Saturday, March 22, 2008

The True Meaning of Easter: Jesus Christ the Fulfillment of the Feasts of Israel for Believers

A few thoughts this Easter morning as we prepare for worship at Emmanuel. Leviticus 23 outlines seven feasts that the Lord instituted for His people, the nation of Israel. These seven feasts, called 'The Feasts of the Lord' were the holy days (or holidays) of Old Testament Israel. They were so important that when the Lord gave them to Moses to institute among the people, the calendar changed, and the month in which the first three feasts were kept became the first month of the Jewish year (Abib; later called Nisan after the exile).

For centuries, including during the times of Christ, all Jewish males would make their way to Jerusalem to participate in these seven Feasts (also called 'Festivals'). The Jews would make three annual trips to Jerusalem to observe them. The first three Feasts (the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits) were celebrated during just one week beginning with the 14th day of Nisan (Passover) and continuing for an additional seven days. This particular week of Nisan corresponds to either our March or April on the solar calendar, depending on the year. Further, as you are probably aware, the week of the Feat of Passover is also the same week that we now call Passion Week - the very week Jesus died. The fourth Feast (the Feast of Pentecost) occurred exactly fifty days after the celebration of the Feast of the Sheaf of First Fruits. Pentecost occurred during Israel's spring grain harvest(our May/June). The fifth, sixth and seventh Feasts (the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast Day of Atonment, and the Feast of Tabernacles respectively) occurred during one week of Israel's fall fruit harvest (our September/October).

Passion Week or Passover Week

I agree with the great Greek and New Testament scholar B.F. Westcott that Jesus died on Thursday, Nisan 14, the day of the Feast of Passover, was buried and in the tomb during the High Sabbath of Nisan 15 (Friday) which was annually the date of the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus remained in the tomb during the regular Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, Nisan 16, and He rose from the grave on Sunday, Nisan 17 also called the first day of the week. In Old Testament language this Sunday, Nisan 17, is called 'the morrow after the sabbath' Lev. 23:15). And, of course, it is day of the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits and the very day Christ rose from the dead. It is not often noticed by Christians that Jesus was in the tomb over two, back to back Sabbaths - on Friday the High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (John 19:31), and on Saturday the regular Jewish Sabbath. Matthew 28:1 says "After the Sabbaths (in the Greek the word is plural), at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."

We all know that the Feast of Passover is the time when the roasted lamb is eaten by the Jews, commemorated the 'passing over' of God's judgment in Egypt of those families where the blood of the lamb had been applied to the doorposts of their homes. The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the Jews being released from the bondage of Egypt. They were commanded by God in their departure to clean their homes of all leaven and to journey to Canann with only flat cakes or 'bread without leaven' in their possession. The Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits was the time when the Jews would enter the Presence of God (i.e. The Temple) and wave before the Lord a bundle (or sheaf) of their crops. It was a sign that the future harvest would be blessed by God because the 'sheaf' of firstfruits had been accepted by Him.

Easter is all about Jesus Christ fulfilling the Feasts of Israel. He is the Lamb of God who died on Passover day and whose blood (or death), applied by faith to our own lives, causes the judgment of God to 'pass over' us. He is the 'Unleavened Bread' who was in the tomb during the Feast of that name, taking with Him the leaven (sin) of our lives and removing it from us. He took it to the grave to cast it from us as far as 'the east is from the west,' and separating us unto God as a holy people. And of course, He rose in the early morning hours of the 'Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits,' and as Paul writes in the great chapter on the resurrection (I Corinthians 15), became the 'sheaf of firstfruits' of our own resurrection, guaranteeing the blessing of God which is to come to all those who are represented by Him in the Presence of God.

The Jews knew that a new month had dawned, like the first month of of the year (Nisan) had dawned, because they had priests assigned to watch for the New Moon. The New Moon was that time when the moon was completely dark, and when the priests saw it, they ordered that the trumpets would blow and Israel would then celebrate a New Moon Festival. Of course, during the three lunar months when the seven Festivals of the Lord would be celebrated, there would be an even greater celebration in anticipation of the coming Feasts (holidays). Sacrifices, grain and wine offerings, and special foods marked all the Old Covenant Festivals of Israel.

