IN THE CONSIDERATION OF THE DAY OF Atonement we omitted one important part of the service which deserves special treatment, namely, that of the scapegoat. On this subject much has been written and different interpretations have been given. We shall give that which we consider the true view and which harmonises best with the general purpose of the atonement.
The scapegoat is brought into prominence on the Day of Atonement after the work of reconciliation is complete. After Aaron "hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat: and Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities into a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness." Lev. 16:20-22.
It will be remembered that the blood of the Lord's goat cleansed the holy place, the most holy, and the altar of "the uncleanness of the children of Israel," and "of their transgressions in all their sins." Lev. 16:16,19. It was emphasised that this was not merely forgiveness, but cleansing. Forgiveness had been obtained in the daily service when individual sin offerings were brought. The blood had then been sprinkled and the sin forgiven. It is repeatedly stated that "the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him." Lev. 4:26,31,35. The record of the sin remained, however, until the Day of Atonement, when it was finally blotted out. This is exactly what happens in the great day of judgement, of which the Day of Atonement was a type. Then the books are opened, and the sins of the righteous blotted out. Acts 3:19; Rev. 20:12; Dan. 7:10. Those who do not have their sins blotted out, will have their names blotted out. Ex. 32:33; Rev. 3:5; Ps. 69:28. This means eternal loss.
The scapegoat served a definite purpose in the service of the Day of Atonement. The high priest confessed "over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat." Lev.16:21. The goat bore the sins "unto a land not inhabited." Verse 22. This ceremony removed the sins from the camp of Israel and was the last act of the high priest before he washed himself and resumed his usual garments. Verses 23,24.
Two questions demand consideration: Whom or what does the scapegoat represent? and, Just what is its part in the services of the Day of Atonement?
When lots were cast upon the two goats taken from the congregation, one lot was for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. The word here used for scapegoat, Azazel, has been the subject of much discussion. Some believe the two goats to be symbolic of Christ, merely representing two phases of the same work. Others believe that they represent two opposing forces, and that if one is "for the Lord," and the other "for Azazel," the latter must mean "for Satan." Some scholars, probably the majority, hold that Azazel is a personal, wicked, superhuman being; others contend that it means "one who removes," especially "by a series of acts." It seems most reasonable to believe that as one goat is for "the Lord," a personal being, so the other should also be for a personal being. Moreover, as the two goats are evidently antithetical, the most consistent view would be that which holds that Azazel must be opposed to "the Lord." He could be no other than Satan.
While we believe that the weight of evidence is in favour of considering Azazel as the name of a personal, wicked spirit, there are certain apparent difficulties which this view brings to the front, which should have consideration. Chief among these is the statement that the scapegoat "shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness." Lev. 16:10. If Azazel means "a wicked spirit," Satan, how can it be possible to "make an atonement with him"? Surely, it is said, atonement cannot be made with a goat representing Satan.
We believe that a consideration of the office of the scapegoat furnishes a solution to this problem. After the atonement with the Lord's goat is finished, after reconciliation and cleansing have been made for the sanctuary and the altar, the goat for Azazel is brought out. Note, the priest has "made an end of reconciling;" the sanctuary and the altar have been cleansed; atonement has been made; an end has been made of cleansing; then, and not until then, does the scapegoat appear in its special role. We therefore hold that the scapegoat has no part in the atonement which has already been accomplished with the blood of the Lord's goat. That work is completed. The scapegoat has no part in it whatever.
The objection may be made that as it is the iniquity of the children of Israel that is put upon the head of the scapegoat, our argument cannot be sound. The text in question reads that Aaron should "confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness." Lev. 16:21. Let us consider this.
Most sins committed admit of shared responsibility. The person committing the sin is often mostly to blame, but this is not always the case. Some people are more sinned against than sinning. The man who educates a child to steal for him, cannot escape responsibility by saying that he himself has not stolen. The one who lures a girl into sin, though not participating in it himself, is guilty. The parents who fail to instill right principles into their children, must someday give an account. This is as it should be. Responsibility for sin is seldom traceable to one person only. Ordinarily it is shared.
