“For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast.” (1 Cor. 5:7-8)
The annual observance of our Lord’s death occurs this year after six p.m., March 29. The date is determined by this method: The moon nearest the Vernal Equinox becomes new in Jerusalem on March 17 at 3:11 p.m., thus establishing 6 p.m. March 16 as the beginning of Nisan 1, Bible reckoning. Counting forward to Nisan 14, we arrive at 6 p.m. March 29. Any time that evening after 6 p.m. would be proper for the celebration.
The date for the observance of the Jewish Passover should be the same as for our observance of the Memorial of Christ our Passover. The reason the dates are not the same is because the Jews often allow the condition of the moon to govern their reckoning of the date, whereas, the Bible is very positive that the date should be Nisan 14, regardless of the condition of the moon on that date. We calculate the date using Jerusalem time because the Bible was written in that district. However, any errors in calculating the date, by Jews or by any others, should not be regarded as a crime or sacrilege on their part. If we should err in calculating the date, through ignorance or misunderstanding, we believe the Lord would accept our good intentions, and forgive the error and grant His blessing.
There was only one real Passover; the annual observance of the Jewish Passover is simply a memorial for that awesome event in Egypt. 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 ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever.” (Exod. 12:24) This has been done by Jews in all parts of the world, even by renegades and agnostics. Respect for this ancient service is in their very blood, so it is one feature of the Law that has not been violated.
They were told to keep this memorial joyfully, and they concluded that nothing could cheer them better than wine. Consequently, four cups of wine were used during the evening, the first before any food was eaten, and the last after the meal had been completed. At the time Jesus ate the last Passover with His disciples, this custom was followed so seriously that poor Jews were provided wine from the public coffer if they could not afford it, because it was not to be just wine, but good wine, the best to be had.
Of course, in the original Passover in Egypt there is no record that wine was used. If any was used at all, we may be sure it was not done to the same degree that subsequent memorials did. That night was a very solemn night; there was no rejoicing, but instead a sober readiness for departure from Egypt the next morning. God had specifically instructed that they eat the lamb, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, with their loins girded, their shoes on their feet, “and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s Passover.” (Exod. 12:11)
All the instructions of a reasonable God must be reasonable; and while many do not now understand the reasonableness of the various features of the Passover, in “due time” they will be taught to all in a clear and understandable manner. The Jews do now realize that some features of their Law carried great significance. For instance, their Sabbath day foreshadowed a time of rest from the labor of sin and death. They were told that those who kept the Law would live in it. The Jews did not want to die any more than the gentiles, so they speedily answered, “All these things will we do, and live!”
As we keep the Lord’s Supper as the antitype of the Great Passover, it is well that we keep in mind that we commemorate the greatest event of all history, the sacrificial death of the Savior of the world. And, while there is extensive and elaborate observance of Passover and Easter, few people engaging in those observances appreciate their real significance. As St. Paul has written, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not.” (2 Cor. 4:4) Even with those who are partially awakened, St. Peter says they are “blind, and cannot see afar off.” (2 Pet. 1:9) They do not fully appreciate things related to this ceremony, which has been observed now in type and antitype for more than three thousand years.
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER
We are told, “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Cor. 5:7) However, instead of using the lamb and unleavened bread, we use the symbols that Jesus Himself instituted the night before He died, the unleavened bread and the wine being substituted for the lamb and bread. Some may object to this course, but there is no record at all that the early Christians ever again used the lamb and bread; it was always the bread and wine!
Blessed are those whose eyes can see that Jesus was indeed “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), that can see 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. Only faithful believers have as yet received of the merit of Jesus’ death. Greatly favored are those who can see that as the whole world lost Divine favor and came under Divine sentence of death, with its concomitant of sorrow and pain, so it was necessary that a satisfaction of justice should be made before this sentence, or curse, could be removed; and that therefore, as the Apostles declare, “Christ died for our sins” – “the just for the unjust.” (1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:18) Thus He opened up a new and living way – a way of life everlasting, not only for us, but for the whole world of mankind in that glorious Kingdom.
The Scriptures call the Church of Christ the “church of the firstborn;” “a kind of firstfruits of his creatures;” and “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 who are later born; they imply after-fruits. Christian people in general seem to have overlooked these Scriptures, and have generally come to believe that only those who are 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 among mankind who will ultimately come into harmony with God and be granted everlasting life in the Land of Promise. Note that there was more than one passing over: the one in which only the first-born were passed over, and another greater one at the Red Sea, when by Divine power the whole nation of Israel was miraculously delivered and led across the channel of the sea specially prepared for them by the accentuation of winds and tides. These passed over dry-shod and were saved, while the hosts of Pharaoh, representing all who will eventually go into annihilation, were overwhelmed in the Sea.
