While the church of God has long taught that the azazel goat of Leviticus 16 represents Satan bearing part of the blame for man's sins, the present series has shown that this view has no biblical support. David Grabbe concludes the series with several common questions posed by those who have desired additional clarification of some of the issues involved in the subject.
Many in God's church have believed that humanity cannot be "at one" with God until Satan has been bound at the beginning of the Millennium. This misunderstanding, David Grabbe contends, has come about due to a general failure to grasp significant truths about the completed atoning work of Jesus Christ, something that Satan has no part in.
David Grabbe, reiterating that the focus for the Day of Atonement is on national, unintentional transgressions, points out that the preamble for the Day of Atonement instructions leans on the failure of the Aaronic priesthood. The sacrificial system—including the ceremony of the two goats—was added to the Abrahamic covenant because of transgressions. The Day of Atonement is 187 days into the Calendar year, possibly the same day Moses came back from Sinai the second time with a radiant countenance, giving the Law to the people a second time, making it clear that transgression of the law brings death. Israel's works had nearly condemned the nation to obliteration. The only work that could be performed was by the high priest and the man who led away the azazel, reminding us that only God can purge sins. The fasting reminds us of the three consecutive times Moses fasted. The effect of Christ's work is that we are reconciled, at one with God. The symbolism of the cleansing of Joshua's filthy robes in Zechariah 3 seems to replicate the symbolism of the cleansing in Leviticus 16. After the cleansing, the nation is absolved from iniquity. The Day of Atonement represents a bearing away of sin, removing it from the land. The Seventy Weeks prophecy is God's assurance to Daniel that God will intervene, lifting the nation of Israel out of its degenerate state to total reconciliation.
The offering on the Day of Atonement is unique in that it is a singular offering in two parts, each goat representing a separate aspect of Christ's sacrifice. In Part Three, David Grabbe explains why the goat of departure cannot be connected to the binding of Satan (Revelation 20:1-3), as well as how Hebrews 9 and 10 clarify the Atonement ritual's meaning through the complete—and completed—sacrifice of Christ.
David Grabbe, reiterating that the two goats of Leviticus 16 make a composite sacrifice for sin, reminds us that every sacrifice in the Levitical sacrificial system was an unblemished animal. The first goat in Leviticus 16 was to satisfy God's demand for justice with a covering of blood. The second goat symbolizes the removal of sin, expunging its memory from the camp of Israel and from God's mind, transferring it into oblivion, symbolized by an uninhabited wasteland- as far as East is from the West. The live goat was a substitutionary sacrifice for the whole nation. The goat of departure bore the sins of the entire people, carrying the sins out of sight and out of mind. Christ, as a substitutionary sacrifice, bore the sins of all of humanity, carrying them out of sight. Satan, because his sins are numerous, cannot be a substitutionary sacrifice for anyone. The sins have been blotted out, totally erased from the mind of God. Sin is disannulled, neutralized, cast off, and obliterated, removed from consciousness and conscience. Satan has no role in this process.
David Grabbe, focusing on the two goats of Leviticus 16, cautions that there is not a clear definition scripture for the word "azazel." In tradition, Azazel is the name of a fallen angel. The roots of the Hebrew word indicate a goat of departure, or "going away," "disappearance" or "complete removal." Scripture warns us not to base a doctrine on a meaning of a word because a word's meaning can change. The two goats of Leviticus 16:5 represent one sin offering. Importantly, though, this offering represents something beyond the payment for sin. Jesus Christ was and is our perfect sacrifice for sin. The idea that Christ fulfilled the role of one goat, Satan the role of the second goat, is not viable. Because the Bible is consistent in its use of symbols, and because God Himself is consistent, the Bible interprets itself. If Christ fulfilled all the other offerings rehearsed in the Book of Leviticus, the offering of the second goat, the one rehearsed in Leviticus 16, would be a major departure from all the others. In the Pentateuch, there were 40 injunctions that the animals selected for offering be without blemish. Because the priest had to cast lots to decide the fate of these animals (indicating that God alone would decide their fates), we can surmise that both these goats were without blemish or defect, symbolism that could not be applied to Satan, as he is totally unqualified to be represented by an unblemished sacrifice. The first goat is a blood sacrifice to pay for the sins of the people; the second goat is led away and freed (not bound by a chain). In the Scriptures, no one is bound for our sins. The problem of sin is not solved by only paying the death penalty. The function of the second goat will be explained in a future installment.
In the pivotal ritual on the Day of Atonement, two goats play significant and separate roles to represent specific divine purposes within the process of salvation. As David Grabbe explains, understanding the role of the live goat hinges on recognizing whose sins are in view, as well as who is actually responsible for sin.
