What does the word propitiation/Hilastērion mean?


By BibleAsk Team

Propitiation (Hilastērion)

The word propitiation, in Greek Hilastērion, appears 2 times in the King James Version of the Bible – in Romans 3:25 and in Hebrews 9:5. In 1 John 2:2; 4:10, the word propitiation is the Greek Hilasmos, which means “expiration” from hilaskomai, “to be merciful” (Luke 18:13), “to make reconciliation for” (Hebrews 2:17). Let’s allow the Bible to explain the word propitiation (Hilastērion):

Romans 3:25

The word propitiation is used to show Christ’s offer of justification and redemption. Thus, the word signifies the fulfillment of all that was typified by the “mercy seat,” in the Old Testament temple. Jesus, by His sacrificial death, became the atonement, compensation, propitiation, and reconciliation for the repentant sinners (Galatians 3:13).

The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ has met the penalty of sin and has made possible the pardon and reconciliation of all who have faith in Christ (John 1:14). The sacrifice of Christ was to fulfill both the love and justice of God. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

The atonement of Christ was not made in order to induce God to love those whom He otherwise hated; it was not made to produce a love that was not in existence; but it was made as a manifestation of the love that was already in God’s heart (John 15:13). God sacrificed Himself in Christ for man’s redemption. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

God’s mercy and justice have found a way to treat the sinners as though they were not guilty. Sin is a debt (Matthew 6:12) and the offender must one day give an account for it (Matthew 25:19). Thus, the good news is that God will not accredit sin to those who have been forgiven through Christ (Psalms 32:2).

But the atoning sacrifice becomes a reality only through the faith that takes it. Unless the extended forgiveness is accepted by faith, the atonement is of no benefit in reconciling those for whom the sacrifice has been offered. Faith is resembled to the hand that the sinner puts forth to obtain the “free gift” of God’s mercy (Romans 5:15). “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

Hebrews 9:5

The word propitiation in this verse refers to the “mercy seat” of the ark of the covenant. It was upon this Holy golden box that the blood was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:14, 15), and from which, by the benefit of the atonement, the sinner who had repented obtained forgiveness. This most holy ceremony was typical of the atoning ministry of the Son of God.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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