In last week’s blog, I explored the principal theories offered to describe and define the atonement, what Jesus achieved on the cross. There’s one more belief that requires more space than I could have given it last week, so that’s the subject of this blog ~ the limited atonement theory.


The idea of limited atonement is a theological doctrine associated with Calvinism or Reformed theology. Limited atonement suggests that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was intended only for the salvation of a specific group of people who are “elect” or the “chosen.”

However, limited atonement is debated among Christians, and there are valid arguments against it. Like me, those who disagree with limited atonement argue for a broader understanding of God’s redemptive work and emphasise the universal scope of Christ’s sacrifice.


The concept of limited atonement is defended by its proponents through a series of clever arguments. For example, they say that the Israelite sacrificial system, the prototype of atonement in Scripture, consisted of offerings given to Israel alone by God, to be performed by Israel alone to God, and whose benefits applied to Israel alone to the glory of God. In other words, it was limited.

In the New Testament, the limited reach of salvation is supported by verses like Matthew 1:21, “Jesus…will save his people from their sins.” “His people” being the Jews.

John 10:11 is also quoted in support of limited atonement. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus goes on to distinguish between those who are His sheep and those standing there who were not (v.26), suggesting that his atonement does not apply to them.

In Romans 8, while reflecting on Jesus’ death (32), Paul asks: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen?” (33) Limited atonement supporters use these verses to say that Christ’s death is restricted to the people God chooses, and not for everyone else.


While it’s true that the Jewish sacrificial system was just for Israel, God’s intention through Israel was that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” ultimately, I believe, that blessing came through Jesus the Messiah.

Matthew’s statement that Jesus came to save his people from their sins is the same. One occasion, Jesus stated, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He said this to a Gentile [Canaanite] woman who asked Jesus to heal her daughter. It’s a fascinating discussion in which Jesus banters with the little lady and draws out her great faith. He compliments her and heals her daughter showing that he did NOT just come for Israel but for Gentiles too.

Some of Jesus’ final words express this truth: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.” Nations (ethnos) refers to the world’s Gentile people groups. Why would Jesus instruct his followers to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” if, in fact, he only intended to save Jewish people? The gospel is universal in scope.


Rather than Jesus’ work being limited, it is the opposite. Here are some of my reasons for this belief:

God’s desire for all to be saved: The Bible repeatedly expresses God’s passion for the salvation of all people. For instance, 1 Timothy 2:4 says God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The idea of limited atonement conflicts with this inclusive message.

The universality of sin: The Bible teaches that all humans are sinners and need redemption. Consider Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If sin affects all people universally, Christ’s atoning sacrifice should likewise have universal significance. And let’s not forget the next verse, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” Notice the word “all.” ALL have sinned; ALL are justified. Not a limited few.

God’s love for the world: One of the most well-known verses in the Bible, John 3:16, speaks of God’s love for the world and offer of salvation to all people.

The extent of Christ’s work is evident in John’s statement in chapter two of his first epistle. The entire chapter refutes the idea that Jesus’ death was in some way to appease God’s wrath against us. John writes, ” [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Christ’s sacrifice is not limited to a specific group of God’s favourites. Everyone is welcome and worthy, including YOU.


We find the most in-depth insights into the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the resurrection chapter. Please read and ponder verses 35 to 50, in which Paul states his case and then illustrates it with several mini parables. He begins with two questions asking how the dead are raised and what kind of body they will have.

Question one is answered in the first part of the chapter. The dead are raised because Jesus has defeated death through his resurrection. Because Jesus has conquered death, we can, too, as we place our trust in him. Paul then turns his attention to question 2: With what kind of body will they come?

The Example of the Seed

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed, he gives its own body.

The seed is a body that first must die. In John 12:24, Jesus said unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. No doubt, Jesus was speaking about his impending death. He died as just one man, but his resurrection has cultivated many “seeds” – the billions of people following him.

That body (seed) dies, and God gives it a new body different from the one that perishes. That’s excellent news. Your resurrection body won’t have the same limitations of tiredness, hunger, and sickness endured by the human body.

As Kenneth E. Bailey says, “the new plant that arises from the soil is not created out of the vegetable matter found in the seed. Paul is not telling his readers that in the resurrection the (flesh) will magically reform and arise using the same bone and flesh with which it died.”

This is important because sometimes Christians are unsure about organ donation and cremation because they fear it may affect the resurrection. But your new body will be made of different stuff, so have no fear.

Flesh and Sun

Paul continues this thought in the following parable. The resurrected body will be different from the natural body we possess now. Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.

