“And this day shall be unto you for a memorial; and ye shall keep it a feast to the Lord throughout your generations; ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.” (Exod. 12:14)
The time again approaches for us to commemorate the anniversary of our Lord’s Supper. While the thoughts presented here should be very familiar to most of our readers, such an important topic warrants frequent review.
The correct time for the observance for 2019 is after 6 p.m. on March 19. The date is determined by this method: The moon nearest the Vernal Equinox becomes new in Jerusalem on March 6 at 6:03 p.m., thus establishing 6 p.m. March 6 as the beginning of Nisan 1. Counting forward to Nisan 14, we arrive at 6 p.m. March 19. Any time that evening after 6 p.m. would be proper for the celebration.
The Passover memorial was and still is one of the most important religious observances among the Jewish people. It was the first feature of “the Law” given them as a typical people. The typical Passover occurred more than three thousand years ago in Egypt, where the Israelites were held in servitude by the Egyptians. When the Lord’s providence provided for their deliverance, their masters sought selfishly to keep them in bondage, refusing to let them go to the land of Canaan. During that year the Lord sent nine different plagues upon the people of Egypt. One after another, the Lord relieved the plagues when Pharaoh begged for mercy and made promises which he afterwards broke.
Finally, the servant of the Lord, Moses, announced a great, final disaster: the firstborn in every family of Egypt would die in one night. In the homes of the humblest peasants as well as in the home of Pharaoh there would be great mourning. As a result they would finally yield and let the Israelites go. In fact, they would urge them to go quickly, for fear the Lord would ultimately bring death upon the entire people if Pharaoh continued to harden his heart and resist the Divine mandate.
The first three plagues were common to all in Egypt, including the Israelites. The next six plagues affected only the Egyptians. The tenth plague was to be common to the entire land of Egypt, including the Israelites, except that the Israelites were given a means of salvation. They were to show faith and obedience by sacrificing a lamb and sprinkling its blood upon the sides and lintels of their doorways. The flesh was to be eaten in the same night, with bitter herbs and unleavened bread. The eaters were to stand with staff in hand and girded for the journey, fully expecting that the Lord would strike the firstborn of the Egyptians with death and make them willing to let the Israelites go, and with full faith also that they would share in this calamity were it not for the blood upon their doorposts and lintels.
Because of the sprinkled blood and the eaten lamb on that night (the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar), the firstborn of Israel were passed over – spared from the plague of death which claimed the firstborn of the Egyptians. The next day Israel marched out free from Egyptian bondage; therefore, by God’s command (Exod. 12:14), they were instructed to commemorate this great event every year on its anniversary.
While Jews still have a measure of respect for this ancient custom, not many have inquired deeply into its meaning. Why was the lamb slain and eaten? Why was its blood sprinkled upon the doorposts and lintels? Because God so commanded, of course; but what reason, motive, object or lesson was there behind the Divine command? Although Christianity has the answer to this question, the majority of Christians are likewise unable to discern it. Truly a reasonable God gives reasonable commands, and in due time He will be willing for His faithful people to understand the meaning of every requirement.
CHRIST OUR PASSOVER
The Israelites saw only the letter of this ceremony and not its typical significance. We might have been in similar darkness had not the Holy Spirit of God given us the key to its meaning by inspiring the Apostle to write the words: “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye 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)
The severe bondage of Israel under Pharaoh calls to mind the bondage of sin and death under which the whole creation groans. (Rom. 8:21-22) Pharaoh fitly typifies Satan, “the god of this world.” (2 Cor. 4:4) In the deliverance of all Israel under the leadership of Moses we see the deliverance during the Millennium of all who will reverence God and His Laws under the leadership of the greater than Moses, Christ, head and body. In the destruction of Pharaoh and his hosts in the Red Sea we see the destruction in the Second Death of Satan and all who follow his course. All of these anti-typical blessings are the results of the anti-typical Passover, of which Christ is the central figure.
