Your Scapegoat: Satan or Jesus?

By Robert K. Sanders


I believed for thirty-seven years as a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that Satan was my scapegoat and that Jesus would put my confessed sins on Satan’s head and he would be punished and die for them because Ellen G. White (EGW) said so. I made the mistake of trusting her as my authority. The result of using her as an authority "the lesser light" to the Bible, gave me a false understanding of the work of my Savior in saving me. I have received a great blessing in learning that Jesus is my Scapegoat and it has given me a greater love and admiration for Jesus’ atonement to save me. I hope you will enjoy this research.


The Reason for the Scapegoat

The scapegoat is a type or figure of Christ’s atonement to save mankind in the Old Testament Sanctuary service. When our first parents sinned in Eden, they would have died at that very instance if Jesus had not provided a way out to save them.

Gen 3:15 (NIV) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

God speaks to Satan, telling him that there will be hatred between him and the woman and between her children and the Devil’s children. The outcome will be that Christ would crush Satan’s head, and Satan will strike at Christ’s heel. The fulfillment of this prophecy was when Satan and his children, the ungodly Pharisees and the Romans bruised Jesus’ heel by putting Jesus to death on the cross. At the end of the world Jesus will crush Satan’s head by casting him into the fires of Hell and sin and death will be no more.

God commanded animal sacrifices to illustrate the consequences of sin. It was to show them that the Lamb of God would have to bear their sins and die to save them. Up until the time that Israel became a nation, the Patriarchs, built altars and sacrificed animals for the atonement from sin. After God called his people out of Egypt, he instructed Moses to build a sanctuary that he could dwell among them. Moses was to build the sanctuary after the pattern shown him on the mount. Exodus 25:40. It is important to note that this was not patterned in every detail after the one in heaven. For example, the Heavenly Sanctuary does not have animals to be slain or brass basins for the priests to wash or have animals waiting to be slaughtered or walls made from dyed animal skins.


The Day of Atonement

Every day animals were sacrificed for the sins of Israel. But once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) a special service was held. It was to be on the 10th day of Tishri, coming on different days of our calendar. It came in the month of September to early October. The Day of Atonement was the only day of the year that the priest entered the holy of holies to make sin offerings for himself, his family, and the "assembly of Israel." After making these offerings, the nation’s sins were symbolically laid on the scapegoat and it was led out into the wilderness and released.

Before the sacrifice of the two goats, the High Priest was required to make a sin offering for himself.

Lev 16:11 (NIV) ""Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his house and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering."

After completing his sin offering the High Priest was to take two goats provided from the Israelite community and he is to cast lots for them. The term scapegoat or Azazel depending on the Bible translation you are using is found three times in Scripture in Leviticus 16.

Lev 16:8 (NIV) "He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat."

Lev 16:9 (NIV) "Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the LORD and sacrifice it for a sin offering."

Lev 16:10 (NIV) "But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat."

Lev 16:20 NIV) ""When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat."

Lev 16:21 (NIV) "He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task."

Lev 16:22 (NIV) "The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert."

Lev 16:26 (NIV) ""The man who releases the goat as a scapegoat must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water; afterward he may come into the camp."


The Azazel Controversy

The term Azazel has created a controversy among Bible translators as to what or who is Azazel. Some Bibles do not use the term Azazel while some use scapegoat or other terms as shown. This is a sample of different Bible translations and how they translated Azazel from Leviticus 16:8:

The Septuagint Bible: "one lot for the Lord and one lot for the escape."

NKJV: "one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat."

KJV: "one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat."

The New English Bible: "one to be for the Lord and the other for the Precipice."

RSV: "one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat."

The Amplified Bible: "one lot for the Lord the other lot for Azazel (or removal).

New American, Catholic: uses azazel.

Holy Scriptures, Jewish: uses azazel.

The Hebrew term for scapegoat from Strongs is: 5799. 'aza'zel, az-aw-zale'; from H5795 and H235; goat of departure; the scapegoat:—scapegoat.

From the Hebrew definition of azazel, the meaning is "goat of departure." Leviticus 16:8 should then read: "one lot for the LORD and the other for the goat of departure." Because the first goat called "a lot for the Lord," the translators wanted the Hebrew word Azazel, to be a representation of someone. Therefore some translators have concluded that Azazel must represent an evil spirit or Satan.

Other translators see the scapegoat being sent to a place where Azazel, or evil spirit is located in the wilderness.

Keeping in mind from Leviticus 16:10, that the scapegoat is for making atonement to God because of their sins. This atonement has to be made to God. It would be a sin to make atonement to Satan. Satan cannot remove sin nor would he want to.

Some translators saw that the scapegoat represented Christ. Those that thought the scapegoat represented Satan or an evil spirit did not understand that this goat was a representation of the Living Christ that has removed the sins of God’s people. They failed to see that after the shedding of blood by the first goat the second goat demonstrated the removal of sins. Both goats were representing the completed atonement. Without the shedding of blood there cannot be forgiveness of sins.

(Mat 26:28 NIV) "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."

