The problem of Propitiation and the solution of "Hilasterion" - Day 4

As we saw yesterday, when translators debate between "propitiation" or "expiation" as the translated word, they miss the point. Instead of carrying the connections and meaning of the Greek word "Hilastērion," they try to theologically guess the mechanics of how sin is dealt with. Their obsession with the "how" overshadows the significance and reality. This goes completely and horribly beyond the text. Their guesswork becomes translational commentary and betrays their claim of "sola scriptura." This also becomes a massive problem when their hypothesis introduces many layers of theological baggage that can not be supported with the Bible alone. This can be seen clearly in the lyrics of the second stanza of the song "In Christ Alone":

In Christ alone! who took on flesh
Fulness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

Do know you that you cannot find a single verse in the Bible that comes close to saying, "The wrath of God was satisfied"? Neither can you find any verses that say God poured His wrath on Jesus. These ideas are simply not in the Bible, nor are they even implied. These ideas are completely founded and developed wholly in the human minds of theologians. Sadly, these ideas have been so developed that people assume they are scriptural. Their theology comes off like a pathological liar, someone who has said it so many times they actually believe it as truth. Ironically their greatest proof are the verses that contain the word "propitiation," which again is not only false but forced. On this single mistranslated word they claim that God pour His wrath on Jesus to satisfy His anger. While theologians can string verses together to attempt back up their hypothesis of mechanical theology, it entirely ignores the wonderful image that is clearly intended in this single word.  

So what does "hilastērion" mean? While one would think it would be complicated to translate (based on the debate), the meaning is quite clear. We see this word 28 times in the Greek Translation of the Old Testament. The word specifically and literally means "mercy seat" which is the lid of the Arc of the Covenant, found in the Tabernacle. It was on this location that God actually dwelled with his people. It was on this location that blood from sacrifices was sprinkled. It was on this location where God gave mercy and forgave sin. The mercy seat is literally the place where sin was dealt with. "Hilastērion" was a physical place that you could physically point to. This word is not about mechanics or theories or guesswork, rather this word encapsulates the idea of where God dealt with sin using the clear image of the Tabernacle. 

With this background we can understand that it is Jesus who acts as the "hilastērion." He is the place where sin is dealt with. He is the solution to the debate, when we set aside our mechanical theories. When we do this, we gain the entire image of Jesus as the Tabernacle. We are reminded that as God that wanted to dwell with His people in the Tabernacle, Jesus did likewise. Jesus was the wone who "dwelt" (literally tabernacles) with us (John 1:14). We are reminded that it is Jesus who is our High Priest (Hebrews 6:20) that offers himself as the sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27). Jesus Himself is the only one who encompasses and replaces every aspect of the Tabernacle and the Sacrificial system. His life, death, and resurrection puts an end to the old ways and ushers in the Kingdom of God (Heb 8:13, Lk 4:43).

When this is all viewed properly we see that the Gospel is much bigger and much better and more beautiful than our theories, regardless of how time has been spent polishing them. When "hilastērion" is viewed properly, it frees us from dancing around twisted theology. When we set aside the propitiation vs. expiation debate we no longer have the theological ramification that is created with our mechanical theories. We no longer have a wrathful God who must punish His Son for our sins. We no longer have Jesus as a lame-duck sacrifice.  We no longer have divine child abuse as the center of our faith. For it is Jesus who endured the cross for the joy - I repeat, joy - that was set before him (Heb 12:3). For it was Jesus who laid down his life on his own accord (John 10:18). For it was Jesus who conquered over sin and death and the kingdoms of this world (1 Cor 15:54-57, Col 2:14-15). 

May we forever forgo false and forced theology. May we always allow the fullness of the Gospel to be active and alive. May we clearly and properly see the continuation of the Gospel throughout the whole Bible. May we again rejoice in our King, our High Priest, and our Mercy Seat, who not only is the place when sin is dealt with forever but also where victory is found! 


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