The True Meaning of Mediation, Intercession, Atonement, and Propitiation
There are four terms expressive of the grace of the one only God in His Humanity. God the Father can never be approached, nor can He come to any man; because He is infinite, and dwells in His own being, which is Jehovah; from which being if He should come to man He would consume or decompose him, as fire consumes wood when it reduces it to ashes. This is evident from what He said to Moses, who desired to see Him:—”No man shall see Me and live” (Exod. xxiii. 20). And the Lord says, “No man hath seen God at any time, save the Son which is in the bosom of the Father” (John i. 18; Matt. xi. 27); also that no one hath heard the voice of the Father, nor seen His shape (John v. 27). It is indeed written that Moses saw Jehovah face to face, and talked with Him, as one man with another; but this was through the medium of an angel, as was also the case with Abraham and Gideon. Now since such is God the Father in Himself, therefore He was pleased to assume the Humanity, and in this Humanity to admit mankind to Himself, and so to hear and to talk with them; and it is this Humanity which is called the Son of God, and which mediates, intercedes, propitiates, and atones. MEDIATION signifies that the Humanity is the medium by which man may come to God the Father, and God the Father to him; and thus be his teacher and guide unto salvation. INTERCESSION signifies perpetual mediation; for love itself, the qualities of which are mercy, clemency, and grace, perpetually intercedes, that is mediates, for those that do His commandments, and who are thus the objects of His love. ATONEMENT signifies the removal of sins,—into which a man would rush headlong if, in supplication, he were to approach the unveiled Jehovah. PROPITIATION signifies the operation of clemency and grace, to prevent man from falling into damnation by sin, and at the same time to guard against the profanation of what is holy. This was signified by the propitiatory, or mercy-seat, over the ark in the tabernacle. It is acknowledged that God spake in His Word according to appearances; as when it is said that He is angry, that He avenges, that He tempts, that He punishes, that He casts into hell, that He condemns, yea, that He does evil; while the truth is that God is never angry with any one, that He never avenges, tempts, punishes, casts into hell, or condemns. Such things are as far from God, nay infinitely farther, than hell is from heaven. They are forms of speech then, used only according to the appearances. So also, but in a different sense, are the terms atonement, propitiation, intercession, and mediation; for these are forms of speech expressive of the approach which is opened to God by means of His Humanity. These terms being misunderstood men have divided God into three; and upon that division they have grounded all the doctrine of the church, and so have falsified the Word. Hence has arisen THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION, foretold by the Lord in Daniel, and again in Matt. xxiv. (TCR n. 135)
Mediation and intercession is of Divine truth, because this is next to Divine good, which is the Lord Himself. That Divine truth is next to Divine good, which is the Lord, is because it immediately proceeds from Him. Since occasion is given, it shall here be shown how the case is with the Lord’s mediation and intercession. They that believe from the literal sense of the Word, that there are three persons who constitute the Divine, and together are called one God, have no other idea of mediation and intercession, than that the Lord sits at the right hand of His Father, and speaks with Him as man with man, brings the supplications of men to the Father, and entreats that for His sake, because He endured the cross for the human race, He will pardon them and be merciful. Such is the idea of intercession and mediation which the simple derive from the literal sense of the Word. But it should be known that the literal sense is adapted to the apprehension of simple men, that they may be introduced into the interior truths themselves; for the simple cannot form any different idea of the heavenly kingdom than such as they have of an earthly kingdom, nor any different idea of the Father than as of a king on earth, nor of the Lord, than as of the son of a king, who is heir of the kingdom…. But he who knows the interior [truths] of the Word has an entirely different notion of the Lord’s mediation, and of His intercession; namely, that He does not intercede as a son with a father king on earth, but as the Lord of the universe with Himself, and of Himself as God; for the Father and He are not two, but One, as He teaches in John xiv. 8-11. He is called the Mediator and Intercessor because the Son means Divine truth, and the Father Divine good, and mediation is effected by Divine truth, for by it access is given to Divine good. For Divine good cannot be approached, because it is as the fire of the sun; but Divine truth can be, because this is as the light from it which gives passage and approach to man’s sight, which is from faith. It can be seen from this what is to be understood by mediation and intercession. Further, it should be stated why it is that the Lord Himself, who is the very Divine good and the very Sun of heaven, is called the Mediator and Intercessor with the Father. The Lord when He was in the world, before He was fully glorified, was Divine truth; for this reason there then was mediation, and He interceded with the Father, that is, with the very Divine good’ (John xiv. 16, 17; xvii. 9, 15, 17). And after He was glorified as to the Human, He is called the Mediator and Intercessor from the fact that no one can think of the very Divine unless he sets before himself the idea of a Divine Man; still less can any one be conjoined by love to the very Divine except by means of such an idea…. It is for this reason that the Lord as to the Divine Human is called the Mediator and Intercessor; but He mediates and intercedes with Himself. (AC n. 8705)
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