In light of the discussion on Spencer's book below, a quote from Stan Grenz...
Given these pictures of the benefits of Christ's death, how do we become the recipients of his act on our behalf? This question- the application of Jesus' atoning sacrifice to our sinful situation- returns us to the issue of the atonement that has been central throughout theological history. Are we to understand the work of Jesus as objective or subjective in intent? Is it an event of history that fundamentally alters reality, or is it primarily directed toward evoking a response from sinful humans?
The New Testament declares that the atoning work of Jesus is an objective, completed fact (1 Pet. 3:18). Our Savior died once for all. This act effected a fundamental alteration in the relationship between God and humankind, and it sealed his authority over the cosmic powers. The New Testament also indicates that Jesus' provision is intended to move us to appropriate its benefits. In fact, Christ's death is of no value unless we respond in faith to the God who in Jesus purchased reconciliation.
How can we bring together these seemingly diverse ideas? Perhaps an analogy suggests the answer: Suppose the leader of a country announces a total amnesty for all jailed persons. That provision is effective for the individual languishing in prison only if the prisoner personally appropriates the offer and walks out of the jail. So also Jesus ' death has altered the relationship between God and humanity and has freed us from the dominance of hostile powers. Yet until we appropriate the new status he offers us, our Savior's death is of no salvific effect. For this reason, the New Testament writers declare that despite Jesus' sacrifice the one who does not believe "stands condemned already" (John 3:18).
As our expiation, Jesus' sacrifice covers all sin, so that God is able to forgive any and all . Hence, Christ's death radically altered the relationship between God and humankind . At first glance, this declaration appears to lead inevitably to universalism, the teaching that in the end all will be saved. But is this indeed the case?
...If the atonement were directed only toward God's set disposition against sin, we could gladly affirm that all humans will eventually enjoy fellowship in the eschatological community of God. However, our wretched human situation consists not only of the sin that evokes God's displeasure, but also our own enmity against God. Through Christ, God is reconciled to us. But in our sin we remain at odds with him. From God's side, therefore, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus is universal; from the human side, however, its efficacy requires our response, namely, that we be reconciled to the God who has reconciled the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:19-20). This means that all may not be saved. Some may hold on to their set enmity against God despite Christ's provision.
The application of this principle to the reality of hell follows naturally. Were the problem that required Christ's death only with God, hell would be a fleeting phantom. However, our enmity against our Maker and Savior means that hell remains a real possibility, for it is ultimately our own doing. Stubborn human hostility necessitates it.
Stanley J. Grenz. Theology for the Community of God. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000). Page 349-350.