Traditional Christianity has assumed that the death of Christ finished God’s ‘plan of salvation.’ But what was finished? It was the work God the Father commissioned Jesus to do (John 17:4). That work included the sacrifice of His life as “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7) to pay the penalty of our breaking God’s laws. But the death of Christ did not finish God’s Plan! It was only the beginning-the first step in God’s Master Plan.
Passover Pictured Christ’s Sacrifice
The first Passover was observed by ancient Israel just before their exodus from Egypt. They had been slaves in Egypt before God freed them, He punished their Egyptian captors for refusing to let them go. God, through Moses, had instructed every Israelite family in Egypt to kill a lamb and smear some of its blood on the doorposts of their houses. On the night this was done, the death angel passed over every house marked with lamb’s blood.
God protected the ancient Israelites from physical death through a symbol-the blood of these lambs. This was symbolic of Christ’s blood, the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29), which would be shed much later to make possible the spiritual development of mankind. With the institution of the Passover, God began to reveal to His newly forming nation- “church”Acts 7:38 seven annual festivals, and commanded that they be observed FOREVER.
Why These Festivals?
God’s annual festivals and Holy Days have tremendous spiritual meaning. They not only bring His people together in commanded religious assemblies, they reveal His Plan to fulfilling His awesome purpose for humanity!
The annual observances God instituted reveal a step-by-step outline of how He is accomplishing His purpose. Each portrays a great event in God’s plan. But the vast majority are deceived by Satan, the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4; Rev. 12:9). The meaning of repentance is not understood, or what God’s way of life is all about. They don’t understand God’s Spirit (His way of thinking) why we need it, or how to receive it.
The religions of this world do not understand the process of receiving God’s Spirits, spiritual growth and entry into God’s Family. They do not know that God is now calling only a few into His Church, or that they are now being trained to rule in Christ’s soon-coming world-ruling government. They do not realize that the vast majority will be given their opportunity later, in a more favorable age, when Christ is ruling the earth.
All this truth is pictured by God’s annual festivals and Holy Days! Those who faithfully observe these commanded days are reminded of these spiritual truths every year. Just as the weekly Sabbath keeps us in a right relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ, and in the understanding of God’s purpose for mankind. So the annual festivals and Sabbaths keep the Church in the right knowledge of His plan.
Anyone that refuses to keep holy the days God made holy is not in a right relationship with God! It will be through His Church, during Christ’s coming reign on earth, that the rest of the world will learn of these days and their vitally important meaning for mankind.
New Testament Memorial of Christ’s Death
God commanded the ancient Israelites to observe the Passover as a yearly reminder of Him saving their firstborn from death in Egypt. True Christians today are also commanded to observe the Passover, with its New Testament symbols of unleavened bread and wine, as a yearly reminder of Him saving them from eternal death through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “our Passover” (I Cor. 5:7. John 1:29). The Bible clearly shows that the death of Christ is the first step in God’s great plan for eventually bringing billions into His Family. The Passover, the first of God’s annual festivals, pictures that event. Jesus commanded that it be observed every year, with new symbols, so we would always remember His great sacrifice for us.
But this deceived world does not understand the real meaning of Christ’s sacrifice. Instead of keeping the Passover, traditional Christianity observes Easter, supposedly in honor of Christ’s resurrection. Yet the Bible nowhere commands us to celebrate His resurrection. And the world even has the resurrection on the wrong day! God’s Church has the precious knowledge of His truth, and those who God the Father has called faithfully observe all of His annual festivals! Let’s begin studying the details of the first step in God’s Master Plan-the Passover.
Passover Lamb Prophetic of Christ’s Sacrifice
God’s annual festivals are full of meaning. They were given to teach us the knowledge of the seven steps in God’s plan and membership in His Family. God first began to reveal His Holy Days to the ancient Israelites while they were slaves in Egypt. It was then that God commanded His people to observe the Passover. Today, we can understand that this festival pictures the first step in God’s Master Plan.
