The sacrifices and rules of separation specified in the law of Moses provided spiritual protection for the children of Israel. The cost of this protection was that it allowed the accuser to demand the implementation of the curses against the disobedient.

The Old Testament sacrifices satisfied God (because he knew that they would be supplemented in the future by Jesus death on the cross). The powers of evil were not satisfied with the sacrifices. They liked the covenant, because it gave them the ability to enforce the curses on sin, but they did not like the sacrifices, because they felt that people were getting off too light.

God was willing to forgive sin. It was the powers of evil who wanted it to be punished.

God is judge over everything.

God is the judge of all the earth (Gen 18:25).
However, he is not the prosecutor. He does not bring a case against humans. The accuser/prosecutor is Satan. If he is silenced, there is no prosecutor, therefore no case for the judge to hear.

The Holy Spirit is our defence attorney/counsel (paraclete). Jesus also defends us before God the judge.

But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1).
The righteousness of God means that he is not caught up in false accusations of the spiritual powers of evil. He does the right thing by his covenant, and declares us to be righteous. He silences the spiritual powers of evil and the accuser who want to bring charges against us.

The enemy's greatest trick is to deceive the world and Christians into believing that God demanded death and hell for sinners, when it was actually the spiritual powers of evil themselves who demanded it. They have tricked us into believing that God is full of wrath and vengeance, when it is really them. God is gracious and forgiving, whereas the spiritual powers of evil are harsh and cruel, but they have tricked the world into believing the opposite.

God wants to restore people. The powers of evil want to punish. It is sad that many Christians seem to be on the side of the latter.

Some Christians believe that we need to preach God's wrath as part of the gospel. They fall into the trap that Paul exposed.

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance (Rom 2:4).
The kindness of God leads us to repentance, when we realise that he gave his Son to rescue us from the spiritual powers of evil, while we were still alienated from him. That is the good news we should proclaim.

Propitiate Who?

Commentators have argued about how Romans 3:25 how should be translated. Some translators use the word propitiation

Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood (NKJV).
Others have used the word expiation.
Whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood (RSV).
Some modern translations use the neutral but meaningless expression, "atoning sacrifice".
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement (NIV).
The Greek word is "hilasterion". In Hebrews 9:5, it is used to describe the cover of the box of the covenant in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle. Our problem is that none of these words mean much to modern readers.

The word propitiate is directed towards a person. Someone is offended and they must be satisfied. People do not like the word, because they think it means that God is angry and hard to please.

Those who argue for propitiate are correct that Romans 3:25 describes Jesus as satisfying or appeasing "someone", but they are wrong about who that person is. They assume that God is the one who needs to be propitiated. That is wrong. God is gracious and great in love, mercy and patience, so he does not need to be propitiated.

Everyone who sins is a slave of the spiritual powers of evil. They demand the implementation of the curse of the law against everyone who sins, so we need to be ransomed from their power. They need to be propitiated, because they are operating according to the letter of the law and demanding retribution on all sinners.

Romans 3:25 says that Jesus has satisfied the powers of evil and redeemed us from their power. His death fulfilled the requirements of the law, cancelling out the demands of our accusers. It nullified the curse of the law that was against us.

If we trust in Jesus, we died with him and rose with him. That means our old life is dead. A prosecutor cannot bring charges against someone who is dead. The powers of evil have no rights over our lives.

They cannot object to that because they have already agreed that Adam's sin gives them authority over all his descendants, ie everyone sinned in Adam. They have used that principle for all it is worth, so they cannot disagree with the parallel truth that all who believe in Jesus died with him and rose with him to a new life. They want us to share in Adam's sin and loss of authority, so they cannot object to us sharing in what Jesus established as the head of the new covenant.

Odd Contrast

One of the most intriguing passages in the Old Testament is Num 14:18.

The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but he by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.
The first half of this verse describes amazing love. God is abundant in mercy, and forgives iniquity and transgression. However, the second half of the verse seems to contradict what went before. It seems it be saying that God forgives iniquity, but then judges grandchildren and great grandchildren for it. That is illogical. If God has forgiven the person who sins, he is not going to punish their descendants.

I believe that there is something wrong with the standard translation. First of all the word "guilty" does not exist in the Hebrew, but is added by the translators. That is why it is in italics. Secondly, the expression "he by no means clears" is a very expansive translation of a couple of Hebrew words. Literally, the Hebrew says something like "to acquit not he will acquit". I am not sure what this strange expression means, but I doubt that it means what the English translators say it means.

I presume the second half of the verse is talking about what the spiritual powers of evil want to do, in contrast to God. God is full lovingkindness, so he forgives transgressions. The powers of evil want to punish transgression to the fourth generation.

Maybe the verse should read like this.

The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression and making pure, not visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation (like the spiritual power of evil).

Cross and Redemption

An important word for describing what Jesus accomplished on the cross is "redeem". This English word is used to translate a couple of different Greek words, but they are economic and legal terms that refer to buying back someone who has been enslaved or taken captive.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people (Luke 1:68).
All are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace (Eph 1:7).
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:13-14).
And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:9).
The clear message of the New Testament is that Jesus redeemed us by his death on the cross. But what does that mean? Most of us do not know anyone who has been captured as a slave and needed to be redeemed or ransomed by someone.

The best example is the people who have been captured by revolutionary groups in Africa and the Middle East who have demanded that their family or government pay a ransom of several million to have them set free. If the ransom is paid and they regain their freedom, they have been redeemed by whoever paid the ransom. The person or organisation that pays the ransom is their redeemer.

That leads to another question. Who did we have to be redeemed from? Who had captured us and was demanding a ransom before we could be set free. The answer is that the entire human race had been taken captive by the spiritual powers of evil, and they demanded a ransom before they would set us free.

He gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Tit 2:14).
In the beginning, God gave authority over the earth to humans, but humans were deceived and surrendered to the tempter. That surrender of authority gave the spiritual powers of evil legitimate authority over humans. God does not take back authority that he has given, even if it is used unwisely, so he was bound to recognise their authority.

God gave the law to Moses to help the new nation to live in peace in a new land, but the law strengthened the powers of evil, because it specified a curse on disobedience. They demanded the right to enforce the curse on God's people when they disobeyed. That is why Jesus had to redeem us from the curse.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole." He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Gal 3:13-14).
People wonder why Jesus had to die to satisfy God when he is a God of grace and love. Why could he not just forgive our sin? There are several reasons, but the most important is that the spiritual powers of evil demanded a ransom, so Jesus died to meet that demand.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).