“For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.”
Once again the time comes to celebrate the Memorial of our Lord’s crucifixion, the correct time for 2016 being after 6 p.m. on March 21. The date is determined by this method: The moon nearest the Vernal Equinox becomes new in Jerusalem on March 9 at 3:54 a.m., thus establishing 6 p.m. March 8 as the beginning of Nisan 1, Bible reckoning. Counting forward to Nisan 14, we arrive at 6 p.m. March 21. Any time that evening after 6 p.m. would be proper for the celebration.
THE PASSOVER SEASON
The interest of Christians in the Passover season centers especially in the slaying of the lamb, which preceded the Passover Feast, and which typified the Lamb of God, Christ Jesus. Our celebration of this Passover season, therefore, relates to the great Antitype. At this time we as Christians commemorate the greatest event of all history, the sacrificial death of the Savior of the world.
While millions of professed Christians and Jews celebrate this most important event in formal ceremonies, few of either religion discern the real significance of the celebration. Could their minds be thoroughly awakened to its true significance, there would be a religious revival such as the world has never yet known. But, as St. Paul declares, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds” of many. (2 Cor. 4:4) Even some whose eyes of understanding are partially opened are described by St. Peter as being blind and unable to “see afar.” (2 Pet. 1:9) They are unable to see the deep things of God in respect to these ceremonies, which have been celebrated for more than three thousand years.
The Israelites were commanded to celebrate the Passover as the first feature of the Law and as one of their greatest memorials as a nation, and in some degree the Passover is still celebrated by Jews in all parts of the world, even by those who claim to be agnostics. They still have a measure of respect for the Passover as an ancient custom, but few, if any, have ever thought it worthwhile to inquire as to the meaning of this celebration.
Why was the Passover lamb slain and eaten? Why was the blood sprinkled upon the door-posts and lintels? Of course, God so commanded; but what was the reason, the motive, behind the Divine command – what lesson, what object? Truly our reasonable God gives reasonable commands; and in due time He will cause His faithful people to understand the significance of every requirement. Many realize that the Jewish Sabbath day is a type of a coming epoch of rest and blessing, of release from toil, sorrow and death, yet they cannot see that similarly all the features of the Mosaic institution were designed of the Lord to be foreshadows of various blessings, to be bestowed “in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:6)
FIRST-FRUITS AND AFTER-FRUITS
Blessed are those whose eyes can see that Jesus was indeed “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” that the cancellation of the world’s sin is to be effected by the payment of man’s penalty, by the application of Jesus’ sacrificial merit in due time for the sins of all mankind. (John 1:29) Greatly favored are those who can see that the whole world lost Divine favor and came under the Divine sentence of death, with its accompanying sorrow and pain, and so it was necessary that a satisfaction of Justice should be made before this sentence, or curse, could be removed. Therefore, as the Apostles declare, “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:3) – “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” (1 Pet. 3:18) Thus He opened up a new way – a way to life everlasting.
The Scriptures call the Church of Christ the “church of the firstborn;” “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures;” “the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” (Heb. 12:23; Jas. 1:18; Rev. 14:4) These expressions imply that ultimately there will be others of God’s family later born; they imply after-fruits. Christian people in general seem to have overlooked the implication of these Scriptures, generally believing that only those designated in the Bible as the first-fruits will ever be saved – that there will be no after-fruits. But the Passover type indicates that it was God’s purpose to save all Israelites; and that as a nation they represented all of mankind who will ultimately come into harmony with God and be granted everlasting life in the Land of Promise.
