The Bible uses big words to describe what happened at the Cross: reconciliation, propitiation, justification, and redemption. These are the big four, and they are used throughout the New Testament. Unfortunately, they are fairly uncommon in everyday modern English, so most people assign little meaning to them. In such a short article, we cannot even begin to address individual passages, but we can put them in their place on the biblical timeline. The Cross happened in context to the Day of the Lord—God is patient with sinful humans not wanting any to perish because he loves them (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9f; Jn. 3:16). The Day of the Lord is described throughout the Scriptures in three ways: 1) Day of Wrath, 2) Day of Judgment, 3) Day of Recompense. These correspond to the royal, judicial, and economic aspects of God, life and creation. If someone sins against us, we get mad, press charges against them, and make them pay for damages done. We function like this because we are created in the image of God. So too will redemptive history unfold. The Cross then satisfies these three aspects. “Propitiation” is the appeasement of wrath (cf. Rom. 3:25; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10). “Justification” is the acquittal of judgment (cf. Rom. 3:20ff; 5:1ff; Gal. 2:16ff). “Redemption” is the payment of debt (cf. Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12). In each case God put forward his Son on our behalf to satisfy the wrath, judgment, and retribution of God, that we might find “reconciliation” with the Holy One (cf. Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18f; Col. 1:20f). When we truly believe these things and cast ourselves at the Cross by faith, we are “declared righteous” (cf. Rom. 2:13; 3:20) in God’s sight, and thus we become the “righteousness of God” (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 3:22; 10:3). Thus we have confidence in anticipation of the return of Jesus.

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