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.
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.
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.
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.