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Question #424

Is the Mercy Seat the same as the Throne?

I don’t understand Question #66: Did Christ go into the heavenly tabernacle and sprinkle his blood on the Mercy Seat (Throne of God)? If Jesus did do this then why did Paul, In Romans 3:25, say that Jesus was our mercy seat? Is Rom 3:25 just being figurative? If the Mercy Seat is God’s throne then how can Jesus be God’s throne? The scriptures talk about the son of man (Jesus) sitting upon his throne, but if the Mercy Seat is the throne, and Jesus is the Mercy seat… ahhhh I just don’t get it. Can you please help me understand?

The Answer:

The confusion has multiple sources.

Christ did enter the heavenly tabernacle. Neither scripture nor the Answer to Question 66 says that Christ sprinkled his blood on the Mercy Seat. What it does say is that he appeared once at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

The Greek word for “Mercy Seat” appears nowhere in Heb. 9:23-26. It appears only 2 times in the New Testament – Rom. 3:25 and Heb. 9:5. In Rom. 3:25 the ESV translates it “propitiation,” the ASV “propitiation,” the RSV “expiation,” the ISV “place where atonement by the Messiah’s blood would occur,” the NKJV “propitiation,” the NIV84 “sacrifice of atonement,” and the GW as “the throne of mercy where God’s approval is given.” (There is a difference between “Mercy Seat” “throne of mercy.” It is the equivalent of “place where atonement would occur.”) There may be some that translate it as “Mercy Seat,” but these are certainly representative. Not one of them says that Jesus is our “Mercy Seat.” Why the different translations? They arise from the fact that the same Greek word does not always mean the same thing. Louw Nida Greek-English Lexicon (LN 40.12) defines the term used in Rom. 3:25 as the “means of forgiveness.” It defines the term used in Heb. 9:5 as a “place of forgiveness” (LN 40:13). In Greek as in English context affects definition. For example, look up “run” in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

Rom. 3:25 does not say that Jesus is God’s throne in the sense that Jesus is the “Mercy Seat.” He is God’s throne in the sense that He is the means of forgiveness. The ISV has perhaps tried to join the two aspects of Louw Nida’s definitions by its reference to “a place,” but the contest clearly supports the concept of “a means” of atonement.

Christ’s blood was the basis of salvation. Blood has always been associated with redemption as demonstrated in Cain’s and Able’s sacrifices. Bloodless offerings were what got Cain into trouble. The blood of bulls and goats reaches its pinnacle with Israel in connection with the Tabernacle and the Temple. The Tabernacle and Temple were types of the heavenly Sanctuary. If blood was required in the type, it must in some sense be involved in the antitype. Thus, blood must be involved in connection with the heavenly sanctuary. But what blood, when was it shed, and when was it offered. 1 Cor. tells us that the mortal must put on immortality and corruption must put on incorruption. The earthly blood was shed on Calvary. It was mortal man’s mortal blood. Since nothing mortal can enter into heaven, mortal blood is excluded from the heavenly Sanctuary. What then did Jesus offer? The Hebrew writer answers (9:24): “for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” To this passage add Heb. 9:7 (“but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people”) and 9:14 (“how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God”). Jesus offered Himself, but that does not mean it was a bloodless heavenly offering. “12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb. 9:12-14). Having finished the work that His Father sent Him to do (John19:30), having shed the only blood that could open Heaven’s doors, the Messiah entered triumphantly into the heavenly Sanctuary as the blameless Lamb slain for the sins of the world, and appeared before the face of God on our behalf. There he presented the sacrifice he had offered, Himself, including His life in which was His blood shed on Calvary.

The One who shed His blood is the only possible Messiah. His blood is infinitely more precious than all of the blood of all the ages prior. It alone is forgiving, redeeming, atoning, and expiatory.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)