A trillionaire heard about a volcanic island ready to erupt and sink into the sea. All the inhabitants were helpless to save themselves and would surely perish without outside intervention.
The trillionaire decided he would spend every last penny to build a ship big enough to save everyone on the island. So the ship set sail and arrived at the island. The inhabitants were perplexed. Some recognized that help had arrived, understanding their destiny apart from this gracious act. Others preferred their life on the island, come what may.
The terms were simple. Those on the island were to leave everything behind and trust that the ship would bring them to safer shores. They would be expected to live with their rescuer and serve him in his mansion--a cushy life, though subject to the one they would serve for the rest of their lives. They would be expected to read the book on what life would be like living with the trillionaire. They were told to stay on the boat, even if they did not like the terms. They were promised that their new life was even better than what they could read, and they could hear recordings on the boat of the trillionaire describing himself and their future home--which gave them further hope.
They had their times of restlessness and would often not get along with one another as they were in such close quarters, but, remembering the gracious character of their new master, they grew in that same character--which also gave them further hope.
Finally they arrived to safer shores--a glorious new home. The trillionaire, though he had spent everything, received back what he had spent and more. The ship returned, as it had never ceased to be HIS ship--his wealth had just changed forms for a time. His dependents would graciously and adoringly live with and serve him for the rest of their lives.
This to illustrate some things. Jesus did not cease to be God. He just "emptied himself," "[becoming] flesh," one day to be glorified once again, having accomplished His mission (Philippians 2:6-7; John 1:14). Calvinists and others point to the limited atonement--and misconstrue many Scriptures--because they struggle with the idea that somehow some of Jesus' blood would have been wasted. If he truly died, was buried, rose, and ascended to the right hand of the Father to return again and establish his everlasting kingdom, then nothing was wasted! Yes, not all of God's creation would choose to honor Him as God, but they did indeed have the chance. Romans 1:20 speaks very clearly, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."
A verse cited for the idea of exclusive predestination (related to limited atonement) is Revelation 13:8, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain." The Greek verb tense translated "has [not] been written" is a combination of perfect and imperfect tense. The perfect tense implies a completed action with continued results. The imperfect tense implies past action which was continued, repeated, or habitual. John is writing of future events, so the "past" in the context could still be our future from the standpoint of our current time.
Considering the imperfect tense: If God did the writing continuously or repeatedly, that implies a work completed over time--from the foundation of the world onward. This further implies that everyone will have had a chance to have their name written in the book of life.
Considering the perfect tense: their names, once written, would always be written.
Interpretation: Those with a true saving faith have assurance of salvation, and the opportunity for this kind of faith has been given every person from the creation of the world onward.
The sad reality is that many have rejected this gracious offer. Some even put on a ruse or deceive even themselves who make a profession of faith without an actual conversion--submission to the Holy Spirit's work of regeneration.
The key is understanding that God, not man, is the center of all things. It does not diminish God's attributes to say that He has truly offered eternal life to all. In fact, it magnifies His character.
This is the blog of Tyler Shepard, the Associate Pastor for Centre Union Church in Yeagertown, PA.
I hope you are encouraged and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus Christ!