The Apostle’s words having called our attention to the matter, we find other Scriptures which clearly show that Jesus, “the Lamb of God,” was the antitype of the Passover lamb and that His death was as essential to the deliverance of “the church of the firstborn” from death, as was the death of the typical lamb to the firstborns of Israel. We are thus led to the words and acts of Jesus at the last Passover which He ate with His disciples.
God is very exact, and the slaying of the typical lamb, on the fourteenth day of the first month, foreshadowed or typified the fact that in God’s plan Jesus was to die at that time. And it is remarkable that God arranged the reckoning of time among the Jews so that it was possible for Jesus to commemorate the Passover with the disciples, and Himself be slain as the real “Lamb” on the same day (the Jewish day commencing at six o’clock in the evening and ending at six the next evening). By eating the Passover that evening, Jesus and the disciples ate it “the same night in which he was betrayed,” and the same day in which He died – thus not “one jot or one tittle” was left unfulfilled. (1 Cor. 11:23; Matt. 5:18)
Five days before His crucifixion Jesus presented Himself to be received or rejected when He rode into the city on the ass, fulfilling the prophecy, “Behold, thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass.” (Zech. 9:9; Matt. 21:4-5) At the same time, the feature of the Passover type was fulfilled which stipulated that the lamb must be received into the house five days before it was killed. (Exod. 12:2-3) Thus Jesus made His last presentation to the house of Israel five days before the Passover, as we read: “Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany . . . On the next day [five days before] much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem . . . went forth to meet him.” Then it was that their King came unto them, “sitting on an ass’s colt.” (John 12:1,12-15) Afterward, He wept over them declaring, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:38-39)
Jesus knew the significance of the Passover, but the disciples did not. He was alone; none could sympathize, none could encourage Him. Even had He explained to the disciples, they could not have understood or appreciated His explanation, because they were not yet begotten of the Spirit. Nor could they be begotten until justified from Adamic sin, until “passed over,” or reckoned free from sin by virtue of the slain Lamb, whose shed blood ransomed them from the power of the destroyer, death. Thus He walked the narrow way alone, where none before had walked. It is no wonder that His heart at times was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death.
When the time came, they sat down to eat the Passover and Jesus said to the disciples: “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 22:15-16) He doubtless longed to have them understand how the fulfillment would begin a little later that very day by the slaying of the real Lamb. He probably especially desired to eat this Passover with them in order to use the occasion to break the truth of its significance to them to the extent they could comprehend it. As the Apostle recounts: “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake 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 ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25)
We cannot doubt that the design of the Master was to call their minds from the typical lamb to Himself, the antitype, and to show them that it would be no longer proper to observe a feature of the Law which He was about to fulfill. Thereafter the bread and wine were to be remembrancers of Him, the elements which would take the place of the lamb. Thus considered, there is force in His words, “This do in remembrance of me.” No longer were they to kill a literal lamb in remembrance of a typical deliverance. Instead they were to use the bread and wine to represent His flesh and life – the basis of the real deliverance – the real passing over.
Thus our Lord instituted His Supper as the remembrancer of His death, and as a substitute for the Passover as observed by the Jews. One might wonder why Jesus first ate of the typical Passover lamb before instituting the substitute. It was because He was born under the dominion of the Law, and must observe every requirement of it. Since He made an end of the Law, nailing it to His cross, we are free from the Law as it relates to either the Passover or its substitute, the Lord’s Supper. However, we esteem it a privilege to celebrate each year the anniversary of our Lord’s death, in remembrance of Him. “For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast.”
WHEN TO KEEP THE FEAST
As on many other matters, most Christians have left the teachings of the Word and the example of the early Church in observing the Memorial of the Last Supper. Few observe it as a “supper” at all, many selecting for convenience mid-day instead of evening. Some commemorate the Lord’s death every Sunday and some at various times throughout the year. They consider the time and frequency as unimportant, perhaps reasoning that if it is a good thing to do, why not do it often, even daily, causing the service to lose much of its significance.