From Hard Sayings of the Bible:

"The Greek translators did not regard azazel as a proper name, but connected it with, ‘a z’zel a verb that does not appear in the Old Testament. The meaning they gave it was "to send away." Hence the full meaning of the Hebrew expression would be "in order to send away." The Latin translation followed this same understanding. The most adequate explanation is to view the term ‘aza’zel as being composed of two words: the first part, ‘ez, meaning "goat," and the second part, ‘azel, meaning "to go away." With recent evidence from the Ugaritic (the language of ancient Canaan from which Hebrew is derived), compound names such as this one are turning up more frequently than what we had expected based on evidence from the Hebrew alone. This is how the rendering "scapegoat" came to be... Originally, however, the King James translators meant "the goat that was led away." Hard Sayings of the Bible by Walter C. Kaiser Jr. Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce and Manfred T. Brauch INTER VARSITY PRESS, Downers Grove, Illinois.

Some authorities do not identify Azazel with the scapegoat of the sin offering. They regard the goat being sent to Azazel, an evil spirit.

McClintock and Strong says:

"The goat, however, that was sent to the evil spirit…was no sacrifice, but rather a witness that the accepted sacrifice had been made." (CYC. Vol. IX, Art. Scapegoat).

From this statement they do not accept the scapegoat and the evil spirit as being one and the same, nor one representing the other. From their point of view the scapegoat itself cannot be an evil spirit. The scapegoat was led out to the desert to witness to the evil spirit the accepted sacrifice had been made. God is vindicating his people through the atonement of the scapegoat.


Two Goats One Atonement

From Students Commentary on the Holy Scriptures:

"The two goats set out the death and victory of Christ, thus furnishing a complete salvation. The one goat was for Jehovah, the other for Azazel. The goat for Jehovah was slain, and its blood sprinkled upon the Mercy Seat, thus making atonement: the goat for Azazel, that is for Satan, the Adversary, was sent out in the desert as the living one to challenge and put to silence that Accuser, and all accusers. The one is Rom. III., i.e. every sin covered; the other, Rom. VIII. every accuser silenced." Students Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. 4th edition, published in 1932, by Thynne & Co.

Notice that the Students Commentary says "the goat is for Azazel that is for Satan," not the goat is Azazel. Also it purpose is to put to silence the accuser."

From this interpretation the sins of God’s people are not transferred from the scapegoat to Satan so that he can be punished for them but a witness that God's people have been vindicated. The "accuser" is Satan, Rev 12:10.

There was another service where two birds were required for the cleansing of a person with an infectious disease. The priest was to take two birds, and slay one of them and the other was dipped in its blood and then released. Lev. 14:1-7. There are differences in the two services. For the scapegoat was not dipped in the blood of the slain goat. However there are similarities, as one bird being slain and the other released. There is no doubt that the slain bird represented Jesus’ shed blood on Calvary, setting people free from the condemnation of sin. The bird set free represents Jesus removing the sins and setting people free from the penalty of sin which is death.

The two goats make a complete atonement as well as the two birds. This is made clear:

Lev 16:10 (NIV) "But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat."


Questions and Answers

  1. If, as Seventh-day Adventists claim, the scapegoat is a figure of Satan then we are faced with a lot of problems. How can the high priest confess his sins and the sins of  Israel over Satan? Remember the scapegoat is for atonement for Israel to God. Can God’s people make atonement with Satan? NO. Will Satan forgive them and remove their sins? NO.
  2. By placing the sins of Israel on the scapegoat does this mean that Satan is now carrying their confessed sins and will be punished for them? NO. The Scapegoat is only a picture of Christ carrying away our sins. The new covenant calls the old covenant laws a shadow of the reality of Christ which is the finished work of Christ. Col 2:13-17.
  3. The scapegoat was sent away alive bearing confessed sins. Can this represent Satan, who will be cast into the fires of Hell at the end of the world? NO. If the scapegoat was a representation of Satan, then the goat should have been burned alive as Satan will, instead of being set free.
  4. Can the scapegoat represent Christ, who bore the sins of the world to the cross? YES. The first goat represented Jesus bearing the sins of the world and covering them with his blood. The scapegoat represented Christ removing sins from his people.
  5. Did Jesus fulfill the scapegoat being let out into the wilderness? Jesus did not have to fulfill every minute detail of the sanctuary service. The scapegoat being led by a man into the wilderness was necessary to show that the sins of God’s people were separated from them and removed a long distance away from them. Jesus did not have to fulfill the type by going out into the wilderness being led by a man, as did the goat. Jesus did not fulfill having lots cast for him to be determined by God to offer himself on Calvary. The scapegoat was simply an illustration of Jesus’ plan to remove sin and restore man, so God can accept him. This is the atonement.
  6. The two goats that were chosen for a sin offering had to be without defects for the atonement to God. Lev. 4:3,23,28,32. We ask this question, could the scapegoat without defects be a representation of Satan? NO. Satan is far from being without defects. He is a liar and a murder from the beginning. Only a goat without defects could represent Christ.
  7. Is there a Bible text that indicates that Satan bears confessed sins of God’s people or will be punished for them? NO. Satan will never bear the confessed sins of God’s people neither will he be punished for them. Jesus has bore the punishment and paid the price for our sins.
  8. Satan can never bear our sins. It is God himself that removes our transgressions. God tells us through the writer of Hebrews that in the new covenant, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Never does God tell us in his word that he will lay the sins of God's people on Satan.

