Erico Tadeu Xavier is a pastor at the South Brazilian Union.

The Day of Atonement in the earthly sanctuary was determined by three great rites:

1. The rite of the young bull in favor of the high priest and his house.
2. The rite of the goat chosen for the Lord.
3. The rite of the goat for Azazel or scapegoat.

Why were these rites performed? What do they teach us?


A. The first rite was in favor of the high priest and his house.

Leviticus 16:3, 6, 11 orders that a young bull be offered as an offering for the sin and atonement “for himself and for his house.” The high priest’s preparation was intense:

• He should wash himself in the morning (16:4).
• Wear the holy garment (16:4).
• Present the burnt offering that preceded the offering for sin (Nm 29:8-11).
• After the burnt offering the high priest began the first great rite: he presented the young bull as an “offering for sin” for atonement.

Leviticus 16:11-14 states that the high priest used part of the young bull’s blood and part of the goat’s blood (burnt offering) in the ritual. The purpose was to clean the altar and sanctify it “from the uncleanness of the children of Israel” (v. 19).

B. Here are some lessons for us:

• Before the high priest performed the rites, he first had to perform them in favor of his own life and in favor of his house.
• Before we pray for someone else, we need to pray for ourselves.
• Instead of demanding changes in the lives of others, we first need to change our life and our house.
• The high priest first needed a blessing to start blessing others through his ministry.

Jesus did not need to perform this rite in His favor, for He was pure, without sin.


Leviticus 16:5, 9 talks about the second rite of the Day of Atonement. Verse 15 says that the goat offering “is for the people.”

The blood of the goat for the Lord was used to cleanse the Sanctuary from the remaining sins of the people, deposited there during the entire year.

A little of the blood of the young bull was also used in this rite and put on the horns of the altar (v. 18).

The altar was purified from the impurities of the children of Israel (v. 19).

Verse 20 says it is clear that people were involved in the cleansing/purification. Verse 33 confirms it.

• The sanctuary was purified from the impurities of the Israelites.
• The altar, Holy Sanctuary, and tabernacle were included (v. 33).

The great emphasis in Leviticus 16 is the purification of the Sanctuary. The sins confessed were transferred to the Sanctuary and remained there during the year, thus needing to be purified.

God, however, assured that forgiveness = cleansing because of His grace.

This rite is a type of the purification in the Heavenly Sanctuary which occurred since 1844 (Hb 9:23, 24; Dn 8:14).

God really emphasizes cleansing; cleansing in the camp, in the tents, in the altar, in the Sanctuary, of soul and heart.

God also wants pure people: pure eyes, hands, hearts, when speaking, walking (Mt 5:8). 1 John 1:9 says that the Lord cleans the sin in which there is confession.

Today Christ is in the Heavenly Sanctuary making atonement in our favor. When we are forgiven or justified by faith in Christ, we are at peace with God (Rm 5:1).


A. The third rite of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:8, 10).

The scapegoat is the vehicle that led the sins of Israel to the desert. It is important to notice that the rite of the scapegoat or “for Azazel” occurs after the atonement for the Sanctuary in regards to the people of God.

This goat was not killed in a rite and his blood was not shed. The rite of this goat was a rite of elimination from sin and impurity (Lev 16:21, 22).

It is not an act of consecration or blessing, but a transfer of sin, figuratively, to the scapegoat.

All sins, from which the sanctuary was cleansed through spoken confession and laying of hands, were transferred to the living goat for the elimination of the same from the midst of the Israelite community. It was the removal of their sins.

The rite of the live goat was not sacrificial, neither expiatory. The live goat was called a scapegoat, and verse 10 says “for Azazel” (NIV), which suggests the name of a supernatural being opposed to God.

The first goat was representing Christ; the second is seen as representing Satan, who will be destroyed at the end of the Thousand Years.

This will be the total and final eradication of sin and the establishment of the New Heaven and New Earth.

Peter talks about the New Heaven and New Earth (2 Peter 3:13). And John wrote about the death of Satan at the end of our planet’s history (Rev 20:7-10).


Remember what Ellen G. White says: “We are in the great day of atonement, and the sacred work of Christ for the people of God that is going on at the present time in the heavenly sanctuary should be our constant study. We should teach our children what the typical Day of Atonement signified and that it was a special season of great humiliation and confession of sins before God. The antitypical day of atonement is to be of the same character. Everyone who teaches the truth by precept and example will give the trumpet a certain sound. You need ever to cultivate spirituality, because it is not natural for you to be heavenly-minded. The great work is before us of leading the people away from worldly customs and practices, up higher and higher, to spirituality, piety, and earnest work for God” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 520).

Today we need to consecrate ourselves to God and purify ourselves in Christ’s blood so that our name is not erased from the book of life.

Erico Tadeu Xavier is a pastor at the South Brazilian Union.

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