Those who celebrate every Sunday may point to the Scriptural record of the “love feasts” of the early Church. (Acts 2:42,46; Acts 20:7,11 ) They suppose those occasions to have been the Lord’s Supper, but it was the custom of the early Church to eat a plain meal together when they gathered from distant places on the first day of the week. These love-feasts were not instituted by any command of our Lord or of the Apostles. Like the celebration of the first day of the week, they seem to have been the spontaneous prompting of grateful hearts. The early Church thus celebrated the resurrection of our Lord (not His death) every week, and the breaking of bread in their love-feast was probably a pleasant reminder of the fact that the Lord was made known to the disciples at Emmaus and on other occasions after His resurrection in the breaking of bread at their ordinary meal. (Luke 24:29-30,42 ; John 21:12-13) They neither used wine (no less important than the bread in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper), nor did they call it the Lord’s Supper, or observe it with special gravity, but rather with thankfulness and joy they “did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.” (Acts 2:46)
St. Paul’s statement that “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup” (1 Cor. 11:26) does not imply liberty for doing it whenever one pleases. On the contrary, the Apostle uses the term “as often” to mean “whenever.” The context shows that Paul was referring to the “same night in which he [our Lord] was betrayed,” when the bread and wine was then instituted by our Lord as His remembrancers to take the place of the typical Passover eaten by the Jews. Paul wrote to those who well knew the Jewish custom of celebrating the Passover and how often it was celebrated, so that “as often,” or “whenever,” to them signified each anniversary.
The Lord’s Supper was designed to replace the annual commemoration of the typical passing over of Israel’s firstborn, whose lives were saved through the blood of the typical lamb. Such an event could only be properly celebrated on its anniversary, which our Lord and His disciples and all the Jews strictly observed. They no more thought of celebrating it at any other time, than Americans would think of celebrating the signing of their Declaration of Independence on any other day than the fourth of July.
We do not imply that those who have commemorated the Redeemer’s death at inappropriate times are condemned by our Lord. No, thank God, the Gospel Age faithful are not under the Law but under grace, in this as in every other matter. Those who in heart sincerity have so partaken of the emblems of our Lord’s body and blood may have suffered loss of some of the power the occasion was designed to have on their hearts; nevertheless, they have not been spurned by He whose sacrifice they thus commemorated. But surely, when the intent of our Lord’s words is grasped, all the fully consecrated will gladly comply with His arrangement, assured that it is best and most appropriate, as well as most acceptable to Him of whom it is a remembrancer.
THE BREAD OF LIFE
The bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of our Lord. Our Lord as a man was the living bread (bread of life) which came down from heaven to give life to the world. The illustration is perfect: Mankind is dying for want of life and needs some food so full of life-producing quality that it will arrest the wasting of death, and repair and restore mankind to the original perfection lost in Adam. Men have sought panaceas, elixirs, life restorers of all kinds – in foods, in minerals, and in chemicals, but all in vain. No such “bread of life” has ever been found. But Jesus said: “I am that 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.” (John 6:48,51) That is, if by faith in the means which God has provided to accomplish his redemption he accepts the favor of life, he can have it on those terms, and those only. This our Lord symbolically termed “eating” His flesh.
Notice how perfect is this illustration. The Son of God as a heavenly or spiritual being in His pre-human condition was not bread for man, and had He given His spiritual body as bread, we being of a different nature (human), could not have appropriated it, just as that which would nourish and perfect a tree (air, water, and soil) could not perfect and nourish a man, who is of a different nature. Man is of the fleshly nature; hence if the spiritual Son of God would give to dying men the bread of life, it must be flesh, full of life-giving nutriment.