Heb 10:16 - 17 (NIV) “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”


Only Jesus Bore and Removed Our Sins

Psa 103:12 (NIV) "as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us."

1 Pet 2:24 (NIV) "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Isa 53:6 NIV) "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Isa 53:11 (NIV) "After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities."


Satan’s punishment

Rev 20:10 (NIV) And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

The Devil will be destroyed because he deceived the world. Satan will be judged on the sins he committed and not for the sins the people committed whom he deceived. If somehow I convinced you to sin or deceived you into committing a sin, I would be held accountable for deceiving you. But you would be accountable for committing the sin. It is the same for Satan, when he deceived our first parents to sin in Eden. Adam and Eve were responsible for their own sin of not believing God which was a lack of faith. Not for Satan for deceiving them. Every sin a person commits they will have to give an account. The confessed sins of the repentant sinners are removed by faith in our Savior.


Why Jesus is Our Scapegoat

  1. Jesus bore our sins at Calvary.
  2. Jesus died in our place the death we deserved to die.
  3. Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled the figure of the atonement of the two goats. Our sins were atoned by the shed blood of the Lord’s goat and removed from us completely by the Living Scapegoat, Jesus.
  4. Jesus, in bearing the sins of God’s people makes our salvation a reality even though we are not worthy.
  5. Satan has no part in bearing the sins of God’s people and can never be the scapegoat.

Those who believe that Satan is the scapegoat and bears the sins of the redeemed and is going to be punished for them are saying that the death of Jesus on the cross was not sufficient to save man. And that Jesus needed Satan’s help to complete the atonement to save mankind. If this were true then the redeemed would be indebted to Satan as well as to Jesus for all eternity for their salvation.



1 Pet 2:24 (NIV) "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."


Satan is Ellen's and the SDA's Scapegoat and Sin Bearer

Mrs. E. G. White and the Seventh-day Adventist Church make it very clear that Satan is their scapegoat and sin bearer.

EGW: "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 truly 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, must 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." The Great Controversy, page 422.

EGW: "In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels and the hosts of the redeemed the sins of God's people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit." The Great Controversy, page 658."

EGW: "Satan bore not only the weight and punishment of his own sins, but also of the sins of the redeemed host, which had been placed upon him." Early Writings, pp. 294, 295.

 What is Mrs. White’s teaching about the scapegoat?

  • Mrs. White by saying: "the scapegoat typified Satan" it takes away the glory of Christ's ministry, by making Satan the sin bearer for God's people.
  • Mrs. White in saying: about confessed sins, "He will place them upon Satan." This teaching makes God a liar, for God promised, (Isa 43:25 NIV) ""I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more." According to Ellen, at the end of time God will remember the forgiven and forgotten sins, and then place them on Satan and he will be blotted out of existence.
  • Mrs. White by saying, "when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed," is saying that the work of atonement was not completed on the cross and that Jesus has to complete it in the Sanctuary in heaven. Jesus said, (John 19:30 NIV) "When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." As in the OT sanctuary service, the atonement was fully completed on Day of Atonement by removing the confessed sins of Israel. The atonement was full completed on Calvary. Ellen White claims the atonement is still going on. She says we are in the great Day of Atonement. She has Jesus making atonement in the Heavenly Sanctuary for 2000 years and she has Jesus ending the atonement when Satan bears the sins of God’s people and is destroyed. Keep in mind that when Christians are confessing their sins, Jesus is not making an atonement to forgive them. The atonement is what Jesus has does for man at Calvary and Satan will never be a part of it.


Adventists Teach that God Rewards The Devil for His Deviltry

EGW: "Also it would be for his [Satan's] own interest to keep from Jesus as many as possible. For the sins of those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ will at last be rolled back upon the originator of sin, and he must bear their punishment, while those who do not accept salvation through Jesus, will suffer the penalty of their own sins." Early Writings, p. 178.

"It would have been far better for him [Satan] if he had never led men into sin. But having entered upon this work, we see that he has a personal motive of the most powerful kind to induce him to hold persons in sin to the last; for then they receive the punishment for their own salvation through Christ, adds an additional weight to his accumulating load of woe." Looking Unto Jesus, p. 271, by Uriah Smith.

"This puts God in the position of paying a premium on deviltry. If the devil is diligent and keeps on the job so that few are saved he doesn't receive so much punishment as he will if he "lays down on the job" and allows people to become Christians. This is offering the devil a reward for successful deviltry." Examining Seventh-day Adventism, E. S. Ballenger.

Robert K. Sanders, Founder and Editor of Truth or Fables, 1997–2012
Life Assurance Ministries assumed ownership of Truth or Fables in 2012
© 2016 Life Assurance Ministries. All rights reserved.