The Passover of the New Covenant
Its' Purpose and Correct Observation
The Passover is an annual observance at a specifically appointed time in the Bible calendar of Almighty God. It is not well understood by most Bible-believers today. Many Christian churches teach that God no longer requires its observance. However, the Bible says the Passover is an annual memorial required by commandment (Deut. 16). In this study, we will examine the purpose of the Passover, the correct timing of its observance, and what it represents as one of the most important aspects of God’s covenant.
Copyright ã 2015, 2017 Peter Donis
For also our Passover, Christ, was sacrificed, so that we might keep the Feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of amorality and wickedness, but with unleavened sincerity and truth (1Cor. 5:7b-8a; RNT; emphasis added).
Nowhere in the Bible, and at no time throughout human history, has authority been granted to either change or do away with the day or time of the annual observance that is called Passover. It is to be observed annually by all faithful believers (Lev. 23:5; Num. 28:16-17; Deut. 16:1; Josh. 5: 10; Mt. 26:29; Lk. 22:15-16; Jn. 6:53; 1Cor. 5:7; 11:17-29). Observing Passover is vital to our commitment and ongoing membership in the New Covenant - ratified by the blood of Jesus Christ. If we do not observe it we have no part with him (Jn. 13:8). The importance of its correct understanding and observance cannot be underestimated.
The First Passover
The first Passover took place in the first month of Abib when the nation of Israel was in bondage under the Egyptians (Ex. 12). That Passover was the catalyst for Israel’s physical release and withdrawal from slavery in Egypt. Each household was commanded to sacrifice an unblemished lamb and then put some of its blood on the doorposts and lintels of their home. They were then to roast and eat the sacrificial lamb that evening, keeping a watch or vigil that entire night (Ex. 12:42). The blood upon the doorpost and lintels was as a sign for the death angel to pass-over them in judgement (Ex. 12:23).
Later at Mt. Sinai, God through His mediator, the Angel of YHVH, established what we know as the First Covenant. It enabled a relationship between God and His chosen people and set the foundation for the governance of their nation. It was ratified with the shedding and sprinkling of animal blood (Ex. 24:4-8; Heb. 9:18-20). The First Covenant provided animal sacrifices for the purpose of physical purification from sin, foreshadowing the perfect and complete sacrifice – Jesus the Christ, who, by his own blood, was able to put away sin making everlasting life possible (Lev. 4:35, 5:10; Heb. 9:13, 16-26; 1Pet. 1:19). The animal sacrificial system was not only a schoolmaster or tutor to lead faithful believers to Christ, but also established the principle that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins (Lev. 17:11; cf. Heb. 9:22).
In the First Covenant a clean animal from either the flock or the herd, typically a lamb, was required for sacrifice on the afternoon of the 14th of the first month of Abib for Passover (Deut. 16:2; Ex. 12:5; 2Chron. 35:1; Mk. 14:12). This is in accordance with the law and calendar of God (Ex. 12:2; Deut. 16:1). The sacrificing of Passover lambs commenced from approximately 3:00 pm (between the evenings) on the afternoon of that day (Mk. 25:25; Jn. 19:14; Ex. 12:6; Deut. 16:5-7; 2Chron. 35:1). The blood of the sacrifice was then placed on the door posts and lintels of the homes where the Passover meal would be observed (Ex. 12:7, 21-23). The lamb was then roasted and commenced to be eaten from between the two evenings, approaching the end of the day (Lev. 23:5; cf. Num. 9:11-14). Nothing of the lamb was to remain until morning (Ex. 12:10). Thus, the Passover lamb of the first Covenant sacrificial system represented the coming Messiah (1Pet. 1:19).
The True Passover
The son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, is our Passover, sacrificed for us (1Cor. 5:7). He willingly became our Passover by giving his life in our place, so that our sins, following our repentance can be “passed over” in judgment (i.e. forgiven). By giving himself for us, he is able to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who would be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).
Jesus Christ was sacrificed on the afternoon of the 14th of Abib in the year 30 CE, which in that year fell on the fourth day of the week (Wednesday). He died at approximately 3:00 pm (Mt. 27:46-50; Mk. 15:33-37; Lk. 23:44-46), likely at the same time the first of the lambs were being killed according to the Law.