It is important to note that there were two Passovers – the one in which only the first-borns were passed over, and another greater one at the Red Sea. There, by Divine Power, the whole nation of Israel was miraculously delivered and led across the channel especially prepared for them by the accentuation of winds and tides. These passed over on dry land and were saved, while the hosts of Pharaoh, representing all who eventually will go into the Second Death, were overwhelmed in the sea and were destroyed. The passover at the Red Sea pictures the ultimate deliverance from the power of sin and death of every member of Adam’s race who desires to come into accord with God and to render Him worship, all who will ultimately become a part of Israel, for not one Israelite was left behind in Egyptian bondage.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE FIRST-BORNS
But the passover at the Red Sea is not the one which we celebrate in the Memorial service. We celebrate the antitype of the passing over of the first-borns of Israel by the angel, in the land of Egypt. Only the first-born ones of Israel were endangered on that night in Egypt, though the deliverance of the entire nation depended upon the salvation, the passing over, of those first-borns. So only the First-borns of the sons of God from the human plane, the Church of Christ, have been passed over during this night of the Gospel Age; only these have been in danger of the destroying angel. The remainder of mankind who may desire to follow the great antitypical Moses, when He shall lead the people forth from the bondage of sin and death in the Age to follow this, have not been in danger of eternal destruction – only the First-borns. This is the lesson of the Passover type.
When the night of sin and death has passed away and the glorious Morn of deliverance has come, then The Christ, Head and Body, the antitypical Moses, will lead forth, will deliver, all the people of God – all who, when they shall come to know, will be glad to reverence, honor and obey the will of God. That Day of Deliverance will be the entire Millennial Age, at the close of which all evil and evil-doers, symbolized by the hosts of Egypt, will be utterly cut off in the Second Death – destruction. (Acts 3:22,23)
JESUS OUR PASSOVER LAMB
Note that the Divine favor toward the first-born of Israel was not without blood. Indeed, as St. Paul points out, the whole lesson of the Old Testament Scriptures is that “without shedding of blood is no remission” of sins. (Heb. 9:22) By Divine command, the Israelites indicated their faith in the Lord by taking a lamb of the first year without spot or defect, killing it and sprinkling the blood upon the door posts and lintels of their houses and eating the flesh within.
As the Passover was typical, so also were the lamb and the sprinkled blood. The lamb represented Jesus, the Lamb of God – spotless, pure, holy, harmless, undefiled. His death was not for His own sins, but for the sins of humanity. It is equally important to notice that Christ died not merely for the Church, but, as the Scriptures declare, for the whole world: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) The Church constituted only a small portion of the world; namely, the First-born portion. The Church is passed over in the night, especially saved in advance of others; but none are spared except through the merit of the Blood. That the Blood covers more than the First-borns is shown by the fact that in the type it was sprinkled not merely upon the first-borns, but upon the house, indicating the Household of Faith.
The Apostle Paul clearly and positively identifies the Passover Lamb with our Lord Jesus, saying, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast.” (1 Cor. 5:7,8) He informs us that we all need the blood of sprinkling, not upon our houses, but upon our hearts. We are to partake of the Lamb; we must appropriate to ourselves the merit of Christ, the value of His sacrifice; we must also eat of the unleavened bread of Truth, if we would be strong and prepared for the deliverance in the Morning of the New Dispensation. Thus we put on Christ, not merely by faith; but more and more we put on His character and are transformed into His glorious image in our hearts and lives.
We are to feed on Christ as the Jews fed on the literal lamb. They ate the lamb with bitter herbs, which aided and whetted their appetites. We have bitter experiences and trials which the Lord prepares for us, and which help to wean our affections from earthly things and to give us increased appetite to feed upon the Lamb and the unleavened Bread of Truth.
Our Lord Jesus also fully identified Himself with the Passover Lamb. On the same night of His betrayal, just preceding His crucifixion, He gathered His Apostles in the upper room, saying, “With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) It was necessary that as Jews they should celebrate the Passover Supper on that night – the night of the anniversary of the slaying of the Passover lamb in Egypt, of the saving of the typical first-borns from Pharaoh, who typified the “prince of this world,” – the same date on which the real Passover Lamb was to be slain. But as soon as the requirements of the type had been fulfilled, our Lord Jesus instituted a new Memorial upon the old foundation, saying, “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
PRIMARY SIGNIFICANCE OF THE BREAD AND THE CUP
We recall the circumstances of the first Memorial – the blessing of the bread and of the cup, the fruit of the vine; and our Lord’s declaration that these represented His broken body and shed blood, and that all His followers should participate, not only feeding upon Him but being broken with Him; not only partaking of the merit of His blood, His sacrifice, but also laying down their lives in His service, in cooperating with Him in every and any manner, that they might later share His honor and glory in the Kingdom. How precious are these thoughts to those who are rightly in tune with our Lord!
