Scripture often uses general terms to describe salvation. In other words, it’s often spoken of figuratively, with a whole that’s being put for a part. For example, the Word is said to bear fruit in “all the world” (Col. 1:6). But this does not mean that everyone in the whole world is going to be saved.
“The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one” (Mt. 13:38).
Scripture plainly reveals, in other passages as well, that when it comes to salvation, the world is figuratively likened to a field that the Lord has bought in order to obtain the treasure hidden in it:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field” (Mt. 13:45-46).
There is a general, limited sense in which the Lord has temporally “bought” those that perish (e.g. Deut. 32:6; 2 Pet. 2:1), because if God immediately rooted up the tares in the world, it could cause harm to the wheat that is mixed in with them. That’s why the Lord is so long-suffering, merciful, good and kind to the wicked who are on earth.
“He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt. 5:45).
But only for the sake of God’s people…
“lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Mt. 13:28-30).
In John 12:19, it is stated in general terms that the world had gone after Christ. However, only the multitude, that followed Jesus in Jerusalem, was intended by these general terms (a whole was being put for the part). The apostles in Acts 17:6 were said to have “turned the world upside down,” but it was a figure of speech that was NOT to be taken literally.
So in light of this biblical truth, prayerfully consider the following:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (1 Tim. 2:1).
ALL men doesn’t include those in Hell, so it cannot mean ALL in an all-inclusive sense. It HAS to be a qualifying (selected) ALL. For instance, the context reveals that general terms are used here for all kinds of people (without distinction). It does NOT mean all without exception, but rather all without distinction of race, gender, social status, works, etc. For “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, Mt. 22:16), because He chooses His own apart from any earthly distinctions.
To further prove this, the context even provides us with an example!!—Prayers are to be made EVEN for kings and all who are in authority (v. 2)! In order to clarify that those who are in authority– EVEN king’s– are all at God’s sovereign disposal.
“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Prov. 21:1).
Likewise, in Romans 4: 13 we are given general terms to describe how Abraham was figuratively “an heir of the world.” And the context reveals the world that is literally being referred to…the faithful (v. 11). So again, a whole (the world) was being put for a part (the faithful).
In Romans 11:12, we are given general terms to describe how the believing Gentiles are figuratively referred to as the “riches of the world,” for they’ve been made partakers of the promises (Rom. 11:17), because the fallen Jews forfeited the riches of their inheritance, due to unbelief. And the context likens these “riches of the world” as a “reconciling of the world” (v. 11), because salvation is no longer just for the Jews. So a whole (the world) was put for a part (the believing Gentiles).
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
The context here clearly reveals that the “us-ward” are the “all” that’s being referred to. And it even reveals WHY God is not willing for them to perish, for they are His “beloved” (3: 1), who are given divine power and all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him (1:3), so that they can grow in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (3: 18).
The entire context also reveals that the “all” here are the children of promise, who are all “partakers of the divine nature,” who escape the corruption of the world through Christ (1:4). They are those “that have obtained like precious faith“(1:1), so that their faith can never finally fail, because Jesus makes sure that their fruit remains (Jn. 15:16), which clearly distinguishes them from the reprobates who are being referred to negatively within the same context!
Therefore, the “all” in 2 Peter 3:9 cannot possibly be referring to everyone. No wonder Scripture constantly reveals a whole that’s being put for a part, when it comes to salvation:
“Who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:6).
Once again, this passage perfectly coincides with what was just demonstrated previously, concerning the verses that immediately came before this one. Throughout Scripture we are constantly given a contextual frame of reference, to help us to clearly understand who these “all” are, and it’s NOT the whole entire world! It is NOT every single person in the world who has ever existed!!
Not convinced yet? Then prayerfully consider what follows:
“For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, Who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).
(All men) is the figurative whole that’s being put for the part (those that believe).
And again, we read:
“[T]hat He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became Him, for Whom are all things, and by Whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:9-10).