The Passover is so important in God’s plan of salvation that He has made provisions in the law for it be to be kept in the second month if one is unable to do so in the first (Num. 9:10-11; 2Chro. 30:1-3). The correct understanding and adherence of the Passover is vital if we are to be part of the Body of Christ which is the only true church of God. It is a seal of God - necessary for resurrection from the dead at Christ’s return (Jn. 6:51-66; 13:8; cf. Gen. 17:11; Ex. 12:13; 13:1-10; 31:13; 16-17; Ezek. 20:11-20).
God has commanded His Covenant to eternity (Ps. 111:9; Ex. 12:24; Mt. 26:29). Its observance is binding upon all baptised members of the body of Christ, who from baptism receive inclusion in the commonwealth of Israel , the spiritual temple of God and royal priesthood of the order of Melchizedek (Eph. 2:12-14; 1Cor. 3:16-17, 6:19; 2Cor. 6:16; 1Pet. 2:9; Heb. 6:20).
The Feast of Unleavened Bread
The 15th day of the month begins at dark, a few hours following the observance of the Passover on the afternoon of the 14th. It is the beginning of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread. Nothing leavened is to be consumed over the course of the seven-day Feast. Unleavened bread is to be eaten each day. Nothing leavened is to be in our homes over this period (Ex. 12:1-13, Lev. 23:5-8). A vigil or night of watching during the first night of Unleavened Bread is observed until dawn. Upon morning, we are then permitted to return to our temporary accommodation (Ex. 12:22; 42; Deut. 16:7).
Symbols of the Covenant
Christ is the single truth symbolized by the physical lamb in the First Covenant and which we memorialize in the New Covenant by the unleavened bread and wine today. The different symbols identify the same truth – Christ, our Passover.
On the night of his betrayal, Christ introduced the new symbols of the Second Covenant Passover: foot-washing, and the unleavened bread and wine to represent his body and blood as part of the requirement of the law. Christ introduced them that evening out of necessity as he would be killed at the time of the Passover as the Passover Lamb (1Cor. 5:7).
The new symbols of the Passover for the Second Covenant were first introduced at the Lord’s Supper. Christ 's sacrificed later that same day, on the afternoon of the 14th put an end to the sacrificial system, which included the killing and eating of a lamb with bitter herbs. The physical lamb symbolised Christ as the Passover within the First Covenant.
The Passover still has to be observed, only the symbols have changed; the timing remains the same in accordance with the law of God. Christ took away the First Covenant sacrificial ordinances (which included the eating of a lamb with bitter herbs as the Passover symbol) in order that he may establish the Second Covenant symbols of the bread and wine. The First Covenant symbol of the Passover i.e. the lamb ended when Christ became the lamb of God and offered up himself. To establish the Second Covenant we have to be willing to accept that Christ brought to a close all the sacrificial ordinances which included by necessity, the taking away the requirement to partake of a physical lamb.
Earlier saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and sacrifices for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), (9) then He has said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first in order that He may establish the second. (10) By which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:8-11; EMTV; emphasis added).
Christ did not establish a distinctly new pseudo-Passover or annual celebratory event in his honour at the beginning of the 14th of Abib. If we choose to move the symbols of the Christ a day earlier to the beginning of 14th Abib, for example, rather than rather keeping them late on the afternoon of the 14th as scripture dictates, we create an alternative Passover observance that is outside the will and law of God (Ex. 12; Num. 9:11). As a result, we remove ourselves from participating in the true Passover and the sanctification the Passover offering is intended to bestow. We have no authority to establish the participation in the Lord’s Supper/Passover at a time of our own choosing (Ac. 5:29). Everything we say and do must be in accordance with the Law of God, otherwise, there is no light in us (Isa. 8:20). Remember, Christ is the light of this world (Jn. 1:4; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5).
The Second Replaces the First
Just before Christ’s death, he announced that the unleavened bread is the lawful replacement for the lamb of the First Covenant which we now partake of as a symbol of his sacrifice,
Having taken bread and having blessed it, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body being given on your behalf, do this in remembrance of me”. And the cup, likewise after eating, saying, “This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood being poured out on your behalf” (Lk. 22:19-20; RNT; emphasis added).