The preparation for this was the change of the Son of God from spirit to flesh. Humbling Himself, He was “made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) The flesh was to be the life-giving bread. Because He who had been in the heavenly or spirit state had become earthly or human, it is literally true that this “bread” came down from heaven, from the heavenly or spirit condition to the earthly or human nature. “This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” (John 6:50)
How are we to eat this bread of life? We cannot eat anything that is still alive and anything that died by disease would not be fit for food. So if our Lord had died what is called a “natural” death, it would have proved that He was a sinner like other men; for death is the penalty of sin, and hence to partake of Him would have given no new life. So then we see that there was no way to give us this life-food or “bread of life” except by the sacrifice of the man Christ Jesus. He did not die because His life, like ours, was forfeited, but He gave Himself a ransom, a corresponding price, a substitute for all – for Adam and all who lost life through him. His life in the flesh, His example and counsel, teachings, etc., could not give life. We may study and try to follow His perfect example, but we cannot do it perfectly because we are dying and lack strength. We need life, life-producing food, and He became flesh, for the very purpose of providing us this life supply which we could get in no other way.
So He told His disciples that the killing of the Lamb was necessary so that they could eat of Him: “The Son of man must suffer many things . . . and be slain . . .” (Luke 9:22) Had He remained with them in the flesh, they would indeed have been greatly blessed, but they could never have gotten life. Hence He said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you.” (John 16:7) That is, if He had remained flesh and not submitted Himself in sacrifice, He could not carry out the Father’s plan for their redemption. Only by His sacrifice, and by their partaking (eating) of Him, could they escape condemnation and come into harmony and acceptance with God and be granted life.
It is a mistake to suppose that truth is the bread of life, and that the eating of truth will justify us, or give us a right to life. It is a mistake to suppose that believing the Sermon on the Mount and other of our Lord’s sayings will give life. These truths are good for food after and with the Lamb, but indigestible without it. These very truths were indigestible to many who heard them, acting as emetics rather than as nourishing food, and “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” (John 6:66) Even the Apostles got little nourishment from our Lord’s teachings until after the Lamb was slain and they by faith had eaten of that life-giving food. With the vigor of that food, they were able to find sweetness and strength in all things the Master had spoken unto them.
When Jesus was “made flesh” He became human. So then, to give His flesh means He gave Himself as a human being. He sacrificed the human rights and privileges He possessed under God’s law so that the human family might receive them back. Adam’s family was all in him when he sinned and lost life and all the rights and privileges of son-ship, and so we all are sharers in that one loss. Those rights then belonged to the new man, “the man Christ Jesus,” who exchanged His higher rights as a perfect spirit being for the lower rights of a perfect man, rights which Adam forfeited. He then laid down all that He had in the interest and for the use of the condemned race. (Matt. 13:44) The giving of His flesh for the life of the world means handing back to dying men the lost life, liberties, and privileges: “The bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51)
What He gave up when He died is ours. It is free to every member of the human race, but only to those that eat, those who by faith appropriate what He sacrificed. The eating of His flesh means the eater appropriates to his own use the rights, liberties, and life which the perfect sinless “man Christ Jesus” possessed, no more, and no less.
If a person has a hereditary disease it is not he alone who is affected; all in him, i.e., all his unborn posterity are affected as well. If a treatment (a bread of life), a sure cure for this hereditary condition were provided, it must be received into the system and appropriated to be effective, else no cure can result. The entire family could not be cured by any one of them taking the treatment or bread of life.
It is the same with Adam and his posterity. Adam sinned and all his unborn posterity were affected through heredity. Christ is the bread of life, the treatment for the condition of the condemned and dying sinner. This bread must be made accessible to each sinner and he must eat it, that is appropriate it by faith. It is “for every man” (Heb. 2:9), hence every sinner must have an opportunity to eat and live. None can eat it ignorantly (though many eat its symbol ignorantly). Since all must come to the knowledge of this truth, this of itself is proof of the judgment (trial) to come, in the great Millennial Day; for it must be “testified in due time” to all in order that all who are willing may eat and live forever. (1 Tim. 2:4-6) Since only a few have come to even an imperfect knowledge of the Truth in this age, it is evident that God’s “due time” for spreading this great feast before the world, is in the Millennium, when the knowledge of the Lord will fill the whole earth. (Hab. 2:14; Isa. 25:6)
Those who eat this bread of life now do not now experience restitution to human perfection; our perfection is only reckoned, not actual. It is only by faith that we eat of the flesh of our Redeemer, accepting by faith (contrary to sight) human rights, liberties, and life from His sacrifice. While none can walk by sight now, mankind in the next age will have sight as an aid to their faith. They will feel their gradual physical improvement as they take the steps of faith and obedience.
