"Was Anyone Saved at the Cross?" – Part 1

Excerpted from an article by Dr. James White

The Intention of the Atonement

Why did Christ come to die? Did He come simply to make salvation possible, or did He come to actually obtain eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12)? Let’s consider some passages from Scripture in answer to this question.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10).

Here the Lord Jesus Himself speaks of the reason for His coming. He came to seek and to save the lost. Few have a problem with His seeking; many have a problem with the idea that He actually accomplished all of His mission. Jesus, however, made it clear that He came to actually save the lost. He did this by His death.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Timothy 1:15).

Paul asserts that the purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was to actually save sinners. Nothing in Paul’s words leads us to the conclusion that is so popular today—that Christ’s death simply makes salvation a possibility rather than a reality. Christ came to save. So, did He? And how did He? Was it not by His death? Most certainly. The atoning death of Christ provides forgiveness of sins for all those for whom it is made. That is why Christ came.

Christ’s Intercessory Work

But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:24-26).

The New Testament closely connects the work of Christ as our High Priest and intercessor with His death upon the cross. In this passage from Hebrews, we are told that the Lord Jesus, since He lives forever, has an unchangeable or permanent priesthood. He is not like the old priests who passed away, but is a perfect priest, because He remains forever. Because of this He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him. Why? Because He always lives to make intercession for them.

Now, before considering the relationship of the death of Christ to His intercession, I wish to emphasize the fact that the Bible says that Christ is able to save men completely. He is not limited simply to a secondary role as the great Assistor who makes it possible for man to save himself. Those who draw near to God through Christ will find full and complete salvation in Him. Furthermore, we must remember that Christ intercedes for those who draw near to God. I feel that it is obvious that Christ is not interceding for those who are not approaching God through Him. Christ’s intercession is in behalf of the people of God. We shall see how important this is in a moment.

Upon what ground does Christ intercede before the Father? Does He stand before the Father and ask Him to forget His holiness, forget His justice, and simply pass over the sins of men? Of course not. The Son intercedes before the Father on the basis of His death. Christ’s intercession is based upon the fact that He has died as the substitute for God’s people, and, since He has borne their sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), He can present His offering before the Father in their place, and intercede for them on this basis. The Son does not ask the Father to compromise His holiness, or to simply pass over sin. Christ took care of sin at Calvary. As we read in Hebrews 9:11-12:

When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

When Christ entered into the Holy of Holies, He did so “by his own blood.” When He did this, we are told that He had “obtained eternal redemption.” This again is not a theoretical statement, but a statement of fact. Christ did not enter into the Holy of Holies to attempt to gain redemption for His people! He entered in having already accomplished that. So what is He doing? Is His work of intercession another work alongside His sacrificial death? Is His death ineffective without this “other” work? Christ’s intercession is not a second work outside of His death. Rather, Christ is presenting before the Father His perfect and complete sacrifice. He is our High Priest, and the sacrifice He offers in our place is the sacrifice of Himself. He is our Advocate, as John said:

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2. [This passage is often used to deny the specific atonement of Christ; yet, when the parallel passage in John 11:51-52 is consulted, it is clear that John means the “world” to be taken in the same sense that is explained for us in Revelation 5:9-11, where Christ’s death purchases for God men “from every tribe and language and people and nation,” that is, from all the world.]

That Christ does not act as High Priest for all men is clearly seen in His “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17. The Lord clearly distinguishes between the “world” and those who are His throughout the prayer, and verse 9 makes our point very strongly:

I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.

When Christ prays to the Father, He does not pray for the “world” but for those that have been given to Him by the Father (John 6:37).


To be continued. . .

9 responses to “"Was Anyone Saved at the Cross?" – Part 1

  1. The excerpt misses the momentum in the Scriptures climaxing at the “finished” vision of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ’s perfect and transfigurative death on the cross, viz.: the point of sustainable change in man’s regeneration or the whole story of salvation of which there are two eye-witness versions. They are:

    1)Matt. 16: 13-28; 17: 1-13; 26: 63-64; 27: 50-56 and

    2)John 1: 47-51; 3: 1-21; 4: 21-26; 6: 62-64; 8: 21-32;14: 15-21; 16: 5-33; 17; 19: 30-37.


  2. I have a feeling, Ephrem, that it misses the point of your ‘special vision’, but does not miss Dr. White’s intended comments on the atonement, nor does it miss the point of scripture. But everything seems to miss the point of your ‘vision’ I am not sure I get the point of that vision either, since your redundant language concerning it is not clear. You never define what exatly you mean, in terms of scripture. Is this some extra-biblical vision?


  3. If the Scriptures themselves are being missed wholesale, what are the chances of my points being noticed?

    The point of the vision I keep referring to is exclusively grounded in the Scriptures. Consider the following promises of firsthand evidence on the divinity and authority of Jesus Christ once claimed and applied but forgotten today.

