It is important, in reference to the meaning of the day of atonement, to observe the order of the rites as they are described in these verses.
A censer - See Exodus 25:38 note.
The altar before the Lord - i. e. the altar of burnt-offering on which the fire was always burning.
The high priest must have come out from the most holy place to fetch the blood, leaving the censer smoking within, and then have entered again within the veil. He sprinkled the blood seven times upon the mercy-seat, on its east side (not “eastward”), and then seven times upon the floor in front of it. If the mercy-seat may be regarded as an altar, the holiest one of the three, on this one occasion in the year atonement was thus made for it, as for the other altars, with sacrificial blood.
Having completed the atonement in the holy of holies on behalf of the priests, the high priest had now to do the same thing on behalf of the people.
The “holy place” - Here the place within the veil, the holy of holies.
Tabernacle of the congregation - tent of meeting. atonement was now to be made for the tabernacle as a whole. The sense is very briefly expressed, but there seems to be no room to doubt that the high priest was to sprinkle the blood of each of the victims before the altar of incense, as he had done before the mercy-seat within the veil; and also to touch with blood the horns of the altar of incense Exodus 30:10.
That remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness - Compare Leviticus 16:19. The most sacred earthly things which came into contact with the nature of man needed from time to time to be cleansed and sanctified by the blood of the sin-offerings which had been taken into the presence of Yahweh. See Exodus 28:38 note.
The order of the ceremony required that atonement should first be made for the most holy place with the mercy-seat, then for the holy place with the golden altar, and then for the altar in the court. See Leviticus 16:20, Leviticus 16:33. The horns of the brazen altar were touched with the blood, as they were in the ordinary sin-offerings. Leviticus 4:25, Leviticus 4:30, Leviticus 4:34.
Of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat - Some of the blood of the two victims was mingled together in a basin.
Confess over him - The form of confession used on this occasion in later times was: “O Lord, Thy people, the house of Israel, have transgressed, they have rebelled, they have sinned before Thee. I beseech Thee now absolve their transgressions, their rebellion, and their sin that they have sinned against Thee, as it is written in the law of Moses Thy servant, that on this day he shall make atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins, and ye shall be clean.”
A fit man - literally, a timely man, or a man at hand. Tradition says that the man was appointed for this work the year before.
Unto a land not inhabited - Unto a place cut off, or (as in the margin) a place “of separation.”
It is evident that the one signification of the ceremony of this goat was the complete removal of the sins which were confessed over him. No symbol could so plainly set forth the completeness of Yahweh‘s acceptance of the penitent, as a sin-offering in which a life was given up for the altar, and yet a living being survived to carry away all sin and uncleanness.
Once a year, on the great Day of Atonement, the priest entered the most holy place for the cleansing of the sanctuary. The work there performed completed the yearly round of ministration. On the Day of Atonement two kids of the goats were brought to the door of the tabernacle, and lots were cast upon them, “one lot for the Lord, and the other lot for the scapegoat.” Verse 8. The goat upon which fell the lot for the Lord was to be slain as a sin offering for the people. And the priest was to bring his blood within the veil and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. The blood was also to be sprinkled upon the altar of incense that was before the veil. GC 419.1
“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 the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.” Verses 21, 22. The scapegoat came no more into the camp of Israel, and the man who led him away was required to wash himself and his clothing with water before returning to the camp. GC 419.2
The whole ceremony was designed to impress the Israelites with the holiness of God and His abhorrence of sin; and, further, to show them that they could not come in contact with sin without becoming polluted. Every man was required to afflict his soul while this work of atonement was going forward. All business was to be laid aside, and the whole congregation of Israel were to spend the day in solemn humiliation before God, with prayer, fasting, and deep searching of heart. GC 419.3Read in context »
Watch, brethren, the first dimming of your light, the first neglect of prayer, the first symptom of spiritual slumber. “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.” It is by the constant exercise of faith and love that believers are made to shine as lights in the world. You are making but poor preparation for the Master's coming if you are serving mammon while professedly serving God. When He appears, you must then present to Him the talents that you have buried in the earth, talents neglected, abused, misused—a divided love. 4T 124.1
Both of you have professed to be servants of Christ. How necessary that you should obey your Master's directions and be faithful to your duties. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” This love is without a parallel, giving to men the relationship of sons to God. Therefore the Father expects obedience from His children; therefore He requires a right disposition of the property He has placed in their hands. It is not their own to use for their personal gratification; but it is the capital of the Lord, for which they are responsible to Him. 4T 124.2
Children of the Lord, how precious is the promise! How full the atonement of the Saviour for our guilt! The Redeemer, with a heart of unalterable love, still pleads His sacred blood in the sinner's behalf. The wounded hands, the pierced side, the marred feet, plead eloquently for fallen man, whose redemption is purchased at such an infinite cost. Oh, matchless condescension! Neither time nor events can lessen the efficacy of the atoning sacrifice. As the fragrant cloud of incense rose acceptably to heaven, and Aaron sprinkled the blood upon the mercy seat of ancient Israel and cleansed the people from guilt, so the merits of the slain Lamb are accepted by God today as a purifier from the defilement of sin. 4T 124.3
