, their inability is moral, and lies not in any insufficiency of the divine provision. This view, however, seems to furnish a just foundation for the universality of gospel invitations, while it fastens the guilt of rejecting gospel provision on the sinner himself.

Thus far we feel disposed to agree with our author in his commentary, or rather dissertation on the verse and the subject it involves. We maintain, however, that the atonement has a special as well as a general aspect; that while it is gloriously true that it looks to all people, it has at the same time a special regard to some. We object, therefore, to the statement, “that the atonement in itself considered had no limitation and no particular reference to any class or condition of people, and no particular applicability to one class more than to another.” This is similar to certain rash assertions that have recently been current in our own country; as that “while the atonement opens the door of mercy to all, it secures salvation to none;” that “Christ died as much for those who perish, as for those who are saved.” We cannot envy that reputation for acuteness which may be gained by the free use of such language.

Is it not God’s design to save his people? Is not the atonement the means by which he does so, the means by which the purpose of electing love is fulfilled? And yet has that atonement no special reference to the elect? Further, if it be the means of saving them, does it not secure their salvation? Certainly, among people, if any effectual means were devised to accomplish a particular end, that end would be said to be secured by such means. The writer is aware of the ingenious evasion, that it is God’s gracious purpose to apply the atonement, and not the atonement itself, that connects it with the elect, and secures their salvation. We are told, moreover, that we should look on the atonement by itself, and consider it in a philosophical way. The purpose to apply is an after arrangement. But first, a purpose to apply the atonement to a special class differs in nothing from an original design to save such class by it, for that purpose must have been present to the mind of God in determining on atonement. To say that God saves a certain number by the atonement and that yet in making it he had no special design in their favor, however it may recommend itself to philosophical refinement, will always be rejected by the common sense of mankind. Second. If we must consider the atonement apart from any special purpose connected with it, why not divest it also of any general purpose, that we may look on it steadily per se, and in this way reduce it to a mere abstraction, about which nothing could be either affirmed or denied?

The advocates of universal atonement, or some of the more forward among them, have recently carried out their views so far, as to deny that God in providing the atonement, or Christ in making it, had any special love to the elect. An eminent writer on that side, however, to whom reference has already been made, while he goes the length of denying special design, maintains the existence of special love, and administers a reproof to those of his own party, who go to this extreme. This is indeed an important concession, for special love is not very different from special design, nor is it easy to see how, in the mind of God, the one could subsist without the other. “The love of the Father is the same thing as election. Election is nothing but the love of the Father formed into a purpose” – Marshall. Or the point may be put in this way. Had God in providing the atonement special love to the elect? Where is the proof of it? Doubtless in that very provision. But if God in making it had no design to save them by it, the proof is not only weakened but destroyed. Special love, therefore, necessarily involves special design.

To do away with anything like specialty of design much has been said on the order of the divine decrees, especially as to whether the decree of atonement, or that of election, be first in order of nature. If that of atonement be first, it is asserted specialty is out of the question, as that is secured only by election, which is a posterior arrangement. On this subject, it is more easy to darken counsel by words without knowledge, than to speak intelligibly. It may be fairly questioned, if those who have written most on it, fully understand themselves. Nor can we help to lament, that so great a part of the controversy should have been made to turn on this point, which has hitherto eluded the grasp of the most profound, and drawn the controversies into regions of thought, too high for the boldest flights of human intellect. After all that can be said on the subject, it must be allowed that the whole arrangement connected with the salvation of man, existed simultaneously in the mind of God, nor will anyone rise much wiser from inquiries into which was first and which last.

The truth on the whole subject, then, seems to be, that while the atonement has a general reference toward all, it has at the same time a special reference to the elect of God, or as it is well expressed in a recent synodical decision, “The Savior in making the atonement bore special covenant relation to the elect; had a special love to them, and infallibly secured their everlasting salvation, while his obedience unto death, afforded such a satisfaction to the justice of God, as that on the ground of it, in consistency with his character and law, the door of mercy is open to all people, and a full and free salvation is presented for their acceptance.” The special aspect, indeed, ought no more to be denied than the general. It rests on a large number of what may be called special texts; as, “Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it,” etc. “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” “I lay down my life for the sheep,” Eph. 5:25; Isa. 53:8; John 10:15.

Nor will it do to say of this numerous class of passages, that they find a sufficient explanation in the purpose of application, which is connected with the remedy for sin since most of them are of a kind that connect the salvation of the elect directly with the atonement itself, and not with any after design of applying it. This idea seems but an ingenious shift to sustain a favorite theory. How direct, for example, is this connection in the following passage: “who loved me and gave himself for me.” No one who had not a theory to support, would ever think of introducing an after design of application to explain this. Indeed, as an able reviewer in one of our periodicals observes of the scheme that excludes a special design, “it separates too much the atonement from the salvation of man. It does not connect those that are saved, those that are regenerated by divine grace, at all, especially with the sacrifice of Christ.” Another important branch of evidence on this point lies in the special relationship which Christ in dying sustained toward his people, as that of shepherd, husband, surety, etc., and which cannot be explained on any other principle than that of special design.

If the question were put, how we preserve our consistency, in thus maintaining both the general and special view, we reply, first, that if both views are found in scripture, it matters not whether we can explain the consistency between them or no. But second, it is not so difficult as some would imagine, to conceive of God appointing a remedy with a general aspect toward the race, but especially intended to secure the salvation of his chosen people.)

By Albert Barnes

[1] Or an atoning sacrificea means of appeasement

[2] The Longer Ending of Mark

[[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 But they, when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it.

12 And after these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. 13 And they came back and reported to the rest, but they did not believe them.

The Great Commission

14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned. 17 And these signs shall accompany those who believe: in my name they shall cast out demons; they shall speak in new tongues; 18 they shall pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message through the accompanying signs.]]

Mark ends at 16:8, which is supported by א B 304 syrs copsa (l MS) arm geo (2 MSS) Hesychius Eusebian canons MSSaccording to Eusebius MSSaccording to Jerome MSSaccording to Severus. In short, the traditional longer ending Mark 16:9-20 is not supported by the earliest and best manuscripts: (1) The early church fathers had no knowledge of anything beyond verse eight. (2) Such ancient scholars as Eusebius and Jerome marked them spurious. (3) The style of these verses is utterly different from that of Mark. (4) The vocabulary used in these verses is different from that of Mark. (5) Verse 8 does not transition well with verse 9, jumping from the women disciples to Jesus’ resurrection appearance. Jesus does not need to appear because Mark ended with the announcement that he had. We only want that because the other Gospels give us an appearance. So we expect it. (6) The very content of these verses contradicts the facts and the rest of the Greek New Testament. With textual scholarship, being very well aware of Mark’s abrupt style of writing, and abrupt ending to his Gospel does not seem out of place. Eusebius and Jerome, as well as this writer, agree.



4th ed. MISREPRESENTING JESUS The Complete Guide to Bible Translation-2
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[1] For details see L. E. Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1965–1966).

[2] Richard Bauckham, “Universalism: a historical survey”, Themelios 4.2 (September 1978): 47–54.

[3] Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

[4] Please see Volume 1 of this series, Basic Teachings of the Bible, article titled, Is Hell a Place of eternal Torment.

[5] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), 498.

[6] Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 451.


[8] This verses is included because it convey the same message, but it does not contain the Greek pan. Rather, it has holos, meaning “whole, complete, entirely.”

[9] Good News Translation (GNT)

[10] The literal translations are the best for both Bible reading and personal Bible study, and the ambiguity of this text would be cleared up for those who research.


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