Part IV: Triumph over Death
The Great Day Of
Never with these sacrifices
they offered year by year
could the comers there unto be perfected. . . .
It is not possible
that the blood . . . of goats
should take away sins.
He was manifested
to take away our sins.
(l John 3:5)
And He is the propitiation
(lit., the. atonement)
for our sins.
(1 John 2:2)
This He did once,
when He offered Himself.
Adam did not
suffer one death penalty, but two. It is important to
emphasize the word penalty. Adam received a double death
sentence, and died twice.
The most obvious death sentence was physical:
"Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" (Genesis
3:19). It was a conditional
sentence. It would never
have been imposed had he not brought it upon himself as a consequence
of disobedience. Had physical death been inevitable for
Adam, it could not have been presented as a threat, as a penalty,
against disobedience. (236) The result of his disobedience was not merely that
he shortened his life so that he died sooner than he would have
done otherwise. What Adam actually did was to introduce an entirely
new and foreign factor into human experience, the tragedy of
physical death. For man, it is indeed a tragedy, the rending
asunder of spirit and body and the dissolution of human relationships.
It is the "last enemy" that is to be dealt with in
the Plan of Redemption (1 Corinthians 15:26).
Because Adam, like all other men,
was a body/spirit entity, he was capable of experiencing both
physical and spiritual death. Although he need never have experienced
either kind of death if he had remained obedient, he failed the
test and by a single act of disobedience suffered two deaths.
His spirit died that very day, and his body died centuries later.
Disobedience was not forced upon him. He was, as God first made
him, free to choose, to sin or not to sin and therefore to die
twice or never to die at all.
We know this to be the case because
precisely the same thing was true of the Lord Jesus who stood
where Adam had originally stood, as Federal Head of a race of
truly human beings. He, too, experienced two deaths ‹ neither
of which was inevitable. The new human race which He is bringing
into being as a result of his own two deaths, will never again
die spiritually and will one day be placed beyond the power of
physical death as well. When that comes to pass, the redeemed
of the Lord will not merely be able not to die and not
to sin (as Adam had once been) but not able to die
and not able to sin ‹ which is a far more wonderful
thing. It will be constitutionally impossible for them to do
either. The very possibility of sinning and the very possibility
of dying will be gone for ever.
The Lord as our substitute therefore
had to suffer two deaths, the one spiritual and the other physical.
The spiritual death normally precedes the physical. Death, in
the most comprehensive sense, may be defined as "being cut
off from the source of all life." To be cut off from
the source of spiritual life is spiritual death: to be cut off
from the source of physical life is physical death. With respect
to the former, Ezekiel 18:4 tells us simply, "The soul that
sinneth, it shall die"; meaning that the individual who
commits actual SINS will be cut off from the source of all spiritual
life which is in God. This spiritual law is as much a part of
the spiritual constitution of the Universe as the law of gravity
is of the physical constitution of the Universe. There are no
exceptions. If exceptions could be made in either case, the Universe
would not be a Cosmos but a Chaos.
236. See Notes at the end of this chapter
2 of 18
contrast with spiritual death, physical death is not the result
of actual SINS committed by the individual; since innocent babies
die. Physical death entered into human experience as a defect
in the organism. It is inherited by natural generation which,
in Romans 5:12, is spoken of as SIN (in the singular).* This
process begins with birth (if not sooner), and progressively
ruptures the essential connection with the stream of physical
life, which also resides in God.
everywhere bears witness to the fact that both kinds of death
are real and that the only corrective for either is resurrection.
The redeemed are resurrected with Christ as to their spirits
when they are born again. Ephesians 2:5 and 6 reads: "When
we were dead in SINS [God] quickened us together with Christ
. . . and hath raised us up together [with Him]." And the
spiritually resurrected will never die again: "Whosoever
liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:26).
And in Christ we are yet to be made alive as to our bodies
which will also be placed for ever beyond the power of death.
Thus 2 Corinthians 5:1 reads: "For we know that if our earthly
house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of
God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
. ." [my emphasis]. As is the order of the two deaths, so
is the order of the two resurrections for the redeemed: first
the spiritual and after that the physical.
As Adam died spiritually the very
day he committed the first act of disobedience and only long
after that laid his body in the grave, so we too die spiritually
when we commit our first act of disobedience upon reaching the
age of accountability: years later, like Adam, we are laid in
sets the stage for what the Lord Jesus must experience upon the
cross on our behalf. He must die two kinds of death: first a
spiritual one, separated ('cut off' ‹ Daniel 9:26) from the
source of all spiritual life which is in God; and secondly a
physical death. The two experiences are clearly separated in
time. On the cross there was an interval between them, and each
was experienced in its proper
* On the distinction between SIN and SINS, Calvin wrote:
"Original sin, then, may be defined as a hereditary corruption .
