SHOULD CHRISTIANS KEEP THE PASSOVER?

There  is no doubt that the Israelites were commanded to  observe the  Passover forever throughout their generations, and there is  no doubt that Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover. However, is it still commanded for the followers  of  Christ during this age to observe the Passover?

Some believe that it is no longer necessary to observe the  Passover,  because the first agreement with national Israel died when Jesus died. These people believe that, because the first agreement is no longer valid, there is  no requirement to observe any of its terms  and conditions.

This belief is correct only in that the first agreement with  national Israel  has been canceled. However, many of the terms and  conditions  of  the  old agreement have been made a part  of  the new agreement, which is clearly shown by the writers of the New Testament. One  of the terms and conditions that is shown to still be in effect is the observance of the Passover.

The Transition

After  the  death and resurrection of Jesus, there  was  a  short period  of time in which both agreements existed together,  which  allowed  the elect of God to participate in certain aspects of the temple worship system. In 70 A.D., when the temple  at  Jerusalem was  destroyed, the first agreement relationship with  national  Israel was suspended:

"By  calling  this  covenant  "new," he has made  the  first  one obsolete;  and  what is obsolete and aging will  soon  disappear" (Heb.8:13 NIV).

The Law

The covenant agreement between God and a person is defined by the benefits for each party and the terms and conditions by which the benefits  are obtained and/or dispensed. For  details  concerning the  differences between the  major agreements that  God  has made with people, see our study paper concerning the various covenants.

The  Law of God consists not only of the Ten Commandments but also of  everything that God says or has said. Repeatedly,  we see  the New Testament writers explaining the law of God and  its relationship  to  the children of God,  so that his children can understand how to please him. Today, true servants of God teach and  proclaim  God's  law and way of life: a way  in  which the called-out-ones (the elect) may grow into spiritual maturity.  

Without  the  foundation  of God's law, those called  by  God  to become  spiritually perfect would not have a guide to  help  them achieve this perfection.

Paul says that those who teach that the law of God has been done with through  the  sacrifice of Jesus have not heard the voice  of  God's spirit. See 1.Thes.2:7-12; 1.Jn.2:1-6; 3:7-10; Rev. 2:12-29.

Remember This Day

Moses  was inspired to record that all Israelites—the  people whom  God  considered his first-born sons  (Ex.4:22-23)—must observe  the Passover as a memorial forever. As long as  national Israel existed  and  there was a place  where  God  placed  his presence  within their land, they were to observe  the  Passover. See Eph.2:11-19:

"And this day shall be for you a memorial; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; you shall keep  it a feast by an ordinance for ever" (Ex.12:14 KJV).

God has not changed his law concerning the  Passover. All  those whom God considers his  first-born, whether they are a physical  or spiritual Israelite, must also keep the Passover  in order to maintain their covenant relationship with him.

Do this in Remembrance of Me

As Jesus took the bread and the wine and revealed their  symbolic meaning,  he instructed the disciples to perform these same  symbolic rituals in remembrance of him:

"And  he  took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave  to them,  saying,  This is my body which is given for you:  this  do in remembrance of me" (Lk.22:19 KJV).

"After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying,  This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do  you, as  often  as you drink it, in remembrance  of  me"  (1.Cor.11:25 KJV).

Twice during his last Passover meal, Jesus instructed his  disciples to do these things in remembrance of him. And after the  meal, he told them that they would be happy if they followed his example and performed the foot washing ceremony.

Why This Instruction?

Why would Jesus instruct his followers to use the symbols of  the bread  and  the  wine in a ritual to remember him?  Was  he  just asking  them to remember him as a person they had known  or was he telling them that they were to do these things as a remembrance  of who he was and what he had done for them?  The following  things about Jesus should be remembered:

A Proclamation of His Death

"For as often as you may eat this bread, and drink this cup,  you solemnly  proclaim  the death of the Lord until  he  shall  come" (1.Cor.11:26 Para.).

