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The Day of Atonement pictures the casting out of Satan and the end of his deceptive influence on humanity. Satan seeks to separate us from God and this Holy Day symbolizes the removal of our adversary. In 2022 the Day of Atonement is observed on Wednesday, October 5.
Jesus Christ's second coming (Revelation 19:11-16) will be followed almost immediately by the devil being bound by one of God's angels: "He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 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" (Revelation 20:2-3).
Every year in ancient Israel one segment of the solemn ceremonies held on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) pictured the time when Satan's deception of "the whole world" (Revelation 12:9) would be stopped. The people were instructed: "Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement [as a sacrificial cleansing] is made for you before the Lord your God. Anyone who does not deny himself [by fasting] on that day must be cut off from his people" (Leviticus 23:28-29, NIV).
The events of that day were rich in symbolism. The main feature of that day's ceremonies was the selection of two goats, the first to serve as a type of Christ's atoning sacrifice for cleansing Israel of her sins committed in ignorance and the second to represent the removal of Satan.
"The Lord said to Moses: Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark . . . Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place . . . He shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering . . . He shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting; and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel [to represent Satan's role in promoting sin]" (Leviticus 16:2-8, NRSV).
Leviticus 16:15-16 state: "He shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering [representing the shed blood of Christ] that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain . . . sprinkling it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel, and because of their transgressions, all their sins" (NRSV).
This goat symbolized Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice for the sins of all humanity. But additional spiritual cleansing must be done. Satan's evil influence, not only over the Israelites but also over all of humanity, must also be removed before Jesus Christ can fill the earth with true righteousness.
Leviticus 16:21-22: "Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness" (NRSV).
Like Satan, this goat is sent to an uninhabited location where he can do no harm. The ceremonial banishing of this male goat, with all the blame for the deception and sin of Israel (and the whole world) placed on him, was intended as a portrayal of the banishment of Satan when Jesus Christ returns to set up His Kingdom.
To learn more about Satan and his influence on the world, and how it will finally be brought to an end, read the free Bible study aid booklet Is There Really a Devil?
The Good News magazine (Sep-Oct, 2007)