Romans 3:14-20 by Robert Dean
At the point of salvation, we receive several things from God. One of them is Righteousness. But whose Righteousness is it? Is it a righteousness that God the Holy Spirit creates within us, or is it God's own perfect Righteousness from His essence? And what of redemption and propitiation? When Christ paid the legal penalty for all mankind's sins on the cross, He served as our kinsman redeemer, and God's justice was satisfied - propitiation. That means that redemption and propitiation relate to all mankind. Yet the condemnation of Adam's original sin and the state of unrighteousness and spiritual death must still be resolved. So what must occur for God to make a declaration of Righteousness for each one of us?
Series:Romans (2010)
Duration:56 mins 36 secs

Redemption and Propitiation
Romans 3:14–20
Romans Lesson #036
October 6, 2011

We are in Romans chapter three. The last couple of lessons we've gone through Romans 3:21-22. "But now the righteousness of God," that is, God's own righteousness. I have belabored this point in terms of understanding the genitive construction in the Greek. Is this righteousness from God or is this God's own righteousness. I believe it is God's own righteousness that is given to us. This speaks of His own righteousness, His essence. "Apart from the law it is revealed." That which is His character now is revealed or disclosed. "Being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets" - that indicates that this is revealed through the Word. The Law and the Prophets relates to the Old Testament Scripture. Verse 22 "even the righteousness of God (the same righteousness, has to be His essence), "through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe." "To all and on all who believe. For there is no difference". The phrase in the English "to all and on all who believe" is a textual variant - it is simply "to all who believe" in the Greek. The other phrase is probably not in the original. "For there is no difference".

We talked about this last time. How do we get the righteousness of God? We get it through imputation. This is so important to understand that we as fallen human beings have no righteousness on our own. Even the best that we can do does not measure up to the high standard of God's perfect righteousness. Isaiah 64:6 says "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags." I keep emphasizing this - He does not say unrighteous deeds but righteous deeds. The best that we have to do is just garbage in God's sight. So we cannot do anything to make ourselves righteous.

Then we have the righteousness of Christ on the cross. Our sins were imputed to Him, credited to Him. I pointed out last time that this is what is called a judicial imputation because there is no natural affinity between our unrighteousness and His perfect righteousness. So it is a judicial assignment of our sin to Christ as a substitute. In the same way, His righteousness then is going to be credited to us. 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." So that we are declared righteous - that is what it means.

It is so important to recognize this issue that it is a declaration of righteousness - we are not made righteous. You see the little cliché that shows up on a bumper sticker "I'm a Christian. I'm not perfect, I'm just forgiven." There are so many people who do get the idea that if you are a Christian, then that means that somehow you are just morally better than everybody else. And indeed within Roman Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, this is their view. It is what they also call infused righteousness. It is not a declaration of righteousness: it is that God actually transforms the individual Christian so that he is not unrighteous anymore. He becomes righteous, so that he is morally changed. This is not what the Scriptures teach; that is not the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. The emphasis is on a forensic justification that Christ's righteousness is judicially assigned to us in the same way that our unrighteousness was assigned to Him. So that just as He did not actually become a sinner on the cross but He bore the penalty for us, so we do not actually become righteous, but His righteousness is assigned to us. When God the Father looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ that covers us and declares us to be righteous.

Last time I pointed to the imagery that we have back in the Old Testament in Zechariah 3 that is so important to understand. Zechariah sees the vision of Joshua the high priest, not Joshua the general, after the return from the Babylonian captivity standing before the Angel of the Lord. That has got to be the preincarnate Christ because all the way through the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord is viewed as full deity and is clearly seen as a different personage and person than the Father. Joshua worships the Angel of the Lord, offers sacrifices to the Angel of the Lord, calls the Angel of the Lord Yahweh. The Angel of the Lord is seen as fully divine but distinct from Yahweh.

This is also seen, as a matter of fact, in Zechariah 1:12 where the Angel of the Lord answers and speaks to the Lord of hosts. So there is a conversation between the Lord of hosts (Yahweh of hosts, Yahweh Sabaoth). The term "sabaoth" is what you sing in "A Mighty Fortress is our God." It is the Hebrew plural word for armies. Hosts is just an antiquated English word. And so in Zechariah 1:12, the Angel of Yahweh answers and says, "O, Yahweh Sabaoth, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah." And the Lord answered him. So you see in Zechariah 1:12 that there is this conversation between two divine personages. Now we understand that from the lens of the New Testament that that is God the Father and the preincarnate Son, Jesus Christ. In the first few verses of Zechariah 3, when you have that imagery of Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, it is the Angel of Yahweh who is being challenged by Satan as to how God can accept Joshua the high priest because his garments are unclean. This is a picture of the fact that he is a sinner. His filthy garments are removed and clean garments are put on him. This is a great picture, a great visual image of what imputation is and the declaration of justification.