. . which makes us obnoxious in the sight of God, and then produces in
us works which in Scripture are termed 'the works of the flesh.' This
corruption is repeatedly designated by Paul by the term SIN (Galatians
5:19), while the works which proceed from it . . . he terms the fruits
of SIN . . . also termed SINS." (Institutes, Bk. 2, chap.1,
§ 5]. Similarly, Griffith Thomas wrote: "The Bible clearly
distinguishes 'sin' and 'sins,' the root and the fruit, the principle
and the practice; and Article II (of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the church
of England) teaches that our Lord's Atonement covers both of these."
[The Principles of Theology, Grand Rapids, Baker, reprint, 1979,
p. 50]. See also Arthur Custance, "The Compelling Logic of
Salvation: A Study of the Difference Between SIN and SINS", Part
VII in Man in Adam and in Christ, vol.3 of The Doorway Papers
† The case of death in childhood while in a state of
innocence is of course an exception, since spiritual death does
not precede physical death. But this is not the expected order
order. This is of crucial
importance to an understanding of the circumstances surrounding
the crucifixion: it has a direct bearing upon the fact that crucifixion
was part of God's intention as Acts 2:23 clearly implies.
Most systemic theologies recognize
the fact implicitly but do not spell it out explicitly. The circumstances
of the crucifixion are therefore not explored as they deserve
to be and crucifixion per se tends to be assumed as the
death of God's appointment chiefly because of the curse associated
with it according to Deuteronomy 21:22 and 23. This is a proper
reason to emphasize, but I do not believe it is the most important
one. After all, only the Jewish people saw crucifixion as a mark
of God's cursing. The nations around do not seem to have
regarded it in this way, but only as a mark of society's cursing.
I believe the cross was primarily appointed because it was required
as a Stage upon which the Lord's spiritual death could
be demonstrated during the hours of darkness. Only when this
death had been accomplished, could He then accomplish the second
death, physical death by an act of will. It was the long interval
between the beginning of execution and the end of execution which
made crucifixion unique. It was for this reason that we have
the anomaly of a non-Jewish mode of execution appointed for their
Now Peter is
very explicit in his statement that the Lord Jesus "in his
own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Peter
2:24). "In his own self," i.e., He truly did Himself
take the responsibility for our personal SINS. He did this "in
his body on the tree," that is to say, while still alive
on the cross. The circumstances of the Lord's execution were
such that opportunity was provided for an event which any other
kind of execution traditionally adopted by the Jewish people
would not have permitted. The factor in question was one of time,
of delay in dying. Crucifixion was a terribly slow form of execution.
We have already observed that the
Jews employed several modes of capital punishment: beheading,
stoning, and strangling. Burning is also mentioned in Jewish
law, but it seems rather to have been a way of desecrating the
corpse than actually carrying out the death penalty. It was like
crucifixion in this respect, and yet unlike crucifixion in that
it was still comparatively swift. In none of the three normal
Jewish forms of execution was physical suffering unnecessarily
drawn out. They were shocking ‹ violent enough ‹ but
swift. Protracting the actual dying of the condemned man was
not part of Jewish legal practice or philosophy.
Stoning normally required that
the subject first be thrown to the ground. This was sometimes
done by casting a large stone at the legs: and sometimes by casting
the accused down from
a promontory of some kind. In either case stoning to death followed
immediately and was done under controlled conditions. It was
thus a reasonably swift death. Upon occasion the victim, by being
pushed over a cliff, was killed in the process, and if death
was believed to have already occurred, no further stoning was
considered necessary. Paul escaped stoning on one occasion for
this reason (Acts 14:19).
But such a swift death could not
have been God's intention for the Lord Jesus, since part of the
sacrifice He was to make on our behalf required a time interval
that would not have been allowed for in beheading, stoning, or
strangling. Several times the Jews had sought to stone Him, but
He had protected Himself in each instance against their designs
(John 8:59; 10:31; 11:8).
To set the stage for a better understanding
of the part which this time interval played in the Plan of Redemption,
we must examine briefly what happened to the two sacrificial
goats on the Great Day of Atonement. And to do this meaningfully,
it is necessary to review in a general way the arrangement of
the Temple and especially the Holy of Holies, of which we must
speak further later on in connection with the Lord's actions
after his bodily resurrection. Having done this, we shall then
be in a better position in the next two chapters, first to understand
something of the meaning of the Lord's suffering during the hours
of darkness, and secondly to understand the circumstances of
his actual dying at the very end.
