Fulfilled in Jesus

Our pilgrimage with our Beloved in Japan -- Yoko & Ramone on the journey with Jesus!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Who is the Scapegoat?

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

- Psalm 103:8-12

What We Didn't Know, What We Unwittingly Declared

I think it was as I read the original version of Ellen White's The Great Controversy (found in Spiritual Gifts, Vol.1, 1858) that I was first introduced to the Adventist teaching that the "scapegoat" of the Day of Atonement represented Satan.

In the ceremony, the highpoint of the Jewish year, two goats were sacrificed. One was killed and its blood was taken into the Most Holy Place. The other (the "scapegoat") had Israel's sins confessed on it and was taken out into the desert, never to be seen again.

Ellen White taught explicitly that the first goat was Christ, and that the second goat represented Satan -- who would ultimately be the final bearer of our sins. I had no idea that to merely say that Satan was a sin-bearer would be complete heresy to Christians. I didn't know that Christian history has consistently seen the scapegoat as a type of Christ, not a type of Satan (brief wikipedia link). Ellen White's idea seemed to make sense, and her writings were "an authoritative source of truth", so I never gave second thought to it.

* It didn't occur to me to wonder: Did any Old Testament sacrifice commanded by God ever represented anything but the perfect sacrifice of His Son, Jesus?

* It didn't occur to me that the mere connotation of the word "scapegoat" is of someone who is innocent but is unjustly given the blame others deserved. Both goats in the Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) were sacrifices. A sacrifice is by nature innocent.

* I didn't realize that if we say that the scapegoat represented Satan, then we were unwittingly declaring that Satan was 1) innocent, 2) unjustly blamed, 3) a sacrifice for our sins.

Of course, if you put things this way, all Adventists would've raised hands in objection! Did we really think about it, I wonder? Did Ellen White really think about what she was so authoritatively and "prophetically" declaring? I don't know the answer to that question for certain, but I am pretty sure she and the others didn't know what they were talking about, considering how little the Adventist pioneers knew of shadow & fulfillment (as exhibited by their resurrecting the old covenant shadow of the Sabbath, leaving the fulfillment of its rest in Christ's finished work, and apparently being completely unaware that the Ten Commandments are the "words of the [old] covenant").

So who is the scapegoat, really? Who does the tragic sacrifice of this innocent, sinless animal represent? Who was the one who was unjustly blamed, and "taken away" bearing our sins?

Sacrifices, Shadows, and Fulfillment

There are just so many sacrifices in the Old Testament! It's incredible, mind-blowing, and beyond fathoming. Growing up I knew Jesus was the "lamb", but I was woefully ignorant of how rarely it was actually a "lamb" that was sacrificed. Most often it was a bull, goat or a ram. Sometimes a heifer. Sometimes a calf. Sometimes a lamb. Sometimes a dove, etc. As I look through the book of Leviticus, it becomes obvious that each one of these sacrifices in some way represented Jesus. I can't always understand exactly how each one points to Him, but I know that each one does.

Resting in Him, you'll see that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of everything. He is the beginning and the end of every prophecy. He is the beginning and end of every type. Every service and shadow and type was of Him. He was there before they were written and began, and He is their fulfillment.

In seeking to understanding shadow and type, ask Him first to guide you. And then start with the Light, not with the shadow. Don't force the Light to fit in the shadows. In other words, don't force something in Christ's life to fit every aspect of the ceremonies. It's the other way around. Start backwards instead. Start with Christ who is the fulfillment, and then the things of the shadows will become clear.

Almost every aspect of the Old Covenant tabernacle/temple prefigured Christ. This is especially true and clear for the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the highest and most important day of the Hebrew year. Not only did He represent each one of the five sacrifices on that day, but He was also the Priest, the Burned Incense, the Curtain, the Mercy Seat, etc. While each detail and aspect points to Him, it is the sacrifices which are perhaps the easiest to recognize Him in.

