The entire sacrificial system pointed to Jesus Christ in some way; it was a “tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). This certainly includes all the instructions in Leviticus 16. There is a pitfall, however, in trying to make the sequence of the ritual precisely fit the timing of Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection. This is crucial to understand because some identify the azazel as Satan on the assumption that the role of the azazel can only be fulfilled after Jesus was resurrected.
The assumption is this: In Leviticus 16, the Lord's goat is slain to make payment for sin, understood to be a type of Christ's sacrifice. After His resurrection, He ascended to heaven to take on the role of High Priest. This line of reason leads to the conclusion that, since the first goat represented the slain Christ, and the high priest represented the resurrected Christ, then the azazel must represent someone entirely different from Christ.
Yet, even though the entire sacrificial system pointed to Christ, the order in which He fulfilled things did not match the instructions given to Israel. He completely fulfilled the essence of those instructions, but it is impossible—and unnecessary—to fit the timeline of the reality into that of the shadow, the type. We will follow a brief tangent to see this, taking as our example God's instruction concerning the consecration of the Aaronic priesthood.
Exodus 29 provides a specific order in which the various sacrifices for dedicating priests to their office were to be carried out. Performed first, the sin offering acknowledged sin and made symbolic atonement before anything else was done. Next came the whole burnt offering, representing a life given in complete service to God (different from a life sacrificed in payment for sin). Offered with the burnt offering was a grain offering, which similarly represents a life given—lived—in complete devotion to fellow man.
Though this is not a complete expounding of Exodus 29, the order of these elements teaches that we cannot approach God until payment for sin has been made (sin offering), and that our highest priority after our justification is wholehearted devotion to God (burnt offering). Only after that can we truly love our fellow man and be devoted to him (grain offering).
In contrast, Jesus' fulfillment of these sacrifices occurred in a different order. He did not become the sin offering until after He had lived a life of complete devotion to God and man—that is, after He had already fulfilled the burnt and grain offerings. Similarly, He did not qualify to be our High Priest until after He had fulfilled the burnt offering, grain offering, sin offering, and other offerings like the Wavesheaf and the Passover. What we see is that the actual sequence in which Christ fulfilled all these things was not identical to the sequence given to Israel in Exodus 29. However, He fulfilled their spiritual essence, which the Father accepted.
Returning to the Atonement ritual, we observe the same thing. The instructions begin with the high priest entering the Holy Place (Leviticus 16:3-4). If, in interpreting the ritual's symbols, we require this chapter to follow the sequence that took place in Christ's fulfillment, we are immediately faced with an impossibility: He did not qualify to be High Priest until after His earthly work was completely finished—after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension (see Hebrews 5:9-10). Therefore, trying to match the Leviticus 16 instructions with what actually happened leaves us starting out with Christ's earthly work already complete and after His installation as High Priest.
It is not necessary to match up the order of these things, nor is it required that the azazel's antitype be fulfilled only after Christ's resurrection. Forcing a rigid, sequential fulfillment of Leviticus 16 results only in tying ourselves in symbolic knots.
David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Three)