The Day of Atonement and the Scapegoat

When taught as a unit, Seventh-day Adventists indirectly teach that Christ is the Anti-Christ little horn of Daniel 8:9-14 who defiled the sanctuary by transferring sin into it. See page one and chapter 4.

Chapter Fifteen





Edited: 8-2007

Lev. 16:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the LORD and died.

In chapter 10 God killed Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, because they had failed to observe holiness rules. They had defiled the sanctuary by bringing something (strange fire) into it which had been forbidden. Again, the facts of this event challenge the SDA claims that priests routinely brought SIN itself into the sanctuary as part of God’s will without receiving punishment.

Lev. 16:2 And the LORD said to Moses, Speak to Aaron your brother, that he does not come at all times into the holy place [MHP] within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he does not die: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.

While SDAs do not deny that “the holy place” here refers to “the most holy place,” they do deny that “within the veil” in Hebrews 6:20 refers to Leviticus 16:2, 12 and 15. (See previous chapter.)

Lev. 16:3‑4 Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place [MHP]: with a young bullock for a sin offering, and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat, and he shall have the linen sash upon his flesh, and shall be girded with a linen girdle, and with the linen mitre shall he be attired: these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and so put them on.

Lev. 16:11‑14 And Aaron shall bring the bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and shall make an atonement for himself, and for his house, and shall kill the bullock of the sin offering which is for himself: And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil: And he shall put the incense upon the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is upon the testimony, THAT HE DIE NOT: And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.

Contrary to SDA theology, the Most Holy Place was so undefiled that:

A.  Only the holy high priest could enter.

B.  The high priest could only enter one day a year B the holiest day!

C.  The high priest must first bathe in holy water.

D.  The high priest must be wearing holy garments.

E.  The high priest must first fill the room with dense smoke of holy incense.

F.  The fire of the incense and the incense must meet very holy standards.

G.  The high priest must enter with the blood of his own most holy sin offering.

If, according to SDAs, the MHP contained the combined atoned sins of all Israel, then it would be the most defiled place in the nation. Therefore, the above holiness ritual would make no sense. Since God killed Nadab and Abihu for using unholy fire, then he certainly would also kill any priest who dared to carry sin into the sanctuary.

Lev. 16:5‑6 And he shall take of the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house.

After the high priest had offered his personal household sin offering, he received two goats for ONE sin offering from the congregation. Both goats had been chosen by the holy congregation during the previous 9 days of prayer, fasting and deep contrition. Since the congregation did not know which goat the LORD would choose, then both goats must have been equally qualified to die as the most holy sin offering of atonement for Israel. This alone should disqualify one of the goats as being Satan himself (as SDAs teach). Remember that both goats made one sin offering and that the sin offering was most holy (Numb. 18:9).

Lev. 16:7-9 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat [RSV: for Azazel]. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’s lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.

In 16:7 both goats were “presented before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.” Therefore, as sin offerings, both goats became “most holy.” “This shall be yours of the most holy things …  every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for you and for your sons” (Numb. 18:9).

Since both goats were presented “before the LORD,” before Yahweh, then it is inconceivable to think that Yahweh would have allowed the congregation of Israel to present an adversary before Him as a possible blood sacrifice!

Lev. 16:10 But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat [RSV: for Azazel], shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat [RSV: to Azazel] into the wilderness.

In 16:8 one of the goats was chosen for immediate death and the other was chosen as the [KJV] “scapegoat.” Yet both were chosen as ONE sin offering in verse 5. Rather than translate the Hebrew word, the RSV says that he was chosen “for Aza’zel” and was subsequently to be led out into the desert “to Aza’zel” in verse 10. This interpretation does not demand that the scapegoat actually be Aza’zel, or Satan. Jesus Christ, like Yahweh=s goat, was condemned to die inside the holy city of Jerusalem, but, like Aza’ze’=s goat, actually died outside of it to prevent defiling it. This is why Hebrews 13:12 says “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.” The difference is that Aza’zel could not hold Jesus in death.

For the second time, in 16:10, the text says that the scapegoat is presented alive before the LORD.” Again, this could never be said of Satan or of sin surviving in the Presence of God. However, this contrasts with the SDA idea that sin itself can exist in the “heavenly” sanctuary in the very Presence of God until cleansed by the Investigative Judgment.

