The real horror of being outside of Christ is that there is no shelter from the wrath of God.
Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin – the punishment of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by His grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him.
I believe a word that forcefully captures the essence of Jesus’ work of propitiation is the word exhausted. Jesus exhausted the wrath of God. It was not merely deflected and prevented from reaching us; it was exhausted. Jesus bore the full, unmitigated brunt of it. God’s wrath against sin was unleashed in all its fury on His beloved Son. He held nothing back.
Christ exhausted the cup of God’s wrath. For all who trust in Him there is nothing more in the cup. It is empty.
Propitiation addresses the wrath of God. It is the work of Christ saving us from God’s wrath by absorbing it in His own person as our substitute. Expiation, which basically means “removal,” accompanies propitiation and speaks of the work of Christ in removing or putting away our sin. Such is the symbolism of the two goats used on the Day of Atonement. The first goat represented Christ’s work of propitiation as it was killed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat. The second goat represented Christ’s work of expiation in removing or blotting out the sins that were against us. The object of propitiation is the wrath of God. The object of expiation is the sin, which must be removed from His presence.
When He died, Jesus actually accomplished expiation and propitiation for sins, but for whom? If Jesus propitiated God for the sins of all, then all are saved. Clearly, however, not all are saved. This is because it was never our Savior’s intention to propitiate God’s wrath for everyone who ever lived. Rather, it was His intention to redeem all of His people completely.
By His death on the Cross, Christ has become the Lamb that was slain for us, our Redeemer, the One who has made peace between us and God, who has taken our guilt on Himself, who has conquered our most deadly enemy and has assuaged the well-deserved wrath of God.
The word “propitiation” (pro-pish-ee-ay-shun; sometimes translated, atonement) means this: Jesus fully satisfied the just anger of God for people like you by dying in your place, taking on himself all the wrath you deserve. We learn about this in Romans 3:24-25 and Hebrews 2:17. God’s just fury, indignation and anger for sins were poured out on Christ for every sinful person who will come to him by faith.
When Christ gave His cheek to the betrayer’s kiss He knew that He was putting the cup of wrath to His lips, the full dregs of which He would not taste until the morrow when He would cry out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” [That is,] “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”
Jesus knew that if there had been any conceivable way whereby God could have redeemed the world other than by the horrible death of His Son, God would never have resorted to such an expedient. He knew that there never could be any other name given under Heaven whereby men must be saved. He knew there was none other good enough to pay the price of sin; none other could open the door and let us in. Jesus knew that if those dear ones whom He had left were to drink of the vine again with Him in the kingdom of God, there was but one way – He must drink of the cup of God’s wrath.
But the animal sacrifices weren’t that substitute. No person was ever delivered from divine judgment by the death of any animal. The repeated sacrifice of animals was simply a continual symbol of the fact that God does deliver by the death of an innocent substitute, but no animal was ever satisfactory to God and so the sacrifices went on and on and on and on by the millions. And the people waited for a sacrifice that would be satisfactory to God, to which all those unsatisfactory sacrifices pointed. That day came on that Friday when God chose His lamb and offered Him as a sacrifice, a substitute for sinners, and poured out His wrath on that innocent substitute.
The Final Passover, the First Communion. The sermon originally appeared at: (https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/42-269/the-final-passover-the-first-communion) at www.gty.org. © 1969-2008. Grace to You. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.
What is the most important Book in the universe? The Bible. Which book within the Bible is the most important? Romans. Which chapter in Romans is the most important? Chapter 3. Which paragraph in Romans 3 is the most important? Verses 21-26. Which verse in that paragraph is the most important? Verse 25. Which word in verse 25 is the most important? “Propitiation” (Murray Harris).
He hideth our unrighteousness with His righteousness, He covereth our disobedience with His obedience, He shadoweth our death with His death, that the wrath of God cannot find us.
It would be hard to exaggerate the differences between the pagan and the Christian views of propitiation. In the pagan perspective, human beings try to placate their bad-tempered deities with their own paltry offerings. According to the Christian revelation, God’s own great love propitiated His own holy wrath through the gift of His own dear Son, who took our place, bore our sin and died our death. Thus God Himself gave Himself to save us from Himself.
If you have come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, having repented of your sin and come humbly to Christ, not one tiny bit of your suffering is because of the judicial punishment for your sin. It may be for your sanctification and your loving discipline, but not for punishment. Christ is the one who bore the wrath of God against sin on your behalf.
The cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.