The Old Testament Passover was a commemoration of the first Passover God instituted to save Israel’s firstborn. God had been bringing plagues on Egypt to influence the Pharaoh to free the Israelites so they could worship Him in the wilderness (Exodus chapters 5 through 11). We find the historical record of the first Passover in the 12th chapter of Exodus.
COMMENT: The Israelites had been in Egyptian slavery for nearly a century. They were forced to work seven days a week and adapt to the Egyptian calendar and Egyptian holidays.
God’s began to reverse this situation and claim these descendants of Abraham as His own chosen people (Deut. 7:8). They needed a complete reorganization of their social, religious and work customs.
God began by correcting the way they were keeping time. He commanded that the month Abib (which came to be called Nisan after the Babylonian captivity–Esther 3:7) be their first month. “Abib” is derived from the Hebrew word aviv, meaning “ears” or “green ears of grain.” It is the month in which green ears of grain ripen–barley first, then winter wheat, which is usually still in green ears when the barley ripens. God’s calendar begins in the spring in the Northern Hemisphere.
The civil New Year celebrated by the Jews today is in the autumn. Although the Jews use Abib as the first month for religious reckoning, they use Tishri, the seventh month of God’s calendar, as the beginning of the civil and governmental year.
2. What was each Israelite family to do on the 10th day of Abib? Ex. 12:3. Were they to select lambs without any deformities, diseases or imperfections? Verse 5.
3. On what day of the first month were the Israelites to slay the lambs they had selected? Ex. 12:6.
COMMENT: The Hebrew from which “in the evening” is translated literally means “between the two evenings” (see margin of most King James Versions). The Jewish Publication Society translated this phrase “at dusk” (1955 edition of The Holy Scriptures) and “at twilight” (1962 edition). To judge from this translation, the first evening is when the sun goes over the horizon and the new day begins; the second evening when it has become dark and the stars are visible.
Some Jewish commentators redefine this phrase. But the teaching of the Church of God is that the lambs were killed just after sunset, in the very beginning of the 14th of Abib.
5. What happened to the Egyptian firstborn on this night of the first Passover? Verses 12, 29. Had God promised to “pass over”–the Israelites’ firstborn? Verse 13. Was it the lambs’ blood they had struck on the side and upper doorposts of their houses that saved the firstborn from death? Same verse.
COMMENT: It was a sign showing that the household was to be spared. Today, we can be protected from the permanent death our law breaking has earned through the death of Jesus Christ as “our Passover” who was “sacrificed" (I Cor. 5:7).
God had Israel act out, in a physical way, a type of what would come nearly 1,500 years later.
COMMENT: Before making His covenant with the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, God commanded them to keep the Passover forever–not just until Christ’s death, which ended that covenant. When God declares a law to be forever, He means it! No authorization from God was ever given to cease observing this tremendously important festival! From its first institution in Egypt, the Passover became a ONCE A YEAR memorial. But the Passover also looked forward to God forgiving our breaking the 10 laws which each generation is given to live by.
Jesus Kept the Passover
1. When Jesus was young, did He go to Jerusalem with His parents, who kept the Passover every year? Luke 2:40-42.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ kept all of God’s annual festivals, including the Passover. He, as the Lord of the Old Testament, He is the One who revealed these festivals to ancient Israel and kept them Himself during His life on earth as a human being! Before His death, Christ instructed His disciples how the New Testament Passover should be observed.
COMMENT: Just before instituting the New Testament Passover symbols on the evening of the 14th of Abib, Jesus and His disciples ate roast lamb, as He had ordered for the original Old Testament observance of this festival. It should be noted, that they were not eating a sin offering. The Passover lamb is nowhere called a sin offering in the Bible. The Bible plainly shows that sin offerings were not instituted until after the Israelites had come out of Egypt–until after the Ten Commandments were given at Mt. Sinai and broken.
