The wrath of God is a constant reality in our world every day. As Bob Dylan sings, "Everything is broken." We will never succeed in building our ideal world without God. He keeps breaking our self-exalting, oppressive dreams.
That is the wrath of God. And his wrath is the problem addressed by the gospel. The answer is in Romans 3:24-25: ". . . Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith."
To "propitiate" is to satisfy the wrath of God, so that his love can be unleashed. We who are in Christ are no longer under God's condemning wrath (Romans 8:1).
That is the most surprising fact of our existence. We should not be shocked at the wrath of God. We should be surprised at the grace of God, especially considering that God absorbed his wrath against us into himself at the cross. God rescued us from God. This is propitiation.
Leon Morris wrote:
The Bible writers have nothing to do with pagan conceptions of a capricious and vindictive deity, inflicting arbitrary punishments on offending worshipers who must the bribe him to a good mood by the appropriate offerings . . .
If the propitiatory death of Jesus is eliminated from the love of God, it might be unfair to say that the love of God is robbed of all meaning, but it is certainly robbed of its apostolic meaning. The writers of the New Testament know nothing of a love which does not react in the very strongest fashion against every form of sin. It is the combination of God's deep love for the sinner with his uncompromising reaction against sin which brings about what the Bible calls propitiation . . .
Thus the use of the concept of propitiation witnesses two great realities: the one, the reality and seriousness of the divine reaction against sin, and the other, the reality and greatness of the divine love which provided the gift which should avert the wrath from men.