Try to think in these terms when we think through these basic doctrines. They are all prefigured in the Old Testament; they are all taught in the Old Testament. So when you think of imputation and justification, you ought to think of Zechariah 3 and the clothing of the high priest, and you ought to think of Abraham in Genesis 15:6. We will see that redemption is tied to the Exodus event, and propitiation is tied to the ark of the covenant. If you just keep these images or historical events in your mind, it helps to understand what these abstract things are. It is great to see how in the process of revelation, God started off in the Old Testament giving pictures and taking historical events and assigning certain significance to them as also a symbol of what He does. When we get into the New Testament trying to understand more abstract doctrines, then we already have these pictures there to help us to understand what is going on. So there is a declaration of righteousness and that is what we mean by justification. The blessing of God then flows to us not because of what we do but because of the righteousness of Christ which we possess.

Romans 3:22 states "even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ". It becomes ours through faith in Christ "to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference". Then verse 23 is really a parentheses within the main line of thought - the verse we have all learned, hopefully - "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". The "glory of God" is often a term for the entire essence of God: all that God is. The main line of thought is "even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe, ... (skip down to verse 24) being justified". That is really a causal participle, a present participle, and it should be understood with a causal sense "to all who believe because they are justified freely by His grace." So justification is the free gift ("justified freely by His grace"). "Freely" is not an adverb; it is the word for gift, dorian. They are "justified as a free gift by His grace through redemption." So what comes first? If you have a statement saying that you are justified through redemption, what comes first - justification or redemption? Redemption comes first. Redemption establishes the foundation upon which justification can take place.

I want to go back into the Old Testament and look at what it means to be redeemed. Here is where I want to go with this. There are three things that have to happen in order for any person to be able to get into heaven. The first thing that has to happen is the sin penalty has to be paid. In Genesis 2 God said that if Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would immediately die, he would certainly die. That was a legal penalty (separation from God) that the whole human race is under condemnation because of that. So there is a legal penalty problem. The second thing is that as a result of that legal penalty being enacted upon Adam, all of Adam’s descendants are born spiritually dead – that is the consequence of that penalty. That is a personal reality as opposed to a general, legal reality. Every person that comes into this earth, except for Jesus because of the virgin birth, is under condemnation, has a sin nature, and is spiritually dead. A spiritually dead person can’t get into heaven.

The third problem is that they are unrighteous. Now we have already seen how the unrighteousness problem is solved - by faith. But the spiritual death problem is also solved by faith because when we trust in Christ, then God the Holy Spirit makes us alive again. That is called regeneration: we are born again. But only those who believe in Jesus are born again, and only those who believe in Jesus are justified. The first problem, the legal problem, is something that is solved for everybody. The sin penalty is paid for everybody; everyone is redeemed. God is propitiated for everyone. Those are really two sides of the same coin. One is manward—redemption pays the price for man. Because that price is paid for man, God's righteousness and justice are then satisfied. So redemption is sort of a manward event that occurs for all, and propitiation is a Godward event that relates to every human being. That just pays the legal penalty. The penalty is paid, but what is the problem? You are still spiritually dead and still lack righteousness. If those two problems are not repaired, then you are still under condemnation and still go to the lake of fire, not for your sin, because that is paid for, but because you have rejected God-s solution. That is the thrust of John 3:18: "He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed (not because you have sinned because the sin is paid for) in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

So now these are the two words that you find in the Old Testament related to the concept of redemption. Each one has a little different nuance. The first one is gaal." "Gaal shows up throughout most of the Old Testament and emphasizes the fact that God redeems through a kinsman-redeemer. This is depicted in the book of Ruth in the Old Testament where Ruth's husband has died, her father-in-law has died, and she is left with just her mother-in-law. She is not Jewish; she is Moabitess, but she is a believer. She aligns herself with her mother-in-law Naomi, and she goes to live in the land with her. God is going to provide for her through Boaz who is her goel, her kinsman-redeemer. It depicts the fact that to be redeemed, we have to be redeemed by someone who is like us. An angel cannot redeem us, a God cannot redeem us as a pure deity, but an human being has to redeem us.

