The Atonement Plan

This article is a combination of three articles (Sedliacik RH. MINISTUDY: The Day of Atonement in God's Great Master Plan. Good News, August 1983; Hoeh H. HOW to Observe God's Festivals. Good News, January 1959; Kackos GM. The Day of Atonement and YOUR Future. Good News, August 1983), plus many scriptures, some edits, and original writings and research done by Dr. Bob Thiel, AKA COGwriter.

God's annual festivals remind us how He is working out His master plan for humankind, step by step.
   
The first three festivals -- Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost -- picture events leading to the first spiritual "harvest" of Spirit-begotten human beings into God's universe-ruling Family. These days portray the preparation, training and final "reaping" of the firstfruits -- those few called by God before Christ's return. The last four festivals show the plan God has for completing salvation for the rest of the world.
   
The fourth festival, the Feast of Trumpets, pictures the blowing of trumpets and the triumphant return of Jesus Christ to rescue mankind from self-destruction and to set up the world-ruling government of God. It is also at Christ's return that the firstfruits of God's plan are born into His Family, to begin assisting Christ in ruling the nations.
   
But what about Satan? What happens to him? And what else can we learn about Jesus' role?
   
The fifth annual festival, the Day of Atonement, reveals the answer. It pictures Christ deposing Satan the devil from his present position as world ruler (2 Corinthians 4:4) The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. Notice that is what the Bible teaches:

2 But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. 3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Corinthians 4:2-4, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted)

The Day of Atonement pictures Jesus' sacrifice and Satan's removal to a place completely away and apart from humankind. He will be bound for 1,000 years, no longer able to deceive the nations and influence humans to sin. A sermon of related interest is titled God's Atonement Plan.

Atonement and Fasting

After Satan's imprisonment, the rest of humanity will be reconciled -- made at one-- with God.
  
Let's go back to the Hebrew scriptures to learn something about this day:

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:26-32)

29 “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. 30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. 31 It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. (Leviticus 16:29-31)

What does it mean "afflict your soul"? The word afflict (Hebrew anah) is translated "humble" in Psalm 35:13, where David said, "I humbled myself with fasting." So afflicting oneself means to fast.

Are God's people commanded to assemble before Him on this day?

27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord (Levitcus 23:27).

How are we to specifically observe the Day of Atonement?

32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:32)

How does one "afflict" his body on this day?

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen?
Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers. (Isaiah 58:3)

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. (Ezra 8:21, KJV)

The Day of Atonement is perhaps the most unusual Holy Day, as far as what God expects us to do. It is the one day of the year on which God commands us to fast — to abstain from food and water (cf. Exodus 34:28).

This fasting is for 24 hours, from sunset on the ninth day of the month to sunset on the tenth day, from "evening unto evening":

32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath. (Leviticus 23:32).

Fasting should result in humbling oneself to draw closer to God and His righteous ways:

6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning,
Your healing shall spring forth speedily,
And your righteousness shall go before you;
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.
“If you take away the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then your light shall dawn in the darkness,
And your darkness shall be as the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isaiah 58:6-11).

Thus fasting on the Day of Atonement is a vivid reminder of the state of mind necessary for salvation -- of the humility, the godly sorrow, the earnest seeking after God and His way -- a condition to which this world will have been brought by catastrophic events culminating in Jesus Christ's return.

While fasting was done in the Old Testament, did Jesus expect His followers to fast?

Certainly:

16 "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Matthew 6:16-18)

18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?"

19 And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days." (Mark 2:18-20)

20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:20-21)

Consider that there would be no point in Jesus discussing prayer and fasting together if He did not expect that His followers would fast.

The Apostle Paul also taught that Christians should pray and fast:

5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)

Fasting, amongst other things, can help with self-control. That was something that the Apostle Paul even tried to teach a governor about:

25 Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, "Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you." (Acts 24:25)

Notice that hearing about judgment and self-control made Felix afraid, but he did not repent then.

Does the Day of Atonement also differ from all other annual Holy Days in that no work whatsoever is to be done on it?

7 ‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work. (Numbers 29:7)

29 “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. (Leviticus 16:29)

Note: If you have to aid someone who is otherwise afflicted, that is acceptable, though you should still fast if your health/etc. allows it (cf. Matthew 12:11-12) or to do aspects of the work of God (cf. Matthew 12:5).

The Day of Atonement is the only specified day when we are commanded to fast. It is so important that in the New Testament we see this Festival referred to as "the Fast" in Acts 27:9.