The Passover was instituted in Egypt weeks before the Israelites arrived at Mt. Sinai and was repeated in the covenant made at Sinai, but it was not instituted by that covenant! The sacrifices instituted after the covenant was made and ratified at Sinai ceased to be necessary at Christ’s death. Therefore they were not perpetuated by symbols in the New Testament Church. Only the Passover is continued; and only with the new symbols of unleavened bread and wine.
Comment: The Apostle John shows that the Pharisees and the Sadducees held the Passover at a later time. The Jews in Judea did not observe the biblical Passover at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan (Abib). They killed their lambs toward the end (in afternoon) of the 14th and ate them on the night of the 15th, the first Holy or High Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread!
To this day, the Jews do not distinguish between the night of the Passover (Ex. 12:22) and the night after the Passover, when the Israelites left Egypt (Num. 33:3; Ex. 12:42). Therefore the Jews today do not keep the real Passover at the time or in the manner Jesus instructed His disciples. They eat their ceremonial Passover meal, consisting of roast lamb and bitter herbs, on the evening of the 15th.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------- | Chronology of events on the day of Christ's death , A.D. 31 | |-------------------------------------------------------------------------| | 14th of Abib | |-------------------------------------------------------------------------| | Evening | Night | Morning | Afternoon | | (after Sunset) | (before ) | (after ) | (about 3 PM) | |-------------------------------------------------------------------------| |Christ institutes |Christ teaches |Christ is formal-|Christ is speared | |ordinance of foot |His disciples, |ly tried and con-|in the side by a | |washing and new |is betrayed and |demned, appears |Roman soldier and | |symbols of |arrested, ques- |before Pilate, |killed; His body | |unleavened bread |tioned by Annas |Herod, Pilate |carried to the | |and wine during |and informally |again, scourged |tomb just before | |His last supper. |tried by the |and nailed to the|sunset. | | |Sanhedrin. | steak | | | | | | | |Matt. 26:20, 26-29|Matt. 26:30-75 |Matt. 27:1-45 |Matt. 27:46-60 | |Mark 14:17, 22-25 |Mark 14:26-72 |Mark 15:1-33 |Mark 15:34-46 | |Luke 22:14-20 |Luke 22:24-65 |Luke 22:66-23:45 |Luke 23:46-54 | |John 13:1-17 |John 13:31-18:27 |John 18:28-19:27 |John 19:28-42 | --------------------------------------------------------------------------- A.D. 31 1ST MONTH A.D. 31 ABIB-NISAN SUN MON TUE WED THU FRI SABBATH 1-NEW MOON 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15-1ST-DUB 16 17 18 19 20 21-LAST-DUB 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 DUB = Day of Unleavened Bread ---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Christ Institutes Ordinance
On the evening before His death, while Christ and His disciples were taking the Old Testament Passover lamb for the last time, Jesus gave some specific commands for His New Testament Church. The Apostle John recorded the first part of Jesus’ institution of the New Testament Passover.
1. Did Jesus wash His disciples’ feet as part of the new way of observing the Passover? John 13:1-5.
COMMENT: In verse 2, the words “and supper being ended” should properly be rendered “and during supper,” as it is in a number of modern translations. The washing of feet was not part of the Old Testament Passover. This was being instituted for the first time by Christ Himself!
COMMENT: Since open-toed sandals were the customary footwear of the day, feet could become quite dirty. Foot washing, upon entering a house, was considered a menial task, usually done by the lowest servants.
Peter, not yet understanding the purpose of the ceremony Jesus was then instituting, protested. But Jesus explained that unless Peter took part in the foot-washing ceremony, he could have no relationship with Him–he could not be a Christian! Neither can we.
3. Why did Jesus institute this new observance of foot washing in connection with the New Testament Passover? Verses 12-16.
COMMENT: By washing their feet, Jesus was illustrating to His disciples that He was serving mankind. Shortly afterward, He gave His life for mankind! (John 15:13).
Jesus explained that if He, being the Master, would serve mankind, then His disciples ought to also serve one another and the world. Jesus instituted foot washing in connection with the New Testament Passover as a symbol of service. It is a physical reminder of the principle He had taught them before: that they ought to be “as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28, RAV).