“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” There are stern battles for you to fight. You should put on the whole armor of righteousness and prove yourselves strong and true in your Redeemer's service. God wants no idlers in His field, but colaborers with Christ, vigilant sentinels at their posts, valiant soldiers of the cross, ready to do and dare all things for the cause in which they are enlisted. 4T 124.4Read in context »
At the right and left of the breast-plate were set two larger stones, which shone with great brilliancy. When difficult matters were brought to the judges, which they could not decide, they were referred to the priests, and they inquired of God, who answered them. If in favor, and if he would grant them success, a halo of light and glory especially rested upon the precious stone at the right. If against, a vapor or cloud seemed to settle upon the precious stone at the left hand. When they inquired of God in regard to going to battle, the precious stone at the right, when circled with light, said, Go and prosper. The stone at the left, when shadowed with a cloud, said, Thou shalt not go, thou shalt not prosper. 4aSG 102.1
When the high priest entered within the most holy once a year, and ministered before the ark in the awful presence of God, he inquired, and God often answered him with an audible voice. When the Lord did not answer by a voice, he let the sacred beams of light and glory rest upon the cherubim upon the right of the ark, in approbation or favor. If their requests were refused, a cloud rested upon the cherubim at the left. 4aSG 102.2
Four heavenly angels always accompanied the ark of God in all its journeyings, to guard it from all danger, and to fulfill any mission required of them in connection with the ark. Jesus the Son of God, followed by heavenly angels, went before the ark as it came to Jordan, and the waters were cut off before his presence. Christ and angels stood by the ark and the priests in the bed of the river until all Israel had passed over Jordan. Christ and angels attended the circuit of the ark around Jericho, and finally cast down the massive walls of the city, and delivered Jericho into the hands of Israel. 4aSG 102.3Read in context »
In the sanctuary of the wilderness tabernacle and of the temple that were the earthly symbols of God's dwelling place, one apartment was sacred to His presence. The veil inwrought with cherubim at its entrance was not to be lifted by any hand save one. To lift that veil, and intrude unbidden into the sacred mystery of the most holy place, was death. For above the mercy seat dwelt the glory of the Holiest—glory upon which no man might look and live. On the one day of the year appointed for ministry in the most holy place, the high priest with trembling entered God's presence, while clouds of incense veiled the glory from his sight. Throughout the courts of the temple every sound was hushed. No priests ministered at the altars. The host of worshipers, bowed in silent awe, offered their petitions for God's mercy. MH 437.1Read in context »
The uplifted Saviour is to appear in His efficacious work as the Lamb slain, sitting upon the throne, to dispense the priceless covenant blessings, the benefits He died to purchase for every soul who should believe on Him. John could not express that love in words; it was too deep, too broad; he calls upon the human family to behold it. Christ is pleading for the church in the heavenly courts above, pleading for those for whom He paid the redemption price of His own lifeblood. Centuries, ages, can never diminish the efficacy of this atoning sacrifice. The message of the gospel of His grace was to be given to the church in clear and distinct lines, that the world should no longer say that Seventh-day Adventists talk the law, the law, but do not teach or believe Christ. TM 92.1
The efficacy of the blood of Christ was to be presented to the people with freshness and power, that their faith might lay hold upon its merits. As the high priest sprinkled the warm blood upon the mercy seat, while the fragrant cloud of incense ascended before God, so while we confess our sins and plead the efficacy of Christ's atoning blood, our prayers are to ascend to heaven, fragrant with the merits of our Saviour's character. Notwithstanding our unworthiness, we are ever to bear in mind that there is One that can take away sin and save the sinner. Every sin acknowledged before God with a contrite heart, He will remove. This faith is the life of the church. As the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness by Moses, and all that had been bitten by the fiery serpents were bidden to look and live, so also the Son of man must be lifted up, that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” TM 92.2Read in context »
Now the event takes place foreshadowed in the last solemn service of the Day of Atonement. When the ministration in the holy of holies had been completed, and the sins of Israel had been removed from the sanctuary by virtue of the blood of the sin offering, then the scapegoat was presented alive before the Lord; and in the presence of the congregation the high priest confessed 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.” Leviticus 16:21. In like manner, when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels and the hosts of the redeemed the sins of God's people will be placed upon Satan; he will be declared guilty of all the evil which he has caused them to commit. And as the scapegoat was sent away into a land not inhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness. GC 658.1
The revelator foretells the banishment of Satan and the condition of chaos and desolation to which the earth is to be reduced, and he declares that this condition will exist for a thousand years. After presenting the scenes of the Lord's second coming and the destruction of the wicked, the prophecy continues: “I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” Revelation 20:1-3. GC 658.2
That the expression “bottomless pit” represents the earth in a state of confusion and darkness is evident from other scriptures. Concerning the condition of the earth “in the beginning,” the Bible record says that it “was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” [The Hebrew word here translated “deep” is rendered in the Septuagint (Greek) translation of the Hebrew Old Testament by the same word rendered “bottomless pit” In Revelation 20:1-3.] Genesis 1:2. Prophecy teaches that it will be brought back, partially at least, to this condition. Looking forward to the great day of God, the prophet Jeremiah declares: “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light. I beheld the mountains, and, lo, they trembled, and all the hills moved lightly. I beheld, and, lo, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens were fled. I beheld, and, lo, the fruitful place was a wilderness, and all the cities thereof were broken down.” Jeremiah 4:23-26. GC 658.3Read in context »