We don't do this anymore. We don't offer sacrifices. We don't celebrate New Moons. We don't practice the Feasts. We don't follow the dietary laws of Old Covenant Israel. All these things were shadows, or pictures, of that which was to come - Jesus Christ. Jesus the Messiah is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. He fulfilled the seven Feasts in His life, death and resurrection. He is the focus of our faith. To go back to observing all the shadows of the Old Covenant - including the Sabbath - is like greeting your spouse at the airport after a long absence and pulling from your billfold a picture of your spouse and kissing it rather than embracing the person who is standing in front of you. Easter is all about embracing Christ.

In 325 A.D. the early Christian fathers separated the celebration of 'Easter' from the Jewish Passover Festival. Whereas 'Easter' is now on a fixed Sunday (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring), and no longer tied to the same week of the Jewish Feast of Passover (i.e, the 2008 Jewish Festival of Passover is in mid-April, not March), today's Easter celebration in evangelical churches should be about embracing Jesus Christ and all He has done for those of us who have placed our trust in Him.

I pray that you might truly embrace Jesus Christ in your worship today.

In His Grace,



Anonymous said...

I appreciated this, Wade. I loved your analogy. We all too often embrace the imitation, rather than the Real.

Another takeaway I had... we certainly do not make time to celebrate the Lord. We have to watch our wristwatches even during the one hour of celebration on Sundays. God forbid that we take weeks out of the year to remember God's provision for us and celebrate His faithfulness. We are much too busy for that. Participating in the ways of the world, the world's merry go round, is much more important (as professed by our actions) than taking time to seek God's Kingdom first.

Happy Easter, Wade.

Rex Ray said...

“I go fishing.” If Jesus had not risen, Peter would have died a fisherman, and Christianity would have been a myth. But He is risen! Glory!

There were smiles on the corpse of Christians eaten by lions, but only agony for Jesus. “You will not leave my soul in hell.”

Hell was prepared for all sins, and there is where Jesus suffered for sin. No wonder he sweat drops of blood just thinking of the ‘cup’ he would drink.

We cannot comprehend that pain, nor can we comprehend God’s love.

david b mclaughlin said...

Wade-nice pic!

Rex-are you saying Christ paid for our sins in hell?

To all-Happy Resurrection Day!

Anonymous said...

As ususal, your 'message' was a blessing! Thanks!!
Wade, is there anyone there in your club that could translate posts like this one into foreign languages, such as...say, CHINESE?
I would love to be able to share this with my students!!

Anonymous said...

Rex-are you saying Christ paid for our sins in hell?

Certainly not an issue worth dividing over. Just like women being ordained, or baptism by emersion, or smoking and drinking, or believing evolution. It's all just opinion right? I mean.... Kenneth Copeland when he's not speaking in tongues says Jesus was literally in hell being tormented by satan ..... so it must be okay to believe that. We certainly wouldn't want to divide over it. How do I place in this post a sarcasim tag?

Lin said...

I love your analogy about kissing the picture at the airport! Oh how we want so badly to bring back the earthly priests and other traps of legalism. We have the ONLY High Priest, Jesus Christ Who allows us DIRECT access! And the Holy Spirit Who continually convicts us of our sin and our need for this wonderful Savior. And ONLY because HE is Risen!

BTW: I am jealous of your uncluttered desk. :o) said...


Mark reminded me that the Chinese written text is the same across the country, regardless of dialect. We'll see about translation.

Anonymous said...

You are right we don't have to do it the way of the Jewish feasts for we are under Grace, but also there were congregations persecuted by the new Constantinian decree for followshipping the fulfilment of that feast against the new way. You want to avoid the mistake of legalism in both directions which Paul constantly battled with both the Gentile and more Jewish assemblies.

Jack Maddox said...

Thanks Wade for this post. What a wonderful day for all of us who love the Lord! It is so much more so today for our family where as when i gave the invitation today, my 65 year old father came down the aisle and made public his profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord! He has been going to church with us these last 3 years since his retirement and his moving to our community, however, he has remained on the most part gospel hardened. Imagine the tears of joy that were shed by this pastor, our family and our church family as we celebrated the all consuming love of God who showed himself strong in rolling away the stone of sin and pride as my dad prayed to receive Christ and made his decision known to follow the Lord in Baptism. I will baptize my father as my brother next Sunday morning! GLORY!


Anonymous said...

Praise God, Jack! That is wonderful! said...


Absolutely fantastic.

Thanks for sharing the good news about your Dad. That makes my Easter really special today.

david b mclaughlin said...