A willingness to serve and help others is an essential part of everyone’s training to be a ruler in God’s Kingdom, where every ruler will administer God’s government for the benefit of others rather than himself (Luke 22:25-27).
Notice what the Apostle Paul, who practiced what he preached, tells us about having a servant’s attitude: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves…. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…. He humbled himself and became obedient to death!” (Phil. 2:3, 5-8, NIV). The New Testament shows that Christ’s apostles did serve, just as He did, preaching the Kingdom of God. History records that most of them also gave their lives in that service.
COMMENT: Some today, who are not yielded to God’s will and are unwilling to be servants, do not want to humble themselves by washing someone else’s feet. But Christ made it absolutely clear that all Christians should follow His example of service to others! If Jesus is our Lord and Master, we also “ought to wash one another’s feet” at the Passover, to be observed ONLY ONCE each year.
The New Symbols
Now let’s notice what else Jesus commanded His disciples to do after He finished washing their feet.
COMMENT: We know that Jesus was using unleavened bread because the Old Testament Passover was always eaten with unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8).
3. Was wine to symbolically represent His blood, for the forgiveness of past law breaking? Luke 22:20; Matt. 26:27-29; Rom. 3:25. (More about the meaning of breaking and eating the unleavened bread and drinking the wine later)
COMMENT: The “fruit of the vine” Jesus gave His disciples was fermented wine, not grape juice. Grape juice could be made only in the autumn, and could not be preserved until spring. It was either fermented into wine, or else made into a heavy syrup that was used as a sweetener. This definitely was not grape juice or syrup! In Jesus’ day, the Jews used only fermented wine at the Passover.
The Bible nowhere condemns the drinking of alcoholic beverages–only their abuse. If we obey Jesus’ command-“This do…in remembrance of me” (I Cor. 11:25)–we will drink a very small amount of wine once each year at the Passover service in remembrance of Christ’s shed blood.
COMMENT: Some believe that when Jesus said “This is my body…this is my blood,” or spoke of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, He meant those statements to be understood literally–that the bread and the wine miraculously become His literal flesh and blood. This is not what Jesus meant at all! The word “is” (in both Greek and English) also means “represents.” That is its obvious meaning in Matthew 13:38, for example. The unleavened bread and wine are symbols that represent the body and blood of Jesus Christ!
COMMENT: Jesus instituted this ordinance on the eve of His death. He showed His disciples how to keep the New Testament Passover and commands us to follow that example today. Jesus did not abolish the Passover–He merely changed the symbols used. Instead of shedding the blood of a lamb and eating its roasted body, we are now to use unleavened bread and wine.
Why Christ Had to Suffer
After Christ instituted the New Testament Passover symbols, He gave His disciples some final instructions and warnings, as well as encouragement. These are recorded for us by John in John 13:31 through 16:33. Read this entire passage and notice how Jesus used this opportunity not to do away with God’s law, but to emphasize it! He warned the disciples of His imminent death and that they would also be persecuted. He promised that He would be resurrected and that they would receive God’s Spirit. He promised to answer their prayers, giving them the authority to use His name in their requests to the Father.
Then, in John 17, we find the true “Lord’s prayer,” which Jesus Himself prayed. In it He committed not only His disciples into His Father’s care, but all who God the Father would call into His Church through the ages. After Jesus Christ’s finished this prayer, He and His disciples sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives (John 18:1; Matt. 26:30; Luke 22:39).
There He prayed again. Knowing how painful His death would be, Jesus prayed to escape the extreme pain and suffering that was to come (Luke 22:41-44). Three times He asked His Father if it would be possible to begin His plan for mankind’s forgiveness in some other way (Matt. 26:39-44). “Nevertheless,” Jesus prayed, “not my will, but your will be done” (Luke 22:42).
Then Christ was arrested like a common criminal, and all His friends deserted Him (Matt. 26:47-56). He was illegally brought before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish court) by night, beaten and spit upon (verse 67), then sent to Pilate and Herod and mocked by their soldiers (Luke 23:11; John 19:2-3). Yet in all this He never became angry or vindictive! (Luke 23:34). He knew all of this was an essential part in God’s plan to expand His Family. (Heb. 12:2).
