In the Old Testament temple imagery on the day of atonement (Yom Kippur), the high priest entered the holiest of holies. He brought the blood from a sacrificed animal. He sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat atop the ark of the covenant. The mercy seat was the place of propitiation, by means of the propitiatory sacrifice.
The unblemished sacrifice was for the sins of the high priest and the sins of the whole nation. Yahweh would see the blood which became a propitiation for sins. In other words, the just wrath of God directed against sins and sinners was appeased by the blood of the substitute.
The nation of Israelites acknowledged their sins in this act on a day of solemn contrition. God was honored for His holiness and for His giving His righteous Law to the Jewish people.
The return of the high priest was a welcome sign that God had received and accepted the priestly duty and the sacrificial blood. The sins of the nation were forgiven. God was pacified in His righteous anger against sin and evil.
In addition to the propitiatory placating of Yahweh, there was expiation, too. Not only was wrath averted, the guilt accompanying sin was alleviated. This is the meaning of expiation. All of this was temporary in the Old Testament age. The sacrifices needed to be repeated.
The wrath of God against sinners is derived from God’s hatred. Hatred is a sentiment, while wrath is an action. We must emphasize that God is not emotional in the same way as sinful men. His hatred and wrath are not like the underground molten river of lava waiting for the right time to blow the volcano top. The Bible assures us that God is slow to anger and slow to wrath, despite unceasing provocation.
Where there is sin, God’s hatred is kindled. The wrath of God is the righteous consequence for sins committed against God. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom 1:18).
The essence of sin is separation. Sin separates us from God and from others. It was the root cause of the fall of man, and it remains the source of toil in our labors and strife among laborers. God hates sin, and He hates the workers of iniquity (Ps 5:5; 11:5).
The discord brought by sin into man’s relationship with God must be removed entirely. There must be an utter purification for sins, and it must be permanent moving forward, in order to avoid more sacrifices.
The good news is that God Himself has appeased His own wrath against His chosen people (Rom 8:1). By sending forth his only begotten Son, He has made propitiation for sins of His people (Heb 2:17, 1 Jn 4:10), from every nation, tribe, and tongue (1 Jn 2:2; Rev 5:9). While wrath remains for most of humanity, there is a remnant from both Jews and Gentiles, who enjoy liberation from the looming darkness of God’s wrath to come (Mt 3:7; 1 Thess 1:10).
The death of Christ on the cross, that is, His shed blood for the remission of sins, has been brought to the place of propitiation in heaven. Christ’s propitiatory sacrifice for His bride, His church, is a one time, once for all His people offering for sins.
What the Law of God required, in terms of justice, has been honored. The substitutionary atonement: Christ, the just, for His unjust people has been accepted by God (1 Jn 3:18). This was demonstrated by the return of the great high priest from the dead, in His resurrection (Acts 17:31; 1 Cor 15). God’s pleasure, regarding His Son, is repeated in the Scriptures, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased (Mt 3:17; 17:5).”
Here is the beauty and glory of Jesus, the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29). His priestly sacrifice of Himself was offered and accepted because it is exactly what God’s holiness and righteousness required under the Law, in order for there to be reconciliation between God and man.
Christ, the Mediator of the covenant of grace, has served in sacrifice and now serves in priestly prayer for His people, ever making intercession on our behalf (Heb 7:25). The veil of heaven is rent, and we enter and live in the presence of God, His Father and our Father.
The wrath of God still looms for the reprobate, unredeemed, unregenerate, unbeliever. For the adopted child of God, however, the loving discipline of our Father is in effect until the day of glory (Heb 12:4–11). This is God’s will, our sanctification, while we remain in this obdurate world of sin (1 Thess 4:3). Jesus has appeased the wrath of God, and He has made us glad.
Spokane Valley, Washington
February 20, 2022