Just  as the Israelites by their observance of a solemn  memorial of  the Passover proclaimed the awesome historical  events that occurred  on the night that God spared their ancestors in  Egypt, the Passover  of  the new agreement proclaims Jesus Christ's fulfillment of the Passover's prophetic symbolism:

"You see, at just the right time, when you were powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man,  though for a good man someone might possible dare  to  die. But  God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we  were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been  justified  by  his blood, how much more shall we be saved  from  God's wrath through him" (Rom.5:6-9 NIV).

Do as I Have Done to You

John 13:8-9, 12-15

"Peter said to him, You may in no way wash my feet forever. Jesus answered him, Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.  Simon Peter said to him,  Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head" (vs.8-9 Para.).

The performance of this ritual is so important to those whom  the Father calls to salvation that John was inspired to record  this admonition to Peter. Those who refuse to perform the foot washing ritual as  a part of the new Passover  observance  will  forfeit their salvation, which comes through Christ, and they will be  excluded from participation in what Christ is doing on earth.

"Know  you what I have done to you? You call me  Master  and Lord:   and you say well; for so I am.  If I then, your Lord  and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you" (vs.12-15 KJV).

Here, Jesus clearly says that what he has done is an example  for them  to follow in their relationship with each other, and it must be done on subsequent Passovers. See Matt.28:19-20; 1.Pet.2:21.

The Apostles and the Passover

Some feel that Jesus was only speaking symbolically to his disciples when he told them to perform the rituals he had revealed  to them. They also feel that he did not intend for these rituals to  become a part of a future Passover observance. However, Paul's admonition to the Corinthians clearly shows that he taught the  observance of the festival of Unleavened Bread and the observance of the Passover:

"Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new  lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for  us:  Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old  leaven, neither  with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but  with  the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1.Cor.5:7-8 KJV).

Here, Paul clearly says that the elect at Corinth were to observe the feast of Unleavened Bread (the Passover being an intrinsic part of this seven day feast) with righteous behavior because of  Christ's sinless sacrifice.  Paul's teachings about the festival of Unleavened Bread and the Passover tells us that Paul believed that Jesus meant for the Passover to be observed along with the rituals that he had revealed to his  disciples.

One Body One Bread

"Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as  to wise  men;  judge you what I say. The cup of  blessing  which  we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which  we break, is it not the communion of the body of  Christ?" (1.Cor.10:14-16 KJV).

In  his exhortation to remain spiritually pure, Paul equates  the communion  with  the  Father  through the  Passover  symbols  of Christ's  body and blood to the priesthood's ability to  eat  of the sacrifices because of their special relationship and  service to God. See 1.Pet.2:5-9.

"For  we  being many are one bread and one body: for  we  are  all partakers  of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh:  are not  they  which eat of the sacrifices partakers of  the altar?" (1.Cor.10:17-18 KJV).

In  verse 17, Paul states that the elect of God are one bread and  one body. But what does this mean? What is it about the elect of  God that  would cause Paul to make such a statement? Paul refers  to the church as being one bread and  one  body, because the elect of God are one with Christ through the indwelling  of the holy spirit and the spirit of Christ. See  our  study paper concerning the many aspects of the spirit of God.

"For I have received of the Lord  that which also I delivered  to you,  That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had  given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat:  this is my body, which is broken for you:  this do in remembrance  of me. After the same manner also he took  the  cup, when  he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in  my blood:  this do you, as often as you drink it, in remembrance  of me" (1.Cor.11:23-25 KJV).

Paul  reminds the elect at Corinth of the things that  Jesus  had instructed to be practiced by those who would follow him.

Things to Do

"Go  you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in  the name  of  the  Father, and of the Son, and of  the  holy  spirit: Teaching  them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you . . ." (Matt. 28:19-20 KJV).

If  the elect of God today are not required to observe the  Passover, why should they do anything else that Jesus instructed?