He then speaks about Heavenly bodies. Paul isn’t referring to Hollywood actors here; he has the sun, moon, and stars in mind. The sun has one kind of splendour, the moon and the stars another, and each star differs in brilliance. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.

From our point of view, the sun dies each night and is resurrected in the morning. Even though the sun doesn’t move, we speak of it rising and setting. The moon and stars die each morning and get resurrected each evening. In the same way, death and resurrection are part of each day’s cycle.

Adam and Jesus

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable; it is raised imperishable it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

Paul continues by using the example of the first man, Adam, and the last Adam (Jesus). The first Adam inaugurated the long chain of perishable human bodies. According to Bailey, “the last Adam, Jesus, launched a new age where the incorruptible will inherit the eternal kingdom in the new creation. Paul is referring to the coming of the kingdom of God in its fullness at the end of the age.”[1]

In this present life, all people are like The First Man, having a natural body of the “dust of the earth.” (Genesis 3:19). Almost 99% of the human body’s mass is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Almost all of the remaining 1% comprises another five elements: potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. Our natural body, says Paul, is perishable, sown in dishonour and weakness as typified by the first Adam who disobeyed, lied to cover it up, blamed his wife, and then blamed God.

As was the earthly man, so are those of the earth. In other words, we can all relate to Adam’s story because it is our story too. We blame others and God rather than take personal responsibility. We are sinners, but that is NOT the end of the story. Like a seed precedes a plant, the natural body precedes the spiritual body.

Paul writes, “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” Paul refers to Jesus as the last Adam, the second man, and the heavenly man, and makes several statements about the resurrection body which is:

Raised imperishable. The resurrected body will not decay or perish (John 3:16). It will be immortal.

Raised in glory. Possessing qualities of integrity, reliability, and wisdom.

Raised in power. The ability to express the life-giving power of love like Jesus demonstrated through the cross.

Raised a spiritual body. The natural (physical) body is sown into death, and, just like a grain of wheat, it springs up as a spiritual body. This body is constituted and directed by the Holy Spirit, thus one that cannot sin, as was God’s original plan.

A Body Like Jesus’

In the resurrection, we will acquire a body that is like Jesus’ resurrection body – tangible, physical. We will not be disembodied spirits floating around on clouds playing the harp. Thank goodness! After his resurrection, Jesus walked, talked, and ate food with people. He was seen by them but also vanished and reappeared in different places. He moved with ease between physical and spiritual dimensions.

Kenneth E. Bailey writes, “In the resurrection, the believer will have a Spirit-constituted physical body. The brokenness and decay of the old body will be gone. The new body will be a physical body like the resurrected body of Christ. Such a glorious vision and promise calls for an exuberant hymn of victory,” which is how Paul ends this chapter:

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”


[1] Bailey, Kenneth E. Paul through Mediterranean eyes, p. 460.

We, humans, are fascinated by death and life beyond the grave. Before becoming a Christian, I frequently pondered these things and was riveted by discussions about reincarnation and communicating with the dead. One of the things that attracted me to the Christian faith was the assurance that this life is not all there is to life. So, let’s dive into some questions about heaven, resurrection, and immortality.

Do we go Straight to Heaven When we Die?

Christians differ on the answer to this question. Some believe as I do, that we go straight to heaven when we die. Others believe the Bible teaches Soul Sleep, that the righteous sleep until judgement day.

By heaven, I’m referring to the third heaven, which is God’s home and where Jesus is now. It is this third heaven that Paul said he visited either bodily or in a vision.

Jesus taught about the Kingdom of heaven, which is the impact of God’s nature on the earth. This is the emphasis of the New Testament and teachings of Jesus and is to be the focus of all followers of Jesus. In other words, our attention is on the here and now rather than the hereafter.

Searching the Scriptures

What does the Bible teach about going to heaven? Paul had much to say about this, particularly to the Corinthian church:

2 Cor 5:1, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Notice that he refers to the body as a tent. A tent is a temporary dwelling place rather than a permanent home. It’s a beautiful comparison.

2 Cor 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” You can also read Philippians 1:23 and 2 Tim 4:18 to gain more of Paul’s insights.

Peter wrote about heaven as our imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:4). The author of Hebrews spoke of the Old Testament saints longing for a better, heavenly country (11:16) in which to dwell.

Jesus spoke of a time when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. It appears that upon death, the soul of the faithful person goes to be with the Lord in his presence.

Soul Sleep

Some Christians believe that a person’s soul sleeps from death to the resurrection. Martin Luther believed this, as does Nicky Gumbel of Alpha Course fame. Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4 are used in defence: “we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of humanity, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (13-14).