This is addressed in the book of Hebrews, chapter 10:

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming [that is, a shadow of Christ] --not the realities themselves [compare this verse with Colossians 2:16-17]. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship... But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said:

"Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
but a body You prepared for Me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
You were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am--it is written about Me in the scroll・
I have come to do Your will, O God.' "

First He said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then He said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God... because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Each sacrifice that the Law required was a shadow of the One Sacrifice. Each bull, each goat, lamb, ram, heifer, dove and pigeon -- each of these were a shadow of the One sacrifice, the body of Jesus Christ. None of those animals actually took away sin. They were each shadows of the One who would "take away" our sins, never to be seen again:

"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

- John 1:29

He appeared so that He might take away our sins.

- 1 John 3:5

Why were so many sacrifices necessary? Because there are so many aspects of what Christ did that we could not understand His sacrifice any other way. One innocent animal sacrifice would not be sufficient enough to shadow everything that the perfect, spotless, innocent and loving Creator Jesus Christ did for us in His death.

Sins Taken Away!

The concept of "taking away sin" is one that simply blows me away. Not only did He "forgive" us for our sins, but He took them away! Think about this. If He had merely forgiven our sins, the root of original sin & rebellion inside us would still be there. We would still be stuck with this iniquity, this propensity to sin. He would have forgiven us, but we would mess up again and we would worry that His sacrifice wouldn't cover us anymore.

But His mission was not only to grant us forgiveness, but to take away our sins. This is part the very name He was given before He was born! The angel told Joseph,

"You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save his people from their sins."

- Matthew 1:21

Not only would He "forgive" us (as wonderful as that is!), but, He would save us from our sins! That means He would take our sins away from us. He would take our original sin away from us. He would take away our iniquity, our soul's propensity to sin and bent-on-rebellion nature. He would take away "sin itself" by becoming our sin for us (2 Cor.5:21).

Lord, when I think of this, I am blown away and struggle to believe it. I've faced my own sins for so long, so often, and sometimes it's hard to believe that You've taken my sin away. You've taken away my propensity to sin. You've taken away my divided heart. Oh, God, You make me weep! You've taken away my bent toward rebellion. You've taken away my lawlessness.

You not only saved me from punishment -- You not only saved me from Your wrath against sin -- but You have saved me from sin itself. Thank You, Lord. Bury this truth deep, deep in my heart, Lord, and help me understand that I may see I have truly been set free from sin in You. Thank You, Lord Jesus. In Your name I praise You and thank You! Amen!

The Scapegoat

This is pictured for us in the sacrifice of the "scapegoat" on the Day of Atonement. Two identical, perfect, defect-less goats for a sin offering would be brought to the high priest to make atonement with. Lots were cast over them, and one would be slain. Its blood would be taken into the Most Holy Place. We know this represented Jesus, the Lamb of God who was slain for our sins.

But what happened to the other goat? This one had all of Israel's sins confessed on its head by the high priest. It was then taken into the desert away from Israel and either released or pushed off a cliff. This was the "scapegoat". Both goats were part of the same picture of Christ's atonement. The picture is not complete without both goats.

In Isaiah 53 it says that Jesus was "cut off" and "taken away"... this is the punishment mentioned throughout Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy for certain sins and for breaking the covenant. For certain things the punishment was being "cut off" from the people. For example, transgressing the commands of Sabbath or Circumcision each resulted in two punishments:

1) death
2) being "cut off"

After "death", of course, it seems like "cut off" is moot! But because the Jews saw being "gathered to one's people" as something that happened after you died, being "cut off" would not only mean being cut off from the living covenant community, but also losing your inheritance in the afterlife -- not being gathered to your fathers when you died. Yet it's more than that still, because "living" in the afterlife meant that God accepted you when you died. So being "cut off" ultimately meant being cast out of God's presence after you died.

The first goat of Yom Kippur was the sacrifice that represents the first punishment -- death. The second goat of Yom Kippur (the scapegoat) is the sacrifice that represents the second punishment -- being cut off from the presence of the covenant community, and being cut off from the presence of God.