The word padah has the meaning to purchase or to ransom. Now the one thing that ought to come into your mind every time you hear the word redemption is the payment of a price. That is the fundamental idea. Redemption means to pay a price, the sin penalty. Imputation is to credit somebody with righteousness. Justification is to declare someone righteous. Propitiation is to satisfy the justice of God. So connect those words together. Now padah has the idea of paying a ransom or paying a price to set someone free from a state of slavery or from being under some legal penalty. The end result is that they are set free.

There are about seven words that are used for redemption in the New Testament, and they each have a little different emphasis. The first six words on this slide are all built off of a root syllable in the Greek, LU. Its core semantic meaning is to release something. It is used of divorce in 1 Corinthians. In the form of these words on this slide, based off the noun LUTRON, you can add prefixes such as ANTILUTRON or APOLUTROSIS. These slightly change the emphasis of the word. The verb is LUTROO. Each of these has a different sense to it, but the main idea is deliverance by the payment of a price. If you look at (d), the verb LUTROO means to pay a ransom price, to liberate somebody from slavery or imprisonment, but it always has the main idea of paying a price. The noun LUTROSIS refers to redemption. The noun LUTROTES refers to the redeemer, the individual who does the redeeming, the one who pays for redemption. ANTILUTRON (ANTI is the preposition for substitution) emphasizes the substitutionary sense of the payment. Emphasis in all these words has to do with paying a price on behalf of someone else in order to set them free.

Then there is a second word group from the root AGORAZO or AGORA. The agora in Greek was the marketplace. So again it has this idea of a purchase, to buy something in the marketplace. The verb AGORAZO means to purchase something. EXAGORAZO means to purchase something out of the marketplace and was used for purchasing the freedom of a slave or liberating a slave. The main idea of redemption has that idea of paying a price to remove a penalty. That relates to removing the sin penalty from the human race.

It is used in a number of important passages. Job 33:28, "He (God) will redeem (padah, emphasizing the payment of a price) his soul from going down to the Pit ("Sheol") and his life shall see the light." So instead of death, there is life because of redemption. Psalm 44:26 speaks to God in prayer. "Arise for our help, and redeem us for your mercies' sake." Emphasizing that redemption is based on mercy, not based on works in the Old Testament but ultimately on God’s mercy.

Now one of the first places that we find an emphasis on redemption in the Old Testament is in Exodus. The picture of redemption (and I reference this all the time when we have the Lord's Table) is grounded in the Exodus event. When the Israelites are redeemed or freed from slavery, that becomes the picture in the New Testament of how God liberates us, redeems us from the slavery to sin.

In Exodus 6:6 we read "Therefore say to the children of Israel (God is speaking to Moses): 'I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage; and I will redeem (there is the word gaal, indicating it is going to be accomplished through a kinsman redeemer) you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.' " Then we have in Exodus 15:13 (after the Exodus event, the plagues and deliverance through the Red Sea) "You in Your mercy (lovingkindness) have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation."

What is the basis in this verse for their redemption? Is it because they were such good, wonderful people? No. Is it because they obeyed the Law? No. The Law had not been given yet. What is the basis for their redemption? Their redemption is based on the loving-kindness of God—His chesed, His free grace, His faithful, loyal love to His covenant. So it is on the basis of his loving-kindness that He led the Israelites out of Egypt; He redeemed them. He redeemed them on the basis of Exodus 6:6 "with an outstretched arm," which always refers to His omnipotence, His power, and "with great judgments." The redemption is accomplished through the judgments that God brings upon the Israelites which culminates in the last judgment which is the Passover, i>Pesach. The Passover is a picture of the lamb that dies who is the redemption price for the firstborn. When the lamb is sacrificed, the blood is applied to the door face. The Lord passed over the house, and the firstborn did not die.

Exodus 6:6 and 15:13 speak of redemption. It is used a lot in Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 7:8 Moses says "Because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers." Notice it is not "because you are such wonderful people or obeyed the Torah or because you have done righteousness." That’s not the reason God redeemed them. He redeemed them first of all because He loved them. Second, because of the oath He swore to their forefathers. It is based on God’s character, not on what man does. Never, ever in Scripture is man redeemed on the basis of human works or human effort.

Continuing in Deuteronomy 7:8 "The Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage." Deuteronomy 9:26 "I prayed to the Lord, and said: 'O, Lord God, do not destroy Your people and your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness.' " God is the one who redeems them. We don't redeem ourselves. Deuteronomy 13:5 also speaks of "God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage." Deuteronomy 15:15 "You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore, I command you this thing today." So again and again, God is the one who redeems. Redemption becomes one of His major characteristics, one of the major identifiers of God in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 21:8 "Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed." Deuteronomy 24:18 is another one.