    1) “I am telling you the truth: you will SEE HEAVEN OPEN and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man” in lieu of hearsay evidence even Jesus'(John 1:47-51);

    2) “When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am'”: just as promised, i.e., God’s self-revelation as in Moses’ vision of the “flame coming from the middle of a bush on fire but not burning up” signifying self-sufficient life with a promise of repeat vision for posterity (Ibid, 8: 21-28 based on Ex. 3: 1-15);

    3) “Whoever accepts my commandments and obeys them, … I will reveal myself to him” (Ibid, 14:21);

    4) “The time will come when I will not use figures of speech, but will speak to you plainly about the Father. When that day comes, you will ask him in my name, and I do not say that I will ask him on your behalf.” (Ibid, 16: 25-26)

    5) “I tell all of you: from this time on YOU WILL SEE the Son of Man sitting on the right of the Almighty and coming on the clouds of heaven!”, a clear promise of an imminent, open-ended vision of Jesus’ divine identity and authority unless we agree with the high priest’s charges of blasphemy (Matt. 26: 64-65; 27: 50-56);

    6) “People will look at him whom they pierced”: in terms of the “blood” of his death signifying eternal life and the “water” of his baptism signifying the Holy Spirit to reveal ultimately Jesus’ glory in his perfect and trans-figurative death on the cross (John 19:37; 1 John 5: 6-12 applying John 16: 5-15 and quoting Zech. 12);

    7)”Before your very eyes you had a clear description of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross!” (Gal. 3:1)

    8) SEEING “a Lamb standing in the centre of the throne …who appears to have been killed” (Rev. 5) –a great vision of the unmistakably immortal Christ, even through his death on the cross, and complete with the outpouring of his Spirit: the missing “key to open all the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2: 1-3)

    Summary: Equivalent to “God’s powerful weapons”, only such vision is able “destroy strongholds, false arguments and pull down every proud obstacle that is raised against the knolwledge of God” in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 10: 6-10). Is this some extra-biblical vision?


  4. I did not miss your scriptures, and I doubt Dr. White has either.The point is the atonement. Did Christ’s death actually save anyone, or just make it possible for men to be saved?. That is Dr. White’s point/question. WAS anyone really saved at the cross? That’s the question Dr. White address and where we should keep comments.

    I remember years ago, while reading the passage in Revelation 5, having a picture of our Savior on the cross with drops of blood falling to the ground and on each drop of blood was a name – on one drop was my name. I am not claiming any sort of vision, but to this day I believe that is what is meant that Christ ‘purchased’ with His blood, men for God.
    You don’t go to the store, lay some money on the counter and say give me ‘something’. You intend to purchase something specific.

    Is that what Christ did? Did he actually ‘purchase’ men for God?


  5. The “hard way” and “narrow gate” to life (which few people find on first attempt), in terms of preliminary and final works by Jesus Christ including baptism in the Holy Spirit (“the water of his baptism”), lead directly to Christ’s death on the cross (John 19: 34-35; 1 John 5: 6-12).

    The number of first-saved in Christ’s death, even if they were precious few, can be divided into two groups, viz.:

    1) The EARLY WINNERS: the wife of Zebedee/her two sons who were quietly present at the crucifixion; and the woman with an alabaster jar of perfume who “prepared Jesus’ body for burial (Matt. 20: 20-28; 26: 6-13; 28:56; John 19: 25-27).

    2) The RUNNER-UPS: the army officer, Joseph and Nicodemus (Matt. 27: 50-56; John 19: 30-37).

    A powerful and well-documented, “before and after” testimony of salvation at Christ’s death is the case of Nicodemus: complete with a point of change from one “born of the flesh” (coming to Jesus by night) to another “born of the Spirit” (standing up in broad daylight and being counted for the cause of Jesus all the way to the cross, Pilate’s palace and beyond to the tomb)!

    Therefore, the cross of Christ (the “tree of life”) is a LIVE forum for Christ’s self-revelation in his saving power (John 8: 21-32; 14: 15-21) but not a market-place for payment of ransom!


  6. The simple, such as me, heed to the thoughts from God. It is men who cause the confusion by adding to and taking away from God’s Word.

    Defined as “payment for sin”, Christ’s death on the cross is completely contrary to God’s distinctive commandment against IDOLATRY AND HUMAN SACRIFICE (Gen. 22 demonstrated; Deut. 12: 29-32 warning) actually robbing the power from the cross of Christ (the “tree of life”)!

    Hence, Jesus’ rebuke of Simon Peter: “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God but from man.” (Matt. 16:23)


  7. That Christ died for our sins, that although sinless, He bore the wrath of God for OUR sin (paid what our sin deserves), is the very center of the atonement of Christ, according to all lf the teachings of the Apostle Paul. In fact, God sent His Son do die in our place.

    Your comment conceerning ‘sacrifice’ reveal a lack of understanding of scripture, my friend. It is God who instituted the sacrificial system in the Old Testament to atome for the sins of people. The death of his son was the ultimate sacrifice for sin,

    Perhaps you need to pay more attention to scripture than your vision?


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