The passing over 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 the Lord and to render Him worship, all who will ever become a part of Israel, for not one Israelite was left behind in Egyptian bondage. Note that not one first-born Jew in Egypt died that night, and not one first-born Egyptian escaped death. The same was true in the Red Sea: not one Jew died; and not one Egyptian remained alive. Little wonder that Moses and Miriam sang their songs of victory after that phenomenal performance! (Exod. 15:1-21) And in the Kingdom only Israelites will live, as all who refuse the Kingdom blessings will die.
But the secondary passing over is not the one we are about to celebrate. We celebrate the antitype of the passing over of the first-born of Israel by the angel of death that night in Egypt. Only the first-born ones of Israel were in danger that night, though the deliverance of the entire nation depended upon the salvation, the passing over, of those first-born. And of the first-born there is no record that anyone of them died that night; they were safe so long as they remained “under the blood.”
Thus the firstborn of the human family, the true Church, were to be “passed over” during this night of the Gospel Age. Only these would be in danger of the destroying angel, but they would be safe so long as they remained under the blood of Jesus; they were all under the sprinkled blood.
In harmony with all the Scriptures, we see that the first-fruits alone were to be spared, passed over, during the present age. But the remainder of mankind who may desire to follow the great antitypical Moses in the age to follow this one will be led forth from the bondage of sin and death, typified by the bondage of the Jews while they were in Egypt. As the Jews were told to remain under the blood that night, or they too would suffer death, so the first-born of this age are also told to remain under the blood of Jesus, or they will suffer death. Some of them have gone out from under the blood, and have suffered extinction as, for instance, Judas. “Good were it for that man if he had never been born.” (Mark 14:21) Divine mercy no longer applies to them.
In “due time” the night of sin and death will merge into the Millennial morning. Then the Christ, 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 – annihilation. “They shall be as though they had not been.” (Obad. 1:16) They will be cut off in the antitypical Red Sea.
Having clearly and positively identified the Passover Lamb with our Lord Jesus, the Apostle Paul informs us that we all need the blood of sprinkling, not upon our houses, but upon our hearts. (Heb. 10:22) We are to partake of the Lamb; 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. (Gal. 3:27)
We feed on Christ as the Jews fed on the literal lamb. Instead of 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 give us increased appetites to feed upon the Lamb and the unleavened Bread of Truth. We, too, are to remember that “here have we no continuing city” (Heb. 13:14); but as pilgrims, strangers, staff in hand, we are to gird ourselves for our journey to the Kingdom.
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, “I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15) As Jews it was necessary that they celebrate the Passover Supper on that night, the night of the anniversary of the slaying of the Passover lamb of Egypt. It was the anniversary of the saving of the typical first-borns from the typical “prince of this world,” Pharaoh. On this same date the real Passover Lamb was to be slain. But as soon as the requirements of the type had been fulfilled by the eating of the Passover Supper, our Lord Jesus instituted a new Memorial upon the old foundation, saying “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
EAT THE FLESH, DRINK THE BLOOD
Jesus had previously delivered a deep lesson to the Jews: “Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. 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. The Jews therefore strove amongst themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:49-52)
Jesus then added: “I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.” (John 6:53-55)
These words of Jesus aroused dismay: “These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (John 6:59-60) To realize the full impact of Jesus’ words, we must keep in mind that the diet of the religious Jews at that time was much more rigid than it is today; they then adhered scrupulously to the ritual given them through Moses. This is forcefully revealed in Acts 10:9-16, which relates how Peter, in a trance, saw a great sheet lowered to the earth from Heaven. On the sheet were all manner of beasts, and he was commanded to rise, kill and eat. His answer was quick and positive: “I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” (Acts 10:14) The majority of Jesus’ listeners that day would have felt exactly the same way.
Thus their sensibilities were shocked when “this man” said they must eat Him if they would gain life. The very thought of it would nauseate and repel them. His comments offer no problem to us since we know that He clarified this matter on the night in which He was betrayed by offering the loaf and the cup as representing His flesh and His blood. However, it is little wonder that the disciples complained that it was a hard saying, and little wonder that “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66)
Yet Jesus, knowing that His disciples were murmuring, made no effort to explain; He made no effort at all to soothe their abhorrence at His suggested cannibalism. But this also is explained: “Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not” (John 6:64); they were probably some of those who would believe only if they saw one of the Prophets return from the dead. They were not of the leadable and teachable that Jesus was seeking to be “heirs of the Kingdom,” so it was just as well that they should leave.