Day of Atonement, sometimes referred
to simply as The Day, was indeed the high point of the
year in Israel's religious life. It marked the occasion for the
re-establishment of a full covenant relationship between God
and his people and guaranteed the continuance of sacrificial
communion. It was the one day of the year in which the High Priest
as a representative of his people, entered personally into the
very presence of God within the Holy of Holies, the most sacred
part of the temple complex, to make atonement. And atonement
had to be made for both SINS and SIN, i.e., for spiritual as
well as physical death. It covered all old debts and left the
nation with a clean sheet for the coming year. It was a kind
of "concealment" of guilt and corruption in the sight
of God. It was therefore still only a temporary reprieve (Hebrews
Now any plan of the Temple must
be tentative, since the information we have to guide us from
the Old Testament and from other sources such as Josephus is
not precise enough for anything more than a general picture.
As a consequence, a number of alternative reconstructions have
been made, each claiming to be the intent of the original. The
layout shown in Figure 21 must be considered as a
compromise. It is probably
essentially correct in its general arrangement and any errors
will not seriously detract from an understanding of what took
place on the Day of Atonement.
Basically the whole layout represents
the Temple platform as finally constructed under Solomon. Around
the perimeter was a colonnaded shelter from the sun which became,
later, the habitual meeting place of the early Christians in
Jerusalem. Gentiles were allowed in this peripheral area. Approximately
in the centre of the platform and encompassing a much smaller
area was a low wall about four feet high which was probably colonnaded
along the top. This was the Middle Wall of Partition beyond which
no Gentile was allowed to go, on pain of death. Within this Wall
of Partition was the Court of the Israelites, male and female.
Occupying somewhat less space within this wall were the structures
of the Temple itself as shown in the diagram, comprising at the
eastern end the Women's Court which then led up a number of steps
into the Court of male Israelites. Moving towards the west and
up another flight of steps one entered the Court of Priests.
Within this area was the main structure,
the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy Place was entered
via a kind of vestibule as indicated, and in it were housed a
number of important sacred objects including the Table of Shewbread
and an altar for the burning of incense. Apparently the width
of this Holy Place was equal to that of the Holy of Holies, which
was thirty feet by thirty feet by thirty feet high (1 Kings 6:20).
The Holy of Holies was separated from the Holy Place by an enormous
double* curtain or veil which must therefore have been thirty
feet high and stretched from wall to wall. It was this double
curtain which was rent from top to bottom at the time of the
The Holy Place
was a place of particular sanctity. It could be entered only
by the priests, and only then upon appropriate occasions. By
contrast, the Holy of Holies was still more sacrosanct and could
be entered by the High Priest alone, and even then only once
a year. This supremely holy place was constructed without windows
and, assuming that the double curtain sealed it off completely,
would accordingly be in total darkness and very probably absolute
silence. It was an awe-ful cavernous place of mystery.
The Holy of Holies originally contained
only the Ark of the Covenant in which were placed the two Tables
of Stone written with the
* See Smith's Dictionary of the Bible,
vol.IV, p.3156, column a: and for the possible reasons for
this dual structure, see C. R. Conder, Handbook to the Bible,
London, Longmans, Green, 1880, p.123.
finger of God (Exodus
31:18 and 1 Kings 8:21). Later there was placed, either beside
it or in it, the original text of Moses' Book of the Law (Deuteronomy
31:26). Subsequently some manna in a jar and Aaron's rod that
had budded in vindication of Moses' authority (Numbers 17:1‹13)
were also placed in the Ark of the Covenant (Hebrews 9:4). However,
when Solomon finally installed the Ark in its place in the Temple,
only the two Tables of Stone were found within it (1 Kings 8:9).
After the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the destruction of
Solomon's Temple, the Ark seems to have disappeared entirely,
and we have no knowledge of what furnishings were put in their
place in the Temple which was ultimately rebuilt by Zerubbabel
and refurbished by Herod in our Lord's time.
It is a strange circumstance that
of this one day above all others in the Jewish calendar we really
have so little detailed information. In Hebrew, the Day of Atonement
was referred to simply as "The Day," Ha-Yom. When
Hebrew had been replaced by Aramaic in the time of our Lord,
it was referred to as Yoma which means the same thing.