This is particularly true of Satan's share in the sins of the righteous. The true Christian does not wish to sin. He abhors it. But Satan tempts him. A thousand times the man resists, and a thousand times Satan comes back. At last the man yields; he sins. But he soon repents; he asks forgiveness. The sin has been recorded in heaven. Now forgiveness is placed against it. The man is happy. He is forgiven. The Lord has been gracious to him. Then comes the judgement. The sin is blotted out. The man's record is clear. But what about Satan's part in the sin? Has that been atoned for? It has not. Satan must atone for it himself with his life.
Ideally the Christian should not sin. Yet there is the possibility. An incident that occurred years ago may be of interest:
In a certain college, a student janitor was attempting to close the windows during the convocation in chapel. He was quietly walking along the outside aisle with a long pole upraised, his eyes on the windows. A fellow student saw an excellent opportunity that he felt should not pass unimproved. As the young man with the pole passed by, intent on his work, the student put out his foot, and with a resounding crash janitor and pole went to the floor. A prompt rebuke for his clumsiness was as promptly rescinded when the circumstances were understood. One man did the falling. The other was responsible.
So, ideally, it should be with the Christian. He may fall but if he does, it should only be because Satan trips him up. But often he himself is to blame, at least partly. He tempts Satan to tempt him, and he cannot escape his share of the responsibility. It would not be just to blame Satan entirely for that of which we ourselves are partakers. On the other hand, Satan cannot escape his share. He is the instigator of sin. He continually tempts men. He is a partaker of all sins committed.
It is conceivable that some men have come to the place where they enjoy sin, and where Satan hardly needs to urge them on. While Satan must bear the first responsibility, the men themselves must bear their share. Not so with the righteous. They hate sin; they loathe and abhor it. But Satan is continually on their track. Sometimes he succeeds in tripping them. He must bear his share of the responsibility.
Thus every sin involves joint responsibility. Satan has a part in them all. When, on the Day of Atonement, the faithful in Israel had their sins blotted out, it was because they had previously repented and been forgiven. Their share in each sin was atoned for, but not Satan's. He had not repented; he had not confessed; he had not by faith placed his sin on the great Sin Bearer. He must therefore bear the sin himself. And so the sins of Israel which he has tempted them to commit are placed on him.
But this does not constitute a blood atonement in any way. There is no blood shed. The goat for Azazel is not killed. The blood is not sprinkled. It is not carried into the holy place. It is not put upon the horns of the altar. The flesh is not eaten by the priests. The body is not burned without the camp. The fat is not put upon the altar, nor the inwards washed and burned. None of the things which constitute an offering or sacrifice for sins is done. The goat atones for sins, only in the way a criminal atones for his sins by suffering the penalty of the law.
We therefore believe that Azazel represents Satan, and that as such he has no part whatever in the atonement effected by our Lord. The first goat represents Christ. His blood is shed, and by means of it the sanctuary, is cleansed. Not until this is done and completed, does the goat for Azazel appear. This goat accomplishes a definite work which we shall now consider, but this in no way affects or influences the atonement already completed. This point should be emphasised.
If the view here presented is correct, we have in the two goats a complete extermination of all sin. The sins of God's people are atoned for in the blood of the Lord's goat. The sanctuary is clean; the people are clean; the priesthood is clean. Into this cleansing we cannot admit Satan. He has no place in it. Christ did a complete work and does not need Satan's help. Satan, typified by the scapegoat, atones for his own sins, and for his part in those sins which he has caused others to commit.
There are sins other than those committed by God's people. Christ died for all men; but all men do not choose to avail themselves of His atonement. Hence, they must bear their own sins and the penalty of them. Christ has died for them. He has borne their sins. But the time is coming when He will bear them no longer. Upon Satan as the originator and instigator of sin will be put all the sins for which he is responsible.