To make an atonement” means exactly what it says! Animals used to “make atonement” must be “most holy,” pure, clean and set-apart types of Christ. The high priest accepted the goat “for Aza’zel” because he had been selected by the entire congregation, and accepted by Yahweh, as a “most holy sin offering.” Unclean and defiled animals (and Satan) certainly did not qualify “to make atonement” of any kind! Finally, “into the wilderness” has two comparisons to Christ. First, after being presented before Yahweh at His baptism, Jesus went “into the wilderness,” into Satan’s (Aza’zel’s) territory. Second, “into the wilderness” could also refer to Christ’s descent into Hades immediately after His death (Eph. 4:8-10).

Lev. 16:15 Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring his blood within the veil, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat.

Lev. 16:17 And no man shall be in the tabernacle of the congregation [the holy place] when he goes in to make an atonement in the holy place [MHP], until he comes out, and has made an atonement for himself and for his household and for all the congregation of Israel.

The holiness requirements previously described for the high priest=s personal sin offering are repeated for the congregation=s sin offering. Absolutely no opportunity for defilement was allowed during this most solemn holy ritual.

SDAs fail to realize that the order of events on this Day of Atonement essentially follows the same sequenceas every other day! (1) The sacrificial animals (high priest=s bullock and congregation=s goats) were presented before the LORD at the doorway of the sanctuary. (2) By being accepted by the LORD, they became >most holy= (Numb. 18:9). (3) When the blood was shed, when the life was given, then the atonement was accepted and the guilt of the offence had been released. And (4) the blood was then brought before the LORD (Yahweh) as proof that the penalty required for the cleansing of sin had already been met. (5) The major difference was that the blood was brought inside the Most Holy Place.

For a full description of the nature of the sins removed on the Day of Atonement, see chapter 11 of this book. SDAs greatly err when they teach that the blood of the sin offerings throughout the year defiled the sanctuary by bringing sin into it B but the blood of the sin offering on the Day of Atonement cleansed it!!! However, all sin offerings represented the sinless blood of Jesus Christ which only cleanses from sin.

Lev. 16:18 And he shall go out unto the ALTAR that is before the LORD, and make an atonement for it; and shall take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat, and put it upon the horns of the altar round about.

Lev. 16:19 And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse [taher] it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel.

Lev. 16:20 And when he has made an end of reconciling the HOLY PLACE, and the TABERNACLE of the congregation, and the ALTAR, he shall bring the live goat.

As pointed out several times already, SDA theology fails to include the altar and the tabernacle of the congregation (the holy place) in its 1844 scenario. This is because they admit that Christ had (at the very least) already been ministering in the holy place since his ascension and (they teach) that only the Most Holy Place required (over a century of) cleansing beginning in 1844.

Lev. 16:21 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.

“ALL” refers to “all remaining un-atoned sins.” God does not require double payment for the same sins. Most Christian denominations teach that the scapegoat in Leviticus 16 represents Jesus Christ who forever bears our sins away. However, Seventh-day Adventists teach that the scapegoat used on the Day of Atonement ritual represented Satan, the originator of sin. Since Satan (SDAs teach) is ultimately responsible for all sin, then Satan must be the final sin-bearer who will bear sins out of the presence of God=s people. However, it is very obvious that the high priest did not become defiled by placing both of his hands on it.

GC420: [Ellen G. White] “Then, in his character of mediator, he [the high priest] took the SINS upon himself and bore THEM from the sanctuary. Placing his hands upon the head of the scapegoat, he confessed over him ALL THESE SINS, thus in figure transferring them from himself to the goat. The goat then bore THEM away, and they were regarded as forever separated from the people.”

GC422: “It was seen, also, that while the sin offering pointed to Christ as a sacrifice, and the high priest represented Christ as a mediator, the scapegoat typified Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the SINS of the finally penitent will finally be placed. When the high priest, by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, removed the SINS from the sanctuary, he placed THEM upon the scapegoat. When Christ, by virtue of His own blood, removes the SINS of his people from the heavenly sanctuary at the close of His ministration, He will place THEM upon Satan who, in the execution of the judgment, will bear the final penalty. The scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, never to come again into the congregation of Israel. So will Satan be forever banished from the presence of God and His people, and he will be blotted from existence in the final destruction of SIN and sinners.”

GC485: “As the priests, 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.”