In the same way, Adam was "cut off" by having to leave the Garden of Eden. He was driven out & cut off because he ate the fruit. It was part of his curse. And in the same way, his son Cain was "cut off" after he killed his brother Abel. He was driven away and had to leave God's presence as his punishment, as his curse. He became "accursed". Both Adam and Cain were guilty and were "cut off" because of it in respectively different degrees. However, in contrast...

Christ, my 'Scapegoat'

Christ was innocent of sin. Like the innocent scapegoat, an animal that had done nothing wrong. Think of what "scapegoat" means in English! "One that is made to bear the blame of others." We say someone is made a "scapegoat" when others put the blame the person for bad things that they did. We say someone is a "scapegoat" when the punishment falls unjustly on an innocent person instead of on the guilty people who were responsible.

In the same way, Jesus became accursed for us (Galatians 3:13). Deuteronomy 21:23 says that anyone hung on a tree is "accursed." This could explain why the religious leaders were so intent on having Jesus crucified -- they wanted Him to be hung on a tree so that everyone would see Him as being accursed by God.

Yes. Exactly. That was God's plan. I believe that in a sense He became every curse for us -- that is, all the curses of transgressing the Law fell upon Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says,

"He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Thank You, God! My heart is torn again with Your love, Your sacrifice! Thank You! I can't stop crying as I write these and praising and thanking You! Thank You!

In Isaiah 6:7 an angel touches Isaiah's lips with a coal from the altar and says,

"See, this has touched your lips;
your guilt is taken away
and your sin atoned for."

Many Christians historically see this as a picture of partaking of Christ's body (the sacrifice on the altar). This shows the two-fold result of being touched by the Holy, by Christ's sacrifice:

1) sin is atoned for
2) and taken away

Aaron 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... The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place.

- Leviticus 16:21-22

John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
"Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

- John 1:29

My righteous servant will justify many,
and He will bear their iniquities...
He was taken away... He was cut off...
for the transgression of My people
...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.

- Isaiah 53:11,8,6

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

- Hebrews 9:28

Thank You, Jesus! Thank You, my Lord! Thank You for doing this, for becoming this for us! Merely recognizing You and calling You the "scapegoat" wrings my heart and makes me choke up and cry, Lord! You are the one who did not deserve this! We deserved this, I deserved this, Lord, not You! The Scapegoat. The Scapegoat for me. My Scapegoat, Lord.

It hurts to call You 'my' scapegoat, Lord! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Lord! But I recognize You did this of Your own free will, You did this out of love for me. Thank You, Lord, the Willing Scapegoat for me, for us all. Thank You. It was not fair in my eyes, but in Your eyes it is holy. It is Your love. It is Your grace. Thank You, Lord. Teach me Your love, fill me with Your heart, Jesus. Amen.

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!

It's just wonderful and humbling to hear Christ saying through the Scriptures,

"I am the scapegoat. I am the innocent one who took the blame, who took the fall. They were your sins, but I accepted them and took them away from you so that you may have life and live with Me forever."

Jesus, I don't know what to say! Thank You for taking our sins, for taking our blame, for taking our punishment. For being "cast out" and "cut off" for us, for being "driven out" and forsaken as we should have been. Just as we (in Adam) were driven out from the Garden, You as our Scapegoat were driven out of Your Father's presence because of our sins, not Yours. You were without sin, a holy offering. Thank You, Lord, for taking this "cutting off" for us. Thank You, Jesus. You are the scapegoat, You are the one who was cut off for us. I bless Your name, Jesus. Amen.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love...

He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is His love for those who fear Him.

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has He removed our transgressions from us

- Psalm 103:8-12


Additional comments on FAF threads here and here.


About the picture at the top:

The goat is "white" representing His purity. The dirty yellowish color is the "desert" of our sins where the goat was taken to and died. The "red" is His blood poured out for us because of our sins, our blood-guilt, that He carried on Himself, that He bore away as far as the east is from the west, never to be seen again.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, our Scapegoat, because You went to the dry and barren place for us so that we don't have to go there. Thank You.