The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves, to consider the needs of others, to see our insignificance and realize our need for and utter dependence on God (James 4:9-10). God does not hold us guiltless for the sins that Satan influences us to commit. We bear a responsibility for yielding to Satan's temptations. God wants you to examine yourself so you will recognize your shortcomings and overcome them. These are the conditions of a proper fast that can cause God to intervene on your behalf if you also pray. (For more information on prayer, check out our free booklet Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach?)

In writing, the old Radio Church of God taught:

The Day of Atonement

A most unusual day is this! Imagine God commanding one fast day for His people annually. The Day of Atonement is a commanded fast. Leviticus 23:28-32 explains that there is no work whatsoever to be done on it. God's people are to congregate whenever possible, as on the preceding Holy Day. Even though no one is to partake of food or juices, there is no specific prohibition on water. A fast is a fast, whether it be with or without water. Both kinds of fasts are mentioned in the Bible. See the examples of Moses and the prophets.

No explicit instruction is given infants. Nursing infants were assembled in a special fast (Joel 2:16) but there is no indication that they did not nurse on the Day of Atonement. Since fasting on this day has a special meaning, little children should be taught to fast when they can first comprehend the fact that God commands it, and not before. It is worse for a child to turn back on what he should do, than not to have known about it at all. We should not eat the usual evening meal on the beginning of the Day of Atonement (remember, God's days begin at sunset).

Eat in moderation, the evening meal that follows the Day of Atonement. Always be careful not to eat the usual amount of heavy foods immediately after a fast. If some of you have never fasted for the first time there might be slight physically uncomfortable reactions. But how small are these compared to the heart-warming benefits that come from doing the will of God! Since God instructs that no work whatsoever be done on this day, be sure that as much preparation as possible for the day has been previously made so that unconverted members of your family will not have cause to complain. Sometimes a converted wife and mother may have to do certain limited work on this day for her unconverted family. (Hoeh H. HOW to Observe God's Festivals. Good News, January 1959)

Some of that changed later. For example, the Fast on the Day of Atonement in the old Worldwide Church of God (which had been the old Radio Church of God) involved avoiding both food and water. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and others who needed to were encouraged to drink water on the Day of Atonement and babies would nurse, etc.

As far as children go, in our family my wife and I tended to ease our children into it, based upon their age and health. First, we always would prohibit any type of desserts and similar snacks on the Day of Atonement. One certainly is not afflicting one's soul by consuming sweets or 'junk food.' We also would tend have them have dinner before Atonement and after Atonement, so they would generally be eating less during the actual Day of Atonement. We later, as they were older, would then prohibit fruits. Finally, when they were ready and basically asked to fast, then they would avoid all food and drink as we, their parents, did.

As far as heavy meals go, the Jews have a Talmudic tradition (Yoma 81b, Rosh HaShana 9a, Pesaḥim 68b, Berakhot 8b.; Rashi, Yoma 81b, s.v. kol.) that whoever eats a lot prior to the Day of Atonement will be considered to have fasted for twice as long as far as God is concerned (Brofsky D. The Mitzva to Eat on Erev Yom Kippur and the Teshuva of Yom Kippur. Torah Musings, October 2, 2014. http://www.torahmusings.com/2014/10/mitzva-eat-erev-yom-kippur-teshuva-yom-kippur/#rf5-37509 accessed 09/12/15). Well, while that is not the case, our sons normally tended to think that eating a lot before the Day of Atonement was a good idea. Whether it is or not depends on the person, but drinking more water the days prior to sunset and the start of the Day of Atonement is a good idea.

It never seemed to bother them (or us) to eat 'heavy meals' prior to the sunset for the Day of Atonement. However, I would add that our family tends not to consume caffeine, and those that do consume caffeine tend to have a harder time fasting.

As far as water goes, biblical examples show that fasting means to go without food and water:

9 When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. (Deuteronomy 9:9)

15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" (Esther 4:15-16)

1 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you." 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:1-10)

8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:8-9)

Refraining from food and water reminds us that we are physically frail and helps us realize that we do need God's sustenance. The process of fasting helps teach us that we of ourselves are not sufficient--we are not immortal and we cannot save ourselves.

Why is this day to be kept so solemnly?

28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. (Leviticus 23:28)

What does atonement mean? Webster says to atone means to "set at one." To join in one -- to form by uniting. This day actually symbolizes God and humans being set at one: literally the Day of At-one-ment! But God and humankind cannot be fully at one -- in full agreement -- until Satan is restrained.