When the two goats therefore were set before the Lord on the Day of Atonement, they represented Christ and Satan. The people could choose one or the other as their representative. If they chose the Lord's goat, they identified themselves with Christ. If they chose not to accept the proffered pardon, they automatically allied themselves with the powers of evil. The choice was before them. On that choice hung their destiny.
It has been mentioned before, that the whole service of the Day of Atonement is symbolic of the day of judgement. The final judgement includes more than the blotting out of the sins of the righteous. It includes the eradication of sin from the universe. It includes placing upon the head of Satan all sin for which he is responsible. It includes the eventual "cutting off" of all who have not afflicted their souls. So in the sanctuary service the sins were placed on the head of the scapegoat after the cleansing of the sanctuary had been completed. Then those who had not repented were "cut off." Lev. 16:20-22; 23-29.
"When the ministration in the holy of holies had been completed, and the sins of Israel had been removed from the sanctuary by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, then the scapegoat was presented alive before the Lord; and in the presence of all the congregation the high priest confessed over him 'all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat.' In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels, and the host of the redeemed, the sins of God's people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit. And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness." --The Great Controversy, p.658.
"As the priest, in removing the sins from the sanctuary, confessed them upon the head of the scapegoat, so Christ will place all these sins upon Satan, the originator and instigator of sin. The scapegoat, bearing the sins of Israel, was sent away 'unto a land not inhabited;' so Satan, bearing the guilt of all the sins which he has caused God's people to commit, will be for a thousand years confined to the earth, which will then be desolate, without inhabitant, and he will at last suffer the full penalty of sin in the fires that shall destroy all the wicked. Thus the great plan of redemption will reach its accomplishment in the final eradication of sin, and the deliverance of all who have been willing to renounce evil."--Ibid., pp.485,486.
The banishment of the scapegoat represents the final eradication of sin. He therefore plays an important part in the services of the Day of Atonement. In him sin is finally destroyed and Israel is safe.
The Day of Atonement was the great day in Israel. On that day there was a division of the people into two groups. The one group afflicted their souls. They had confessed their sins; they had made restitution and brought their offering. Now they awaited the outcome. When the bells of the high priest were heard as he finished the work of atonement, they knew that all was well. God had accepted them. They were cleansed, happy, free. Their sins were blotted out.
The other group had no part in the atonement. They had not afflicted their souls. They had not confessed nor made restitution. Now their sins returned upon their own heads. They were "cut off."
Thus the Day of Atonement was the great day of division. There were two classes on that day, and only two. One was forgiven, cleansed, saved. The other was unrepentant, filthy, "cut off." Each had made his own decision. Their decision settled their destiny. When the day was done, the camp was clean. One of two things had happened to each person. Sin had been removed from him, or he himself had been removed. In either case the camp was clean.
Thus it shall be in the end of the world. "It shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." Isa. 4:3. God shall again cleanse His people. "Those that remain in Zion shall be holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." The rest will be shaken out, cut off.
It must have been with profound feelings that Israel witnessed the final removal of sin from the camp. When the goat was led away carrying its load of sin, they knew that but for the grace of God they would themselves be carrying their sins to execution. They had seen the Lord's goat die. It had died for them. Now they had visibly presented to them the removing of sin from Israel. The goat was being led away to a fate unknown. Eventually, death would result. That also would have been their doom unless the Lord had helped them.
The type is not in all respects true to facts. In the final disposition of sin, the wicked are destroyed. This was not done in Israel. They were "cut off." That ordinarily meant exclusion from the privileges of Israel, or what we would now mean by exclusion from the church. It was therefore possible for an unrepentant sinner to see the scapegoat being led away and excluded from the camp. That was typical to him of his own exclusion. He would no longer have any part in Israel. He was being cut off from God's people, an outcast, fit only for destruction. This would constitute a powerful object lesson to him, and might lead to serious reflection and repentance.