It was also referred to commonly as Yom Kippur, which
means "the day of covering." Our word atonement
is a translation of the original Hebrew word which meant
covering; thus the Day of Atonement was strictly a Day
of Covering. This reflects the truth, which must have been understood
by those who were spiritually discerning in Israel, that animal
sacrifices could never really take away human sin but served
merely as a temporary 'covering' until God Himself should provide
the eternal sacrifice once for all.
It was the most solemn occasion of the
year because if all went well during the ceremonies and no great
judgment fell upon the officiating High Priest to signal God's
displeasure, it was believed that their covenant was once more
established with Jehovah for the coming year. Accordingly tremendous
care was taken to ensure that everything required by law was
The events which occurred on the Day
of Atonement are described for us only in one place in Scripture
and we have virtually no other information. We therefore are
primarily dependent upon the descriptive details of Leviticus
16. It seems appropriate to set forth the injunctions as we find
them here in order that we may more meaningfully draw attention
to certain details that symbolize in a wonderful way the Lord's
work on the cross. But in the interests of simplicity certain
sections of Leviticus 16 will be abbreviated.
The first injunction is a warning. Aaron
is to appear before the Lord in the Holy of Holies on one day
in the year and on one day only. Disobedience in this matter
would bring instant death. Leviticus 16:1 and 2 read:
And the Lord spake unto Moses after the
death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered before the
Lord and died. . . . Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come
not at all times into the Holy of Holies within the veil before
the mercy seat which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I
will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat.
Then there followed
instructions for the High Priest, who was the chief actor in
this drama, that he himself might be forgiven and cleansed. Great
care was taken in this matter, and preparation for this Day began
some days before. Every precaution was taken to ensure that he
would not be contaminated in any way by touching or being touched
by anything that was dead or anyone who was unclean. In case
such a thing should happen by accident during the preparatory
period, provision was made for him to step down from the office
and a substitute to take his place. Josephus tells us that only
once in all the centuries did it happen that the High Priest
had to be replaced for the ceremony. On the final day, the Great
Day of the ceremony, the High Priest was bathed and clothed in
several garments of linen, and offered a sacrifice on his own
behalf. He then took up his position at the entrance to the Holy
Place for the presentation of two goats which were to be sacrificed
for the nation.
These two goats were to be male,
and as alike as they could possibly be, preferably of the same
mother, and of the same age. They were to be without blemish
of any kind and great care was to be exercised in their examination
to ensure their physical perfection. They were to be kids
of goats, symbolizing the innocence of childhood.
Though two goats are involved,
together they constituted a single offering (Leviticus
16:5). It is manifest that they are therefore to serve as one
offering but in two mutually exclusive roles. It was for this
reason that they were to be, as far as possible, identical. One
of them was to be presented slain before the Lord to serve
as a true SIN-offering: the other was to be presented alive
before the Lord to serve as a living sacrifice for SINS (Leviticus
16:10). Instructions are given in the matter of determining which
of the two goats is to serve in each role. It was decided by
lot in order to remove the choice entirely out of man's hands,
lest there should be a temptation to attach greater importance
to the one sacrifice over against the other and choose the more
favourable kid on this basis. Because the two kids really represented
a single sacrifice made by a single Person, such a mark of distinction
and preference had to be eliminated. Leviticus 16:7-10 sets forth
the following instructions:
And he shall take the two goats
and present them before the Lord at the door of the tabernacle
of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats,
one lot for the Lord and
the other for the scapegoat. And Aaron
shall bring the goat upon which the Lord's lot fell and offer
him for a sin-offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to
be a 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.
The High Priest
approached the two goats carrying a gold vessel of some sort
containing two objects suitably distinguished, one of which was
marked "For the Lord" and the other "For the scapegoat."
He put both hands into the vessel and took one of the two inscribed
objects in each hand. The object in his right hand was to identify
the goat on the right as he stood facing them, and the object
in his left hand the goat on the left. Thus one of the two goats
was identified as the appropriate victim to be slain before the
Lord as a SIN-offering, and the other to be presented alive as
a scapegoat. The scapegoat was then marked by a piece of scarlet
cloth tied to a horn. (237)
The meaning of the word rendered
scapegoat (in Hebrew, Azazel) has been discussed
for years and remains uncertain. Modern translations tend to
transliterate the original into English as it stands. The simplest
suggestion, and one of the oldest, is that it is a descriptive
adjective meaning "utterly banished." The Semitic root
behind the word, found in Arabic but not yet known in Hebrew,
is Azal () which according
to Gesenius means to forsake or banish. The form
Azazel () may be
a Pealpal form of the root verb Azal which in Hebrew would
be termed the intensive form. Hebrew verbs are highly
flexible. "To kill" could be changed to mean "to
slaughter" by merely changing the vowels while retaining
the root consonants. To convert the English verb "to break"
into "to shatter," we employ a different root: but
Hebrew need not. So here while Azal means to banish,
Azazel means to banish utterly.