The symbol of a physical lamb served its purpose in the First Covenant - picturing the true Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ who was to come (Jn. 1:29, 35; Rev. 12:11). Due to its fulfilment, it is no longer required. It has no redeemable purpose. Therefore, insisting on eating lamb at the Lord’s Supper/Passover, impedes on the symbols of the New Covenant and contradicts the directives given by Christ himself (1Pet. 1:18-20; Rev. 13:8),
And while they were eating, Jesus, having taken the bread and having blessed it, broke it, and giving it to the disciples, said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And having taken the cup, and having blessed it, he said, “Drink from it, everyone; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for the release of sins” (Mt. 26:26-28; RNT; emphasis added).
Christ’s death put an end to the First Covenant animal sacrificial system (Mt. 5:17; Jn. 19:30; Heb. 9:28; 10:10, 14; 1Cor. 5:7). The law has not changed, only the symbols. Because many have failed to recognise or comprehend this, they find themselves thinking that a Passover meal which includes a physical lamb is required, or at the very least, is appropriate. Yet this covenantal symbol expired with the death of the true Passover it prefigured. It belonged strictly to the animal sacrificial system of the First Covenant.
The partaking of a physical lamb as a commemorative Passover meal, which has become a tradition for many people today, shows a misapprehension of the role of Messiah, what he fulfilled and the purpose of the Passover. Christ’s death is the dividing line between the two types of symbols of each covenant. Awareness of this fact should prevent the combination of the two (or re-introduction of a physical lamb in any sort of capacity) in the covenantal agreement with God to eat the Passover (Heb. 8:7-13). The first century Churches’ observance of the Second Covenant Passover symbols and cessation from consuming a physical lamb testify to this fact (1Cor. 11:20-34).
In the First Covenant, the Paschal offering provided enough food for everyone in each of the families to partake of and ensured no one went hungry throughout the night of watching (Ex. 12:3-4). In the context of the narrative in 1 Corinthians, since the consumption of a physical lamb was no longer necessary, everyone meeting together to keep the Lord’s Supper (Passover symbols) brought food as they were able for a common meal.
The Apostle Paul admonished the assembly in Corinth for not waiting for everyone to gather before eating the evening meal prior to partaking of the Lord’s Supper, as those who came later found no food left for them. Others became drunk. Thus, he told them to remain where they were staying and eat and drink there (in moderation) prior to assembling for the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11:21-22). They did not have to wait upon a roasted lamb as per the First Covenant Passover meal. If one wanted to eat a meal before they assembled on the first night of Unleavened Bread, they were able (1Cor. 11:34). If one is still of the world displaying a carnal attitude then we truly do not show that we love God and it is not the Lord’s Supper that we really eat (Jn. 8:23; 14:15; 1Cor. 11:20). We are not to be of this world in the same manner Christ was not of this world (Jn. 17:14, 16). We are to bear fruits of our repentance (Lk. 3:8; Mt. 3:8 cf. Mt. 7:17-20).
Different Symbols - Single Truth
It is important to remember that the symbols of the lamb and bitter herbs of the First Covenant are just that, symbols. The foot-washing, unleavened bread, and wine of the Second Covenant, likewise, are symbols.
The old symbols of the First Covenant Passover and the new symbols introduced at the Lord's Supper point to the same reality - Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God,
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16; RSV).
The failure to grasp the necessary transition of the First Covenant symbols of a physical lamb and bitter herbs to that of the Second Covenant symbols of the bread and wine, finds many today arguing and asking the same question as that of the Jews’ in Christ’s day, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (Jn. 6:51-55),
I am the living bread which has come from heaven: if any man takes this bread for food he will have life for ever: and more than this, the bread which I will give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world. 52 Then the Jews had an angry discussion among themselves, saying, How is it possible for this man to give us his flesh for food? 53 Then Jesus said to them, truly I say to you, If you do not take the flesh of the Son of man for food, and if you do not take his blood for drink, you have no life in you. 54 He who takes my flesh for food and my blood for drink has eternal life: and I will take him up from the dead at the last day. 55 My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink (Jn. 6:51-55 (BBE; Emphasis added).
What Christ told the Jews’ who followed him is just as relevant and applicable today. Many cannot see beyond the physical manna in the wilderness and the physical lamb of the Passover sacrifice and what they both foreshadowed.