Update, October '09: Ironically, on Yom Kippur during a prayer meeting, I received a second picture of Christ the Scapegoat:

The Scapegoat

Sunday, June 01, 2008

"A Spirit of Life" (Leaving a State of the Dead)

Coming Out of a Soul-Sleep State of the Dead
And Into Seeing the Living Spirit

By Ramone Romero - May 9 & June 1, 2008

I came out of Adventism seven years ago, and officially left five years ago (see: Why I Left Adventism), but it was not until recently that a stronghold of Adventism came out of me. This is the story of how I was brought out of fear and misunderstanding and into beholding something greater and more awesome than I had ever imagined or hoped. I'm not getting into the particulars or verses here at this time, but I might do so in the future (or I might not). But for now, it's joyful enough with me to just share how He brought me out of this and into resting in Him once again. (UPDATE: What I wrote at this link is as close as I ever got to writing about 'the particulars or verses.')

A Contrived Hope

When a friend died in 2002, I went through a time of personal grieving. In dealing with the loss, I wrote a letter to my deceased friend. I believed the Lord had saved my friend, and so I tried to theraputically write that the next thing my friend would see would be Jesus coming. I tried to believe as I was taught that my friend's soul was "sleeping" and knew nothing right now. I tried. I knew the act of writing the letter was theraputic for me, and I had been going through the grieving process well and God had been helping me deal with the loss and healing my heart about it. But when this point came, when I wrote the words about the next thing my friend would see after "waking up", it began to feel fake. Contrived. Like I was pushing it, trying to believe. That internal witness of the Spirit wasn't there. The healing of the Lord was not fully in it. It was supposed to be "right", but the Life wasn't there in it. It was supposed to be something that we were excited about, a great hope, comfort and assurance. But it felt empty.

Years later I would peruse the online forum at the Former Adventist Fellowship, and would find many people who believed in the traditional Christian belief about the state of the dead -- that the saved go to heaven when they die. Some were very vehement about it, too! I gently (I hope) argued with them from time to time, but recognized I was in a minority opinion. We agreed about Sabbath and agreed about almost every other thing. Well, not everything, but the big BIG fundamentals that were distorted in Adventism. They and I knew how to read Scripture in context, how to let Scripture interpret itself, how the New Testament interprets the Old, and how everything points to Jesus Christ.

So it kind of bugged me a little that the "state of the dead" thing was an issue at all. Soul-sleep seemed to make the most sense to me, and it seemed like people were just jumping on the Christian bandwagon by abandoning soul-sleep. In discussing things with them, though, after awhile the Biblicalness of soul-sleep began to falter. I began to see smaller and smaller evidence for it in Scripture. It still made more sense to me, but was becoming increasingly difficult to defend.

A Brief Glimpse Into the Eternal

One day here at home I opened up as best as I could to believing the immortality of the soul, believing that our soul does not sleep but that we go to Jesus when we die. For a moment it seemed like my spiritual eyes were open, like I beheld an eternity, a continuity, a continuing-ness that was wonderful and that was beyond what I had known before. In sight of such an ever-present, continuing reality (the undying spirit), life as I know it would look a lot different! Imagine how we would live if we knew how continuing our life (our spirit) is! But this moment soon closed as thoughts returned about the 'illogicalness' of believing in the immortality of the soul. So I held onto soul-sleep by a thin thread (or it held onto me?) but recognized that it didn't have the most Biblical support. I shelved the issue.

The matter of the state of the dead (about "soul sleep") was not finally settled for me until a few months ago when God used a study by Cherry Brandstater to help me come to peace about these things. Prior to that, even though I knew about spirit, soul and body, there were two primary stumbling blocks that kept me from seeing the simple truth about these things.

My Logic Versus God's

The first stumbling block for me was that "the resurrection" just didn't seem to make sense... why "go to heaven" and then "come back" at the resurrection? In short, the "logic" I had developed after having started out based on a soul-sleep belief -- this logic blinded me. Part of it was pride, too.

