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Questions On Doctrine


The Transaction With the Scapegoat



What is the actual teaching of Seventh-day Adventists regarding the "scapegoat" in the sanctuary service? Do you hold that the sins of the righteous are rolled back on Satan, so that in the end he becomes your sin bearer?


We take our stand without qualification on the gospel platform that the death of Jesus Christ provides the sole propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; 4:10); that there is salvation through no other means or medium, and no other name by which we may be saved (Acts 4:12); and that the shed blood of Jesus Christ alone brings remission for our sins (Matt. 26: 28). That is foundational.

Further, we hold to the recognized principle that no cardinal doctrine or belief should be based primarily upon a parable or type, but upon the clear unfigurative statements of Scripture, and understood and defined in the light of explicit declarations of gospel realities. In other words, the type should be understood in the light of the antitype, and not the reverse. Moreover, no parable or type can be applied in all details. It is the central truth that is to be sought out and applied. And it might be added that we do not place upon the scapegoat the emphasis that some of our critics would indicate.


The transaction with the scapegoat, or Azazel (Lev. 16:8), springs from the annual typical sanctuary service of ancient Israel. These types were simply dramatized symbols or prophetic parables, of the great gospel realities take place in this dispensation. Thus the ancient Passover lamb typified "Christ our passover" (1 Cor. 5: 7), who was slain for us. And the services of the ministering priests symbolized our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who, after the sacrifice of Himself at Calvary, now ministers for us in the heavenlies (Hebrews 8 and 9).

In Leviticus 16, two goats entered into the service of the great day of Atonement. One, in type, made atonement for sin. The other goat, for Azazel, was not slain, but was kept alive, and hence made no atonement for anyone's sins.

The first goat represented our Lord Jesus Christ, who, on the cross, made atonement for our sins. The other goat, in antithesis, symbolized Satan, who must bear the responsibility not only for his own sins but for his part in all the sins he has caused others, both righteous and wicked, to commit. This live goat, it is to be remembered, was not slain. (Many outstanding authorities support our understanding that the live goat, or Azazel, typified Satan. See Question 34.)

Two goats were obviously required, and used, on the Day of Atonement, because there is a twofold responsibility for sin—first, my responsibility as the perpetrator, agent, or medium; and second, Satan's responsibility, as the instigator, or tempter, in whose


heart sin was first conceived. When Satan tempted our first parents to take and eat of the forbidden fruit, he as well as they had an inescapable responsibility in that act—he the instigator, and they the perpetrators. And similarly through the ages—in all sin Satan is involved in responsibility, as the originator and instigator, or tempter (John 8:44; Rom. 6:16; 1 John 3:8).

Now concerning my sin, Christ died for my sins (Rom. 5:8). He was wounded for my transgressions and bore my iniquities (Isaiah 53). He assumed my responsibilities, and His blood alone cleanses me from all sin (1 John 1:7). The atonement for my sin is made solely by the shed blood of Christ.

And concerning Satan's sin, and his responsibility as instigator and tempter, no salvation is provided for him. He must be punished for his responsibility. There is no savior, or substitute, to bear his punishment. He must himself "atone" for his sin in causing men to transgress, in the same way that a master criminal suffers on the gallows or in the electric chair for his responsibility in the crimes that he has caused others to commit. It is in this sense only that we can understand the words of Leviticus 16:10 concerning the scapegoat, "to make an atonement with him."

Courts of law recognize the principle of dual responsibility. Thus a criminal father may teach his child to steal, and the child becomes a habitual thief; or a dissolute mother may teach her daughter to engage in professional prostitution. Parental responsibility in such cases is crystal clear. The instigator of a crime is punished, as well as the instrument that actually committed the act. When the members of


"Murder Incorporated" were brought to book for a whole succession of killings, the master mind, who had never technically taken a life, went to the chair as instigator, along with the perpetrators. And under criminal law, the instigator, or master mind, may be punished more severely than his agents.

In like manner, Satan is the responsible master mind in the great crime of sin, and his responsibility will return upon his own head. The crushing weight of his responsibility in the sins of the whole world—of the wicked as well as of the righteous—must be rolled back upon him. Simple justice demands that while Christ suffers for my guilt, Satan must also be punished as the instigator of sin.

That is why, on the Day of Atonement, two goats were necessary. One was "for the Lord" (Lev. 16:7) to provide the atonement through the shedding of his blood; the other was "for Azazel" (Lev. 16:8, margin). These two were, in the text, placed in antithesis. One typified our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who was slain as our substitute and vicariously bore our sins, with all the guilt and punishment entailed. Thus He made complete atonement for our sins. The other goat, we believe, stood for Satan, who is eventually to have rolled back upon his own head, not only his own sins, but the responsibility for all the sins he has caused others to commit.

Now two vital points involved are to be particularly noted: (1) that the transaction with the live goat (or Azazel) took place after the atonement for the sins of the people had been accomplished, and the reconciliation completed; and (2) that the live goat was not


slain, and did not provide any propitiation or make any vicarious atonement. And without the shedding of blood there is no remission (Heb. 9:22). None of the blood of the live goat was shed, or poured out in propitiation, and none was taken into the sanctuary and sprinkled before the Lord, or placed on the horns of the altar.

Satan makes no atonement for our sins. But Satan will ultimately have to bear the retributive punishment for his responsibility in the sins of all men, both righteous and wicked.

Seventh-day Adventists therefore repudiate in toto any idea, suggestion, or implication that Satan is in any sense or degree our sin bearer. The thought is abhorrent to us, and appallingly sacrilegious. Such a concept is a dreadful disparagement of the efficacy of Christ and His salvation, and vitiates the whole glorious provision of salvation solely through our Saviour.

Satan's death, a thousand times over, could never make him a savior in any sense whatsoever. He is the archsinner of the universe, the author and instigator of sin. Even if he had never sinned, he still could never save others. Not even the highest of the holy angels could atone for our sins. Only Christ, the Creator, the one and only God-man, could make a substitutionary atonement for men's transgressions. And this Christ did completely, perfectly, and once for all, on Golgotha.

It is our primary concern that all men shall come to a knowledge of full salvation in and through Jesus Christ. Just how God finally disposes of sin, although an interesting subject to contemplate, is something we


can safely leave to the infinite justice and mercy of God. It is evidently revealed in part in the typical transaction of the scapegoat. But our fundamental concern is that all who will respond shall come under the full atoning provisions of the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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