The foot-washing is conducted between baptised members of the body of Christ and is mandatory (Jn. 13:14-15). It is done before the partaking of the bread and wine (Jn. 13:8; 1Tim. 5:10). It is a reminder of the humble attitude a servant ought to have. It denotes the spiritual washing of the pollution from sin and the forgiveness we receive. We are to extend this to one another, just as Christ did for us. It is a demonstration of the subjugation of our mind to the duty and will of God. As we seek to do the will of the Father and the good of the brethren, we are not to look down at anyone or any one task. The foot-washing is also a yearly reminder that the trappings of this world hinder our willingness to lay aside everything for the Kingdom of God (Jn. 13:4-5; 17:14-16; 1Jn. 2:15-17).
The bread and wine are only to be consumed by those circumcised of the heart, that is, only those who are baptised in Christ and have had the law of God placed in them and written on their heart (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 31:31-33; Rom. 2:29; Jn. 13:10). The Law states that no sacrifice is to be offered with leaven (Ex. 23:18). The bread symbolic of the body of Christ must be unleavened, containing no yeast or leavening agents. In a letter to the assembly at Corinth, the Apostle Paul refers to the annual participation of these symbols at Passover as the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11:20).
The New Testament symbols for Passover today are still bound by the law which requires that they are kept and not taken before the afternoon of the 14th day of Nisan/Abib,
In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight, is the LORD's Passover (Lev. 23:5; ESV; Emphasis added).
Now, let the sons of Israel observe the Passover at its appointed time. (3) On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall observe it at its appointed time; you shall observe it according to all its statutes and according to all its ordinances (Num. 9:2-3; NASB; emphasis added).
The same timing applies to the Passover taken in the second month (Num. 9:11-14).
We are required by law to stay physically and spiritually unleavened from the taking of the symbols of Christ, our Passover sacrifice, until the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (21st of Abib), with no opportunity to eat leavened bread within that entire period.
It is not accidental or coincidental that every time God’s people returned to Him, they observed the Passover with its correct covenantal symbols being taken from the time of afternoon sacrifice for the Passover offering on the 14th of the first month (2Chron. 35ff; Ezra 6:9; Josh. 5:10; 2Ki. 23:21; 2Chron. 35:1), If they were unable participate in the first month, they could do so at the correct time in the second month according to the law (2Chron. 30:1-15).
Observing the symbols for the New Covenant Passover at the end of the 14th of Abib – the Biblically correct time to observe Passover, in fact rectifies the proper sequence in line with Christ’s instructions, the disciples, and the first century Church and most importantly, God’s will and His law. There is no contradiction or conflict with the commands pertaining to the Passover observance. Everything is in harmony and in accordance with the Law of God.
Our duties to our covenantal agreement are fulfilled and Christ is remembered as he requested in the manner he proposed (Lk. 22:19; 1Cor. 11:23-26). Christ, by means of the symbols, is identified and acknowledged as the Passover Lamb of God at the appointed time of the Passover. There is also no breach of the law in regards to Ingathering. Moreover, there aren’t some 20+ hours that separate the partaking of the Passover symbols of Christ’s sacrifice and the commencement of the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. We then move seamlessly into the first Holy Day of the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread and prepare to undertake a night vigil until first light (Ex. 12:42). We continue to remain unleavened, with the symbolism and the connectivity of sanctification unbroken. But when the Passover symbols of the body of Christ are observed incorrectly at the beginning of the 14th, some 20 hrs before the first day of Unleavened Bread commences, one is still able to eat leavened bread for a number of hours because the law does not require it until the end of the 14th! There is no getting around the fact that when the symbols for Christ’s sacrifice for the Second Covenant, including the unleavened bread, are taken incorrectly at the beginning of the 14th of Abib, one is able to then partake of leavened bread (which in this season symbolises sin) for the next approximately 12 hours leading up to the beginning of the feast of Unleavened bread (Ex. 12:18). This is contrary to the law.
In the first month, from the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread until the twenty-first day of the month at evening (Ex. 12:18; ESV).
The Passover Meal
Some 20 hours prior to Christ’s death, he introduced and explained the meaning of the symbols of the foot-washing, the unleavened bread, and the wine during the last meal he shared with his twelve disciples. Participating in the symbols is the means for us to participate in the Covenant of God and our ongoing and renewing membership in the New or Second Covenant, thus remaining in Christ and he in us (Jn. 6:51-56).