Jack-that is fantastic! I hear the angels are putting together a party!

Rex Ray said...

David McLaughlin,
“…thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell…” (Acts 2:27 KJ)
“You will not leave my soul in hell…” (Living)
“You will not leave my soul in Hades…” (Holman)

“…his soul was not left in hell…” (Acts 2: 31 KJ)
“…Messiah’s soul would not be left in hell…” (Living)
“…You will not leave my soul in Hades…” (Holman)

“For thou will not let leave my soul in hell…” (Psalm 16: 10 KJ)
“For you will not leave me among the dead…” (Living)
“You will not abandon me to Sheol…” (Holman)

In Psalm, there is the possibility that Jesus could have stayed in the grave as in a peaceful sleep, but in Acts his soul was anything but asleep.

So, which is correct? I believe that Jesus suffered more than anyone in the world has or will ever suffer. Would we agree that Jesus had more faith than anyone in the world? Faith is what makes people brave. So we would agree that Jesus was the bravest man in the world, but why would he ask his Father “may this cup pass from me”? Was he such a sissy he didn’t want to suffer on the cross a few hours? Peter asked for a more painful death of being crucified upside down.

Jesus died a physical death when extreme pain caused some of his blood to turn to water. That pain was not the nails, but realizing “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

Jesus did not realized this would happen as shown in John 16:32 (“…I will not be alone, for the Father is with me.”), so why did he sweat drops of blood? The punishment of Adam was a spiritual death. That was the cup that Jesus drank. Spiritual death is hell. There is no way around it except by trusting Jesus who suffered in hell for our sins.

God cannot/will not break his word, and the punishment for spiritual death is hell. Our sins were paid for by Jesus suffering in hell; not from the devil but from his Father.

SB blogger,
You asked: “How do I place in this post a sarcasm tag?”

Looks to me like, you’ve already done it.

Jack Maddox,
I started to make the comment above, but read the comments again, and saw your wonderful news. As much as we have disputed, I can think of no better way than to rejoice with you.

WatchingHISstory said...

The angels are dumbfounded and in their midst is the Lord himself rejoicing in his own election and your father's regenerative response!
I join you in rejoicing.


Jack Maddox said...


I hesitate to bring up anything controversial...but how old is that PC behind you bro.? You need to scrap that old thing and go get you a Mac!

jrm said...

It's only a monitor.

And it is old. Very old, but it stil works - it's my cable television.

Rex Ray said...

Where are your accusers?

No ooe, my Lord.

Anonymous said...


You said
"We don't do this anymore. We don't offer sacrifices. We don't celebrate New Moons. We don't practice the Feasts. We don't follow the dietary laws of Old Covenant Israel. All these things were shadows, or pictures, of that which was to come - Jesus Christ."

The unfortunate thing is, instead of replacing these things with Yeshua, even most churches have replaced them with Easter eggs, and bunnies, and baskets. As a Messianic, I know that I don't live under the Old Covenant Law, yet I choose to try to live according to those laws. Could I ever succeed? Absolutely not! Thankfully, I have been covered by the Lamb.

My point is this, I would rather my children grow up in a congregation of believers who choose to remember the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus with a commemorative Passover Seder than an Easter egg hunt or remember His birth on Sukkot rather than on Dec 25- the date Babylonians and Egyptians celebrated births of sons to their heavenly goddesses. Watching for the New Moon is part of our custom as well, as we are told that there will be signs in the heavens.

Are these differences a matter of salvation, no. But to those looking in on our lives, the outsiders trying to understand, they can't grasp why many Christians hold the Bible as the only and ultimate authority, yet lead such contradictory lifestyles. We are commanded not to follow the traditions of man, we are called to be a peculiar people. I will tell you this, when I chose to leave traditional Southern Baptist churches to fellowship with those who choose not to celebrate holidays with no Biblical foundation, I was certainly labeled peculiar.

Maybe someday kids growing up in the SBC can know truth instead of tradition.

Sorry for this odd and somewhat out of place rant.

In Him

Anonymous said...

Maybe this should have been titled, The True Meaning of Passover; Jesus Christ the Fulfillment of the Feasts of Israel for Believers." Easter and Jesus have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Bill said...

Easter is Baal worship for there is nothing about the Lord here at all ZERO! For the Lord does not have a double meaning in His word. When He speaks He speaks clear When He speaks He does not mean something else like people.