In What Sense Did Jesus Taste Death for a Person in Hell?

 So, we go back to the problem: in what sense did Christ taste death for their sins? If they are still guilty for their sins and still suffer punishment for their sins, what happened on the cross for their sins? Perhaps someone would use an analogy. You might say, Christ purchased their ticket to heaven, and offered it to them freely, but they refused to take it, and that is why they went to hell. And you would be partly right: Christ does offer his forgiveness freely to all, and any who receive it as the treasure it is will be saved by the death of Jesus. But the problem with the analogy is that the purchase of the ticket to heaven is, in reality, the canceling of sins. But what we have seen is that those who refuse the ticket are punished for their sins, not just for refusing the ticket. And so what meaning does it have to say that their sins were canceled? Their sins are going to bring them to destruction and keep them from heaven; so their sins were not really canceled in the cross, and therefore the ticket was not purchased.

The ticket for heaven which Jesus obtained for me by his blood is the wiping out of all my sins, covering them, bearing them in his own body, so that they can never bring me to ruin—can never be brought up against me again—never. That’s what happened when he died for me. Hebrews 10:14 says, “By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” Perfected before God for all time, by the offering his life! That’s what it means that he died for me. Hebrews 9:28 says, “Christ also [was] offered once to bear the sins of many.” He bore my sins. He really bore them (See Isaiah 53:4–6.) He really suffered for them. They cannot and they will not fall on my head in judgment.

If you say to me, then, that at the cross Christ only accomplished for me what he accomplished for those who will suffer hell for their sins, then you strip the death of Jesus of its actual effective accomplishment on my behalf, and leave me with what?—an atonement that has lost its precious assuring power that my sins were really covered and the curse was really lifted and the wrath of God was really removed. That’s a high price to pay in order to say that Christ tasted death for everyone in the same way.

I don’t think that the Bible commands us or, in fact, lets us say that Christ died for everybody in the same way. And the context of Hebrews 2:9 is a good place to show that the death of Christ had a special design or aim for God’s chosen people that it did not have for others.

–Excerpt from John Piper’s sermon, For Whom Did Jesus Taste Death? (May 26, 1996).

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