The meaning of the words "for
the scapegoat" might therefore be literally rendered "for
the one utterly banished," or possibly in prospect, "for
the one to be utterly banished." Although there are a number
of other explanations (238) of this word (which occurs nowhere else in Scripture),
a general consensus in modern times leans towards that given
Now it will
be remembered that the order of man's two dyings is always the
same: first a spiritual death, then the physical. And so also
must be the Lord's sacrifice: first a spiritual sacrifice, then
a physical death.
It therefore follows that on the
Day of Atonement these two sacrificial victims, which symbolize
the Lord's offering of Himself, should be offered in the same
order. However, the scapegoat which represents the spiritual
sacrifice for SINS involves a somewhat
237. See Notes at the end of this chapter
238. See Notes at the end of this chapter (page
as will be seen, just as the Lord's spiritual death occupied
some hours. Consequently, the other goat would have to be kept
captive right in the Temple precincts for two or more hours before
being put to death. This would have presented certain administrative
problems. And it appears likely for this reason that the goat
to be slain as a SIN-offering was dispatched before the sending
away of the scapegoat. Although the order of these two sacrifices
was therefore reversed, it was almost certainly done as an accommodation
to the fact that the two animals could hardly be handled in any
other way. The whole ceremony was orderly and reverent and dignified.
It was an expedient undoubtedly conducted in this reverse order
by God's permission in view of these circumstances.
Thus the first sacrifice to be
carried out, a sacrifice occupying perhaps half an hour at the
most, preceded the ceremony of sending the scapegoat into the
wilderness, a ritual that might well occupy a couple of hours
as the circumstances clearly show. This goat had to make a journey
which may well have involved a distance of perhaps five miles
or more which could scarcely have been made in less than two
For this reason, then, the goat
singled out as a blood sacrifice was slain first and its blood
presented before the Lord in a ceremony that must have been awe-inspiring
indeed. Let us follow this ceremony as set forth in Leviticus
16:12 and 13:
And he [the High Priest] shall
take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar
before the Lord and his hands full of sweet incense, beaten small,
and bring it within the veil: and he shall put the incense upon
the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover
the mercy seat that is upon the testimony [i.e., the two tables
of stone within the Ark] , that he die not.
effect of this preliminary ritual must have been heightened greatly
by the fact that throughout the whole year the Holy of Holies
had not been entered by anyone. It had remained in darkness,
the "thick darkness" in which God dwells. As the priests
officiated daily in the Holy Place, which was immediately outside
it, they must often have looked at the curtain and wondered what
was behind it. They knew, of course, that the Ark of the Covenant
was there, but in what form was the majesty of God in that place?
There seemed so little of substance between them and the very
presence of God, a mere hanging curtain, double though it was
and undoubtedly of very heavy material. After all, it was thirty
feet high and spanned the thirty feet from wall to wall. Still,
it was only a curtain.
When the time came for the High Priest
to enter the Holy of Holies, according to tradition he entered
at the south end where the outer of the two curtains met the
southern wall, and then turned
towards the right and
passed between the two curtains which were hung with a passage
of about eighteen inches between them. He followed this passage
towards the north wall and there passed around the end of the
other curtain directly into the Holy of Holies. Apparently the
object of the dual hanging was to prevent anyone from actually
looking into the Holy of Holies during the admission of the High
The High Priest
carried with him some kind of container of live glowing coals
and probably another container to hold the powdered incense.
The glowing coals might give him sufficient light to allow him
to approach the Ark of the Covenant; and on the lid of the Ark
he placed this container. He then took the powdered incense and
cast it on the coals. The immediate effect must have been startling
indeed. Billowing clouds of smoke would rise at once and fill
the empty cavernous space illuminated by the live coals that
would indeed seem a most apt herald of the presence of God Himself
who had said (Exodus 19:9) that He would come "in a thick
cloud." The glow thus created would probably light up the
whole area, large as it was, while yet concealing its boundaries
‹ an effect that must have been tremendously enhanced by
the gold sheeting covering floor and walls and ceiling. The splendor
must have bounced back and forth with a kind of gilded iridescence,
creating an atmosphere guaranteed to impress upon the High Priest
the sense of mystery in the sudden coming of Jehovah in his glory.