Here in Hebrews, the “many sons” reveals who is actually being brought unto glory, for many can never be interpreted as all, and the many are specifically defined as those whom He “sanctifies” (2:11), His “brethren” (2:12), the children God gave Him (2:13), those delivered from the bondage of death (2:15), the elect, whose salvation was obtained by this perfect Savior Who “tasted death” (the cup of death, Mt. 20:22; 26:42)… as their actual substitute.
So, in light of the context, we clearly see, again, that a whole (every man) is being put for a part (who believes in Him). These are also the ones being referred to when Jesus said:
“Behold I and the children which God hath given Me” (Heb. 2:13).
Jesus even said:
“I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine” (Jn. 17:9).
Jesus makes a clear distinction between the whole world in general and the elect who are dispersed throughout the world. Which further confirms the fact that the words “all” and “world” in Scripture are not always to be taken in an all-inclusive sense. Jesus said that His elect will be hated by “all” (Mt. 10:22), but does that literally mean all, which would include other believers? NO, it does not.
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed” (Lk. 2:1).
Again, “all the world” here is a figurative whole that’s being put for a literal part, because only those who were under the Roman government were being taxed.
So, in light of these obvious truths, are we really to believe the Arminians when they say that “all means all,” without even taking into consideration what the context so clearly reveals?
Does the “whole world” lie in wickedness, in an all-inclusive sense (1 Jn. 5:19)? Does “all the world wonder after the beast” (Rev. 13:3)? Certainly not, for such surface-level interpretations contradict the biblical import of language and passages within their proper context. Clearly, followers of Christ are not lying in wickedness and they are not wondering after the beast!
This is why context and biblical exegesis is so very important when “rightly dividing the Word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). For if Jesus was given by the Father in order to literally save all men from their sins, and yet many perish, then how would He be trustworthy and faithful to all of His promises? For all of those that Jesus died for, are also promised all spiritual blessings, which most certainly includes the grace gifts of faith and repentance (Rom. 4:8; 8:32). For God not only decrees the ends, but also the means for accomplishing His purposes.
Scripture reveals that God’s redemptive love is unchangeable and everlasting. But if Arminianism was true (and thankfully it’s not) then that would mean that God still loves those who are in Hell,, even though the Bible is clear that the condemning, unappeased wrath of God eternally abides upon them (Jn. 3:36). So, what kind of redemptive love would never even apply the eternal benefits of such a universal atonement? It would not be a trustworthy, saving love at all!
Arminianism makes Jesus out to be a failure, by attempting to separate His redemptive work from the Fathers will and the application of it by the Holy Spirit, which would completely sever the divine unity of the Godhead in salvation. But thankfully the true Jesus of the Bible is promised to be an eternal blessing for all of those that He has died for, because He loses none that the Father has given Him, for they shall, in time, receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and all of the spiritual things that are necessary for them to be saved (Jn. 1:12-13).
“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
“Us all” refers to the “all” who will be given “all things” that pertain to eternal life, because Jesus has promised eternal blessings to all that the Father has given Him (Jn. 17:2). And He will not and cannot lie:
“I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28).
So dear reader, PLEASE prayerfully think this through, so that you will not be deceived:
”God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them” (2 Cor. 5:19).
If everyone in the whole world, who has ever lived, has been reconciled to God, and if everyone has had their sins imputed to Christ, then why in the world would any end up in Hell paying for them again? Such vain, non-sensical Arminian philosophy also contradicts Romans 4:8:
“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
So why would any that Jesus died for end up not being eternally blessed? The only way a universal atonement would be good news is if there was also a universal redemption, but there’s not, for that would contradict Scripture, because it’s clear that many perish in Hell.
Therefore, a universal atonement would be really, really bad news, because it doesn’t keep anyone from ending up in Hell, for it does not actually atone for ALL of the sins of ALL of those that it was allegedly designed for. There is a universal call of the gospel, which goes out to the entire world, but there is NOT a universal atonement or a universal salvation represented in Scripture, because only Jesus’ sheep will hear His voice, so to speak. But those who are not His sheep will continue to follow false shepherds (Jn. 10).