I believe the sleep here is metaphorical, like Jesus spoke about Lazarus when he died, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

Proponents of soul sleep believe people’s souls are awoken for the resurrection at Christ’s return. But resurrection ALWAYS refers to the body, not the soul.

Consider Jesus’ interactions with the thief on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Supporters of soul sleep move a comma, “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.” There is no punctuation in the original manuscripts, so it is a matter of opinion.

I believe our spirit/soul goes straight to heaven when we die, but I understand why some Christians believe the soul sleeps until judgement day. Whatever the case, one thing is sure, “Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39).

When Does our Spirit Become Immortal?

Is the human spirit immortal, or is it made immortal when we’re born again or when we are resurrected? Once again, there are numerous views on this within the Christian church. In recent years I have come to lean more towards what is known as Christian mortalism, that the human soul is not inherently mortal and that one of the outcomes of Jesus’ death and resurrection is the gift of eternal life. In other words, people do not possess immortality. It is a gift from God.

Scripture says that [God] alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:16; Cf. John 5:26). If he is the only immortal being that counts people out.

Consider God’s words in Genesis 3:22-23 after the man and woman had “become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and also take from the tree of life and eat and live forever.” So, the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden.” God acted kindly so that people would not live forever in poor conditions.

People do not live forever. The human soul is not immortal apart from an act of God by granting the gift of eternal life because “Our Saviour, Christ Jesus…has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10; Cf. Romans 6:23; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 Peter 1:3-4; Romans 2:7; Matthew 10:28).

We are given the gift of eternal life when we are born again. I am still determining whether our spirit becomes immortal at that point or when we are resurrected.

Next week, I’ll examine what the Bible says about the resurrection body.

I love the perspective that children have on things.  Check out these comments from some kids when they were asked what happened on Good Friday?  And why did Jesus have to die?

“Jesus had to die because the Prime Minister didn’t like him. He didn’t like him because everybody liked Jesus and nobody liked the Prime Minister. At Easter, we have eggs because chickens are born at Easter time” (Bella, 7).

“We have chocolate eggs to celebrate Easter because the tomb was empty and most eggs are hollow, except when they have chocolate buttons in them” (Piers, 8).

“Jesus died because of God’s love and at Easter time we have eggs because they are a sign of new life. They’re made of chocolate because chocolate is really nice and Jesus was a really kind person” (Molly, 8).

What did happen on Good Friday?  And why did Jesus have to die? If Jesus died on this day then why is it called GOOD?

It’s important to know that it was, in fact, religion that killed Jesus.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were jealous of the support and following that Jesus had and so they plotted a way to get rid of him – and they succeeded (for three days!)  Not much has changed; religion is still trying to kill Jesus today.  In fact, some religious institutions kill Jesus every week – some kill him every year.

This is highlighted in a response to a blog I wrote over a year ago.  Speaking of Good Friday the person wrote:“This is the day of the year that I wish would end quickly for it is a day of mourning and grief. Every minute of this day I am constantly thinking about His suffering. We call this day good only because of ourselves. We are to die with Him on this day … on this day of remembrance, mourning, and grief, are we not going to remember, mourn, and grieve? Sadly, for most people they will not remember, they will not mourn, and they will not grieve … on this day of sadness, I hope the Lord keeps me a little more subdued and a little more humble. For Christ died on this day of darkness and I am grieving a bit now…”

But what does the Bible say about Jesus sacrifice?
Hebrews 7:27, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”

Hebrews 9:26, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

Hebrews 9:28, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

Hebrews 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Get the message?

Jesus doesn’t need to die again every week or every year.  His death on the cross two thousand years ago was enough.  On the cross, Jesus took the punishment that belonged to us.  We are the ones who have broken God’s Law.  We deserved to be punished.  But in his love and mercy, Jesus bore our punishment for us. The sacrifice he made was enough and to prove that is was, three days later God raised Jesus from the dead – and he didn’t die again.  That’s why Good Friday is GOOD!

My prayer for you this Easter is that you will come to know, appreciate and experience the power and value of the sacrifice Jesus has made for you on the cross.

Some years ago, a 14-foot bronze crucifix was stolen from Calvary Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas. It had stood at the entrance to that cemetery for more than 50 years. The cross was put there in 1930 by a Catholic bishop and had been valued at the time at $10,000. The thieves apparently cut it off at its base and hauled it off in a pick-up. Police speculate that they cut it into small pieces and sold it for scrap for about $450.  They obviously didn’t realize the value of that cross.  May we not be so blind!