The High Priest, walking backwards,
then returned into the sanctuary, the Holy Place, from which
all the priests who had previously attended upon him had now
withdrawn. Leviticus 16:15-17 continues:
Then shall he kill the goat
of the sin offering that is for the people and bring his blood
within the veil . . . and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and
before the mercy seat: and he shall make an atonement . . . and
there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when
he goeth in to make atonement in the Holy of Holies.
thus now presented the SIN-offering, the High Priest returned
once again to the Holy Place, and taking up a position outside
the veil, he offered a prayer of thanksgiving which was kept
short (according to tradition) so that the people who awaited
his re-appearance would be quickly apprised of his safety and
therefore of the acceptance by God of the SIN-offering. Mosaic
injunction ruled that if the High Priest did not perform the
ceremony acceptably, he would not live. Nor would Israel be "covered"
for that year unless the High
* Conder, C. R., Handbook to the Bible,
London, Longmans, Green, 1880, p.123.
Priest survived the
ceremony of presenting the blood and returned to the people.
So was fulfilled
in anticipation the SIN-offering which symbolized the physical
death and the shedding of blood which accompanied it, that marked
the second death of the Lamb of God on the cross. We now
revert to the fate of the scapegoat which anticipates his first
death on the cross. The details are given in Leviticus 16:21-23
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.
And Aaron shall come into the tabernacle
of the congregation and shall put off the linen garments which
he put on when he went into the Holy Place, and shall leave them
there. . . . And this shall be a perpetual statute unto
you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all
their sins once a year.
this goat is standing for a different kind of sacrifice. It does
not suffer physical death but the death of absolute isolation.
It is driven away as a creature fatally contaminated with man's
SINS, utterly banished from all human association. It was sent
into the wilderness only after the High Priest had publicly laid
both his hands upon its head and thus transferred to it
all the SINS of the people as a nation. The use of both hands
is significant. The penitent who offered a personal sacrifice
laid upon the animal's head only one hand as a gesture of identity
(cf. Leviticus 1:2-4). Here the High Priest lays both hands
upon its head as a symbol of actual transfer. An innocent
creature becomes a guilty one.
Now it should be remembered that
this injunction in Leviticus was given while the Tabernacle was
still in the wilderness, so that only one man was needed to take
the goat away and send it alone into isolation. The Temple presented
new problems for the sending away of the scapegoat, problems
which did not exist for the Tabernacle. The wilderness was in
its immediate vicinity: the Temple was several miles from it.
Since the Day of Atonement was a sabbath, a man could not be
asked to lead the goat all the way from the Temple to the wilderness,
for it far exceeded the distance any one individual was permitted
to travel on a sabbath day. It therefore had to be arranged that
this be done in stages or relays, each one a half a mile apart,
and each relay being the responsibility of a separate individual.
At each station a small shelter was constructed. The first man
to take charge of the scapegoat took it the half mile to the
first station and then returned, thus covering the allowed distance
for a sabbath day's journey of one
mile. And so the goat
passed from man to man until the last person took it out into
the wilderness and there released it. But on the way out, the
people in the city and the surrounding countryside, considering
the scapegoat as an object of desecration and horror, heaped
upon it every conceivable form of verbal abuse and sought to
hurry it on its way. They genuinely believed that it was truly
burdened with their sins and was now an object of shame and repulsion.
The goat had been identified by
having a piece of scarlet cloth fastened to one horn. There is
no doubt that if it had attempted to come back again, it would
have been driven away in horror. But it seems more likely that
God Himself would have seen to it that the goat remained separated
for ever from the people whose sins it bore. This assumes that
the sacrifice was acceptable. What if it had not been acceptable
on some particular occasion? According to tradition, this did
happen once, and the goat returned from the wilderness. Because
of the horror with which the poor creature was viewed by the
people, one can imagine their consternation. That it should have
returned did not, it seems, suggest to them that the sacrifice
was not acceptable to God ‹ only that the arrangement was
not acceptable to the community! The authorities determined that
it should not happen again. They therefore gave instructions
thereafter that the last man should lead the scapegoat to the
edge of a precipice and push it over backwards, with the reasonable
certainty of breaking its legs, if not actually killing it. This
extraordinary precaution was necessary because, pushed over forwards,
goats have been known to deliberately land not on their feet
but on their head, in order to avoid breaking their legs, and
they can apparently sustain a drop of fifty feet without injury
in this position. But the whole evolution of the ceremony involving
such artificial precautions only demonstrates how far from a
spiritual understanding of the truth the religious authorities
had finally departed.
