I was just skimming through C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon, “The Mission of the Son of Man,” when I came across this blurb:
Now, some persons love the doctrine of universal atonement because they say it so beautiful. It is a lovely idea that Christ should have died for all men; it commends itself, they say, to the instincts of humanity; there is something in it full of joy and beauty. I admit there is; but beauty may be often associated with falsehood. There is much which I might well admire in the theory of universal redemption but let me just tell you what the supposition necessarily involves. If Christ on his cross intended to save every man, then he intended to save those who were damned before he died; because if the doctrine be true, that he died for all men, he died for some that were in hell before he came into this world, for doubtless there were myriads there that had been cast away. Once again, if it were Christ’s intention to save all men, how deplorably has he been disappointed! …To think that my Saviour died for men in hell seems a supposition too horrible for me to imagine: that he was the substitute for the sons of men, and that God having first punished the substitute punished men again, seems to me to conflict with any idea of justice.
Spurgeon hit it right on the head here. If Christ died in place of all men without exception, then he knowingly went to the cross in vain, for there were millions at that point who had already died and been judged. And if that is the case, how can we speak of Christ’s death as a triumph over the powers and principalities? Christ failed in the greater part of his mission, if he died with the intent to save all men.
But we have a Savior who really saves- a Savior who wrested Death’s dark keys away from him and cast out the ruler of this world, ransoming a people- his people, those whom the Father had given him- from every tribe and tongue and language and nation. Someday we will stand before the throne of God worshiping that slain and risen Lamb with untold millions from every age of history and every corner of the earth- and we will know the death of Christ to be a victorious death, without a pang of regret or a hint of defeat. And that is beautiful.