IIn Isaiah 41:14 Yahweh is described here. " 'Fear not, you worm Jacob, You men of Israel! I will help you,' says the Lord and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel." This is one of the major titles for Yahweh in the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah. He is the goel, which emphasizes that He has to be a kinsman. There is an implied prophecy here that the one who comes to redeem must be a human being. You have passages like the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 that He would be born of a virgin. Isaiah 9:6 also indicates that the Redeemer would come as a human being. Isaiah 48:17 "Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer (your goel), the Holy One of Israel." Jeremiah 31:11 "For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of one stronger than he." It is always God who performs the work of redemption - from his grace, His chesed or His lovingkindness, from his mercy. That is redemption.

The New Testament has the same idea. It describes salvation from the viewpoint of the legal penalty of sin that is paid for by Christ on the cross. Redemption looks at the human race as being shackled by sin, shackled as a slave to sin, under the penalty of sin; and Jesus is the one who pays that redemption price./p>

When you think of the way this passage is structured in Romans 3:24 "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." The redemption price is paid, and it is on that basis that God then can justify us. So redemption is for all; justification is for those who believe.

RRomans 3:25 develops this further. Verse 24 "Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is Christ Jesus, (25) whom God (the whom refers to Christ Jesus) set forth." Jesus Christ is set forth, put on display by God "as a propitiation by means of His blood." Just a couple of things to remind you of in terms of how we understand this verse. When we read passages that talk about the blood of Christ, it is not that His physical blood is that which pays the penalty. The term "blood of Christ" is a figure of speech to describe death, just as in the Noahic Covenant. The shedding of blood is a term, an idiom, for causing death, and it indicates a violent death. In the Noahic Covenant, it is murder. In Romans 3:25, it is Jesus "set forth as a propitiation by His blood."

Words such as imputation, justification, propitiation, and redemption are not found in a lot of the newer, more modern translations. Some of these words are found in the NASB. NASB, I think, is aimed at the 9sup>th or 10th grade level for reading. The KJV is for the 12th grade, but I don't know too many 12th graders or too many others who can understand it. NASB is modernized; the NKJV is modernized. But these usually are more advanced, a little more difficult to understand because of the vocabulary. So you have the popularity of a lot of not only translations but also paraphrases. The difference between a paraphrase and a translation is in a translation the translator is sitting down with the original Greek or Hebrew in front of him and translating it from the Greek or Hebrew into English. A popular paraphrase is the Living Bible.

II remember going to camp back when I was a little kid, and we were encouraged to buy the first one that came out - the Living Letters, the epistles of Paul. That is great if you just want to read but not good to study. If you are just reading to get the gist of what is being said, a paraphrase is good. It gets it down into a little more everyday language. Ken Taylor, who was a Dallas Seminary graduate and who did the Living Bible, started this because he was reading to his children when they were little, and they couldn't understand the KJV. He would write out what he was going to read to them at night and put it into words that they could understand. So he is not working from the original languages; he is just paraphrasing the translation and putting it into a little more useable vocabulary for a younger audience.

I remember when I was a senior in college, I realized I didn't know the Old Testament that well. I did not have a NASB until after I graduated from college; I still had the KJV. I would try to read through the Pentateuch, and you would just get lost. It was hard to read it just to get a gist of who's who and what's what and where's where and how to understand it. So I went down to a little Bible bookstore and gift shop that was around the corner from the campus. I was looking at Christians books, and they had this little thing called "A Digest of the Old Testament," a sort of Reader's Digest version of the Old Testament that was taken from the Living Bible. It was abridged and condensed, but it was still large and had most everything in it. It put everything into chronological order so that you were not reading things that were out of order. I remember it took me a couple of months to read through the whole thing. It was the first time I had a grasp of what was going on in the Old Testament. I was not reading it to study; I was reading it to get an understanding of the flow of history, of people, and of events so that I could have a better grasp of the Old Testament. That is very helpful.

We have lost a generation today who can't think theologically for a lot of different reasons, one of which is they have a dumbed-down Bible with dumbed-down vocabulary. These words like redemption and propitiation are not new. I remember sitting in first semester Theology Proper in the Spiritual Life at Dallas Seminary. There was a guy sitting next to me that was about 43 or 44 and a retired Naval commander. He had just gotten out of the Navy and had come to seminary. He was looking at words like omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, and his brain was turning inside out. He had not been taught well in any church, which happens with a lot of guys in the military because they move around so much. He just was not exposed to any kind of technical biblical or theological language. So he was just as lost as he could be and having so much trouble getting through his theology lessons.