As these walked away, Jesus said to those remaining, “Will ye also go away?” Although Peter, being thoroughly schooled in the Law, was undoubtedly puzzled by what Jesus had told them, he was quick to respond, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:67-69)
The lesson was too deep for those who walked away, but it is the fundamental teaching of the Gospel of Christ. Whoever cannot receive this lesson (hear this “hard saying”) cannot receive the other lessons which are built upon it. Jesus had not yet given His flesh, though He was in the process of giving it; He was drawing out its vitality, its strength, and would complete the work of His sacrifice by surrendering His all to death – even the death of the cross.
WE ARE JUSTIFIED BY EATING
We do not eat the flesh of Jesus literally – we eat it by faith; that is to say, by faith we appropriate to ourselves the merit, the efficacy which was in His flesh and which He surrendered to death on our behalf. But why was this, and what did He surrender, and how do we partake of it? We answer that Adam as the head of the race had forfeited his life through disobedience and hence, instead of being able to propagate a race of perfect beings in harmony with God and privileged to have eternal life, his offspring was like himself, dying, unworthy of eternal life.
In God’s arrangement a redemptive sacrifice was necessary – someone must take Adam’s place, suffer death for him in order to release him and to justify his race from the original sentence. No human being could be found who was perfect and who could give to Justice a ransom – for all were sinners, coming short of the glory, the perfection, which God recognizes as essential to eternal life: “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” (Psa. 49:7) It was to meet these requirements that God made the arrangement with His Son by which the latter freely, gladly, for the joy set before Him, died, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. (Heb. 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:18)
So it was our Lord’s flesh or human nature that was given for Adam and his race, and hence given for the life of the world, that the world of mankind might be recovered from under the sentence of death. Thus Jesus, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man and we are all redeemed, not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood (life) of Christ, as a lamb without spot or blemish. (Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)
Now that we see how it was necessary for Christ to be made flesh and how it was necessary for Him to give His flesh (His perfect human life) for the life of the world by going into death, how do we eat His flesh? The answer, as put in that figurative form, is beautifully simple and meaningful when we understand it. The eating of the Lord’s flesh must be an individual matter on the part of all those who would benefit by His sacrifice. To eat means to appropriate by faith. Thus, when one comes to understand the fact of the redemption and believes in it, and goes to God in prayer and by faith accepts the forgiveness of his sins and reconciliation with God, he in so doing is eating the flesh of the Son of man; he is partaking of those benefits or advantages which our Lord’s flesh or sacrifice secured.
The result of such eating by faith signifies the appropriation to one’s self of all the blessings and privileges which our Lord possessed as a perfect man; it implies our justification on the human plane, our relationship to God as those whose sins are graciously overlooked or covered and who have joy and peace and fellowship with God through faith in the precious blood. We are to continue to eat that we may grow stronger and stronger – that we may be able to appropriate more and more the wonderful blessings and privileges, relationships and Divine favors which belonged to our Lord, but which He surrendered on our behalf and on behalf of all the members of Adam’s race.
THE INVITATION TO DRINK
Those who are rightly influenced by the eating – those who are drawn nearer to the Lord and led to a full consecration of their all to Him – these additionally have received a special invitation during this Gospel Age to drink of His blood. The blood is the life in Scriptural language, and hence ordinarily the Jews were not to drink blood; to do so would make them guilty or responsible for the death of the person or creature. Thus the Jews said of our Lord, “His blood be on us.” (Matt. 27:25) That is, we assume the responsibility of His death.
Thus the Apostle also explains that unless those who partake of the blood of Christ symbolically in the communion cup do so with the proper appreciation of its meaning, they are symbolically representing themselves as being guilty of the blood, the death, of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:27) Our Lord stated the meaning of the cup at the last Supper, saying to His disciples, “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” (1 Cor. 11:25) That is to say, the cup of the fruit of the vine represents His blood, His death; by it the New Covenant will eventually be sealed. He invited believers to partake of it with Him, not as those who caused His death, but as those who voluntarily join with Him in this self-sacrifice.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit given through the words of the Apostle, we may see a depth of meaning in our Lord’s words which the people whom He addressed did not comprehend. Indeed, we believe that while our Lord addressed these words to the Jews, He intended them more particularly for us to whom they have been communicated and by whom they have been more fully understood.