Logically, one cannot commemorate the death of Christ if we partake of the symbols some 20 hrs before his memorial death, at the beginning of the 14th of Abib. It would be akin to Ancient Israel sacrificing and partaking of the lamb of the First Covenant some 20 hrs before it was commanded to be sacrificed and eaten, which according to the law renders the sacrifice of no consequence, openly disobeying the commandment of God.
If we observe the Passover symbols and foot washing at the beginning, rather than at the end of the 14th, by necessity we are forcing people to be in-gathered one day earlier at the end of the 13th/beginning of the 14th for the foot-washing, bread and wine (Jn. 13: 6-17). It adds an extra day to the Feast of Unleavened Bread which is contrary to the law.
The erroneous practice of observing the ordinances on the night part (beginning) of the 14th, places the individual in a time and place when their death penalty (for committing sin) cannot be “passed-over”. Remember, Yahovah had “passed-over” the Hebrews in Egypt who obeyed God’s word and killed the Passover at the end of the 14th of Abib, and had its blood on the houses where they lived (Ex. 12:12-13). Today, that blood is found symbolically in the wine we partake, as a sign of the Second Covenant Passover (Mt. 26:27; Mk. 14:23-24; Lk. 22:20; 1Cor. 11:23-26). The sign of the blood of Christ of the New Covenant is now on the doorposts and lintels of our mind and heart, an indication of our obedience to the second phase of the Covenant of God (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10).
The Second Covenant Symbols Introduced
Today, the unleavened bread and wine symbolising Christ must be observed on the afternoon of the 14th of Abib (Lev. 23:5; cf. Num. 9:11-14). The animal sacrifices have been fulfilled in Christ. What sanctifies us as members of a holy nation in the Second Covenant is no longer the consumption of a physical lamb.
There is a rational explanation as to why Christ introduced the symbols for the Passover, which the disciples had to partake of, yet this was at the beginning of the 14th of Abib rather than in the late afternoon (i.e. 3 p.m. onwards).
Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat.” 9 So they said to Him, “Where do You want us to prepare?” 10 And He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters. 11 Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 12 Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.” 13 So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover. 14 When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him. 15 Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you (Lk. 22:7-20; NKJV).
The night of Christ’s betrayal was not the evening in which the Lamb had already been sacrificed (Jn. 13:27-29). Only Christ himself was fully aware that he was the Passover Lamb of God that would be killed the following afternoon and thereby ratify the New Covenant in his blood. The disciples only knew that a Passover sacrifice (lamb) had to be offered and killed later in the afternoon of that same day, in accordance with the animal sacrificial ordinances of the First Covenant. They did not understand fully it would be their Lord and Master who would provide himself as the sacrificial offering, in fulfilment of scripture.
When the new symbols were introduced to them, it was a proclamation foreshadowing that Christ would be the Passover Lamb sacrificed that year at Passover. It was the moment that signified the impending fulfilment of the sacrificial law. Christ offering up himself brought an end to all the sacrificial ordinances which included a physical lamb as the Passover symbol. The new symbols he introduced became our participatory requirement at Passover. Starting with Christ’s disciples that evening, entrance into the New Covenant through the partaking of the new symbols of Passover began, and would continue progressively until everyone his Father called has been brought in (Jn. 6:44, 65; Rom. 2:4b). When Christ introduced the New Covenant symbols, all of the disciples were told to eat of it and drink of it then and there. Christ spoke of the symbols in the present tense which illustrated their relevance in that moment (re-read Lk. 22: 19-20).
In 30 CE, the twelve disciples found themselves in a unique position, where they were the actual witnesses of the true Passover Lamb fulfilling the symbolism of the physical lamb of the First Covenant. The introduction that evening by Christ to his disciples signified that they could partake of his body, symbolically, with him, before his actual death as the Lamb of God.
Our Lord gave the disciples (in the form of the symbols of the bread and wine) the means to validate their consumption of the Passover as part of the New Covenantal agreement beginning that year. By their actual partaking of the symbols that foreshadowed the impending death of Christ, they were the first to be initiated at that time into the Second Covenant (v19-20).
