“Christ as our propitiation is a precious thought because it means that the wrath of God that we deserved was removed. Christ absorbed it, and took it away. He became the curse for us and took away the judgment of God. God was propitiated by God.”
– John Piper in his sermon, “The Greatest Thing in the World”
Jesus died for me. What a thought. When I meditate upon that thought, I scarce can take it in. It is almost too terrible, too wonderful, too scandalous. In the scriptures, there are two kinds of death described – physical and spiritual. Certainly, when we say that – “Jesus died for me” – we are not simply saying that Christ died a physical death in our place, for we all, like everyone who has lived before us, will die a physical death. Don’t misunderstand me. The physical death of Christ was certainly necessary, for our propitiation, but it was not enough.
So, when we say – “Jesus died for me so that I will not have to die” – we should mean something more than physical death, for Jesus also died a spiritual death. Let me explain. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of Sin, is death”, that is the penalty for being a sinner is spiritual death – the Wrath of God. Ephesians 2:3 continues this thought saying, “All of us also lived…at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like (everyone else), we were by nature objects of wrath.” Did you catch that? Paul said that we were “objects of wrath.” This helps us understand the nature of “spiritual death.” Spiritual death does not mean that we were “separate” or “apart” from God. It means that we were “enemies” of God and destined to be objects of His Holy Wrath. Not only were we under Wrath, the condition was even more disastrous because there was nothing we could do to change the situation. We were wretched. Shipwrecked. Homeless and hopeless.
Tennessee Williams describes the situation in his play, “The Milkman doesn’t stop here Anymore” when his character Chris provocatively concedes, “We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked inside.” In a devastating Pensee, Blaise Pascal adds to this bleak picture, “Imagine a number of men in chains, all under sentence of death, some of whom are each day butchered in the sight of the other; those remaining see their own condition in that of their fellow prisoners, and looking at each other with grief and despair await their turn. This is the image of the human condition.”
How dreadful are these thoughts, and yet, this is what the Apostle Paul means when he says that we are “objects” of God’s Wrath. So, who will save us from this horrible death? In Romans 7:25 Paul shouts the answer with the exuberance and joy of a death row inmate who has been exonerated while the noose was being tightened around his neck. “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
So this is the picture of what it means that Christ is our “propitiation”: Not only did Jesus suffer the wrath of men by suffering physically, but he also endured the Wrath of his Father upon himself, the Wrath that rightfully should be applied to me for all eternity. Jesus satisfied the justice of God. He bore our stripes. He received our pain. He took our sorrow. He endured our punishment. He removed our Sin and covered our Shame. He suffered the Wrath of Hell itself. So then, as Easter approaches, let us remember this wonderful thought. May this be our contemplation: Thanks be to God! Jesus died for me.