In presenting to the disciples the unleavened bread as a memorial, Jesus said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matt. 26:26) The evident meaning is that the bread symbolized or represented His body, for in no sense had His body yet been broken. In no sense would it then have been possible for them to have partaken of Him actually or anti-typically, the sacrifice not yet being finished. But the picture is complete when we recognize that the unleavened (pure, unfermented) bread represented our Lord’s sinless flesh – leaven being a symbol of sin under the Law, and especially commanded to be put away at the Passover season. On another occasion Jesus gave a lesson, which interprets to us this symbol. He said, “For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world … I am the bread of life ... I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:33,35,51)
In order to appreciate how we are to eat, or appropriate, this living bread, it is necessary for us to understand just what the bread signifies. According to our Lord’s explanation of the matter, it was His flesh, which He sacrificed for us. It was not His pre-human existence as a spirit being that was laid down and its glory laid aside, in order that He might take our human nature. It was the fact that our Lord Jesus was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26) – without any contamination from Father Adam, and hence free from sin – that enabled Him to become the Redeemer of Adam and his race, that permitted Him to give His life “a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2:3-6)
When we see that it was the pure, spotless human nature of our Lord Jesus that was laid down on behalf of sinners, we see what it is that we are privileged to appropriate. The very thing He laid down for us we are to “eat,” appropriate to ourselves: that is to say, His perfect human life was given to redeem all the human race from condemnation to death, to enable them to return to human perfection and everlasting life, if they are willing: and we are to realize this and accept Him as our Savior from death. The Scriptures show us, however, that if God would consider all past sins canceled, and should recognize us as having a right to human perfection, this still would not make us perfect, nor give us the right to eternal life.
In order that any of the race of Adam might profit by the sacrifice of Jesus, it was necessary that He should rise from the tomb on the Divine plane of life, that He should ascend to the Father and deposit the sacrificial merit of His death in the hands of Justice, and receive from the Father “all power… in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18) As relates to the world it was necessary also that in the Father’s due time Jesus should come again to earth, invisibly, a glorious Divine Being, then to be to the whole world a Mediator, Prophet, Priest and King, to assist back to perfection and to harmony with God all who will avail themselves of the wonderful privilege then to be offered.
It is this same blessing that the Church of the Gospel Age has received by faith in their Redeemer – namely, justification by faith – not justification to a spirit nature, which none had and therefore never lost, and which Christ did not redeem; but justification to human nature, which Father Adam possessed and lost, and which Christ redeemed by giving His own sinless flesh, His perfect human life, as our ransom sacrifice.
The partaking of the unleavened bread at the Memorial season then means to us primarily the appropriation to ourselves, by faith, of justification to human life-right – a right to human life – with all its privileges, which our Lord at His own cost prepared for us. Likewise the fruit of the vine symbolizes primarily our Savior’s life given for us, His human life, His human being, His soul, poured out unto death on our behalf (Isa. 53:12); and the appropriation of this by us also primarily signifies our acceptance of restitution rights and privileges secured by our Lord’s sacrifice of these.