The Tabernacle, Mercy Seat, and the Holy of Holies

Various rituals and symbols were associated with the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament priesthood.

The Bible shows that after making the covenant agreement with Israel, God told the nation to build a Tabernacle, which is a physical type of God's habitation in heaven (Exodus 25-27, 30, Hebrews 9:23-24).

The Tabernacle consisted of an enclosed courtyard, containing an altar for animal sacrifices and a tent. The tent was divided into two sections by a veil. The section behind the veil was called the "Most Holy" place or "Holiest of All." The other section was the "holy place"

31 "You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim. 32 You shall hang it upon the four pillars of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Their hooks shall be gold, upon four sockets of silver. 33 And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy. 34 You shall put the mercy seat upon the ark of the Testimony in the Most Holy. 35 You shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand across from the table on the side of the tabernacle toward the south; and you shall put the table on the north side. (Exodus 26:31-35)

1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (Hebrews 9:1-5)

The most holy place represented God's throne--but also consider that the MERCY SEAT was there. Located here also was the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments and other items (Deuteronomy 10:2, 31:26, Exodus 16:33-34, Numbers 17:1-10).

The lid of the Ark was called the mercy seat; this was where God manifested Himself:

17 "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two and a half cubits shall be its length and a cubit and a half its width. 18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work you shall make them at the two ends of the mercy seat. 19 Make one cherub at one end, and the other cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim at the two ends of it of one piece with the mercy seat. 20 And the cherubim shall stretch out their wings above, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and they shall face one another; the faces of the cherubim shall be toward the mercy seat. 21 You shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the Testimony that I will give you. 22 And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. (Exodus 25:17-22)

The job of high priest was given to Aaron; his sons served as priests. As time passed, other of his descendants held these positions. As priests, they performed various animal sacrifices and ceremonies on behalf of Israel.

Rituals for the High Priest

On the Day of Atonement, special animal sacrifices and ceremonies were conducted. These are explained in Leviticus 16.

This was the only day when Aaron was allowed to enter the most holy place.

6 And you shall put it before the veil that is before the ark of the Testimony, before the mercy seat that is over the Testimony, where I will meet with you.

7 "Aaron shall burn on it sweet incense every morning; when he tends the lamps, he shall burn incense on it. 8 And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. 9 You shall not offer strange incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering; nor shall you pour a drink offering on it. 10 And Aaron shall make atonement upon its horns once a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonement; once a year he shall make atonement upon it throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord." (Exodus 30:6-10)

6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people's sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. (Hebrews 9:6-8)

Before doing this, he had to bathe and dress himself in his priestly garments (Leviticus 16:4). Then he had to offer on the altar a bullock as a sin offering for himself. Once this was completed, he took a censer, a vessel that held burning coals, from the altar and entered the most holy place. He then took incense, an aromatic compound, and placed it on the burning coals. Next he sprinkled blood from the bullock on the mercy seat, which represented God's throne (verses 11-14).

Why did Aaron do these things? What did they picture?

Aaron had to first make atonement for himself as a sinning human before God. The word atonement literally means "to make at one with."

Washing himself pictured having his conscience changed to accept God's standard of righteousness (Hebrews 10:22). His linen coat symbolized living a righteous life (Revelation 19:8). The incense pictured prayers ascending to God (Psalm 141:2, Revelation 5:8). The blood represented the way sins are forgiven (Hebrews 9:13-14, Romans 3:25). Aaron, the high priest, was a type of Jesus Christ, who is now our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1).

By living a sinless life, Jesus qualified to offer Himself as a sin sacrifice for all humanity through His crucifixion. After Jesus' death, the veil in the Temple (the Temple had replaced the Tabernacle) was torn in two from top to bottom:

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:50-53)

The torn veil represented the fact that, because of Jesus' sacrifice, we are now allowed direct contact with God the Father through prayer:

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. (Hebrews 10:19-27)

19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, "Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, 'A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'? 20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

23 "And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

25 "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father." (John 16:19-28)

This type of contact with the Father is something that those living before Christ's resurrection did not have; their access was limited to the Word of God, the God of the Old Testament who became Jesus Christ, and what God's servants told them on His behalf.

Some Levitical Activities

The 16th chapter of Leviticus give more detail on God's instructions to the Levitical priesthood of ancient Israel concerning the Day of Atonement. Let's briefly examine the activities of this day to see their vital connection with the restraining of Satan after Christ's return.

Was the Aaronic high priest to make a special sin offering once a year to atone for all the sins of Israel?