COMMENT: These prophecies in Isaiah and in the Psalms were written hundreds of years in advance. They vividly described the suffering the coming Messiah, was to experience! Not only were spikes driven into the hands and feet and the body suspended from these open wounds, but breathing was also agonizingly difficult. Victims would sometimes struggle for as long as three days, suffering pain, sunstroke, heat exhaustion and loss of blood, finally dying from muscle exhaustion and suffocation. He suffered an incredibly painful, brutal death. And He did this voluntarily. He did this for us, for the whole world!
COMMENT: Jesus Christ paid the penalty of our breaking of God’s laws of health (Matt. 9:1-7).That is why Jesus instituted the breaking of unleavened bread as part of the New Testament Passover service. It is a symbol of His broken flesh to remind us that it is by His “stripes we are healed.”
Why Christ Had to Die
Jesus Christ did more than suffer for us. He who was God in the flesh died–ceased to exist! In that day His thoughts perished (Ps. 146:4). Since He was made human, He died the same kind of death all do. But exactly why did He have to die? Let’s understand.
TWELVE REASONS WHY JESUS’ TRIAL WAS ILLEGAL
THE trial of Jesus Christ was without legal precedent. He was convicted and executed even though Pilate found Him innocent! Let’s briefly notice the 12 outstanding reasons why the arrest, trial and conviction of Jesus were illegal.
1. There was no legal basis for Jesus’ arrest because no one had presented a formal charge of any crime; He simply was taken. Moreover, those who went with Judas to have Jesus arrested included the priests and elders–His judges (Luke 22:52)–among whom were the ones who bribed Judas!
3. The indictment against Jesus was illegal because the judges themselves brought up the charge without any prior testimony by witnesses. The Jewish court (the Sanhedrin) by law was not allowed to originate charges.
4. The court illegally proceeded to hold its trial of Jesus before sunrise so no one would be available to testify on His behalf.
5. The trial began on a day before an annual Sabbath (John 18:28), even though Jewish law did not permit the trial of a capital offense to begin on a Friday or the day before an annual Sabbath. Jesus was arrested and tried on the 14th of Abib, the day before the first annual Sabbath of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
6. Jesus’ trial was concluded in one day. Jewish law says: “If a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it [a criminal case] cannot be concluded before the following day” (Mishna, “Sanhedrin” IV, 1). This was to allow sufficient opportunity for any witnesses in support of the accused to present themselves. Jesus’ trial was conducted in private and completed in less than nine hours!
7. Two false witnesses charged Jesus with saying He would destroy the temple made with hands (Mark 14:58); yet He was condemned by the court on another false charge–that of blasphemy. He was condemned on His own testimony (Luke 22:67-71). But according to Jewish law, a person could not be condemned on his own testimony.
8. The merits of Jesus’ defense were not considered. Despite Deuteronomy 13:14, the high priest did not “inquire, and make search, and ask diligently” to see whether Jesus’ statement was blasphemous. The law in the Misha says: “The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience” (“Sanhedrin” IV, 5). Instead, the court pronounced sentence instantly and unanimously!
9. Those who would have voted against condemnation were not at Jesus’ trial. Joseph of Arimathaea was a member of the court, yet he was not there (Luke 23:50-51). Jesus’ opponents had made sure that only those who hated Him would be there.
10. The sentence was pronounced in a place forbidden by law. The trial took place at the high priest’s house (Luke 22:54). According to the law, a death sentence could be pronounced only in the court’s appointed place.
11. Most of the judges were legally disqualified to try Jesus. Some had bought their way into office, according to Josephus. Also, since they were known enemies of Jesus, Jewish law required that they disqualify themselves so He could be tried by impartial judges.
