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Christ's Mercy Seat
by Wayne Blank
Other translations render the original Greek words similarly: Where the KJV uses "propitiation," the RSV uses "expiation," and the NIV uses "atoning sacrifice" or "sacrifice of atonement." Where the KJV uses "mercy seat," the RSV also uses "mercy seat," while the NIV uses "atonement cover."
"He is the propitiation for our sins ... And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments"
The Holy Bible has many dualities - objects, people and observances that would be fulfilled in their ultimate meaning or purpose in due time. The Levitical high priest, and the Tabernacle and Temple, were all about the Christ (see Christ The High Priest). In this reference, the same Greek word that is in the other 3 usages translated as "propitiation" is here translated as "mercy seat."
"And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation."
It was the love that God had for His children that He sent His firstborn "to be the propitiation for our sins."
"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10 KJV)
Justification is freely given to the just; grace is freely given to the gracious. The "law of faith," as stated in these verses, is explained in the Fact Finder question below.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Romans 3:23-28 KJV)
It is by no mere coincidence that the mercy seat, which symbolized Christ's atonement for repentant sinners (unrepentant sinners are headed for the lake of fire), was part of the "package" that contained the Ten Commandments. When asked in effect "what must I do to be saved?" the Christ did not answer as many misguided, and misguiding, preachers would today. Christ answered the question with "If you would enter life, keep the Commandments." (Matthew 19:17 KJV)
The apostle John stated it as plainly as it can be stated. Note also that John speaks directly of "the love of God" as mentioned above, again with "propitiation for our sins," but also again with the principle Truth that "hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His Commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not His Commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."