Emphasis again is made upon the words, “SINS of the finally penitent” and “THEM.” This is because some SDA theologians try to lessen the impact of these words by saying that Christ was our sin-bearer, and Satan only bore “his part” of the sins which he caused others to commit. However —and this is a strong Ahowever@— that is NOT what Ellen G. White (incorrectly) wrote, nor is it what God=s Word clearly says.

In 16:20 the high priest “shall bring the live goat” (KJV), “offer” (NAS), “present” (RSV), “bring forward” (NIV) (Strong=s 7126 qarab). This is an extremely important Hebrew word which also means “approach,” “come near” and “offer” B for sacrifice! It is used in the texts which forbid anything unqualified or unholy from “coming near” anything holy inside the sanctuary complex (with violators being put to death for defiling it). See Numbers 18:3, 4, 7, 15 and 22. The goat “for Aza’zel” is clearly a “sin offering” presented as a “living sacrifice” but surely destined to die as an atonement for sin in Aza’zel’’s territory.

As previously discussed in great detail, the earthly sanctuary was defiled by general un-atoned sins of Israel because it was located in the middle of a sinful multitude. These are not previously-atoned sins! Neither is this true of God’s dwelling place in heaven. Again, God does not require double atonement for the same sins.

Lev. 16:22 And the goat shall bear upon him ALL their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

Heb. 13:11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp.

Heb. 13:12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate.

Heb. 13:13 Let us go forth therefore to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach.

In 16:21-22 the high priest used the second half of the one most holy “sin offering” (from 16:5) to carry the sins forever away from God=s redeemed. The entire sanctuary complex had already been cleaned (16:20, 30) and now the residue was being removed.

The difference between normal worship and the Day of Atonement is important here. Whereas, normally non-high-handed accidental sins and sins of ignorance were confessed over daily sin offerings, on the Day of Atonement only general sinfulness was confessed over both the high priest=s bullock, and the congregation’s goat for the LORD. This was a general confession of all remaining un-confessed sins. This compared to the single goat general sin offering made every Sabbath and every holy day (Numb. 28:15, 22, 30; 30:5). Again, see chapter 11 of this book.

The goat “for Aza’zel” is another exception. While sins were confessed over it, it was not immediately put to death. The live goat=s participation in atonement was probably a visual demonstration that God will both forgive and forget atoned sin. God=s people could personally visibly watch their sins forever disappearing into the distance as the goat was led away to its eventual death. Again, this Old Covenant ritual was a general cleansing. While only confessed non-high-handed sins were ordinarily daily cleansed, this event atoned for “all iniquities,” “all transgressions” and “all sins” which remained within the congregation.

The New Covenant sanctuary in heaven is not located in the midst of a sinful multitude. All of this was symbolic ritual designed by God to last only until the New Covenant reality of Christ=s heavenly ministry would begin, “The Holy Spirit this signifying [through Old Covenant patterns], that the way into the holiest of all [the heavenly sanctuary] was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing” Hebrews 9:8. What purpose then does the law serve? “It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made” Galatians 3:19. NKJV.

Lev. 16:23 And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle of the congregation [HP], and shall put off the linen garments, which he put on when he went into the holy place [MHP], and shall leave them there.

Lev. 16:24 And he shall wash his flesh with water in {that} holy place, and put on his garments, and come forth, and offer his burnt offering, and the burnt offering of the people, and make an atonement for himself, and for the people.

Note that this occurs AFTER the high priest literally touched the goat “for Aza’zel.” Yet he was not defiled, neither was he required to offer another sin offering. Thus the second goat could not have represented Satan. Neither did he literally handle sins!

Lev. 16:26 And he that let go the goat for the scapegoat shall wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in water, and afterward come into the camp.

Again note that the person who led away the goat “for Aza’zel’ was not considered defiled by sin. He was not required to offer a sin offering. He did not even have to wait until sunset to come back into the camp. Thus he also could hot have handled Satan and could not have been considered defiled by sin. The comparison between verses 24, 26 and 28 should confirm that both goats had the same value and both goats equally affected their three different handlers B none were required to make sin offerings afterwards.

Lev. 14:52 And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet.

Lev. 14:53 But he shall let go the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house: and it shall be clean.

Lest SDAs still object, a similar ritual is found in the cleansing of a leper with two birds in Leviticus 14:1-53, especially verses 52-53. Both birds made one atonement.