12. The court illegally switched the charges from blasphemy to treason before Pilate. Jesus’ opponents wanted Him killed, but they did not want to do it themselves. So they charged Him with treason (Luke 23:2)–a Roman crime–so the Romans would be responsible for His death. No evidence was presented (John 18:29-30). Pilate, after a brief interview, saw that Jesus was not guilty (John 18:38; 19:4; Matt. 27:18). Fearing the crowd, however, he allowed the killing of an innocent man. Pilate did not even pronounce Him guilty; he merely turned Him over to the soldiers.
What a mockery of justice this trial was!
COMMENT: The penalty for human law breaking is death. But the two members of the God Family, composed of spirit, could not die. Neither one of those Spirit Beings could pay the penalty of human sin. It was therefore necessary that one of the God Family be born as a human being and die to pay the penalty.
The Word, the second member of the God Family, volunteered. He willingly gave up His spirit composition and great power to be born as a human being. Since the Word had created all life, His life was worth infinitely more than the billions who have ever lived. Had Jesus Christ been merely a man, His death could have paid the death penalty perhaps for only one other person. But Jesus was also God! By giving up His former power and becoming a human being, Christ became the perfect and complete sacrifice. In no other way could God redeem a vast humanity condemned to death.
4. Was the Apostle Paul inspired to write that Christ is “our Passover”today? I Cor. 5:7.
COMMENT: If the original Passover lambs had not been killed, the Israelites’ firstborn would have been killed in Egypt. And unless Christ was killed, humanity would not be saved from total extinction today. The Israelites killed their Passover lambs by shedding their blood (Ex. 12:6-7). As these lambs were types of Christ “our Passover,” so Christ’s blood was also shed to pay for our transgressions of God’s law.
5. Does the Bible clearly show that it was necessary for Christ to die by the shedding of His blood for our forgiveness? Heb. 9:22.
COMMENT: We know from Acts 2:38 that repentance and baptism are also necessary in connection with His shed blood.
6. Did Isaiah foretell that Christ would die as a lamb led to the slaughter? Isa. 53:7-8. Does the conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian plainly show that Isaiah was referring to Jesus Christ? Acts 8:32-35.
COMMENT: Christ died by bleeding to death. This is evident from His prophesied sacrificial role, and it is also supported by many ancient Greek manuscripts. Fenton, as well as Moffatt, correctly includes the following sentence as the first part of Matthew 27:50 in his translation: “But another [one of the Roman soldiers] taking a spear pierced His side, when blood and water came out.” Notice also John 19:34. It may be translated “But one of the soldiers with a spear had pierced his side…”, indicating why He was already dead (verse 33).
Most of us have never before understood Jesus’ suffering and death. What a mockery of justice it was! Can you imagine what it would have been like if you had been on trial, if you had been treated like Jesus Christ was? Can you imagine the agony involved in being scourged and then murdered as He was? All this suffering Jesus Christ voluntarily endured to pay the penalty of our law breaking! Just think of the tremendous price He paid so we might have our guilty past forgiven. Can you comprehend that our Creator, the One who gives us every breath, suffered and died for every one of us?
Kept by the New Testament Church
1. After Jesus Christ had changed the symbols of the Passover to unleavened bread and wine, and commanded His disciples to keep this New Testament service in memory of His suffering and death, is there indication that God’s Church kept the Passover more than 10 years after Christ’s death? Acts 12:4.
COMMENT: The word Easter in the Authorized Version is a mistranslation. The Greek word is pascha, which all modern translations correctly render “Passover.”
2. Did the Apostle Paul teach New Testament Christians to keep the Passover by taking the symbols of unleavened bread and wine as Jesus had done and commanded? I Cor. 11:23-26.
