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All Times and Nations


The position which Christ ascribed to Himself in the world, sufficiently indicates that His death was, in the divine purpose, a provision for all times and nations, and that there was to be no repetition of the sacrifice. We shall briefly adduce His testimony to both these points.

1. With respect to all times, the sayings of Christ imply that He was the centre-point of the world’s history, to whom all previous ages looked forward, and all subsequent ages look back. The saints who lived under the time of the first promise, to whom the advent of the woman’s seed was revealed, or who expected Abraham’s seed, in whom all the families of the earth were to be blessed, were saved by the retrospective efficacy of His atoning death, and not in virtue of a typical expiation, which was but a shadow of good things to come (Gen. iii. 15, xii. 3). The pardon . . . which extended to unnumbered multitudes during the ages preceding the birth of Christ, was due to the blood of atonement about to be shed in the fulness of time.

The fact that the death of Christ is set forth in its retrospective, as well as in its prospective, influence, shows the vast superiority of the blood of the new covenant as compared with that of the old covenant. The one was merely for the Israelites, the other was “for many;” which may be interpreted for men of all times and generations, even for those who were long dead, but had faith on Him who was to come. This may warrantably be held to be there taught by our Lord (see Matt. xx. 28, xxvi. 28; John vi. 57). I shall not here adduce the statements in the Epistles, to the effect that the atonement had an influence of a retrospective nature, but content myself with saying, that this is set forth with peculiar emphasis in several passages (Rom. iii. 25; Heb. ix. 15). Our plan leads us to abide by the sayings of Christ. And we have more than stray hints from the mouth of Christ, that His vicarious death was retrospective as well as prospective in its influence. When we consider how He described Himself in contrast with all who ever came before Him, and condemned as thieves and robbers such as came with rival claims to His (John x. 1–7); when we hear Him speaking of the necessity of His death for the world’s salvation, as well as declaring that Moses, the prophets, and all the holy oracles testified of Him (John v. 39, 46); when we find Him here declaring that Abraham rejoiced to see His day (John viii. 56),—we have intimations which imply that He was the central figure of both economies, and that His incarnation and death had a relation to them who lived before His coming, and that their salvation was not less due to Christ’s atoning blood than ours. The scene on the Mount of the Transfiguration, moreover, when Moses and Elias appeared to converse with Him on His exodus or decease, about to be accomplished at Jerusalem, affords confirmatory evidence that the scope of that death had an application to all times. It was that on the ground of which they had been saved; for Christ was the atonement or sin-offering for the transgressions under the first covenant (Heb. ix. 15).

2. With respect, again, to the bearing of the atonement on men of all nations, Christ gave no dubious announcement that it was not limited to Israel, but had an influence which extended to those who were not of that fold (John x. 11), and that, in a word, it was irrespective of national distinctions. Thus He declared, on the occasion of the inquiring Greeks approaching Him with an express desire “to see Jesus,” and whose inquiries He regarded as the prelude or first-fruits of the wide in-bringing of the Gentile nations, that if He was lifted up or crucified as an atoning sacrifice, He would draw all nations to Him (John xii. 32). The same wide and universal reference of the scheme of redemption to all tribes and nations, wholly irrespective of the narrow limits of nationality, comes out in the other sayings of Christ where He alludes to the world and to the scheme of redemption in its bearing on mankind as such; who are addressed by the Gospel message, and summoned to the exercise of faith just because they are comprehended within the class for whom the atonement has been provided (John iii. 14–16). Hence the Lord directed His disciples to preach, with the most unrestricted universality, the remission of sins to all nations, and to announce it in His name as crucified and risen,—in other words, as the crucified Saviour, who offered an atonement for a people given to Him, without respect to nationality (Luke xxiv. 47). Christ may thus be designated the official Saviour of mankind, as men are contrasted with fallen angels, for whom no such provision is made; and on this ground the invitations of the Gospel, with all that is comprehended in them, are equally and without distinction made to all nations. Thus, irrespective of national distinctions or class distinctions, the invitation to accept a crucified Saviour applies equally to all tribes and ranks of men, and is offered indefinitely to all to whom the message comes.

—George Smeaton, Christ’s Doctrine of the Atonement (Banner of Truth, 2009), 380–383.

Posted 2018·06·15 by David Kjos
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