DEEPER SIGNIFICANCE OF THE LOAF AND THE CUP
Now let us note that God’s object in justifying the Church by faith during the Gospel Age, in advance of the justification of the world by works of obedience in the Millennial Age, was for the very purpose of permitting this class to present their bodies a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), and thus to have a part with the Lord Jesus in His sacrifice – as members of His body. This deeper meaning of the Memorial He did not refer to directly. It was doubtless one of the things to which He referred when He said “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he [it], the Spirit of truth, is come, he [it] will guide you into all truth … and will show you things to come.” (John 16:12,13)
This Spirit of Truth (the power and influence of The Father), bestowed through Christ and speaking through the Apostle Paul, clearly explains the very high import of the Memorial; for St. Paul says, writing to the true Church, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion [participation] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [participation] of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body ...” (1 Cor. 10:16,17) The entire Christ, the entire anointed company, is from the Divine standpoint, a composite body of many members, of which Jesus is the Head. (1 Cor. 12:12,13) The Body, the Church as a whole, must be broken, each member of it a copy of the Lord Jesus and walking in the footsteps of His sacrifice. They have laid down their lives for the brethren, as Jesus laid down His life directly for His Jewish brethren, but really for the whole world, according to the Father’s purpose.
It is not their spiritual life that they have laid down, even as it was not Jesus’ spiritual life that He laid down. As He sacrificed His actual, perfect being, His humanity, so they are to sacrifice their justified selves, reckoned perfect through Jesus’ merit, although not actually so. Likewise the loaf and the cup represent suffering. Each grain must be crushed and ground before it can become bread for man; they cannot retain their life and individuality as grains. The same is true of the grapes; they must be crushed to extract their juice, thus losing their identity as grapes.
Our Lord distinctly declares that the cup, the fruit of the vine, represents blood; that is, life – not life retained, but life shed, given, yielded up. He tells us that this life poured out was for the remission of sins; and that all who would be His must drink it, must accept His sacrifice and appropriate it by faith. They must receive life from this source. It will not do to declare that life is the result of obedience to the Law. It will not do that faith in some great teacher and obedience to his instruction will amount to the same thing and bring eternal life. There is no way to attain eternal life other than through the blood once shed as the ransom price for the whole world!
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
THE CELEBRATION IN THE KINGDOM
At the institution of the Memorial Supper, our dear Lord as usual spoke of the Kingdom, the theme of all His discourses. He reminded His faithful followers of His declaration that He would go away to receive a Kingdom and would come again and receive them to Himself to share in it. He added that the Memorial He was then instituting would find its fulfilment in the Kingdom: “I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:29)
It is difficult to know positively just what our Lord meant by this statement; however, it seems reasonable that He meant there will be jubilation in the Kingdom as a result of the trials and sufferings symbolized in His Cup. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” (Isa. 53:11) He will look back at the trials and difficulties endured in faithful obedience to the Father’s will, and will rejoice in these as He sees the grand outcome – the blessings which will come to all mankind. This jubilation will be shared by all His disciples who have drunk of this Cup, first in justification, then in consecration and sacrifice with Him.
Our dear Master’s faith stood the test during those trying hours when He knew His apprehension and death were near. He rendered thanks to the Father for the bread and the cup in joyful acquiescence of the sufferings implied in the breaking of the bread and the crushing of the grapes. He was satisfied with the Father’s arrangement. They sang a hymn as they parted that night, no doubt a hymn of praise, giving thanks to the Father that His course on earth was nearly finished, thanks that He had found thus far grace sufficient for His need.
In considering the events of those solemn hours which followed the Last Supper, let us follow the Redeemer to Gethsemane, and behold Him “with strong crying and tears” praying “unto him that was able to save him from death” (Heb. 5:7) – expressive of our Master’s fear of death lest in some particular He might have failed to follow out the Father’s Plan, and therefore be thought unworthy of a resurrection. We note that our Lord was in some way comforted with the assurance that He had faithfully kept His consecration vow, and that He would surely have a resurrection as promised.
Afterwards, we behold how calm He was when before the high priest, Pilate, and Herod. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” in self-defense. (Isa. 53:7) We see Him faithful, courageous to the very last; and we have His assurance that He could have asked of the Father and could have had more than twelve legions of angels for His protection. (Matt. 26:53) But instead of petitioning for aid to escape His sacrifice, He petitioned for help to endure it faithfully. What a lesson is here for all His footstep followers!