COMMENT: Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, taught baptized Gentiles to keep the Passover! Paul spent much of his time in and near Ephesus, which was in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). History shows that the churches in Asia Minor continued to keep the New Testament Passover long after most other churches had been taken over by a counterfeit Christianity. The apostles appointed Polycarp over the Church of God in Smyrna, a city near Ephesus. Notice what Eusebius, an early Catholic historian, wrote about him:
“While Anicetus was at the head of the church of Rome [about A.D. 154], Irenaeus relates that Polycarp…had a conference with Anicetus on a question concerning the day of the Pascal feast [the Passover]…. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and acquainted with many that had seen Christ, but was also appointed by apostles in Asia bishop of the church of Smyrna [Rev. 2:8]…. He also was in Rome in the time of Anicetus and caused many to turn away from the…heretics to the Church of God, proclaiming that he had received from the apostles this one and only system of truth” (Ecclesiastical History, book IV, chapter 14, in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1).
While at Rome, Polycarp discussed the Roman practice of observing a pagan festival in place of the Passover. Notice what Eusebius wrote about this meeting: “Neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe what he had always observed [the Passover] with John the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated” (book V, chapter 24).
The Passover controversy broke out again within 35 years. Victor, bishop of Rome, attempted to excommunicate every church that observed the true Passover!
Eusebius further relates: “But the bishops of Asia, led by Polycrates [a later bishop of Ephesus], decided to hold to the old custom handed down to them. He himself, in a letter which he addressed to Victor and the church of Rome, set forth in the following words the tradition which had come down to him: ‘We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also ‘great lights’ have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come from heaven, and shall seek out all the ‘saints’.
“‘Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles…moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord…and Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr…. All these observed the fourteenth day…the Passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates…do according to the tradition of my relatives…. My relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven [in preparation for the Feast of Unleavened Bread]'” (book V, chapter 24).
COMMENT: The “synagogue of Satan,” composed of those who claimed to be “spiritual Jews”–that is, true Christians–but were not, is the false religion now labeled “Christianity” and founded by the Simon mentioned in Acts 8:9-24, who came to Rome, God calls this counterfeit church the synagogue of Satan!
4. Will the Passover be kept by Christ and others after He establishes the Kingdom of God on earth? Matt. 26:29; Luke 22:15-16. In the meantime, was the Passover to be kept by God’s Church as a memorial of Christ’s death? I Cor. 11:25-26.
COMMENT: Jesus Christ commanded His disciples to keep the Passover in memory of Him even until He returns, when He will keep it again. The apostles did keep it, and God’s Church today is still keeping it exactly as Jesus Christ commanded!
A Memorial Commanded Once a Year
1. Was the YEARLY observance of the Old Testament Passover to remind the Israelites of the meaning of this service? Ex. 12:24-27. Is the observance of the New Testament Passover to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice? I Cor. 11:23-26. Did Jesus institute this ordinance at a certain time as an example for us? I Cor. 11:23; Luke 22:14-15.
COMMENT: Christ taught by His example that the New Testament Passover should be taken only ONCE A YEAR on the 14th of Abib, in the evening, after the 13th has ended at sunset. True Christians today should keep the Passover not as often as they please or at whatever time they please, but as often as and at the same time as Christ and the apostles did. The Passover is a memorial we are to keep in remembrance of Christ’s suffering and death. Memorials of momentous occasions are always observed annually–ONCE A YEAR –on the anniversary of the event they commemorate.
As Christ Himself commanded, true Christians today observe the Passover on the evening of the day of His suffering and death. It is the most solemn and sacred occasion of the year–definitely not a time for laughter or socializing. It reaffirms year by year “till he come” (I Cor. 11:26) the true Christian’s faith in Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of breaking God’s law.
Any other day is not a memorial of Christ’s suffering and death, but is merely an invention of men in contradiction to the direct command of Jesus Christ! The exact date for the Passover, and all of God’s annual festivals, varies from year to year on the Roman calendar. To begin observing these see the calendar of ‘God’s Holy Days’ in the America And Britains Future reference section.
Taking the Passover Worthily
Before concluding this study of the first step in God’s great Master Plan, we need to realize that we could take the New Testament Passover “unworthily”–if we do not heed a warning from the Apostle Paul.
