The Case for Unlimited Atonement Pt. 1

In the next series of posts, I have compiled biblical verses, commentaries, and responses from various Christian scholars and/or apologists showing why the belief that Christ died only for the elect is not biblical teaching.

On the meaning and extent of the word “Many”

 Here are a few examples where many can and does mean all:

“Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.” Isaiah 52:13-15

Who would deny that many nations here mean all the nations in light of the fact that the book of Revelation explicitly says that there isn’t a nation which Christ hasn’t come to redeem?

“And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed men for God by Your blood from EVERY tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10

“After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from EVERY nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: Salvation belongs to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! All the angels stood around the throne, the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell facedown before the throne and worshiped God, saying: Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen. Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people robed in white, and where did they come from?’ I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ Then he told me: These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His sanctuary. The One seated on the throne will shelter them: They will no longer hunger; they will no longer thirst; the sun will no longer strike them, nor will any heat. For the Lamb who is at the center of the throne will shepherd them; He will guide them to springs of living waters, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:9-17

And yet Isaiah 53 says that he bore the sins of the many which, in context, must refer to the nations which he sprinkles:

“Yet He Himself bore OUR sicknesses, and He carried OUR pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of OUR transgressions, crushed because of OUR iniquities; punishment for OUR peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. WE ALL went astray like sheep; WE ALL have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished (laid on) Him for the iniquity of US ALL. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate? For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of the transgression of my people. They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully. Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely. When You make Him a offering for guilt, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the LORD’s pleasure will be accomplished. He will see it out of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge. My righteous Servant will justify MANY, and He will carry THEIR iniquities. Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:5-12

In the following passages, we are told that all the sick came to Jesus to be healed and that they were many:

“That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Mark 1:32-34

“When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick.” Matthew 8:16

This shows that when an author speaks of many he is actually specifying how many the “all” happen to be, i.e. the actual number of the all were many as opposed to being few in number. In other words, everyone that was sick had come to Jesus to be healed, and they happened to be many in number.

Matthew on the extent of the atonement

In Matthew’s Gospel, the chosen ones whom God saves are said to be few, and yet Jesus came to die for the many!

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14

“just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’” Matthew 26:26-28

This means that, according to Matthew, Jesus actually died for more than the elect since he died for the many who were called, even though a large number of them will end up in hell.

In confirmation of this fact, this same Gospel has Jesus inviting everyone who is burdened (which is basically every single individual) to come and take his yoke upon them so that they can experience the rest which only he can give:

“All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him. Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:27-30

Jesus offered himself for Judas

According to Luke’s Gospel, on the night of his betrayal, Jesus offered the broken bread and the cup which pointed to his sacrificial death to all those who were present, telling them that he was doing this for them. What makes Luke’s account rather interesting is that one of those who were present and who actually partook of the Lord’s Supper was Judas himself!

“And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for YOU; do this in remembrance of Me.’ And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for YOU is the new covenant in My blood. But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!’ And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing.’” Luke 22:19-23

Now if the Lord wanted to exclude Judas he could have easily done so by qualifying his statements, much like he did in John’s Gospel when washing his disciples’ feet, which included Judas as well:

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, BUT NOT ALL OF YOU.’ For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean.’ So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I DO NOT SPEAK OF ALL OF YOU. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’” John 13:1-18

Christ’s statements that not all of his followers were clean, or that he wasn’t speaking about all of them, show that our Lord had no qualms about making sure that his audience knew he wasn’t referring to all of them. Yet no such qualification appears in our Lord’s words to the disciples when offering them the bread and the cup as a token of his sacrificial death on their behalf.

This, perhaps, explains why Biblical scholars readily admit that Judas personally partook of the Lord’s Supper:

Verse 21

The hand of him that betrayeth me, etc. – What can be desired more, says Dr. Lightfoot, as a demonstration that Judas was present at the eucharist? And, whereas the contrary is endeavored to be proved out of John 13, nothing is made out of nothing; for there is not one syllable throughout that whole chapter of the paschal supper, but of a supper before the feast of the Passover. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary:; bold emphasis mine)

Verse 21

But behold the hand of him that betrayeth me,…. By the “hand” is meant, not figuratively the counsel, contrivance, and conspiracy of Judas to betray him, as the word is used in 2 Samuel 14:19 but literally the hand of Judas, which was then dipping in the dish with Christ, Matthew 26:23 and it follows here, is with me on the table; and is an aggravation of his sin, that one that sat with him at his table, ate bread with him, and dipped his morsel in the same dish, should be the betrayer of him, according to the prophecy in Psalm 41:9 as well as describes and points at the person that should do this action, even one of his disciples; for which disciples, he had just now said, his body is given, and his blood is shed. The phrase, “with me”, is left out in the Syriac and Persic versions. From Luke’s account it appears most clearly, that Judas was not only at the passover, but at the Lord’s supper, since this was said when both were over. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible:; bold emphasis mine)

“… By referring to Judas’s betrayal after the Lord’s supper rather before (Mark 14:18-21; Matt 26:21-25), Luke revealed that participation in the Lord’s Supper does not guarantee membership in God’s kingdom. Compare John 13:26 and 13:27-30. Luke presented similar teachings elsewhere (see comments on 8:4-15; 13:22-30, ‘The Lukan message’).” (Robert Stein, Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) [B&H Publishing Group, 1993], p. 546; bold emphasis mine)

“The introduction of a betrayer in v 21 is pregnant with significance. First, it is stunning simply that the inner circle of Jesus’ followers, those who constitute the kin group with whom he has chosen to share Passover, includes a betrayer (cf. 21:16). Though Luke does little linguistically to point his audience in this direction, we may nonetheless hear reverberations of the tragedy detailed with respect to the suffering righteous, including the travesty of treachery by a table intimate (Ps 41:9). Second, although ‘hand’ often has the transferred sense of ‘power,’ this term has also been used in reference to those who stand over against Jesus, those seeking his demise. That such a person is present even at Passover with Jesus is illustrative of the openness of his practices of table fellowship, but is also reminiscent of his earlier warning: Sharing table fellowship with Jesus, even listening to his teachings – these are no guarantee of entry into eschatological redemption (13:22-30)…” (Joel b. Green, The Gospel of Luke (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997], pp. 764-765; bold emphasis mine)

 I have more to share in the next installment (


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