When our souls are threatened with despair, and the weariness that results from falling into the trap of “performing” for God, the rich theology contained in the word propitiation counsels us to find our soul’s rest in Jesus—the one who has already satisfied God the Father.
The Greek word translated “propitiation” is used to speak of the mercy seat, the place where the wrath of God was propitiated, satisfied by means of an acceptable sacrifice. In the Old Testament tabernacle, the mercy seat was the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:20). It was called the mercy seat because it was there that the High Priest satisfied God’s demand for a sacrifice for sin by the application of blood on the Day of Atonement and thus, the nation received God’s mercy and was spared His judgment. To show His acceptance, God rested upon the mercy seat in the form of a cloud. He rested there because His justice and His wrath against their sin were satisfied.
When we arrive in the New Testament, then, the mercy seat is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:25). God “passed over the sins previously committed,” knowing that His wrath against sin would be ultimately satisfied and His righteousness displayed by the perfect sacrifice of His perfect Son. This was the purpose of the incarnation: “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).
In the death of Christ, the wrath of God has been appeased. His righteousness was displayed as both the Just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26), and the door into His presence is thrown wide open (Hebrews 10:19). The empty tomb is proof that He is fully satisfied with Jesus’ payment for our sin and our justification has been secured (Romans 4:25).
Brother or sister in Christ, learn together with me. Let us cease striving to earn the acceptance of the One who is already satisfied and has, therefore, already accepted us in Jesus. Let us step off the never-ending treadmill of striving to please the One who is already pleased. Let us rest in Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).