“The Limited Scope of the Atonement”
At the same time that Jesus’ ransom was for people from every tribe and nation, do note that it is not performed for all people or tribes without exception; rather, it is for all people and tribes without distinction. Christ’s atoning work was fully effective for the people he came to save, often referred to as the elect. The names written on the Lamb’s Book of Life were written before the foundation of the earth, nothing could ever erase them, and Jesus died to atone for the sins of those whose names are written within.
This does not mean that others, who will eventually and eternally reject the work of Christ, do not benefit from the blood that was shed by Jesus. Yet, the benefit they enjoy is secondary and it is not salvific. The world benefits from the good work of those who are saved. Hospitals, schools, relief agencies, and homeless shelters almost always have their roots in the work of Christian believers. Missionaries have been willing to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to every corner of the earth, where others would never dream of going, in the hopes of taking the gospel to some. Missionaries have often had to create a written language based on the spoken language that a culture used so that they can translate the Bible for them, this allows the tribes to communicate and learn, preserving their thoughts in written form for future generations.
God also gives some general blessings to all people. He gives rain to the crops without distinction; he gives air that is breathable, and new life in the womb. It is through Jesus that God the Father created and it is through Jesus that all things are held together, thus, without Jesus, the fabric of the universe would have torn itself asunder.
Were the scope of Jesus’ work to have been universal, there would be no people in Hell. Yet, Jesus talks more about the reality of Hell and those who will be sent there than any other New Testament writer or person. He ought to know, I think. Thus, if Jesus’ work is effective and unable to be frustrated, and if there is a Hell and it is populated, then by definition, Jesus’ atoning work was only for those he came to save.
Can you have any assurance that you are elect? Sure. If you have a genuine faith in Jesus Christ, if your life was drastically changed by him, if you are holding to him, clinging to him as your Lord and Savior, if you have served him by serving others, if you hunger and thirst for the things of God, and especially if you have remained faithful even through many difficult valleys, then you are one of the elect. These things mentioned above are works done within you by the Holy Spirit; they were not things you did on your own strength. And if Christ has begun a good work in you, he will bring that work to completion (Philippians 1:6).
Come, thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.