We rejoice, then, in the justification which we have through partaking of His flesh – through being justified by the sacrifice of His humanity – our appropriation of our share of human justification. We rejoice also that eventually the whole world will have the opportunity to eat of that flesh – to accept the grace of God in the cancellation of their human sins and weaknesses. They will then realize that all the blessings of the Millennium, the Restitution Times, will come to them because Christ died for their sins, because He gave them His flesh to eat.
The whole world is to then eat of that Bread. As the Apostle intimates, the Church has been privileged to be a part with the Lord in the broken Loaf, as well as to be participants in the cup of ignominy and self-sacrifice which the Father poured for Him, to suffer with Him that they may also reign with Him. (2 Tim. 2:12)
“TILL HE COME”
The Jews were commanded to keep the Passover each year on the 14th day of Nisan as “a memorial . . . throughout your generations.” (Exod. 12:14) Christians have also been instructed to keep the Memorial “in remembrance” of Christ our Passover each year “till he come.” (1 Cor. 11:25-26) From this statement by St. Paul some have raised the question: Should we continue to keep the Memorial if our Lord has returned? However, when we consider that both the Little Flock and the Great Company are a part of the Church of the Firstborn, and that partaking of the bread and the wine symbolizes their participation in the merit of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, then it should require no argument about them continuing to “show the Lord’s death till he come” – until the last one has come to their journey’s end.
But we believe the command would apply also to those faithful ones here in the end of the age who are not a part of the spirit-begotten Church of the Firstborn, because the merit of our Lamb has been tentatively imputed to all such – to the extent that the New Covenant cannot begin to operate toward the world until that embargo against Christ’s merit has been removed.
While the primary participants in the Lord’s Supper were to be the Little Flock, it is also appropriate for the Youthful Worthies to partake. This is what Brother Johnson wrote on this subject:
“They are not privileged in the Lord’s Supper to symbolize death with Christ; for they are not dying as a part of The Christ. But they may partake of the Lord’s Supper to symbolize His death as the Lamb of God, and to symbolize their faith, tentatively appropriating justification through His death. We have two reasons for believing that it is appropriate for the Youthful Worthies to partake of the Lord’s Supper . . . : (1) Not only the firstborns, but all Israelites by Divine command and approval (Exod. 12:25-27; Josh. 5:10; 2 Chron. 35:1-19) partook of the annual Passover, the type of the Lord’s Supper. This types that all ultimate believers – the Youthful Worthies, as well as all new creatures – may celebrate the Lord’s Supper. (2) The Apostles partook of the first Lord’s Supper while consecrated but in a tentatively justified condition. At that time their condition was very much the same as that of the Youthful Worthies, though they had a prospect of membership in the Body of Christ denied the Youthful Worthies.” (By Brother Paul Johnson, E-4, page 409)
And, as we partake of our Lamb “in newness of life,” so we also partake of His sufferings, each according to the class in which he finds himself. If we are rightly exercised by such experiences, we then receive “the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment” (their good character qualities – Exod. 12:35) – which they in turn lose by reason of their unjust acts against God’s faithful people.
Dear Brethren, if we will consider our trying experiences with Satan’s deluded servants as opportunities of obtaining Divine Truth and grace, receiving them in the Lord’s spirit, we will thus receive the symbolic articles of gold, silver and raiment. Let us view these experiences from this standpoint and act accordingly amid them; and we will emerge from them greatly enriched spiritually. This consideration will keep us from murmuring and complaining amid such experiences and will enable us to take them joyfully. (1 Pet. 4:12‑14)
As the Israelites fled from the Egyptians after being told to be gone the morning after the tenth plague, the morning after the Passover had been eaten, the cloudy fiery pillar set a barrier between them and the pursuing Egyptians, casting a light ahead of it to lighten the path of Israel, but working a thick darkness to the Egyptians.
So during this Harvest period and especially so during this Epiphany night, the Truth (the fiery pillar) has been the means of separating the faithful from the measurably faithful and from the unfaithful. That which effects deliverance for the faithful, keeping them standing and growing in “grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18), is the very thing that entraps the unfaithful and brings them to a fall. This is much the same picture as given in Exod. 4:9, where Moses was told to “take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river shall become blood upon the dry land.” The refreshing water of Harvest Truth would appear to be bloody repulsive error to those for whom it was not intended. “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.” (1 Cor. 2:14)
As has been our custom, we shall keep the feast in quietness and confidence, decently, orderly, quietly, without much form or ceremony, even as did Jesus and His disciples that last night. It is our prayer that this year’s remembrance may be profitable to all who partake in sincerity and in Truth.
(This paper was derived from writings of Brothers Russell, Johnson, and Hoefle.)
P.O. Box 2246, Kernersville, NC 27285-2246; firstname.lastname@example.org