In the Temple, the people awaited
news that the second ritual was completed. When the last man
let the goat go, he tore off a piece of the scarlet cloth and
with it waved the signal back to his predecessor, who passed
the news back to his predecessor in turn, and thus back to the
Temple in a very short time.
The sins of Israel were removed eastward.
The distance was not great, only a few miles. But when the
Lord came to remove our sins in his own Person, He removed them
to infinity. As Psalm 103:12 states it, "As far as the east
is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions
Thus as soon as word was received
from the Temple that the scapegoat was finally gone into the
wilderness, there was general rejoicing throughout the land.
Their SINS had been utterly carried away, borne into the wilderness
by an innocent victim.
So was offered in a compound ceremony a sacrifice
for SIN and a sacrifice for SINS, a victim executed as a SIN-offering
and a victim banished utterly as a bearer of the SINS of God's
In one Person these two sacrifices were
made on the cross, when as a scapegoat the Lord Jesus took upon
Himself the guilt of our SINS and was utterly banished from the
Father's presence during the hours of darkness; and then as our
SIN-offering (2 Corinthians 5:21 *) took upon Himself the penalty
of the deadly infection which has made us all mortals, and dismissed
his life at the last.
We now turn in
the next two chapters to examine these two separate deaths in
the order of their occurrence at Calvary: first the spiritual,
and then the physical.
* The use of the word SIN, in the phrase "made
to be sin," is widely acknowledged to be an insufficient
translation. The Greek word is almost certainly to be rendered
sin-offering, as it is frequently in the Septuagint.
236. (See page 2) F. R. Tennant observed that it was universally
taught by the rabbis that our first parents brought death upon
themselves by disobedience. That Adam did not die on the day
he ate the forbidden fruit is sometimes explained by the rabbis,
as it is in the Book of Jubilees, by taking the day to
be a thousand years [Sources of the Doctrines of the Fall
and Original Sin, New York, Schocken Books, 1968 reprint,
One deviation from this general
view, which is found in the Syriac Baruch-Apocalypse,
is that the penalty was not in death itself but in its prematureness.
Adam's death was untimely. The Book of Enoch, Pseudo Philo,
The Apocalypse of Moses, most copies of Baruch-Apocalypse,
and 4 Ezra all assert physical death was caused by the
Fall. The Slavonic Book of Enoch attributes the introduction
of death to Eve, as does Ecclesiasticus (25:24) which
reads: "From a woman sin had its beginning, and because
of her we all die." The statement is true in a sense, but
a far more precise statement is that made by Paul in Romans 5:12.
Another view found among the Church
Fathers and in Jewish literature (Pirke di R. Elieser,
c.13) is that Satan was envious of Adam and desired to murder
him, by persuading him to poison himself to death. Again, there
is a measure of truth here and it is reflected in John 8:44 where
the word murderer in the Greek is "man-killer."
Many of the Church Fathers explored
the relationship between death and Adam's disobedience. Justin
Martyr (c.100‹65 AD.), one of the earliest, wrote: "When
God formed man at the beginning, He suspended the things of nature
on his [man's] will, and made an experiment by means of one commandment.
For He ordained that, if he kept this commandment, he should
partake of immortal existence; but if he transgressed it, the
contrary should be his lot. Man having thus been made, and immediately
looking towards transgression, naturally became subject to corruption.
Corruption then becoming inherent in nature, it was necessary
that He who wished to save should be the One to destroy the efficient
cause of corruption." [This is found as a Fragment of
the Lost Writings of Justin, in Ante Nicene Fathers,
New York, Scribner, 1913, vol.1, p.301]. It is not merely a concise
observation: it also shows how it came about that the word natural
was later applied to man's dying even by those who recognize
that it was not part of his original constitution. Augustine
sometimes speaks of death as natural for man, in this sense.
Tertullian (c.160‹215) said:
"We know what was man's origin and boldly assert and persistently
maintain that death happens not by way of natural consequence
to man, but owing to a fault and defect which is not itself natural;
although it is easy enough, no doubt, to apply the term natural
to faults and circumstances which seem to have been inseparable
to us from our very birth. If man had been directly appointed
to die as the condition of his creation, then of course death
must be imputed to nature. Now, that he was not thus appointed
to die, is proved by the very law which made his condition depend
on a warning and made death result from man's arbitrary choice.
Indeed if he had not sinned he certainly would not have died.