When Christ took that bread, he gave thanks to his God and Father and then explained to his disciples that the bread symbolised his body, ‘which is given for you’ (Lk. 22:19). Christ did likewise with the wine. Christ’s prayer and proclamation that the symbols represented his body and blood show that they were more than an informal or helpful guide. The act of Christ giving the bread and wine to his disciples showed the acceptability and authenticity of the new symbols beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Christ knew the disciples had to partake of the Passover according to the law. Following Christ’s death, a physical lamb was no longer a valid sacrificial offering at Passover. Therefore, Christ introduced the new symbols to his disciples personally the evening before, to ensure they fulfilled the requirement of the Second Covenant upon his death the following afternoon, at the appointed time of the Passover - since it was prophesied they would be scattered (Zech. 13:7; cf. Mt. 26:31).
The disciples, upon reflection, after the initial hurt and shock of witnessing the death of their beloved Lord, would have recalled the events of the previous night. It would be etched vividly into their memories and hearts forever. Having recalled being told to eat of the unleavened bread that represented his body and drink of the wine which represented the New Covenant in his blood, they would have realised they had partaken of the Passover Lamb which their Lord and Christ now fulfilled. They would have come to the realisation they were the first to experience the replacing of a physical lamb and the fulfilment of all the Passover symbols. They participated in more than a “walk-through” or “practice run” that night.
The full impact of Christ's words, 'do this in remembrance of me,' (Lk. 22:19) would have been apparent. We’re also able to get a better insight and understanding when Christ expressed, ‘with desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.’ It was the partaking of these symbols by Christ’s disciples that he desired to oversee personally, that validated his disciples’ entry into the New Covenant as foundational members of his spiritual body, the Church.
To explain the validity and authority of the New Covenant in Christ, the apostle Paul used the analogy of the will that required the death of the testator to take effect. The New Covenant was ratified upon Christ’s death,
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives. 18 Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you’ (Heb. 9:14-20; NASB).
Since Christ was not due to be sacrificed until the following afternoon, the partaking of the symbols of Christ by his disciples was done in faith, before the fact, as a foreshadowing of the Lord’s impending death. We are required to observe them at the end of the 14th of Abib in faithful acknowledgement and remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, after the fact, in recognition that Christ died between the evenings on the 14th of Abib as our Passover Lamb for the very same purpose.
The only difference now is that we receive confirmation of our adoption through Christ’s blood, from his death, memorialised yearly, on the afternoon of the 14th, “for also our Passover, Christ, was sacrificed” (1Cor. 5:7b). In the year the disciples actually witnessed their Messiah’s death, there would be no need for them to commemorate his death, for they were witness to it. In other words, you can’t pay remembrance to something that you are witnessing in the moment, as it is unfolding right before your very eyes.
The introduction of the symbols also could not have been done in any previous year. The disciples partook of a physical Passover lamb with their Lord in both 28 and 29 CE. The actual timing of Christ’s death, which would fulfil the Passover sacrificial ordinance, was still anticipated. It would have been idolatrous of Christ to introduce the symbols on any year other than the one he was earmarked to lay down his life. It was only in his final year that Christ could have given the symbols. The partaking of the symbols by his disciples signified that it was this actual Passover in which Christ would lay down his life. It signified Messiah was going to be the Passover Lamb and salvation could only be accomplished through him.
Paul’s Writings – Does He Contradict the Law of God?
Now when we read what the Apostle Paul said to the Corinthians with a better understanding of the meaning and timing of the Passover symbols, we see that Paul was only giving a historical account of when the new symbols were introduced. This letter in no way suggests the symbols were to be observed at the beginning of the 14th,
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you. 20 Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. 27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly (1Cor. 11:17-29; NASB; emphasis added).
When Christ introduced the symbols he wasn’t establishing a new commandment or changing the existing time for the Passover (Ex. 12:5-6; Lev. 23:5; Num. 9:3, 11; 2Chron. 35:1). The Law has already been written. Paul’s account in 1Corinthians 11:17-29 also isn’t creating a new commandment with regard to the timing. Again, the Law has already been established. The Passover still has to be observed at the end of the 14th of Abib according to the Law in God’s everlasting Covenant. If Paul advocated a new earlier observance in honour of Christ using the New Covenant symbols at the beginning of the 14th of Abib, he would have been deemed a false apostle and false prophet (Isa. 8:20).
