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 These people believe that, because the first agreement is no longer valid, there is no requirement to observe any of its terms and conditions.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.
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"By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear" (Heb.8:13 NIV).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 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 Israelitesthe 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 thema 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.).
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.
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