A symbolic blueprint of the first and second coming of Jesus Christ can be seen in the ceremony of the two-goat offering on the Day of Atonement found in Leviticus 16.
On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would present two goats before the Lord. The High Priest would then cast lots to determine which goat he would sacrifice to the Lord, and which goat he would set free into the wilderness as the “scapegoat.”
“Then Aaron shall cast lots for the two goats: one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat on which the Lord’s lot fell and offer him as a sin offering. But the goat on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness” (Lev. 16:8-10).
The first goat was killed, and its blood was brought into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled eight times on the Mercy Seat by the High Priest as a sin offering.
The first goat was symbolic of Christ, our High Priest, who atoned (COVERED) our sins before a Holy God. This did not REMOVE the sinful nature inside a believer YET. This explains how sinners, who accept Christ as Savior, can be reunited with the Lord through His atoning sacrifice, and yet still continue to contend with the wages of sin working in their soul and body even after they are saved.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom. 6:23).
The Scriptures state that through the sacrifice of Jesus, His righteousness is imputed upon us. The first goat symbolizes how Jesus’ sacrifice imputes (attributes or changes a person because of an act of another) righteousness to us.
“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:8).
This means we are righteous before God because of Christ, and our faith in Him as the Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world. Faith allows us to enter into His righteousness.
“And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also… Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Rom. 4:11,23-4).
Believers are still dealing with mortality (sin) in our bodies while we remain on the earth, working out our sanctification with fear and trembling UNTIL Christ returns.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only,
but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12).
In between the 1st and 2nd coming, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father and is making intercession for us until He returns.
“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34).
The Bible is clear that when Christ returns as King, His rulership will eventually eradicate the wages of sin, which is death. Receiving our glorified bodies will be the first sign of accomplishing this purpose:
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
Therefore, the second goat used by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement was not killed. Instead, it was set free in the wilderness, which is why it was called “the scapegoat.”
“Scapegoat translates the Hebrew word azazel. The meaning of this word is far from certain … The word may perhaps signify ‘removal’ or ‘dismissal’ … Probably the best explanation is that the word was a rare technical term describing ‘complete removal.'” (David Guzik: Study Guide for Lev. 16., Blueletterbible.org)
The High Priest would lay his hands on the second goat’s head, confess the sins of the people, and “put their iniquities on the goat’s head.” Afterwards, the goat was then escorted about 10-12 miles away by a “suitable man,” who would release the goat into the wilderness in a place uninhabited by people (Lev. 16:20-22).
The second goat is symbolic of how Christ REMOVES our sins, sending them away permanently so there is no need to keep working at fighting against our sinful nature. This is the blueprint of the prophesied promise of the sons of God receiving their glorified body (incorruptible “temple”) as part of their inheritance. This promise begins fulfillment at time of Christ’s second coming (Heb. 9:7,11-12).
“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor. 5:4,5).
There is an incredible reference in the Jewish Talmud that verifies that after Jesus was crucified, the Lord no longer accepted the goat sin offering and the scapegoat offered by the High Priest:
“Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open” (Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, p.156-157).
It makes sense that God would confirm what He had accomplished, fulfilling His word through Christ as “He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). There was no more need for a goat to “cover” their sins to make a way for their relationship to be restored with God since Christ had fulfilled the offering. God was trying to get their attention.
Jesus also prophesied that the temple’s downfall would take place in His own generation (Matthew 24:1-34).
“Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the temple of His body’” (John 2:19-21).
Scripture reveals why the Lord prophesied the downfall of the temple in Jerusalem because the new temple wouldn’t be created by hands, but built by the Lord’s Spirit in man, both individually and corporately.
“For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people ‘” (2 Cor. 6:16).
Each believer in Christ is a “temple” for the Lord’s presence to dwell in through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5,8). Furthermore, the “New Jerusalem” the Lord speaks of in Scriptures, is the manifestation of the corporate promise to the Body of Christ receiving their glorified bodies and becoming one united temple under His headship (Rev. 21:2,3). The blueprint of the Feast of Tabernacles, which is the Feast that follows the Day of Atonement, is the fulfillment of the completion of this transformation.
“He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name” (Rev. 3:12).