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The Scapegoat

~ A Bearer of Sin ~


Stewart Crafts


Once "an end" had been made to reconciling each of the apartments in the house of God (Lev 16:20), then the Scapegoat was brought to the door of the first apartment.

And the High Priest placed both his hands [note 1] onto the head of the Scapegoat, confessing "all the iniquities of the children of Israel" over the Scapegoat. Thus the iniquities were figuratively placed "upon the head of [that] goat." (Lev 16:21)

"And the goat shall bear upon him all [Israel’s] iniquities

[carrying those iniquities upon him] into a land not inhabited."

Many contend that this goat must represent Christ. Because Christ, they say, is the only "sin bearer": the only one who can possibly bear the iniquities of Israel.

However, the fact that the sins of a people are borne by a secondary does not necessarily mean that the sins are removed solely to that secondary. (And nor is it necessarily implied that the secondary provides salvation of any kind.) Shall we now fear the word of God that says "prove all things"? God forbid!

Consider the words of Jesus. In speaking with the Jews, He tells them that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, would be required of that generation. -- "Verily", He said to them, "it may be required of this generation." And in another place, speaking of the same thing, it is said, "all these things shall come upon this generation." (Luke 11:50-51, Matt 23:36).

What shall "come upon" the generation that Jesus dwelt among? The blood of all the prophets that had been killed. From "the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias." (Matt 23:35) That generation will bear guilt, even for Abel’s blood, which, many years before, had cried to God from the ground. (Gen 4:10)

Of course Cain will bear guilt for his sin (in no way is it lessened or removed from him), but the generation that rejected and killed Jesus will also carry the guilt of Abel’s murder.

Recompense will be required of them. (Luke 11:51) Cain’s sin will effectively be upon their heads as well!

And coming upon them, will they not then bear the sin, just as though it was their own? Yet they bear it to what end? They will bear it only to a greater condemnation in the judgment. Indeed, "it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment," than it will be for them! (Mk 6:11, Matt 21:35-41 etc)

(Now we may not understand the reasons why such a thing will happen, but let it suffice to say that it will certainly be so. And let us be careful, lest we speak evil of things we do not understand. (Jude 10))

See also Lev 5:17, Eze 33:6, 44:10-12.


Shall we consider a few more of Jesus’ words?

"Whoever shall put away his wife, except for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery." (Matt 5:32).

If a man "causes" a woman "to commit adultery", is that man clear before God? Certainly not! The man is accountable for his part in the evil course taken by the woman. In a sense, the man also carries the guilt of her adultery, because he has caused it. But if the woman then receives forgiveness and cleansing for the sin, and the man that caused her former sin does not, then he continues to bear the sin.

Is there not a warning in Jesus’ words? A warning to those that cause others to sin!


Now let us consider an illustration from the history of Israel.

Thus saith the Lord:

"My people have been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray…" (Jer 50:6)

And woe to them for misleading the people of God, because in another place it is written,

"There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds…

[And] thus saith the Lord my God; ‘Feed [or prepare] the flock [destined for] the slaughter;’

whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty" (Zech 11:3-5)

The shepherds of Israel -- the priests and leaders of Israel -- are the "possessors", the keepers, of the flock. (See Isa 9:16, 3:12 etc.)

And are the shepherds that lead the flock into the bogs of iniquity clear before God? Certainly not! The leaders are accountable for their part in bringing the flock to an evil path.

By leading them astray -- by causing the people to separate from God -- the possessors effectively "slay" the flock. Of course those shepherds (or guides) may be so blind as to "hold themselves not guilty" for the destruction of the flock, yet they are accountable nonetheless.

The shepherds (guides or leaders) must eventually give an account of their stewardship. And ultimately, the leaders will "bear" the iniquities they have caused: iniquities that have separated the people from God. (Isa 59:2.  See also Rev 18:24)


How great an account will be required of the tempter who works among God’s people with the deliberate purpose of leading them astray!

Satan is such a Tempter. As a roaring Lion he goes about seeking (purposefully hunting) anyone that he may devour. And will the Devil be guiltless for the sins he causes the professed people of God to commit? No, every sin that he has "enticed" and "caused" the people to commit will be upon him. They will eventually destroy him.

The Devil is still a roaring Lion. And consider that the Lion’s roar does at least two things: it emboldens the Lion himself, and brings fear and trembling upon his prey. While he roars after his prey, Satan is greatly emboldened, and he is filled with "his own ways." But when his prey is taken from him (which is to say, when the people of God are removed to the city of God, and the plagues have destroyed all the ungodly upon the earth), then Satan will no longer roar over his prey.

"Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?" (Amos 3:4) No, the Lion’s mouth will truly be "stopped." (Heb 11:33) The Devil will be quiet and still, and what will he do then? (Because now the object against which he has vented his rage is gone.)

"The fool rages and is confident." (Proverbs 14:16)

Of course the Devil came to this world with an anger and an intensity befitting the shortness of his time. And still the foolish angel "rages, and is confident." But what a strange confidence (or boldness) is his! How is it that the Devil is confident? Is it not because his arrogance and anger have blinded him? (Is he not held in such chains, under darkness, even now? Jude 6.) And does he seriously consider where his bold steps are taking him? No, he does not appreciate his danger as he moves ever closer to the precipice. (And of course so it is with all the arrogant ungodly.)

Yet he pushes on and persists, but when his work is taken away, and idleness is imposed upon him, how he suffers!

How unwelcome the restraint is! It is as it were "a great chain" upon him. (Rev 20:1-2) "How hath the oppressor ceased!" And indeed, root and branch have ceased, for Satan’s golden city, Babylon the great (Satan’s right arm, as it were), has also ceased! It is "cut off" from him. (Isa 14:4,12, Rev 17:5.)

