Thursday, March 26, 2009

Did Jesus Die for Hitler?

"Did Jesus die for Hitler?"

This is an interesting question, but is also a somewhat inflammatory one. It carries emotional baggage because of the horrors Hitler directed during WWII. A better question is whether or not Jesus died for those who never accept Him as Lord and Savior. I think we (meaning biblical Christians) can all agree that Jesus certainly died for all those who have faith in Him. But what about those who never believe?

We can also agree that all those who do not believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior go to hell when they die. Jesus was abundantly clear about this.

Back to the question at hand: Did Jesus die for unbelievers?

The answer to this question is closely tied to whether Jesus' sacrifice on the cross produces actual salvation or potential salvation. If Jesus' death actually produces salvation, then He must have died only for those who would believe. Otherwise, everyone would be saved. Actual salvation only occurs for Christians.

If, however, Jesus' sacrifice does not actually save, but only potentially saves, then He could have died for Hitler or anyone else. He could have died for everyone who ever lived. If Jesus' death potentially brought salvation, then something else has to be added to Christ's work on the cross in order to earn salvation. In this view, what is added must be faith.

The problem with the "potential view" is that faith becomes a work, whereby man earns salvation through Christ's death AND his own faith.

The bible makes it clear that we are saved by grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

Additionally, the bible tells us that Jesus' death actually procured salvation. He actually bore sin and paid for sin.

Isaiah 53:11-12, "He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors."

II Corinthians 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

I Peter 2:24, "who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness -- by whose stripes you were healed."

The bible tells us repeatedly that Jesus' sacrifice was enough to buy salvation. Nothing else adds to His work. This is one of the things that differentiates Christianity from all other religions. All other religions offer a works-based salvation. Christianity is grace-based. God has done all the work needed for salvation, and then bestows it as a gift.

If Jesus died for every individual, then His death only bought a potential salvation. This view suggests that Jesus' death on the cross was not enough. Faith becomes a work.

If, however, Jesus' sacrifice did actually purchase salvation, then no other work is required. His death was enough. This view holds that Jesus died for the elect, not for all individuals.

So, did Jesus die for everyone? Did Jesus die for Hitler?

The answer has to be a resounding "No." Otherwise, salvation is not of grace.

(So where does faith come in? Faith is a response to the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Faith does not earn salvation, but everyone who is saved does have faith in Christ.)

What should we do in response to this awesome truth? Fall on our faces in praise and thanks to the God who died for us.

4 comments:

Zebedee said...

This is a very interesting debate and I'm quite certain that it shall always be. I would add a further comment to the mix, however. Paul affirms in Romans 10 that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." I don't necessarily agree that faith is a work, but it is part of the justifying process that Christ completed on the cross. Additionally, scripture states that Christ is the "author and finisher of our faith". This would make me question the remark that faith is a "work". If it is a work, then wouldn't it be a work of Christ in us (by the Holy Spirit)?

In closing, I would also like to comment that James 2:14-26 (a very familiar passage to many), links faith and works as separate entities that work together for the purpose of salvation.
I know there is a fine line here, but it is one that I choose to not be too dogmatic with.

Thank you for the thought inspiring post, and I pray that God will continue to bless your ministry.

Eric said...

Zebedee,

Thank you for commenting.

As for faith, I do not believe it is a work. However, it is required for salvation. No one is saved who does not believe.

Those who hold to a general atonement must believe that some work has to be added to Christ's work for salvation to occur. Why? because they cannot believe that Christ's work is enough for salvation to occur. If they do, then they are Universalists.

Lew A said...

Eric,

What if we're looking at it wrong. What if Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross isn't what actually saves us because our sins aren't actually what send us to Hell? I know this is a pretty heretical idea. What if Jesus' sacrifice on the cross solved the sin problem, so we could be saved. Not based on works, but based on something else (faith?).

I don't believe everyone is saved, but I do believe everyone is forgiven by Jesus. Even the people who nailed him to the cross were forgiven by him (Luke 23:34).

A while ago I asked myself a question, "What does the Bible say will send us to Hell?" Until I asked that question, I had always believed the usual answer - "our sins". However, I had a hard time justifying that with the Scriptures. But I found some Scriptures that indicate that Jesus took away the sins of the world.

So, then, what is the answer? The ONLY piece of Scripture that I found that described people going to Hell started around Revelation 20. Which ends with, "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

Based on these chapters, it appears that those who will enter Paradise are found in the Book of Life, those who will enter the lake of fire (Hell) are not found in the Book of Life. I believe we can say is that our sins have been forgiven by Jesus, but only those who are found within the pages of the Book of Life will enter Paradise.

God Speed,
Lew

Eric said...

Lew,

This is an interesting idea. I'll have to think on it.

My initial struggle with what you have written is the idea of forgiven people still going to hell. That seems to do harm to God being just.