32 And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; 33 then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary,and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. 34 This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as the Lord commanded Moses. (Leviticus 16:32-34)

Was this done on the Day of Atonement? Verses 29-30.

29 "This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. 30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.

But what was the high priest to do before making this atonement?

5 And he shall take from the congregation of the children of Israel two kids of the goats as a sin offering, and one ram as a burnt offering.
6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering, which is for himself, and make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 He shall take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 8 Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:5-8)

Was one of the two goats to be sent into the wilderness?

10 But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness. (Leviticus 16:10)

Whom did the banished goat represent?

8 Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat. (Leviticus 16:8)

The English word scapegoat is not a correct translation of the Hebrew word God inspired. Most Bibles with marginal renderings show that the original word was azazel. Azazel refers to none other than Satan the devil!

Says The Comprehensive Commentary: "[According to] the oldest opinions of the Hebrews and Christians... Azazel is the name of the Devil ... the word signified the goat which went away."

As far as 'Azazel', notice the following:

R. Menachem interprets Azazel of Samael, the angel of death, the devil, the prince that hath power over desolate places: there are several Christian writers of great note, that understand this of the devil as Origen (b), among the ancients; and of the moderns, Cocceius (c), Witsius (d), and Spencer (e), who think that by these two goats is signified the twofold respect of Christ our Mediator; one to God, as a Judge, to whom he made satisfaction by his death; the other to the devil, the enemy with whom he conflicted in life; who, according to prophecy, was to be delivered up to Satan, and have his heel bruised by him; and who was to come, and did come into the wilderness of this world...(Gill, John. Exposition of the Entire Bible. [1746-63])

So, basically a Jewish rabbi ("R." is an abbreviation for Rabbi) and certain leaders who professed Christ believed that the Azazel goat represented Satan. And that is consistent with the passages in Leviticus 16 and other scriptures.

Notice also the following from the Jewish Encyclopedia:

The Day of Atonement, according to Biblical tradition, is one in the cycle of holidays instituted by Moses. It occurs on the tenth day of the seventh month, and is distinguished by abstaining thereon from food ("afflicting one's soul"; compare Isa. Iviii. 3, 5) and by an elaborate ceremonial. The details of the ritual, in accordance with rabbinical interpretation (Sifra and Rashi on Lev. xvi.; Mishnah and Gemara Yoma; "Yad" Hil. 'Abodat Yom ha-Kippurim; Asheri), proceed about as follows: In the early morning the high priest, in his robes of office (described Ex. xxviii., xxxix.), offered the daily morning sacrifice (Num. xxix. 11; Ex. xxix. 38 et seq.) and performed the ordinary morning rite of dressing the lamps, which was accompanied by an offering of incense (Ex. xxx. 7). Next in order was the festival sacrifice of a bullock and seven lambs (Num. xxix. 7 et seq.). Then began the peculiar ceremonies of atonement, for which the high priest put on special vestments of linen (Lev. xvi. 4). With his hands placed on the head of a bullock (contributed from his own means), he made confession of his own sins and of those of his nearer household (verse 6, see Rashi). The two goats contributed by the people (verse 5) were placed before him, being designated by lot, the one for a sinoffering "for the Lord," and the other to be sent away into the wilderness "for Azazel" (verses 7-10). Once more the high priest made confession over his own bullock, for himself and his wider household—his brother priests (verse 11a). After killing the animal (verse 11b) and receiving its blood into a vessel, he took a censer full of live coals from the altar of burnt offering (Ex. xxvii. 1-8) and two handfuls of fine incense into the sacred recess behind the curtain, the Holy of Holies; there he placed the incense on the coals, the cloud of incense enveloping the so-called "mercy-seat" (verse 12 et seq.), and offered a short prayer (Yoma v. 1). He returned for the vessel containing the blood of the bullock and reentered, sprinkling some of it with his finger eight times between the staves of the Ark (verse 14; Ex. xxv. 13-15). He then left the sacred compartment to kill the people's goat (marked "for the Lord"); with its blood he reentered the Holy of Holies, there to perform the same number of sprinklings in the same place (verse 15)...

