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Who Does the Scapegoat Represent?

Many Bible students enjoy studying the Old Testament sanctuary service.  The most important service held in the wilderness tabernacle was the Day of Atonement.  Two goats were used during the Day of Atonement service.  Some people think both of the goats represent Jesus, while others believe the scapegoat represents the devil.  Many people believe the scapegoat (Hebrew: Azazel) represents Jesus because Leviticus 16:10 indicates the scapegoat is used to make atonement for sin.  However, I would like you to consider the following four steps that lead me to the conclusion that the scapegoat represents Lucifer.

Point #1 Predatory Behavior Produces Greater Guilt

When an adult entices or leads a minor to do something illegal, the guilt for the adult is far greater than the guilt for the minor because the adult knew right from wrong, and he preyed upon the ignorance and innocence of the minor.  Children are considered minors because they are intellectually and emotionally immature and the law takes their lack of maturity into consideration.   This is an underlying principle that is involved with the topic of the scapegoat and it is important to understand.

Lucifer was the first to sin and after he sinned, he became a natural predator.  The devil was not content to be the only sinner in Heaven.  Instead, he preyed on innocent angels and eventually caused a third of them to rebel against God.  (Ezekiel 28: 12-16; John 8:44; Revelation 12: 3, 4)  Of course, the angels who eventually turned away from God to follow Lucifer sinned too, but in terms of degree of guilt, the devil has greater guilt because he led or enticed the fallen angels to sin against God.  Even more, after God expelled the devil from Heaven, the devil continued his predatory behavior and enticed Eve to sin, and through her, Lucifer ultimately got to Adam.  (Romans 5: 12)

When Jesus was on Earth, He spoke about the penalty for predatory behavior.  “And if anyone causes one of these little ones [small children] who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.”  (Mark 9: 42, 43, insertion mine)

When God destroys wicked angels and wicked people with fire at the end of the 1,000 years, the devil’s punishment will be greater than anyone else’s because justice declares that he has greater guilt than anyone else.  He is the father of sin; he preyed upon innocent angels and human beings, and has enticed millions to sin against God.

Point #2 The Temple Becomes Defiled with Sin’s Guilt

As you probably know, there were two daily services in the earthly tabernacle.  One daily service centered on the Altar of Incense and the other daily service centered on the Altar of Burnt Offering.  The presence of two altars and certain differences in their sacrifices indicates that God requires atonement for sin on two different levels.  The Altar of Incense was used to make atonement for the corporate sins of Israel.  Corporate intercession was necessary because of the logistics; millions of people could not be at the Altar of Burnt Offering each day with sacrificial lambs.  There were twelve tribes and each tribe came to the temple with their sin offerings on a rotational basis.  For example, if the tribe of Judah was scheduled for the month of March, corporate intercession at the Altar of Incense atoned for the entire tribe of Judah until the date when individuals from Judah could present a sin offering at the Altar of Burnt Offering. 

The daily service at the Altar of Burnt Offering consisted of dealing with sin offerings presented by individuals and family representatives.  Here is a profound point that many people do not understand:  In God’s economy, the sin is never forgiven, but sinners can be forgiven.  In the sanctuary service, when a sinner wanted to make atonement for their sins, he came to the temple and stood before the Altar of Burnt Offering.  He placed his hands on his sacrificial lamb and confessed his sins.  Then, the sinner cut the jugular vein in the lamb’s neck and a priest captured some of the lamb’s blood in a cup.  The priest dipped a small tree branch into the blood and sprinkled some blood on the horns of the altar.  God designed this process to teach everyone that guilt is only transferred from sinners via “sinless blood” to the temple altar.  Remember, “….without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”  (Hebrews 9:22)

For example, in Bible times if a person stole a cow, he became a lawbreaker (sinner).  All lawbreakers are condemned to death because the penalty for sin is death.  (Romans 6:23)  If a thief wanted to make things right and escape the penalty for sin, he had to do two things.  First, he had to make atonement with the owner of the cow (provide restitution and reconciliation – see Exodus 22).  Then, the thief had to make atonement with God in order to be set free from the penalty of his sin.  If the thief came to the Altar of Burnt Offering with the prerequisite sin offering of a sinless lamb and confessed his sin, the thief’s guilt was transferred to the horns of the altar“by the blood of the lamb” and the thief departed free of any condemnation!  It could be said the end result was very good with one exception.  The victim had been made whole (his cow was returned or satisfactory substitution had been made), the thief had been forgiven (his guilt transferred to the temple), however this sinful act caused the temple to be contaminated because the thief’s guilt rested on the horns of the Altar of Burnt Offering!  The thief’s guilt remained on the horns of the altar until the Day of Atonement arrived. 

