The Scapegoat in The Sanctuary

Christmas Tree Cerca Pier

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

There is a song I remember singing a hundred years ago, when I was a teenager. It went something like this, “I owed a debt I could not pay. He paid a debt He did not owe.” Beautiful song, but not exactly theologically correct if you want to get technical. And no, I do not like to get technical and I guess it may be theologically correct in one way, but in another way, it’s not. You see, fact is, I can pay the debt that I owe myself. Romans 6:23 tells us the wages of sin is death. I can pay for and atone for my sins all by myself with no help from Jesus, by dying. I am eternally grateful though, that Jesus did paid that debt for me! Because fact is, I could not pay the debt and live.

Satan, on the other hand, will have to pay the debt and atone for his sins himself.

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

The scapegoat is cast into the wilderness to atone for sin. The scapegoat represents Satan who, after the cleansing of the sanctuary and investigative judgment, has now been blamed for the sin problem. The guilt and responsibility for sin is placed upon the scapegoat who goes off to the wilderness. This represents Satan, after the literal investigative judgment, spending a thousand years after the Second Coming here on earth, as it lies wasted and barren. After a thousand years of considering his great idea to rebel against God’s government and start his own, he will then realize it was not such a great idea after all.

Still, many have trouble with the scapegoat representing Satan. The Seventh-day Adventist church is unique in believing Satan is the scapegoat. Other denominations ask how can Satan bear our sin? Good question! Fact is, he does not bear our sin, he bears his own sin. He shares our guilt when he tempts us to sin. While Jesus died for our guilt, He did not die for Satan’s guilt, so it is still placed upon Satan. Others point out that the word “atonement” is used. How can Satan atone for our sins? Again, he does not atone for our sins, he atones for his own sin by dying an eternal death. You see, often it is said Jesus died for our sins because we could not atone for our own sins, but this is not true. We can atone for our own sins by dying an eternal death. The wages of sin is death and we can pay those wages in full if we so choose. We can atone for our own sin if we want. Satan atones for his own sin and shared guilt in our sins by being the scapegoat sent off to die an eternal death (Revelation 20). The universe will no longer blame God for the sin problem. Ironically, when the sin problem has been done away with, the only trace of sin will be the nail scars in Jesus’ hands. Thus, the only Person who will bear eternally the result of sin will be the only Person who was totally innocent.

The perfect Lamb of God is my Savior for all eternity! Hebrews 7:25 says, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” My Savior does not live so that He can force angels and humanity to worship Him and sing His praises. He does not live so that He can be a tyrant and boss everybody around. Once the sanctuary is cleansed, and guilt is put in its proper place, it will be seen that the Son of God lives to make intercession for sinners. We will be able to look as far in the past as eternity goes and as far into the future as eternity goes, and see that Jesus lives for one reason; to be our Savior!

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. You can download the SS lessons to your phone here.


  1. I have difficulty bringing Scapegoat “atonement” into the picture after the cross of Jesus. IN THE OLD TEST SERVICE THE ATONEMENT WAS MADE IN THE MOST HOLY PLACE WHICH MUST BE CLEANSED EVERY YEAR. After Jesus ascended to the Most Holy place that Sunday morn and His atonement accepted, later he He sat down at the right hand of God until his enemies are made his footstool. Both the penalty, the consequences, separation from God was fulfilled by Him at the Cross. Tto depict the yearly cleansing by the banishment of scapegoat was only a shadow of the real atonement found in Jesus. Atonement means to bring to “one ment” the sinner and Christ. Satan has nothing to do with that!! Propitiation, Expiation included in Atonement have nothing to do with Satan and the wicked. So does the New Testament need the scapegoat and do we need to impose Old Testament imagery on Hebrews or should we impose Hebrews imagery on Leviticus?


    1. Thank you for taking the time to write Fred. Remember the day of atonement came after the passover. The passover is seen in the coutryard of the sanctuary. while as you correctly say the day of atoenment takes place later in the Holy place. Peter referrred to this in Acts 3:19 when he said, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” So, if the aronement ended at the cross then the sanctuary would have consisted only of a courtyard which represents the passover which was a shadow of the cross.

      You comment that Satan has nothing to do with making an atonement between us and Christ. Well as you study the sanctuary and the cleansing of the sanctuary, you see that part of reconciling us to God involves us seeing God as love. We see God as love when we realize Satan is respnsible for sin and suffering and not God. The heart and mind are also a temple or sanctuary where God wants to dwell. However our minds have been filled with Satan’s lies, which make us misstrust God. Once the sanctuary of our heart and minds have been cleansed from Satan’s lies and we see that the responsibility for sin lies with Satan, we are reconciled to God at at one with him. Thus the atonement.

      The word Salvation comes from the Word salve which means to heal. The atonement, seeing Satan not God is repsonsible for suffering heals our relationship with God.


      1. I didn’t know, “salvation comes from the word salve which means to heal. The atonement, seeing that Satan, not God, is repsonsible for suffering, heals our relationship with God.” That’s a very powerful concept and thanks for sharing.

  2. Dear William,

    Merry Christmas and blessings to you my dear friend. Hope all is well and look forward to seeing you in the near future.

    My understanding is that during the day of atonement, as the last part of the ceremony, the scapegoat represents the culpability of Satan for the sins of the world. Jesus – The Lamb of God – is the “propitiation” for our sins. The final acts in the atonement ceremony is “close” the ritual or end the process with “this is who really is responsible for the sins of the world.” It is the epilogue to the theme of salvation in the issue of the great controversy. God is ultimately vindicated from the false accusations of the enemy. See the last chapter of the book Great Controversy and how the final pages end.

    Hope is helpful.

    Love & Peace in Christ Jesus


  3. Great blog William. I feel that at time us/we Seventh-day Adventist need to pull the plow up/out. We dig way too deep trying to find significance where there may be none, and miss the big picture (missing the Forrest for the trees).

    We to ask the question, “What was the purpose of the Atonement?” It’s a two fold question. The first is answered by what it meant for humanity. It meant that our sins were paid for and removed. We were restored in relationship to God and our sins were totally cleansed.

    Remember the cleansing was a two step process. At the alter the sin was forgiven and his responsibility was completed. It was now the interceding of the priest that was important. This is where Jesus takes over. The sacrifice was a type for Jesus, but the priests’ duties are also a type of what Jesus did and is doing.

    Now, the second. Remember that the Day of Atonement was also a DAY OF JUDGEMENT. Ahh, who is judged. Since the goat representing Jesus was slain to pay for our sins, be out propitiation, AND cleanses the Temple, all are clean. So, who is being judged, since we have been shown to be clean?

    Satan is judged. That’s where the scapegoat comes in. The sins (it was of the blood that came from the goat that represented Jesus) are laid upon the scapegoat.

    Judgement comes upon this goat and it is lead be the wilderness to wander, representing the solitude and lone life he will lead during the 1000 years. He is in the barren wilderness.

    So, the scapegoat is instrumental event today while Jesus is sitting in judgement of humanity. You see we are in the anti typical Day of Atonement that began in 1844. When we are shown to be covered by the blood of the lamb, sin has to fall where it merits, upon the “Father of Lies”, the Original Sinner, Satan.

    William, I hope this helps and doesn’t muddy the water anymore.


  4. William, I just got around to reading this blog and was blessed. I was enlightened by the insight, “He shares our guilt when he tempts us to sin. While Jesus died for our guilt, He did not die for Satan’s guilt.” This is helpful in comprehending the deeper nuances of the significance of the Scapegoat as it relates to Satan.


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