This is a problem today. We have taken these words out and put in more user-friendly words. Then later on people do not move from childhood to adulthood in terms of their reading and never learn these words. It is very important to have a vocabulary so that you can think clearly and precisely in any field of endeavor. So often today that is sort of looked down on especially when it involves the Bible. Yet most people go to a doctor who tells them the kind of cancer they have and what the treatment will be. They have never heard any of those words before, so they write them down and then look everything up on the Internet. They do not have a problem learning that vocabulary when it really matters to them. But the Bible does not matter to them, so we are not going to learn those big words. We will go down the street to some other church./p>

Romans 3:25 "God set forth (Jesus) as a propitiation by His blood" - that means by His death. Propitiation is a word that basically means satisfaction. The justice of God has to be satisfied. So we paraphrase this as "God set forth Jesus as a satisfaction by His death." His death satisfies the justice of God. Then He says "through faith to demonstrate His righteousness." So that the fact that Jesus goes to the cross to die demonstrates that God is righteous. God just cannot say, "Well, you have sinned; you have made a mistake. You can do better tomorrow. We are not going to have any serious penalty." There is a serious penalty involved, and it has to be dealt with. God cannot compromise His own integrity by reducing the payment, the legal penalty for sin, unless it is paid. That is the purpose of propitiation: it is directed towards the justice and the righteousness of God.

TThe first word that is involved is the Hebrew word kaporeth, and that relates to the mercy seat that is on the box that was the ark of the covenant. The basic Hebrew word for atonement was kaphar. This is where we get the term Yom Kippur. Starting tomorrow night at sundown on the Jewish calendar, all your Jewish friends will be going to synagogue for Kol Nidre, the evening service before Yom Kippur/i> on Saturday. In Judaism, this period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is called the Days of Awe or the High Holy Days. It is a time for reflection upon your sins, seeking God's forgiveness on the basis of whatever your good deeds are, and hoping that you have performed enough good deeds so that your name will be inscribed in the Book of Life. Yom Kippur is a heavy day in Judaism; it is a day of soul searching and trying to make penance to God for one’s sins in preparation for the coming new year, so that you will be begin the year with your name inscribed in the Book of Life.

That is not how the Day of Atonement began in Exodus; that is how it was transformed under the influence of Pharisaic theology coming out of the 1st century after the destruction of the temple in AD 70. What we are focusing on is the original meaning assigned to the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Kpr - those are the three consonants that are at the root of kaporeth. You have an ending eth, but the root is kpr for atonement. Kaporeth refers to the mercy seat; it is the place where ritual atonement took place annually for the nation where they are cleansed.

There has been a lot of interesting work done on the meaning of this word over the last 30-40 years. In a lot of our Bibles, the word group kaphar is usually translated with the English word atonement, which was a word that was made up or coined to explain this word. You do not find atonement anywhere in the New Testament. It is the English word "at-one-ment." It really sounds more like reconciliation. What is interesting is the word that shows up more in the Septuagint as a translation of kaphar is KATHARIZO, which means cleansing. It has to do with the cleansing of sin. At the end of the year, there is a sacrifice made on the Day of Atonement by the high priest, and the nation is cleansed of its sins, the unintentional sins. The intentional sins are left in the hands of the grace of God, but the unintentional sins are cleansed. It takes place when the high priest brings the blood of the lamb from the atonement and places it on the mercy seat.

So God's instructions are given in Exodus 25:17. The word for mercy seat is the word kaporeth. "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold." Now it is interesting that the box for the ark of the covenant is made out of acacia wood, which is very hard, dense wood not prone to rot or to any kind of corruption. When you are in Israel, you can see a lot of acacia trees. I understand in California and the West, there are places that have acacia trees. It is a great picture of the humanity of Jesus Christ that was sinless. It is covered with pure gold - a picture of His deity. So you have a combination of the gold and the wood which depicts the hypostatic union: the undiminished deity and true humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The mercy seat itself is pure gold. It is 2-1/2 cubits long (which is about 45 inches; a cubit was about 18 inches) and 1-1/2 cubits wide (27 inches). On top God said, Exodus 25:18 "You shall make two cherubim ("im" is the Hebrew plural) of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat." (19) "Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat." (20) "And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat." That is really important because something is going to happen on that mercy seat once a year. That is where the cleansing, the atonement takes place for the nation.