On the other hand, we recall that even among His loyal disciples the most courageous forsook the Master and fled; one even denied his Lord! What an occasion is this for examining our own hearts, our own faith, our own courage and our willingness to suffer with Him who redeemed us! What an opportunity is thus afforded for us to resolve that we will not deny our Master under any circumstances or conditions – that we will confess Him not only with our lips, but also by our conduct.
“LET A MAN EXAMINE HIMSELF”
The Jews scrupulously prepared for the Passover service. On the day before the Passover, the head of each Jewish household took a feather brush and a napkin and very carefully swept every evidence of leaven from the corners and remote places of the residence (leaven is corruption and types decay and death resulting from sin). When finished, he then burned the napkin and its contents - to be sure there would be no leaven remaining anywhere.
We also should prepare for the service, not by scrutinizing our homes, but rather by scrutinizing ourselves. As St. Paul counseled: “Let a man examine himself.” (1 Cor. 11:28) In doing so, let us once again ask ourselves these questions:
(1) Do I believe the Scripture teaching that I, as a member of the human family, was under that condemnation to death which passed upon all because of original sin?
(2) Do I believe that my only hope of escape from that condemnation of sin and death was through the ransom-sacrifice of the man Christ Jesus, my Lord?
(3) Do I believe He gave Himself – His flesh and blood, His humanity – as my ransom-price, pouring out His soul unto death, making His soul a sin-offering (Isa. 53:10,12) on this behalf?
(4) Do I see that the consecration to death, made at Jordan when He was baptized, was fulfilled by His sacrifice of Himself for mankind, which beginning there, was finished on the cross when He died?
(5) Do I see that the rights under the Law, which He secured by obedience to it (the right of lasting life and the dominion of earth), were what He through that same sacrifice bequeathed to the fallen, dying race – to as many as shall accept the blessings under the conditions of the New Covenant?
(6) Do I see that His flesh and blood, thus sacrificed, stood for, represented, those blessings and favors which He purchased for us?
(7) Do I see that the partaking of the bread and wine, symbols of His flesh and blood, signifies my acceptance of those favors and blessings which the flesh and blood of my Lord bought for me and for all?
(8) And if I do thus heartily accept of the ransom thus memorialized, do I consecrate to the Lord my entire being, my flesh and blood, justified through that ransom?
If we can answer these questions affirmatively we clearly or fully discern the Lord’s body, give credit to His meritorious sacrifice and may eat, should eat.
Those, however, that deny that a ransom for sin and sinners was required and given, who feel that they need not to partake of Christ’s merit, who deny that the merit of one can be imputed to another, – such we advise to stay away from memorializing that in which they do not believe; for they would merely be adding hypocrisy to unbelief. For such to partake, is to add condemnation to themselves and their no-ransom theories.
But, better still, let us advise all who have merely been entrapped into this error, by the sophistries promulgated through various channels by the great Adversary, to reject all vain human philosophies and to receive again the simple Word of God, the truths therein set forth: that all are fallen, and that the only way open for our reconciliation and restitution consistent with the Divine law and sentence was the giving of the full and exact corresponding price or ransom for our sins; that in no other way could He be just and yet justify sinners. Let them recognize the fact that our Lord Jesus, as the Lamb of God, bore the full penalty for our sins in His own body on the tree, that He gave a full ransom for all.
The philosophy is very plain, but if any cannot grasp it, at least let them grasp the fact that God declares it to be so, and let them return unto the Lord and He will abundantly pardon. Let them ask for the guidance of the Spirit and the anointing of the eyes, that they may be able to comprehend this, the foundation of all the grace of our God in Christ. Thus in true acceptance of the broken body and the shed blood, realizing that the sacrifice was for their sins and that the blood shed (life given) seals the New Covenant for all, let them commemorate the greatest event of history, the shedding of the precious blood, the sacrifice of the precious life of God’s dear Son for our sins.
(This paper was derived from several writings of Pastor Russell, including Reprints 5869, 5272, and 5193)
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P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246