In rabbinic Judaism the Day of Atonement completes the penitential period of ten days ( ) that begins with New-Year's Day, the season of repentance and prayer; for though prayerful humiliation be acceptable at all times, it is peculiarly potent at that time (R. H. 18a; Maimonides, "Yad," Teshubah, ii. 6). It is customary to rise early (commencing a few days before New-Year); the morning service is preceded by litanies and petitions of forgiveness (, "seliḥot") which, on the Day of Atonement, are woven into the liturgy (Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 581; Zunz, "S. P." 76 et seq.). New-Year's and Atonement days are days of serious meditation (, "awful days," Zunz, "S. P." 82, note)... On the Day of Atonement the pious Jew becomes forgetful of the flesh and its wants, and, banishing hatred, ill-feeling, and all ignoble thoughts, seeks to be occupied exclusively with things spiritual. (Atonement, Day of. Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2093-atonement-day-of viewed 09/06/13)

Although Moses did not institute it per se (God told Moses), the idea that the other goat (the one sent to the wilderness alive) was for Azazel is documented in Jewish literature.

The azazel was the goat that was sent into the wilderness.

The modern word scapegoat carries an entirely wrong connotation. Originally it was escape goat — the goat allowed to escape in the wilderness — that the translators took to be the meaning of azazel. But today the English word scapegoat signifies "one who bears blame or guilt for others." As we shall see, azazel — Satan — will bear his own guilt!

Jesus and the Atonement

Did the high priest next offer the goat chosen by lot for the Lord as a sin offering for all the people?

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. 16 So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness. (Leviticus 16:15-16)

Throughout the year Israel's sins were symbolically transferred to the Tabernacle and its fixtures. Once a year on the Day of Atonement this mountainous load of guilt was symbolically purged from the nation in order that God might continue to dwell in Israel, for sin separates man from God, who is holy (Isaiah 59:2 "But your iniquities have separated you from your God;  And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear").

But wasn't it Christ Himself who was slain for the sins of all humankind, and who then assumed the office of our perfect, sinless High Priest in heaven?

17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 2:17)

20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:20)

26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; (Hebrews 7:26)

Did the resurrected Christ begin to do what the Aaronic high priest did in type on the Day of Atonement?

17 There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel. 18 And he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord, and make atonement for it, and shall take some of the blood of the bull and some of the blood of the goat, and put it on the horns of the altar all around. 19 Then he shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times, cleanse it, and consecrate it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel. (Leviticus 16:75-19)

7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:7-14)

And so we can understand today that the slain goat for the Lord actually represented the crucified Jesus. The high priest, by taking the blood of this slain goat through the veil to the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies (a type of God's throne), represented and symbolically did, in a prophetic sense, the work of the risen Christ, who ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, where He has been interceding as our High Priest since His resurrection.

This slain goat, whose blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat and the altar for the sins of the people represented Christ. Jesus was slain and His blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins:

16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you." 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another — 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Hebrews 9:16-28)

Notice also something from the Hebrew scriptures:

6 In mercy and truth
Atonement is provided for iniquity;
And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil. (Proverbs 16:6)

Jesus died for our iniquities.

Notice that this was clearly prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures:

1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground.He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. (Isaiah 53:1-8)

Jesus was the atonement:

10 In this is love: it was not that we loved God, but he has loved us, and he sent us his Son, the atonement for the sake of our sins. (1 John 4:10, Aramaic Bible in Plain English)

10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:10, NIV)

Although Jesus was our Passover lamb sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) and He only was slain once (Hebrews 9:28), we also see a ceremony other than Passover where Jesus is ceremonial slain.

Why?

Many have speculated, but there could be clues with the fact that this happens before the release of the second goat.

The original Passover only resulted in the children of Israel being passed over for their sins. In this age, those who are true Christians claim the sacrifice of Jesus on His final earthly Passover for paying the penalty for our sins. But real Christians are a small minority of the population of the world (Luke 12:32).

Since the Bible calls Satan "the god of this age" who has "blinded" the world (2 Corinthians 4:4), they have been blinded and have not yet been covered by the sacirifice of Jesus, but this will happen for all who will be called--either in this age or the age to come (Matthew 12:32). Showing the sacrifice, ceremonially, after the church age ends, helps show that the sacrifice of Jesus was not just for those called in the church age.

But showing the sacrifice prior to the other goat being released, this shows that Jesus was not taking away the sins of Satan.

Jesus took the penalty of all human beings. But it doesn't apply to humans until after God calls us and grants us repentance (John 6:44) and we come to be willing to repent and we come to believe, not only in Jesus, but we believe Christ and we believe God, that is, we believe what They say--and prove it by repenting, being baptized, being granted the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and actually trying to live as They would have us live.

Azazel Goat Representing Satan Bears Guilt

Did the high priest then seize the live azazel goat in the ceremony?