"For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also  suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his  steps" (1.Pet.2:21 KJV).

An Observance for Today

Unless the Passover is still a required observance today, the following actions of the Creator God (Jesus Christ), the  apostles, and the  prophets do not make sense:

The Two Covenants

After  National Israel left Egypt and was camped at the foot  of Mount  Sinai,  they accepted God's offer to make a  covenant  with them.  In  order for the Israelites to obtain  the  benefits  set forth under their agreement with God, they were required to  obey all  that God would ask of them—a condition to which they  agreed.

"And  Moses came and told the people all the words of  the  Lord, and  all  the  judgments: and all the people  answered  with  one voice,  and said, All the words which the Lord has said we  will do" (Ex.24:3 KJV).

It is important to note that those who are called to become  sons of  God in this age also agree to do whatever God  asks of  them. See our study papers concerning true repentance and baptism.

Sealed with Blood

After  bringing  the  Israelites out of Egypt,  God  ratified  and sealed  the  covenant that the Israelites had  agreed  to  with blood:

"And  Moses  wrote all the words of the Lord, . . . and  built  an altar. . .. And  offered burnt offerings,  and  sacrificed  peace offerings. . . and Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basins; and  half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar.  And  he took  the book of the covenant, and read in the audience  of  the people: and they said, All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it upon  the people,  and said, Behold the blood of the covenant,  which  the Lord  has  made with you concerning all these  words"  (Ex.24:4-8 KJV).

Anyone  who agrees to accept the call to salvation during the  gospel age  also  makes a blood covenant. However, this covenant  is  not ratified  and sealed with the blood of an animal; it is ratified and sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ:

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our  Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting  covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his  will,  working  in you that which is  well-pleasing  in  his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and  ever. Amen" (Heb.13:20-21 KJV). See Matt.26:27-28; Lk.22:20.

Those Under the Blood

Just  as in the Passover of Egypt, the sons of God who live  into the great tribulation at the end of this age will be passed  over by the messengers  of death during the final  days  of  God's wrath:

"And  he  called  to the man clothed with linen,  which  had  the writer's  inkhorn  by  his side; And the Lord  said  to  him,  Go through  the midst of the city, through the midst  of Jerusalem, and  set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and  that cry for all the abominations that are done in the midst  thereof. And  to  the  others he said in my  hearing, Go  you  after  him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have you  pity; Slay utterly old and young, both maids,  and  little children,  and women: but come not near any man upon whom is  the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. . ." (Ezk.9:2, 4-6 KJV).

"And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of  the  living God: and he cried with a loud voice to  the  four angels,  to  whom  it was given to hurt the earth  and  the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees,  till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And  I heard the number of them that were sealed: and there were  sealed an  hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of  the children  of Israel"  (Rev.7:2-4 KJV). See  also verse  14  and Rev.5:9.

The  secret  to survival during this time of  trouble  is  being under the sacrificial blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.

The Covenant Relationship

"And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them,  saying, Drink you all of it; For this is my blood of the new  testament,  which  is  shed  for  many  for  the  remission  of  sins" (Matt.26:27-28 KJV).  See also Eph.1:17.

"This  cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which  is  being poured out for you" (Lk.22:20 Para.).

Under the First Covenant with Israel

God  felt  that  the covenant relationship  between  himself  and Israel was so important that he made an allowance for the Passover  to  be kept on an alternate day for those who, through unforeseen circumstances,  could  not observe it in the first month of  the  sacred year. See Num.9:1-14.

If the Passover relationship with the nation of Israel was important enough  for  God to make a special provision for them to  have  a second  chance to observe it, how much more important is  it for  those of the Father's spiritual nation to observe it.  Today, the Passover is especially important because it pictures the death of his son, through whose  blood he  has  made an eternal agreement with those he  has  called  to salvation.