But why should any be permitted to eat thus of His flesh (His human perfections, rights, etc.) beforehand – before the general time for spreading the feast for all? There is a very precious truth there which lies covered from the view of the world: “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us [the Church] through Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:7)
THE LIFE IS IN THE BLOOD
Let us look at this hidden truth. The shed blood, symbolized by the wine, represents death, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” (Lev. 17:11) So the shed blood of Christ signifies the death of Christ – the life given up for the sins of the world. In the typical Passover in Egypt, the Lamb was eaten but the blood was not (no Israelite was allowed to eat blood). This was symbolic of how all are to eat the flesh of the Son of man but all are not to drink or partake of His death. Those to whom our Lord gave the wine as representative of His blood, were invited to partake of and share in His death, which was proper, because they were to be members of His body; and not only He, the Head, should taste death for every man, but His body should be “made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10), and become dead with Him. (Rom. 6:8) The “cup” then is the symbol of Christ’s death.
This being true, how appropriate that the giving of the wine was after the eating of the bread, and to those only who had eaten it. This teaches, in harmony with all the Scriptures, that only those who are justified from all sin by faith in the merit and sacrifice of the Lamb of God (and no others) are invited to crucify their (justified) humanity and share in the afflictions of Christ in this age, and in His glory in the age to follow.
The drinking of the cup of suffering and death by the spirit-begotten Church of the Firstborn must all be done in the Gospel Age. When the age of glory opens, all the sufferings of Christ will be in the past, both those of the Head and those of every member of His body. When the Prophets spoke of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow (1 Pet. 1:11), they spoke truly, of the entire Christ including the smallest and last member. With the door to that High Calling closed, the drinking of the blood will be at an end.
MEMORIAL STILL APPROPRIATE
Is it still appropriate to partake of the Lord’s Supper if the door to the High Calling is closed? We recognize that the primary participants in the Lord’s Supper were to be the Saints, the Little Flock. However, we believe there is an unbegotten class who consecrate after the closing of the High Calling similar to those faithful ones who preceded the Gospel Age (see Reprint 5761). We call that class “Youthful Worthies” and believe they will be rewarded in the earthly phase of the Kingdom in honor and in service with the Ancient Worthies of Hebrews Chapter 11.
Youthful Worthies may certainly partake of the Lord’s Supper. They are thankful and appreciative of what our Savior has done for them. They do not “suffer with Christ,” nor will they “reign with Christ;” therefore they partake of the bread and wine symbolizing their tentative justification and our Lord’s death as the Lamb of God. Their trial is for faith and obedience and not for life as was the Saints’ trial, although they make the same kind of consecration as did the spirit-begotten: “Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger [the unbegotten], as for one of your own country [the spirit-begotten].” (Lev. 24:22)
It is our prayer that this year’s remembrance may be profitable to all who partake in sincerity and in Truth. As always, we suggest reading the Passover chapter in Volume Six; and we pray a rich blessing upon all who partake. We are living in wonderful times, and we know not what a day may bring; but we have the strong assurance that we can firmly trust Him who left us an example that we should follow in His steps. (1 Pet. 2:21)
This paper is based on writings of Pastor Russell, including Reprints 465, 1013, 3525 and 5640.
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 There is really no such thing as natural death. In God’s arrangement life is the natural condition and death comes as a violation of natural life, as a consequence or penalty for disobedience, sin. However this term may be considered an allowable expression when referring to the fallen, condemned race, because it is the natural result of sin, common to all human sinners. So our Lord could not have died by disease, etc., unless He had sinned, in which case His flesh would have been far from life-giving. Nor could His life be taken from Him. Rather, He chose to give it as our ransom price, that His flesh might impart life to us.