Point #3 God Cleanses His Temple of Sin’s Guilt

Once a year, God cleanses His temple of accumulated guilt on the Day of Atonement.  It is important to understand that sinners cannot cleanse God’s temple.  God conducted this service each year to teach Israel a number of lessons.  Perhaps the most obvious lesson is that a future day is coming when God’s temple will be free of sin forever because sin will no longer exist in His universe.  To cleanse the earthly temple, the High Priest (acting on God’s behalf) presented two perfect goats before God.  Lots were cast to see which goat was ‘God’s goat.”  The casting of lots might seem strange, but it illustrates an important concept.

The two different goats used on the Day of Atonement represent two different beings.  These beings were the covering cherubs on God’s throne, Jesus and Lucifer.  Both were perfect in every way until sin originated within Lucifer.  Lucifer became jealous of Jesus because the angels worshiped Jesus, but they did not worship Lucifer.  Lots were cast on the Day of Atonement so that God might declare and confirm which goat was “His anointed goat” (His chosen one).  Casting lots over goats illumines the fact that even Lucifer and Jesus were covering cherubs; only one was “the Son of God.”  The chosen goat was then slain and through its sinless blood, the sins accumulated in the temple were transferred to the head of the scapegoat.  The scapegoat was then led out into the desert to suffer a lingering death.  

Summarizing two facts:  First, God’s goat was put to death on the Day of Atonement, but the scapegoat was not.  Second, the casting of lots was not a random process.  God spoke through the castling of lots, declaring and confirming which goat was His goat.  God did this because while Jesus and Lucifer were covering cherubs (they looked similar), they were nothing alike.  Jesus was a member of the Godhead.  He lived in the form of an angel (before coming to Earth to live in the form of a man).  On the other hand, Lucifer was a “created” angel who could never be a member of the Godhead.  Therefore, the casting of the lots distinguished the difference between the two goats. 

Point #4 Punishment Fits the Crime

The hallmark of a reasonable and fair judicial system is that punishment fits the crime.  God’s judicial system is no different.  Given the lifelong suffering and pain that predators can impose on children or any innocent victim, thoughtfully consider this question:  Which individual should suffer more, the predator or his victim?  Your response to this question is important.  How much suffering is appropriate for a predator who has inflicted more sorrow, death, pain, and suffering on children and innocent people than human beings can calculate?  God has answered this question.  “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”   (Exodus 21: 23-25)

If a predator fails in this life to provide restitution that God requires, he will be resurrected to suffer the punishment he is due at the end of the 1,000 years.  Justice (atonement) will be complete when all predators have been paid back suffering imposed on children and innocent victims.

Summary

Two goats were required to cleanse the temple on the Day of Atonement.  God’s goat was executed and its sinless blood, the sins of Israel were transferred to the head of the scapegoat.  Once the sins of Israel were placed on the scapegoat, they were never removed.  The scapegoat was condemned to protracted suffering and death.  This is why a capable man led the scapegoat into the desert where it would starve to death.  God’s goat represents Jesus (the Savior from sin) and the scapegoat represents Lucifer (the predator, the creator of sin).

The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar.   The word means to reconcile, to restore, and to rebuild as one, hence the English word, “at-one-ment.”  We learned earlier that a thief can make atonement for his sin by (a) restoring the cow or a substitute cow to its owner, and (b) by transferring the guilt to the temple through the blood of a perfect lamb.  We know that God cleansed the temple that Moses built on the Day of Atonement annually by removing all of the guilt that had accumulated through the year.  We know that in order to transfer the guilt from the temple to the scapegoat, God provided His “chosen goat.”  We know the penalty for sin is death; however, the scapegoat fulfilled the demands of justice by suffering for an extended period of time.  The scapegoat bore in its flesh not the penalty for sin, but the responsibility for sin.  The protracted death of the scapegoat represents the lingering death that Lucifer will suffer at the end of time.  As a predator, he has caused an incalculable amount of sorrow, suffering, pain, and death and he must pay for his actions.  All the suffering associated with the sins that were transferred to the temple will end up on Lucifer’s head!  When Lucifer’s suffering finally ends in the lake of fire, God’s justice will be satisfied and atonement for what he has done will be complete!

In closing, each of us must be careful to insure that we make things right and keep things right with man and God.  Whatever we have stolen, we must pay back.  As far as possible, be sure to make things right with those we have wronged.  Then, we have to confess our sins to Jesus and repent of them.  (1 John 1:9)  The only way to escape to the condemnation that comes from being a sinner is through the sinless blood of Jesus Christ!  Otherwise, the words of the ancient prophet Obadiah will be fulfilled:  “The day of the Lord is near for all nations.  As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.”  (Obadiah 1:15)

Larry Wilson

 

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