Eastern Orthodox/Propitiation


Did God punish Jesus with his wrath?

Glory to Jesus Christ!

There is a misconception in Western Christianity that if we suffer, it is because we have made God mad; he is "wrathful". But we do know that even "good" people suffer. Did God punish Jesus with His wrath? Well, actually, in as much as the Orthodox Church believes that Jesus IS God, then the question becomes did God punish HIMSELF in His wrath? I suppose we could revise this question to "did God the Father punish God the Son in His wrath, but we know that, as a Trinity, all the persons of the Trinity act as ONE. So perhaps a better understanding of that word "propitiation" is in order.

Rom. 3:25 and Heb.9:5 (A.V., "mercy-seat") the Greek word _hilasterion_ is used. It is the word employed by the Septuagint translators in Ex. 25:17 and elsewhere as the equivalent for the Hebrew _kapporeth_, which means "covering," and is used for the lid of the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:21; 30:6). This Greek word (hilasterion) came to denote not only the mercy-seat or lid of the ark, but also propitation or reconciliation by blood. On the great day of atonement the high priest carried the blood of the sacrifice he offered for all the people within the veil and sprinkled with it the "mercy-seat," and so made reconciliation. In 1 John 2:2;4:10, Christ is called the "propitiation for our sins." Here a different Greek word is used (hilasmos). Christ is "the propitiation," because by his becoming our substitute and assuming our obligations He reconciles us to God. (Comp. Heb. 2:17, where the expression "make reconciliation" of the A.V. is more correctly in the R.V. "make propitiation.")

A "better" English word might be "expiation" and I don't think it is a point of contention. Guilt is said to be expiated when it is visited with punishment falling on a substitute. Expiation is made for our sins when they are punished not in ourselves but in another who consents to stand in our place. It is that by which reconciliation is effected. Sin is thus said to be "covered". The cover or lid of the ark is termed in the Septuagint version of Holy Scripture. Hilasterion, that which covered or shut out the claims and demands of the LAW against the sins of God's people, whereby he became "propitious" to them. The idea of expiation runs through the whole Old Testament system of sacrifices. It is not God who is being "satisfied" but the LAW.

In short, the word "propitiation" is used to describe Christ's sacrifice. God is not "wrathful" or angry with God. Christ's suffering and death in our place "covers" our sins. God is not "punishing" God, but God is accepting Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. Does that help?

Your servant,

Eastern Orthodox

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