Through the study I was reading, it was emphasized how we are created to be three-part beings, and that God made us to be whole. Death is an unnatural separation of what God created, something not meant to happen to what God created to be one. Even though our bodies die and our soul & spirit are saved, we are still short of the wholeness that God created us for until the "redemption of our bodies" (which is how Paul referred to the resurrection in Romans 8 -- notice he never refers to the resurrection as the redemption of our souls or spirits).

A Hidden Persuader - The Stronghold of Fear

The main stumbling block to seeing the truth about soul-sleep, however, was that there was a spirit of fear guarding the belief. I grew up being occasionally taught that soul-sleep was a defense against being deceived by spirits impersonating loved ones. And then later when I read the original version of Ellen White's The Great Controversy (found in Spiritual Gifts, Vol.1), the same thing was expressed in strong, uncompromising and fearful language. I.e., my soul held onto the belief because I believed the belief would guard me from being deceived.

I realized this while reading Cherry's study, as the Spirit brought the scriptures together. She put fun "quiz" questions at the end of each chapter, and as I answered one of them correctly, saw the evidence and considered just resting in the belief, I suddenly felt fearful of stepping into believing the Christian teaching. The fear inside said, "But if I believe this, how do I know I will not be fooled, tricked or deceived by spirits?"

And that's when I knew where the fear was coming from, because I had been through this before with the Sabbath issue! (See: Why I Left Adventism) When someone had told me the gospel truth that we are saved by faith in Christ in the end times, and not saved by Sabbath-keeping, I realized I had held onto Sabbath as a kind of insurance policy -- just in case "Christ alone" isn't enough, if you keep Sabbath then you can be sure you won't be deceived in the end times. (Ironically this "insurance" actually made you feel less sure!) I called this "taking the big step", and a friend did a physical illustration of it at the time which I ended up drawing recently...

The Big Step!
(click to read the story of this picture)

So I took another "big step" with believing in the state of the dead the way the Bible speaks of it. Just like I let God keep me safe in the end times (instead of "Sabbath" keeping me safe), I chose to let Him keep me safe from deception about the dead (instead of "soul sleep" keeping me safe). And as soon as I realized these things, I was quickly reminded that the New Testament gives us multiple safeguards and tells us to test the spirits and not believe just any spirit out there! The gospel is our safeguard against deception, not a sketchy belief about the state of the dead!

It occurs to me now that the SDA belief about the state of the dead has stunted many Adventists' spiritual discernment. The belief serves as a false safeguard against deception. Unfortunately, along with the SDA belief comes a fear of spirits -- including fear of the moving of the Holy Spirit. The false safeguard ends up shielding people from being deceived by spirits impersonating dead people, but also ends up shielding them from more intimate contact with the Holy Spirit -- and the Spirit is in fact our best protection against other spirits! Additionally, the belief does not shield us from being deceived by false teachings in other departments (for example, swallowing Ellen White's unbiblical revelations from the spirits she was in contact with).

Letting Go and Falling Into His Arms

So I chose to believe in what He was showing me and left soul-sleep behind, and left my logic behind (that is, my "This makes more sense!" beliefs I had constructed to defend soul-sleep). I felt Him calling and leading me, and so I held His hand and He led me out of my "theological building", so to speak. This picture ("Leaving My Building") was exactly how I felt and how I saw it!

"Leaving My Building (1)"
(click to read the story of this picture)

This second picture is what I knew was there behind me as I walked away, and is also what I felt happening to my old beliefs:

"Leaving My Building (2)"
(click to read the story of this picture)

Several pictures actually came out of letting go of soul-sleep. But the one that I love the most from that experience is this one - "Eternity":

(click to read the story of this picture)

It's a picture of me beholding with joy and wonder the eternal soul and spirit He has put in me. Really seeing that He has really really put an eternal soul and spirit in me! Oh my God! My Lord! What have You put in me!!! Thank You!!! I will live forever! Thank You!!!


See also: "Safe From Being Misled" (at Heart For Adventists)

And also read the story of this picture: "Glorified!"

'Glorified' - click to read the story!
Click to read the story of this picture