The fallout of that would be like this. Hell is full of people for whom Christ died. I’ll say it another way. Hell is full of people whose sins were paid for in full on the cross. That’s a little more disturbing when you say it like that, isn’t it? Another way to say it would be that the lake of fire, which burns forever with fire and brimstone, is filled with eternally damned people whose sins Christ fully atoned for on the cross. God’s wrath was satisfied by Christ’s atonement on behalf of those people who will forever stay in hell.
Now by the way, heaven will also be populated by the souls of those for whom Christ died. So, Christ did exactly the same thing for the occupants of hell as He did for the occupants of heaven. That makes the question a little more disturbing. The only difference is the people in heaven accepted the gift, the people in hell rejected it. That’s pretty much the traditional evangelical view. But it just sounds strange when you start to kind of pick it apart a little bit, doesn’t it? That Jesus died and paid in full the penalty for the sins of the damned, and died and paid in full the penalty for the sins of the glorified, that Jesus did the same thing for the occupants of hell that He did for the occupants of heaven, and the only difference hinges on the sinner’s choice?
That is to say, the death of Jesus Christ, then, is not an actual atonement, it is only a potential atonement. He really did not purchase salvation for anyone in particular. He only removed some kind of barrier to make it possible for sinners to choose to be saved. So the message then - the typical evangelical message - is to sinners, “God loves you so much He sent His Son who paid in full the penalty for your sins. And won’t you respond to that love, and not disappoint God, and accept the gift, and let Him save you since He already paid in full the price for your sins?” The final decision is up to the sinner.
And it kind of carries the notion that God loves you so much, you’re so special, He gave His Son and He paid in full the penalty for your sins, and that’s supposed to move you emotionally to love Him back and accept this gift. And so you kind of work the sinner, and kind of manipulate the sinner in that direction, trying to find a psychological point, a felt-need point, play the right organ music, sing the right invitation hymn. You know, grease the slides and get him moving in the direction of making the choice.
Now we’ve got a problem here, folks. We’ve got a big problem. We saw in our last study that no sinner on his own can make that choice, right? This is the doctrine of absolute inability. He can’t make it. He cannot make that choice. All people - all people - are sinners, and all sinners are dead in their trespasses and sins. All of them are alienated from the life of God. All do only evil continually. All are unwilling and unable to understand, to repent and to believe. All have darkened minds, blinded by sin and Satan, all have hearts that are full of evil, all are wicked, desperately wicked. All desire only the will of their father who is Satan. All of them are unable to seek God. They are all trapped in absolute inability and unwillingness.
So how then can the sinner make the choice? I don’t care what felt need you might find. I don’t care what you might think you see “in his heart” that will let you lead anyone to Christ. I don’t care how many invitation verses you sing, or how much organ music or mood music you play to try to induce some kind of response, the sinner on his own cannot understand, cannot repent, and cannot believe.
Remember what we saw in John 1? To as many as believed He gave the authority, “the right to become children of God but not by the will of man or the will of the flesh. Ephesians 2:8-9. “By grace are you saved through faith; but that not of yourselves.” It is through Him that you are in Christ, 1 Corinthians 1:30. Salvation is from God. We saw that. He has to give life to the dead. He has to give sight to the blind. He has to give hearing to the deaf. He has to give understanding to the ignorant. He has to give repentance to those who love sin. He has to give faith to those who can’t believe.
-- JOHN MACARTHUR