Among Christian scholars there have been and still are wide variations of opinion as to the significance of the scapegoat in its relationship to the services of the Day of Atonement, in both type and antitype. One view, among many others, holds that the scapegoat is a type of Christ. Another and opposite view is that the scapegoat is a type of Satan. Although the Adventists in 1844 preached much about the Day of Atonement, they apparently gave little attention to such details as the significance of the scapegoat.
As later Seventh-day Adventists studied the sanctuary, they gave more thorough consideration to the details of the Day of Atonement ritual by which the ancient sanctuary was cleansed. The unanimous conclusion of Seventh-day Adventist scholars has been that the scapegoat, or Azazel, represented Satan.
The many reasons for this conclusion are discussed rather extensively by the early SDA writers. (See Uriah Smith, The Sanctuary [Battle Creek, Mich., 1877], p. 308; J. H. Waggoner, The Atonement [Oakland, Calif., 1884], p. 232.) Inasmuch as the atonement for the sanctuary was already completed before the confessed sins were transferred, in figure, to the scapegoat (Lev. 16:20, 21), they concluded that Christ must therefore have completed the work of atonement before Satanâ€”the antitypical scapegoatâ€”could suffer the fate reserved for him as set forth in Rev. 20:9, 10.
The identification of the scapegoat also involved the meaning of the word "Azazel" (ibid., pp. 234â€“237). On this point many non-Adventist scholars, such as Jenks, Spencer, Charles Beecher, and Matthew Henry, were quoted extensively. It was pointed out that both the Hebrews and the early Christians considered Azazel as the name of the devil, or a demon, and that the Syriac Azzail paralleled this usage. It was pointed out, further, that the use of the preposition "for," in the Hebrew of Lev. 16:8, implies that the lots were cast for a personâ€”one for YHWH and one for Azazel. This would rule out Azazels being an impersonal name for evil. Also, it was pointed out that the Targums treated Azazel as a proper name, and that the Septuagint rendered it by apopompaios, a Greek word applied to a malign deity. This was also the position of the early Church Fathers. Origen said, "He who is called in the Septuagint apopompaios, and in the Hebrew Azazel, is no other than the devil."
A brief note in the Review and Herald (32:48, July 7, 1868) cites Irenaeus (c. A.D. 185) as quoting "that divine elder," who characterised him as "that fallen and yet mighty angel" (Against Heresies 1. 15).
Ancient Jewish writers consistently cast Azazel in the role of an evil spirit being. The pseudepigraphical Book of Enoch, for instance, comments: "Azazel . . . hath taught all unrighteousness on earth" (9:6). "The whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin" (10:8).
The first discussion of the scapegoat appearing in an SDA publication was the reprint of O.R.L. Crosierâ€™s treatise on the sanctuary (Day-Star Extra 9:43, Feb. 7, 1846, reprinted in the Advent Review 1:62, 63, September 1850). Probably the first discussion by a Sabbathkeeping Adventist writer was an editorial by James White (Review and Herald 9:28, Nov. 27, 1856), giving essentially the same explanation, identifying the scapegoat as Satan.
In the Review and Herald for July 3, 1883 (60:424), Uriah Smith develops the subject at considerable length, listing reasons for considering Azazel as Satan: "The scape-goat having once been selected, it never after performed any office involving dignity or honour, or calling for any thing which would symbolise perfection of life or character. . . . The atonement is all made, sins are remitted, the records of the evil deeds of Godâ€™s people are blotted out, and they are forever freed from them, and these sins are all borne from the sanctuary, before ever Satan is called into requisition at all. God then simply uses him as the vehicle by which to make a final disposition of these sins in the lake of fire. Thus, so far as the work of atonement itself is concerned, the plan and work of mercy by which Godâ€™s people are forgiven their sins, Satan has no part to act."
Years later A. T. Jones emphasised the fact that Azazel must be considered a personal spirit being who stands in opposition to the Lord, and therefore is Satan. He bases this on the fact that lots are cast for two goats, one "for the Lord" and one "for Azazel," who must therefore be as real a personality as the Lord. Jones cites a number of contemporary sources for this view (ibid. 76:460, July 18, 1899).
Seventh-day Adventist belief (note Smithâ€™s statement above) that the scapegoat represents Satan does not in any way involve him in the atonement for sins. Christâ€™s atonement was full and complete for all, and He alone bore the sins of the righteous and atoned for them. Even theologians who omit Satan from the picture of the Day of Atonement, and thus restrict the symbolism of both goats to Christ, agree that the expiation was effected by the blood of the first goat and that the ceremony with the other goat appears as a mere addition made for special reasons, a kind of complement to the wiping away of sins that had already been effected by the means of the sacrifice.
In summary, Seventh-day Adventists believe that the scapegoat, or Azazel, is a type of Satan. As, anciently, the sins of repentant Israelites were placed on the head of the scapegoat before it was sent away into the wilderness, so "when the work of atonement in the heavenly sanctuary has been completed, then in the presence of God and heavenly angels, and the host of the redeemed, the sins of Godâ€™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). See also Investigative Judgement; Sanctuary -- Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary.