Resting on top of the Ark was a lid of pure gold, the same length and width as the Ark. This was called the Mercy Seat, or Judgment Seat.
The term ‘Mercy Seat’ is translated from the Hebrew word, ‘kapporeth’, that interestingly, means ‘place of atonement’. This is where the High Priest sprinkled the seat 7 times on the Day of Atonement, symbolically reconciling God and His chosen people with the blood of the sacrificed animal, thereby making atonement for the sins of the nations of Israel. The judgment spoken out over the people was the declaration of Mercy. The people found ‘Mercy’, just for that year.
The cherubim, figures of pure gold on top of the lid, had their wings spread out above, covering the mercy seat with their wings with the cherubim facing one another, their faces turned toward the mercy seat (Ex. 25:20 NASB). Vs.22, “And there I (God) will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel”. “I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat” according to Leviticus 16:2b. This was the Shekinah glory cloud of God, not to be confused with the cloud the Israelites could see outside the tabernacle, which would guide and lead them in their travels through the wilderness by day as a pillar of cloud and by night as a pillar of fire Exodus 13:21 (NASB).
The Mercy Seat was the focal point of the entire Tabernacle. In Leviticus 16 a detailed set of instructions was given concerning the preparations and ceremonies to be followed on the Day of Atonement. This was the most important day of the year for the Israelites because the High Priest would atone for the sins of the nation Israel with the blood of animals. A bull was offered as a sin offering to God by the High Priest for himself, and for his household. The High Priest would sprinkle the blood of a bull with his finger on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Then a goat was offered as a sin offering for the people and again the blood was sprinkled on and in front of the mercy seat by the High Priest for the people as was done with the blood of the bull. However, this had to be done once each year in the seventh month on the tenth day and was only a picture of Christ who was to come and, by His blood, ‘ransomed/paid the price’ for the sin of the world.
We all know so well Romans 3:23-26, “You see, all have sinned, and all their futile attempts to reach God in His glory fail. 24 Yet they are now saved and set right by His free gift of grace through the redemption available only in Jesus the Anointed. 25 When God set Him up to be the sacrifice—the seat of mercy where sins are atoned through faith—His blood became the demonstration of God’s own restorative justice” (The Voice). -26 “for the shewing forth of His righteousness in the present time, for His being righteous, and declaring him righteous who [is] of the faith of Jesus” (Youngs lit. translation).
Through Christ’s sacrifice we (all humanity) are set free; no longer captive to our old mind set (stinking thinking), an atonement once and for all. The cross became the judgment seat of Christ who declared Mercy for all humanity. You are now reconciled to God once and for all. Hebrews 7:25,27 in the Mirror says it all, “Through Him (Jesus) mankind’s approach to God is secured; he continues to communicate the full accomplishment of their salvation. Unlike the previous High Priests whose system of daily sacrifices was a constant reminder of their own failures, he had no need to sacrifice on his own behalf. The sacrifice he offered was Himself for all; a sacrifice never to be repeated”.
The Judgment or Mercy seat is also a throne where the King sits; to reign, judge and to declare mercy to the people who come before him. King Jesus is seated in the heavenly place, and sits enthroned, and we are co-seated with him, and therefore we are to judge not only the world, but also angels (1 Cor. 6:2,3). God’s throne, therefore Jesus’, is established by Righteousness and Love according to Proverbs 16 and 20. Isaiah 16:5 (NKJV), “In mercy the throne will be established; And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness”. Therefore, judgement and mercy are established in love, as God is Love so are we. “Be merciful (declaration of what you are, not what you become) as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36 NASB). Thereby fulfilling the prophetic aspect of the Mercy seat.