I picked up a couple of interesting new books on the temple that were written by a couple of rabbis that have come out just in the last two years. They are fascinating. The full color artwork in these books is unbelievable. They have detailed pictures of the joints and how every little detail was made. If you remember from our study in Hebrews, there is some discussion as to whether or not the altar of incense was just outside the veil separating the outer holy place from the inner holy of holies. Based on the prepositions used in Hebrews, some say it was just inside the veil where the high priest could part the veil a little bit and deal with the incense without going inside the holy place. In both of these books written by Jewish writers different from anything else I have ever seen, they stick the altar of incense at the entryway to the holy place. So the very first thing you encounter as a priest as you walk into the holy place is the altar of incense. Then there would be the table of showbread and the menorah. One thing I would like to find out about is why do they move it? Maybe it is because it is based on a rabbinic tradition that developed that is post-biblical. Both books are based on not only what the Scripture says but what the later rabbis taught./p>

In Exodus 25:22, God says "And there I will meet with you (speaking in relation to the high priest), and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel." Here is a picture of the mercy seat and the two cherubs overlooking it. Now what is the problem with the artist's depiction here? It is not one piece. The cherubs were to be all one piece. Most other depictions that I see are like this one where their wings touch at the top, completely covering the mercy seat. This is where the action occurs.

Cherubs in the Scriptures are always associated in context related to the righteousness and justice of God, or His holiness, which is usually thought of as a combination of His righteousness and justice. Inside the box originally, or some think just in front of the box, there was the table of the Testimony (the 10 commandments, the tablets that had been broken by Israel), Aaron's rod that budded (speaks of the rebellion against the leadership, the priesthood that God provided), and a pot of manna. Some think that the tablets were the only things inside the ark, and the others were set out in front of it. We have gone through all that in our study of Hebrews.

TThe picture is that the high priest would bring the blood from the sacrificed goats. There were two goats taken - one is killed, and the one who has the sins identified with it is taken out into the wilderness. He is taken far, far away so that he cannot wander back, picturing the fact that our sins are completely removed from us. Then the blood from the sacrificed animal is placed on the mercy seat as a picture of our sins being atoned for, being cleansed. It used to be that people would say the meaning of the word "kophar" is covered. In some places you have a synonym or homophone. In Genesis 6, Noah "kophar’d" (covered) his ark with pitch. But pitch is not the idea we have in other places, so that is considered to be a separate word now. This word that is used here is understood to emphasize cleansing.

Jesus Christ, therefore, is displayed publicly as a propitiation. He is the mercy seat. The Greek words HILASMOS and HILASTERION are two forms of the Greek word for propitiation or the mercy seat. Jesus Christ is pictured as the mercy seat; He is the one who makes atonement. At the cross, God solved the problem of His righteousness and justice, so it is Jesus who is the propitiation with God. Romans 3:25 "Whom God set forth (displayed publicly) as a propitiation by His blood through faith." This was to demonstrate God's righteousness because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.

The sins that were committed in the Old Testament are passed over by God. The payment has not actually been paid yet; it is paid in AD 33. But what about all the sins committed from the time of Adam until the cross? God passed over that knowing that at the cross, they would be paid for. It is not as if their salvation was ever in doubt, as if it was uncertain that it would be paid for, because God in His omniscience knows exactly what will take place. Until those sins were actually paid for, the Old Testament saints did not have access to heaven.

That is why Jesus between His death and resurrection goes to Sheol and Abraham's bosom and announces His victory, makes the victorious proclamation that He has paid the penalty for sin (the defeat of Satan). Then he takes Paradise, Abraham's bosom, to heaven. Once the sin is actually paid for on the cross, then the Old Testament saints have direct access to heaven. Jesus Christ is viewed as the Priest who makes propitiation. Hebrews 2:17 "Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren (concept of kinsman redeemer, the goel) that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people." We are told the extent of this in 1 John 2:2 "And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins (believers), and not for ours only but also for the whole world." So that the propitiation and redemption are actually taken care of for all people. The issue is not their sin; the issue is faith in Christ because only by believing in Christ are you born again and receive imputed righteousness and justification. 1 John 4:10 "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Again, the motivation is the love of God, not who we are or what we have done.

Back to Romans 3:25 "Whom God set forth (Jesus) as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness (God's righteousness has to be satisfied) because in His forbearance (His patience) God had passed over the sins that were previously committed." There had to be judgment for sin, and that is what took place on the Cross.