When Paul referred to coming together as a Church (i.e. an assembly) into one place (verse 18), what he was talking about is the commanded assembly required by Law, the night of Ingathering, which occurs on the evening of the 14th/15th to partake of the Passover symbols and later, the night of watching. What must be observed i.e. the foot-washing, and the consumption of unleavened bread and wine for Passover here Paul expressed them as the ‘Lord’s Supper’ (1Cor. 11:20).
What the Apostle Paul stated here is a historical account. He also reiterated the solemnity of the occasion and its significance. Paul was addressing our spiritual duty and diligence when we come together as an assembly to honour God and partake of Christ, our Passover. Christ’s sacrifice was the perfect example of humility and self-sacrifice. This should always be in our mind. Proof that we are consuming Christ and putting on the new man (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:9-11) should be evident in our behaviour and relationship with God and our neighbour. If we fail to recognise the basic principle of putting others before ourselves and that no one is beneath us, then the symbols of the Passover sacrifice of Christ are clearly lost on us. This is what is underlying Paul’s harsh rebuke.
Paul also verifies that the night in which the new symbols were introduced was not the night of the Passover (Jn. 13:1; 18:28). It was the night in which Christ was betrayed (v. 23). Paul here is clarifying the significance of the bread and wine as the new symbols necessary to fulfil the observance of the Passover on the afternoon of the 14th. Paul is clear that the cup of blessing that we bless is a participation in the blood of Christ, and the bread we break is a participation in the body of Christ.
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (15) I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. (16) The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1Cor. 10:14-16; ESV; Emphasis added).
Again, when we find people or groups trying to change the Law of God, they often rely heavily on an interpretation of Paul’s writing to do so. The Apostle Peter referred to it as twisting Paul’s epistles to their own destruction (2Pet. 3:14-18). Paul was not advocating a change to the law, merely the correct observance in light of the new Passover symbols Christ told Paul personally.
Discerning the Body
In relation to the bread and wine symbolising Christ, we have to make sure we know the when and why otherwise we bring judgement upon ourselves,
Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly (1Cor. 11:27-29; NASB, emphasis added).
Paul here is addressing each individual’s responsibility related to self-examination before partaking of the bread and drinking the cup. We must recognize the validity and necessity of taking these symbols, which is not a choice, but a condition of the faith, and making sure that we, to the best of our ability, are spiritually prepared to do so. Paul is not saying that we must identify what we believe to be the true Body of Christ before we can partake of the Passover. We are each to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-13). God’s spirit is the means by which His law is placed in us and written on our hearts (Jer. 31:31-33), and if we are willing, the Father’s spirit is able to guide each of us to salvation through and in Christ.
If some of us have not been observing the Passover symbols correctly, then we must repent and turn from our error and seek God diligently. For those who come to understand the timing of the Lord’s Passover suddenly or shortly after Passover, they are directed to keep it towards the end of the 14th of the second month in accordance with the Law/Word of God (Num. 9:11).
The failure to recognise this error (or the reluctance to correct it once it has been understood) may well be one of the major reasons why so few of this generation enter the first resurrection (1Cor. 15:23; Rev. 2 & 3; 20:5-6). It is illustrated in the parable Christ gave known as the ‘narrow door’ (Lk. 13: 22-27; Matt. 7:13-14).
No matter which camp one belongs to, most churches, by default, are not partaking of the Passover symbols of Christ (i.e. bread, wine and foot-washing) on the late afternoon of the 14th as the Law of God prescribes. Each of us has the same decision to make. There are no soft options. Every one of us has to make the personal decision to correct and uphold the Covenant of God and acknowledge and accept Christ as our Passover by the means of the new symbols he introduced first to his disciples and later reiterated to the Apostle Paul. No one is excluded or absolved. We will all be tested as to whom we really place our allegiance and loyalty to - either man or Almighty God.
For a better understanding as to the correct timing and observance of the Passover according to God's true biblical calendar, please read, 'God's Biblical Calendar - How To Determine His Months (Local or Jerusalem Conjunctions)'.
(Author’s Note: I would like to give a special thanks to Mr H Derksen, among others,
for their generous assistance, invaluable insight, as well as personal sacrifice,
without which this document would not have been possible).
Copyright: ã Peter Donis www.thecovenantofgod.com
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