God’s Word reveals that there is only a definite, substitutionary, propitiatory and perfect atonement that saves ALL that it was designed for. There is a fountain free, open to ALL who thirst for a perfect righteousness outside of themselves; ALL who realize their inability to believe enough or repent enough to merit salvation; ALL who realize their will is in bondage to sin unless Jesus sets them free; ALL who realize their desperate and complete hopelessness, helplessness and sinfulness apart from the Saviors imputed righteousness; ALL who come trusting only in Jesus Christ and what He actually accomplished at the cross for sinners. These are the ones that it was designed for, and they shall ALL come to Him, and they shall ALL be saved!
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
This verse does NOT say “whosoever” without exclusion has the natural ability to believe and thirst after righteousness. Everyday life even testifies to this fact! Instead, the context shows that “whosoever” are those who will never perish because of unbelief, for God graciously gave them His Son, Who has obtained for them the spiritual gift of faith that will, in time, enable them to believe from the heart (Eph. 2:8; 4:8). The context of John 3 also clearly states that those who never believe have already been condemned (v. 18).
Yet, Arminianism teaches that Christ died for the whole world, even those who end up in Hell, which blasphemously implies that His death didn’t obtain particular redemption for anyone. Case in point, it suggests that His death accomplished nothing! But, in order to try to appear biblical on the surface, many Arminians will still attempt to borrow the Calvinistic truth of a substitutionary atonement. However, they always end up denying it in effect, because a substitution that doesn’t actually substitute is no substitution at all!
This is why it is so important to realize that just because a Bible passage uses the word “world” it does NOT automatically refer to every single person who has ever lived. Scripture is clear, in Romans 11:12, the Gentiles are referred to as the riches of the world, in order to clarify the fact that salvation is NOT just for a remnant of the Jews only, but that salvation is also for a remnant taken from EVERY tongue, tribe and nation throughout the world (Mt. 24:31).
“And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2).
Once again, the words “whole world” is expressed in general terms here, for Jesus’ propitiation did NOT put away the sins of every single individual that has ever lived! The words “not for ours only,” refutes such a notion and coincides perfectly with all the other parallel passages that make it so clear that the Jews were NOT the only nation that had a remnant chosen by God. Jesus did NOT just die for a remnant of the Jewish people, which is why the words “whole world” is used. How could it be any clearer?
Scripture interprets Scripture…
“…he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (Jn. 11:51-52).
God’s Word constantly conveys the fact that even Gentile nations have a remnant, chosen by God, who have been scattered abroad. And the promise that He shall gather them is an emphasis that is reiterated throughout Scripture. For even more confirmation, we discover the following:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word” (Jn. 17:20).
God’s elect remnant is referred to in other parallel passages as well:
“I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word” (Jn. 17:6).
Clearly, not everyone in the world has kept God’s Word and not everyone is gathered in Him, but only those who belong to Him. Even Revelation 5:9 makes a clear distinction between the whole world and God’s gathered remnant:
“Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood OUT of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.”
Revelation 7:9 also states the following:
“After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, OF all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”
Therefore, those who have eyes to see, can clearly concede that God’s Word contains overwhelming evidence that reveals the undeniable fact that He has a remnant of chosen people, throughout the whole world, who are scattered abroad and brought near to Him through faith in Jesus’ blood.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
All spiritual blessings are found only in Christ Jesus and what He accomplished on behalf of sinners. His definite atonement not only procured the ends, but also the instrumental means of faith and repentance, so that all who trust solely in Him and what He actually accomplished at the cross can be sure that they have been elected by God before the foundation of the world. What a comfort it is to know that He rescues His lost sheep, He secures their salvation, and He gathers His chosen remnant!
“Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end” (Jn. 13:1).
Copyright ©2021 by Lee Anne Ferguson.