In the quiet he suffers, and for 1000 years he will find no rest, nor satisfaction, nor pleasure, because his work is taken from him. (Consider Prov 4:16). Woe unto him.

God "will keep the feet of His saints, [but] the wicked [one] shall be silent in darkness." (1 Sam 2:9)

Until his time of restraint comes, Satan keeps an intense focus (and a certain blind confidence) in his work. But when the labours of war ceases, he cannot help but think and reflect. For a while the sounds of tumult are removed from the earth, the winds of strife are quietened. Now it is that he hears the still small voice of conviction.

And it is then, while he is quiet and idle, that all the sins he caused Israel to commit (and for which they were forgiven) come upon his head.


The sins he has encouraged the non-Christians to commit are not placed upon him, because Satan, being their lawful husband (and in a sense their true father as well (John 8:44)), exercised a just claim over them. And whether they did his biddings reluctantly or willingly, they were doing the biddings of their rightful lord and master. Christ was never their spiritual husband, and neither was He their spiritual father.

But Jesus is ever sympathetic to the hardships of their cruel marriage, and ever willing to show them the way out of their destructive relationship with the Devil. (Their only way out was their spiritual death – their being crucified with Christ --, that they might be spiritually freed from their legal bonds to Satan, and spiritually resurrected to marry another Husband.)

The Devil smites his people with a perpetual stroke, he rules over them with rigor; they continue alive a little while, and when sin has run its course they die. When Jesus returns to the earth, Satan will not reap a punishment for this cruel work: for he has destroyed his own property. (See Ex 21:20-21 Amplified, Moffatt, etc.)

But what is placed upon Satan, are the sins he has caused another Man’s servants to commit. (And of course these are in addition to all of his personal sins for which he must also bear the burden of guilt.)


When the 1000 years are "finished" the Second resurrection takes place. And for the Devil this is like the welcome return of day after a long night. (Like John 9:4.) How suddenly he is loosed – his people are in his hand again! And what does he do?

With fervency he casts his chain far from him, and resumes his work among his own people. Great preparations are made for the overthrow of "the camp of the saints." And his vast companies are quickly deceived into believing they are strong for the battle and just in their cause.

Even then, it is with a certain bravado that the Devil seeks to regain control over God’s people (See Prov 14:15). Even then he prepares for it. How strange it is! And how fitting it seems, that the Devil himself be personified as the "mystery of iniquity."

But can he lay off the great burden of guilt that has come upon him?


A land not inhabited.

The Scapegoat is taken by the hand of "a fit man" and let go in "the wilderness": in "a land not inhabited." (Lev 16:21-22, 10 KJV)

"God Himself… formed the earth and made it; He hath established it,

He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited…" (Isa 45:18)

Of course it can never be said that God has created the earth in vain. But what will the earth be like just prior to the Second Coming of Christ? The words are familiar:

"As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man."

In Noah’s day, the people lived to please themselves "until… the flood came and destroyed them all.

"Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot:

"they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded. But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.

"Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." (Luke 17:26-30)

Immediately preceding the Lord’s descent from heaven, a "time of trouble such as never was" will be upon the earth. And central to that time will be the seven last plagues. (Rev 16)

The Lord returns, His people meet Him "in the air", and they are taken with Him to fill those places prepared for them in the Father’s house (in heaven). And what has become of everyone else? At that point, everyone else is dead: the plagues (and finally the brightness of His coming) have swept through "and destroyed them all." The whole earth is without human inhabitant. It is literally a barren wilderness, and it remains uninhabited until a thousand years are "finished." (Rev 20:5)

This world will be the "land not inhabited" where Satan dwells, bearing the guilt that must come upon his head. He is effectively confined to this world. He cannot remove himself from the pit, and neither can he remove the guilt that has come upon him.


To Make An Atonement With Him.

The Scapegoat is used to make an atonement. (Lev 16:10) Here, say some, is another obvious reason why the Scapegoat must be Christ. "The Devil making an atonement for the people of God? Ridiculous!" But we are in danger of adding to the words of Scripture if we say that the Scapegoat was used to "make an atonement" for Israel. I suggest that the Scapegoat became "at-one" (note 2) with the sins he had caused Israel to commit. He becomes joined to those sins. And in this way he effects an at-one-ment. But it is not an atonement made with God.

A little later in the Book we are told that "it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul" (Lev 17:11). The Scapegoat was indeed used to make an atonement. But the Scapegoat was to be let go in the wilderness, and his blood was not to be shed. It is impossible therefore that the Scapegoat could ever bring about an atonement between the souls of men and God.

And neither can the Scapegoat ever provide "remission" from sins, seeing that its blood was not to be shed on Israel’s behalf. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission from sins. (Heb 9:22)


Note 1.

"Both of his hands" are placed upon the Scapegoat. This is very unusual, quite unique in fact. When sins were confessed upon a lamb, it was the sinner’s "hand" (singular) that was placed upon the victim’s head.

When the sins of the world were laid upon Christ, it was with the utmost sense of God’s disfavour that Christ received those sins. He could not see or feel God’s great love extended to Him. The left hand of God’s disfavour was upon Christ’s head: to the great Sin-offering it was as though God had truly forsaken Him. But when Satan receives "both" the hands of the High priest upon him, this suggests that he then feels something of God’s great love for him, in spite of all his rebellion. (Because God’s right hand is upon him, just as much as the left hand of condemnation is upon him.) But the realisation of God’s love brings no real change to Satan. It only brings an added sense of torment and suffering.  Back to text

Note 2.

At-one-ment: ultimately this is what atonement and reconciliation is. Back to text



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