Identifying Satan as the fulfillment of the azazel goat (often translated as "scapegoat") in Leviticus 16 originates with extra-biblical sources, overlooks Scripture's consistent statements about the responsibility for sin, discounts the principles and requirements of the sacrificial system, and ignores the finished expiatory work of Jesus Christ. Leaping over these foundational planks, some conclude that the azazel and the binding of Satan are linked.
However, the stated purpose of Satan's binding is to curtail his deception of the nations throughout the Millennium. It will not be a permanent measure, nor will it be final justice or the true solution to mankind's estrangement from God. Nothing in Revelation connects Satan's binding with any sort of expiation of sin.
Not a single scripture shows that Satan is the author of all human sins, an idea based on the “Book of Enoch” and human reasoning. In spite of Satan's influence, each person is still responsible for his own sins. Satan will pay the penalty for the sins he has committed, and with His own life, Christ has already paid for the sins of those who accept His sacrifice.
Asserting that Satan is the author of humanity's sins gives rise to the claim that mankind cannot be “at one” with God until Satan is out of the way. Part of the confusion has arisen because the word “atonement” can be separated out into “at-one-ment.” Regrettably, this linguistic feature often leads to a wrong conclusion about the meaning of the word.
The primary meaning of atonement is “expiation”: “to provide legal satisfaction, such that guilt is removed, and the obligation of punishment is paid.” It can include cleansing, forgiving, pardoning, purging, and covering. The effect of atonement is that two formerly estranged parties are brought back into agreement—they are “at one”—because the controversy between them has been legally satisfied.
The focus on the Day of Atonement is the means of atonement, which Satan's binding cannot legally achieve. It will neither remove mankind's guilt, nor lift the curse of the law. Regarding the separation between God and man, that gulf can only be bridged through the atonement God provides through Christ.
The idea of man and God becoming reconciled through Satan's binding also overlooks the fact that during the Millennium, the Devil will be unable to influence anyone—yet people will still be sinning. Will the defanged Satan still be the cause of their sins? Will humanity be unified with God just because Satan's broadcast stops?
On the contrary, during Jesus' final Passover (John 13-17), He repeatedly returned to the themes of peace, unity, and oneness with God, all of which are possible with Satan still on the loose. All this occurs through Christ's work, mainly through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Humanity can become “at one” with God only through the Son, not merely by keeping the evil one at bay.
Also, if Satan's binding were the actual solution to human sin, then all sins committed after he is loosed would remain unatoned. Will the people who arise in the second resurrection put their faith in Satan's prior binding—trusting that it would provide expiation for their sins, too—or will their object of faith be Jesus Christ?
Satan, however, is not the factor keeping us separate from God—our sins are (see Isaiah 59:1-2), which Satan cannot cause us to commit. What hinders mankind from being unified with God is the presence of sin rather than the presence of Satan. Jesus Christ alone supplies the solution to sin.
David C. Grabbe
Who Fulfills the Azazel Goat— Satan or Christ? (Part Four)