That cannot be nature which happens by the exercise of will after
an alternative has been proposed to it, and not by necessity
as the result of an inflexible and unalterable condition. Consequently,
although death has various forms, in as much as its causes are
manifold, we cannot say that the easiest death is so gentle as
not to happen by violence to our nature. The very law which produces
death, simple though it is, is yet violence. How can it be otherwise,
when so close a companionship of soul and body, so inseparable
a growth together from their very conception of two sister substances,
is surrendered and divided?" ["A Treatise on the Soul,"
Ante-Nicene Fathers, ibid., vol.III, p.229].
(c.339‹397), whose influence on Augustine was tremendous,
took the view that death really was imposed as a merciful provision
rather than a penalty. He wrote: "The Lord did not inflict
death as a penalty but as a remedy. And to Adam when he sinned,
one thing was appointed as a penalty, another for a remedy, when
it is said: 'Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy
wife and hast eaten of the tree of which I commanded thee that
of it alone thou should not eat, cursed is the ground in thy
labour; in sorrow shalt thou eat of its fruit all thy days of
thy life, etc. . . . till thou return to the earth from which
thou wast taken.'" So here are the two effects according
to Ambrose: the burden of life (the penalty), and death (the
remedy). Ambrose comments further: "So, then, death is not
only an evil, but is even a good thing. So that it is sought
as a good, as it is written, 'Men shall seek death and shall
not find it.' (Rev. 9:6). They will seek it who shall say to
the mountains, 'Fall on us,' and to the hills, 'Cover us.' (Luke
22:30). That soul, too, shall seek it which has sinned. The rich
man lying in hell shall seek it, who wishes that his tongue be
cooled with the finger of Lazarus (Luke 16:24). We see then,
that this death is a gain and life a penalty, so that Paul says,
'To me to live is Christ and to die is gain' (Phil. 1:21)"
["On the Belief in the Resurrection," Bk. II.37.3].
Much later, Thomas Aquinas (1224‹1274)
was to write: "Death is natural considering our material
status, but penal considering how we lost the divine endowment
of deathlessness" [Summa Theologica, 2a ‹ 2ae,
Francois Turrettin (1632‹1687)
in his Atonement of Christ [p.81] considered that death
was an essential remedy. "There are many other weighty reasons,"
he wrote, "rendering it necessary that all should die; such
as that the remains of sin (i.e., the remaining root left in
each of us) may be destroyed." Physical death was, in his
view, the only way of destroying the seat of the root of sin,
and is the answer to Paul's plea in Romans 7:24.
Augustus H. Strong (1836‹1921)
in his Systematic Theology wrote: "The objection
that death existed in the animal creation before the Fall may
be answered by saying that, but for the fact of man's sin, it
would not have existed. We may believe that God arranged even
the geological history to correspond with the foreseen fact of
human apostasy (cf. Rom. 8:20-23, where the creation is said
to have been made subject to vanity by reason of man's sin)"
[Phila.delphia, Judson Press, reprint 1974, p.658]. Death in
the animal world before man was therefore a kind of previsionary
paradigm of something which was later to be a penalty for man.
Of death for the Christian, A.
T. Schofield said, "Death is not an entrance into eternity
but an exit from time" ["On Time and Eternity,"
Transactions of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.LIX,
237. (See page 10) According to the Gemarah, which is a kind
of Jewish history book of this period, the scarlet cloth which
marked the scapegoat was supposed to turn white as a sign of
God's approval in accordance with Isaiah 1:18. But we are told
that this never actually happened during the last forty years
before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Whether the Jewish people
were aware of the significance of this tradition, or indeed whether
the change of colour had actually occurred in previous years,
or was just a Jewish invention, are questions which cannot be
answered now. But it is interesting that the tradition survived
in their literature, and yet their religious authorities do not
seem to have realized its meaning. The tradition is referred
to by Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services,
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1972 reprint, p.312.
page 10) For treatment of the word Azazel, see Smith's Dictionary
of the Bible, Grand Rapids, Baker reprint, vol.I, p.197.
Also Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, New York, Scribners,
1905, vol.1, p.207, and Lange's Commentary, Grand Rapids,
Zondervan, 1976 reprint, vol.1, at Leviticus 16:8, p.127. Also
L. Feinberg, "The Scapegoat of Leviticus 16," Bibliotheca
Sacra, vol.115, Oct.,1958, p.320-333; The Standard Jewish
Encyclopedia, subject Azazel, p.206; Louis Ginsberg,
Legends of the Jews, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication
Association of America, 1955, vol.1, p.148 (= a fallen angel);
G. F. Ochler, Theology of the Old Testament, New ork,
Funk & Wagnalls, 1883, p.311; and F. R. Tennant, The Sources
of the Doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin, New York,
Schocken Books, 1968 reprint, p.182 (connected with "Fallen
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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