David Grabbe reminds us that the Jewish preference for tradition over scriptural substantiation has blinded Israel to truth about Jesus Christ's identity and purpose. As long as tradition does not contradict the word of God, it poses no problem; however, when it goes at cross-purposes with Scripture, problems in understanding arise. In the past, the Church of God has generally taught that Satan is the author of all sin, and that the goat which was allowed to escape on Atonement represents Satan's part in inspiring our sins. It is true that Satan does broadcast attitudes and the whole world is under the influence of his evil mindset. Nevertheless, the choices an individual make are totally his own, even without the additional power of God's Holy Spirit. Satan exerts influence, but the responsibility to choose lies with everyone. We sin when we are drawn away by our own desires. The soul that habitually sins shall die. Whoever has been born of God does not sin as a way of life for His Spirit has, in a sense, reprogrammed him to a different course. Sin entered the world through one man—Adam. The second Adam, Jesus Christ, provided atonement. In his struggle against sin described in Romans 7, Paul did not finger Satan, but blamed sin dwelling in him. The concept of Satan as the azazel goat arises from tradition rather than Scripture, especially from the Book of Enoch, never considered part of the canon.
For years, the church of God has taught that the Azazel goat, found in the instructions for the Atonement (Yom Kippur) offering in Leviticus 16, represented Satan taking man's sins on his own head and being led into outer darkness, taking sin with him. However, Scripture does not support this interpretation. David Grabbe focuses on the inappropriateness of Satan as a sacrifice for sin, as well as what the Bible shows that the Azazel goat actually accomplishes.
David Grabbe asserts that the Day of Atonement is not about Satan at all, but about the complete cleansing from sins. Rather than a duplication of Passover, the Atonement goats and the sacrificial lamb of Passover have totally different, though complementary, functions. The two goats of Leviticus 16 together make a single offering for sin; one is sacrificed as the payment for sin, while the second is left alive and led away to symbolize sin being completely removed from view. The goats chosen for Atonement were to be free from blemish, something one cannot attribute to Satan. The purpose for Atonement is the propitiation for all sin—including the cleansing of our conscience—made possible by Jesus Christ and not in any way made possible by scape-goating Satan; we are responsible for our own sins. Contrary to common belief, the Passover is not a sin offering, but a peace offering; it contains an acknowledgment of sin, but celebrates the peace and satisfaction that comes from intimate fellowship with God. The assumption that the azazel (meaning "goat of departure") represents a fallen angel who is the cause of human sin does not originate in the canonized scriptures, but springs from the apocryphal "Book of Enoch," a work laden with errors.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that (1) not all flesh is the same, nor is all spirit the same either. God's Holy Spirit is the only variety of Spirit guaranteed eternal life; the other forms of spirit, including angelic beings like Satan the devil, are subject to extinction. (2) God did not make a colossal mistake by creating a being He could not destroy. (3) The "wages of sin is death" constitutes a universal law, applying just as much to angels as to human beings. (4) If sin were allowed anywhere in the New Heaven and the New Earth, in any form, that new creation would not be of the purity that God has promised in His Word. In the several encounters Jesus has with demons, they expressed fear of impending torture or death. Ezekiel 28 reveals that Satan's fate will be ashes in the Lake of Fire; it would be inconsistent with God's compassionate character for Him to inflict pain on a being eternally. God's called-out ones have received an earnest payment of God's Holy Spirit, which carries immortality and abundant life. We are being formed into new creatures, not just spiritual retreads on our carnal nature, equipped and designed to live in the Heavenly Jerusalem of the New Heavens and New Earth, the very offspring of Almighty God.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon the symbolism of the two goats on this solemn holy day—the sacrificial goat (representing Jesus Christ's sacrifice for our sins) was slain, while the Azazel goat (which we have assumed to be Satan), with the sins of the entire nation pronounced on its head, was led into the wilderness to die a natural death—suggests that some aspects of our previous understanding may have been wrong. Not one human being, from our parents, Adam and Eve, to ourselves, can escape the responsibility of his own sins; Satan did not make us do anything, unless we willingly cooperated with his temptations. We cannot blame anyone else, including our physical parents, for our shortcomings. Because the Azazel goat in the ceremony was allowed to escape, we concluded that Satan (as well as the demonic spirits who followed him) would not die, but would be driven into a perpetual abode of restraint, symbolized by the term "outer darkness." Angels were created to serve as ministering spirits, assisting the Creator well before mankind came on the scene. To be sure, we have no scriptural evidence that an angel has died, but we cannot assume that angels are immortal and share the same kind of spirit God Almighty has. Though angelic beings are currently superior to human beings in intelligence and volition, we cannot assume they are indestructible. Speculation among the splinters of the greater church of God ranges from the thesis that Satan and his demons will live forever in a remote location to its antithesis that Satan and his demons will be utterly annihilated. We need to process four troublesome assumptions: (1) that all spirit is ever living and impossible to destroy, (2) that God was guilty of lack of judgment in creating something He could not take apart, (3) that angels are not subject to the same principles of judgment with which God judges men, and (4) that the new heavens and earth will not be of the purity God promised.
Receive Biblical truth in your inbox—spam-free! This daily newsletter provides a starting point for personal study, and gives valuable insight into the verses that make up the Word of God. See what over 145,000 subscribers are already receiving.