Getting to the Heart of Atonement

Bill Mounce | May 21, 2016

Old Testament noun: כַּפֹּרֶת (kappōret). Generally translated “atonement cover” or “mercy seat,” kappōret almost exclusively occurs in Exodus 25 and 37 (in the building of the ark of the covenant) and in Leviticus 16. The word describes the golden cover placed on the ark of the covenant; on it were two cherubim whose outstretched wings formed Yahweh’s earthly throne. Because he “lived” there, the Most Holy Place had to be filled with a cloud of incense on the Day of Atonement, lest the high priest see him and die. All forgiveness and purging of sin, of course, is possible only because of the forgiving grace and mercy of God.


New Testament noun: ἱλασμός (hilasmos). Hilasmos refers to “an atoning sacrifice” or “propitiation.” This word occurs in 1 John 2:2 and 4:10. Jesus is himself the sacrifice that atones for sin. Our sins have destroyed our relationship with God, but Christ’s shed blood purifies us from all sin and restores us to fellowship with God (1 John 1:6–7). We should never forget that the root of our reconciliation with God is his incredible love, expressed when he sent his Son to be our atoning sacrifice.

New Testament noun: ἱλαστήριον (hilastērion). Hilastērion means “atonement cover” or “sacrifice of…

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