20 And when he has made an end of atoning for the Holy Place, the tabernacle of meeting, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat. (Leviticus16:20)

Did he symbolically confess the sins of Israel on the head of azazel?

21 Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. (Leviticus16:21)

Whose guilt, in a sense, were they, really?

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:42-44)

Jesus took our guilt -- our sins -- upon Himself as an innocent substitution, a sacrifice to pay the penalty of sin, which is eternal death (Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord"). But an influential cause behind those sins was Satan the devil. He is the initial author of the sins of humankind. So here the guilt for Satan-inspired sins are symbolically being put right back on Satan's head.

Notice that Satan was completely removed from the presence of the people.

Satan, of course, cannot pay the penalty for sin, but will bear his punishment for his guilt. Only Jesus' sacrifice can remove the penalty for sins--and those that reject that will suffer the second death:

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Revelation 20:14)

8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8)

But that differs from what will happen to those that truly accept Christ and repent:

22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)

What will be done to Satan after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; (Revelation 20:1-2)

Where is he cast?

3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. (Revelation 20:3)

1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. 2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! (Revelation 18:1-2)

The "bottomless pit" or abyss was pictured by the desert wilderness where azazel was banished. Satan and his demons will be completely restrained by Christ from further leading mankind into sin. No longer will Satan be able to broadcast (Ephesians 2:2 "in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience") his evil attitudes into people's minds.

Satan and his demons will pay for what they have done:

3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? (1 Corinthians 6:3)

18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20)

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

Satan and his demons will bear their guilt. Satan is NOT getting away with it.

At the devil's chaining by an angel of God (symbolically, the "fit man" — Leviticus 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:", KJV), the minds of humans, formerly kept spiritually closed by Satan, will be opened by the Spirit of God!

For the first time, humanity will be able to understand God's master plan of salvation. People will then want to repent and receive forgiveness, through Christ's sacrifice, of their sins. Only then will man become at one with Christ and the Father, as pictured by the Day of At-one-ment.

The world will then become free of Satan's influence and responsive to God's way of life; men's sins will be laid to Satan's charge. The change will be remarkable. Humanity as a whole will accept the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and live according to God's law:

4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

6 "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den.
9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:4-9)

172 My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness. (Psalms 119:172)

Finally, there will be universal peace, joy and happiness:

12 Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
Streaming to the goodness of the Lord —
For wheat and new wine and oil,
For the young of the flock and the herd;
Their souls shall be like a well-watered garden,
And they shall sorrow no more at all.

13 "Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance,
And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy,
Will comfort them,
And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
14 I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance,
And My people shall be satisfied with My goodness, says the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:12-14)

Satan will be bound and the millennial reign will be on the earth:

1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Revelation 20:1-6)

9 And they sang a new song, saying:

"You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth." (Revelation 5:9-10)

The Day of Atonement pictures part of this. The first phase of the kingdom of God on Earth. The millennium (see also Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?).

Keep this Festival

The Day of Atonement is part of God's plan of salvation. It reminds us that our sins are paid for by the sacrifice of Jesus. It also helps remind us that although not all have accepted His sacrifice, that He was sacrificed for all and that others will have an opportunity to accept Him later.

The process of fasting reminds us that we of ourselves are not sufficient--we are not immortal and we cannot save ourselves.

Keep in mind the following:

9 Who can say, "I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin"?  (Proverbs 20:9)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

We all need Christ's Atonement. Some accept it now, most others will later.

The Day of Atonement also teaches us that Satan will not get away with what he has done--and he will bear his guilt.

The Day of Atonement, then, is a solemn, serious occasion, and yet, because of what it pictures, this Festival is a tremendously positive and encouraging day. Besides revealing vital understanding about God's plan of salvation, the Day of Atonement can bring you much closer to God, if you obey God's command to observe this day.

Don't deny yourself this relationship with God. Decide now to keep the Day of Atonement!

A sermon of related interest is titled God's Atonement Plan.

The Day of Atonement will occur on the following dates in the next few years (and begins sunset the evening before):

2015: Sunset September 22 to sunset September 23
2016: Sunset October 11 to sunset October 12
2017: Sunset Setember 29 to sunset September 30

For more dates check out Holy Day Calendar. This is a listing of the biblical holy days through 2024, with their Roman calendar dates. They are really hard to observe if you do not know when they occur :)

Thiel B. The Atonement Plan. http://www.cogwriter.com/atonement-plan.htm COGwriter (c) 2015 0914