1. What did Paul warn the Corinthian Christians regarding their observance of the New Testament Passover? I Cor. 11:27. What should a person do before taking the symbols of the unleavened bread and the wine? Verse 28. What happens if the symbols are taken “unworthily”? Verse 29. Is this why many of them were sick and many had died? Verse 30.
COMMENT: Many today have not understood Paul’s warning. Some, feeling they are not “worthy” of Jesus’ sacrifice, have concluded they should not observe the Passover. Others have taken the New Testament Passover symbols in a casual or ritualistic manner, not fully understanding their meaning. Both extremes are wrong!
Paul was not saying we must be “worthy” to take the Passover. He wrote that no one should observe the Passover unworthily. “Unworthily” does not describe the person–it describes the manner or attitude in which a person eats and drinks the symbols. Most modern translations, such as the Revised Standard version and the Revised Authorised versions, correctly render “unworthily” as “in an unworthy manner.”
Obviously, no one is worthy of Christ’s sacrifice. Nevertheless, all true Christians are commanded to observe this memorial of Christ’s death. Notice Paul’s command in verse 28: “Let a man examine himself….” Why? To conclude he is not worthy, and to refuse to obey? No- the person should examine himself “and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”
Before each Passover, every true Christian should examine himself to more fully understand his vital need to observe the Passover. A spiritual self-examination will show that he or she is still in need of Christ’s sacrifice! Observing the Passover is a profound annual reminder of our physical and spiritual sins, and a reminder that Christ has paid in full as long as we truly repent of them (I John 1:9).
Paul also wrote that certain of the Corinthian Christians were “not discerning the Lord’s body” (I Cor. 11:29). Many of them had not taken the Passover in a worthy manner. They had not fully understood the fact that Christ paid the penalty of their physical sins, represented by the broken bread, and their illnesses had not been healed. For that reason many of them also had died (verse 30).
Many of these were so lacking in discernment that they thought they were coming together on the evening of the Passover to eat a regular meal. Some even got drunk, says Paul! (verses 20-21, 33-34). Paul therefore had to sternly correct them. The symbols of the Passover should be taken thoughtfully and with renewed faith–with a thorough understanding and comprehension of the REALITY these symbols represent!
COMMENT: In ancient Israel, only Israelites and circumcised Gentiles could take part in the Passover. Today, whether Jew, Israelite or Gentile, one must first become -spiritually circumcised- before he can participate in the New Testament Passover service.
Those who repent, are baptized and have received God’s Spirit have become “spiritual Israelites”–have become spiritually circumcised. If a person has not repented–not yet shown faith in Christ as Savior through the symbolism of baptism–he or she is not able to take the Passover worthily. Therefore the Passover, unlike any of God’s other annual festivals, is limited to baptized members of God’s Church.
Do We Stop with the Passover?
Many religions of the Christian-professing world teach that Christ’s sacrifice completed the ‘plan of salvation’–that there is nothing more for us to do but believe. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Christ’s Passover sacrifice only began God’s Master Plan of saving mankind spiritually. Christ’s sacrifice, upon our repentance, paid the penalty of our past law breaking (Rom. 3:24-25). But it does not give us permission to break God’s laws in the future. We must strive to stop breaking God’s law. That is what the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the next annual festival and step in God’s plan, pictures for us.
Many professing Christians claim to accept Christ’s sacrifice. But God has not applied that sacrifice to them because they are still unrepentant- they refuse to obey Him, claiming His laws are done away. Jesus Christ is not the minister of sin (Gal.2:17). Not until we repent of breaking God’s law based on His 10 commandments, can we be forgiven. Christ’s sacrifice will be applied to those who show by their actions that they are truly sorry. This can include YOU.
Note: If you would like to begin observing God’s Holy Day’s, see God’s Holy Days calendar in the America And Britain’s Future Free Reference Sections.
Note: If on a rare occasion you are unable to take the Passover on the appointed date there is provision to take this at a later date specified. The second Passover is on the 14th of Iyay, which is 30 days following the date of the first Passover, observed the night before.
6 Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, "We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?" 8 And Moses said to them, "Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you." 9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10 "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. NKJV
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