For  an Israelite to neglect the Passover observance was  an  extremely  serious breach of their covenant relationship with  God. If  this  relationship was not renewed yearly, a  person  was  no longer  entitled to the benefits and protection given  under  it and had to be cut off from Israel as punishment for their  rebellion.

Under  the  new agreement, the same rule applies to the  elect  of God.  Only now, the penalty for the violation of God's law is  not only physical, it is spiritual and eternal.

A Stern Warning

There are many stern warnings to those who have accepted the call by  God to salvation and then decide to depart from  the  faith. Their fate is the same as the incorrigible wicked:

"For  it is impossible for those who were once  enlightened,  and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of  the holy spirit, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of  the  world to come, If they shall fall away,  to  renew  them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the  Son of  God  afresh, and put him to open shame. . .. But  that  which bears thorns  and briers is rejected, and is  nigh  to  cursing; whose end is to be burned" (Heb.6:4-6,8 KJV). See also Heb.2:1-3; 2.Pet.2:20-2l; Ezk. 18:24,26.

"For  if we willfully sin  after receiving the full knowledge  of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice concerning sins, but a certain  fearful expectation of judgment and zealous fire  being brought  about to consume the adversaries. Anyone  not  regarding the law of Moses dies without pity on the word of two or three witnesses:  How much worse punishment do you think he will be thought worthy to receive having trampled on the Son of God, and having counted the blood of the covenant in which he was  sanctified   common,  and  having insulted the spirit  of  grace?" (Heb.10:26-29).

A  child  of God who breaks their baptismal  agreement  with  the Father and makes a practice of violating his laws, precepts,  and principles,  willfully refusing to obey him, will die an  eternal death.

If there is no sustained effort to live according to God's  ways, the Father will not grant eternal life; instead he will destroy the  wicked person with fire—"For the wages of sin  is  death" (Rom.6:23).

Today, failure to worship God as he instructs separates a  person from him and results in a final separation (eternal death)  if the person does not repent.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb.10:31 Para.).

The First-born

Just as it was required for the Israelites (God's first-born) to observe the Passover as an annual affirmation of their covenant with  God and a memorial of what God  had done for them in Egypt, it is also required for the first-born  of the Father's new creation.

Sons  of  God  are also required to observe the Passover once  a  year  to affirm  their  covenant relationship with God the Father  and  to remember   the  sacrifice of Christ, which removes their  sin and protects them from eternal death.

SUMMARY

Keep the Passover

Indeed,  the  Passover is commanded to be kept by those  whom  the Father  calls to salvation. The Passover observance is not  a burden  to be avoided; it is an observance to be looked  forward to because of the tremendous benefits that it holds and pictures for the elect of God now and in the future.

For  those under the new agreement with God, it is just as  important  to  keep the Passover as it was for the people  of  ancient Israel.  In fact, it is more important, because the people  of  ancient Israel were only cut off from a national  covenant, but those  who  rebel under the new agreement are cut off  from  the Father,  Jesus Christ, and eternal salvation. See 2.Thes.1:7-10; Heb.6:4-6; 2.Pet.2:19-21; Rev.20:11-15.

During his last Passover meal, Jesus told his disciples to perform the  rituals he had shown them "in remembrance of him." And he said that they would be happy if they performed the new rituals.

Truly  those who observe the new Passover with an  understanding of the salvation that has been granted to them, through the  blood of Christ, should be the happiest people in the world.

The  Passover is a yearly reminder of the great love that the  Father and Jesus Christ have for their human creation and the tremendous sacrifice that was made so that our sins can be  forgiven and we can have eternal and immortal life.

The Passover is  a yearly reminder of our eternal agreement with  God  the Father and our personal responsibility before him and his Son  to live  our lives in accordance with the agreement we made at baptism.

The Passover is also a time to reflect upon the past year's trials,  tests, and  accomplishments,  as well as the future  opportunities  and blessings in which one has been called to participate.

By B. L. Cocherell, file b5w24