Friday, April 14, 2017

The Jews Do Not Keep Passover

There may be a tendency among a few Church of God brethren to feel a sense of doctrinal kinship with Jews more than with Catholics and Protestants because of certain shared doctrines we have with the Jews, such as avoiding unclean meat and observing the annual holy days.

Yet, beyond the obvious error of the Jews in not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, we need to be aware that we do not have more in common with the Jews in matters of religious doctrine than with traditional Christianity. For just as traditional churches follow their traditions more than the Bible, so do the Jews.

This was true in the days of Jesus, and it was one of the sources of conflict between Him and the Pharisees. The Jews, led by the Pharisees, were keeping their own religious traditions apart from the word of God just like many traditional churches today.

This is made apparent by several New Testament accounts. Examples of where the Jews went astray in their traditions include making the Sabbath into a burden by adding many unnecessary restrictions, letting people not honor their fathers and their mothers by dedicating money to the temple that should have supported their parents, and making rules regarding the washing of hands before eating. Those examples were probably just the tip of the iceberg of wrong traditions, beliefs, and practices, but they illustrate the problem.

"Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 'Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.' He answered and said to them, 'Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death." But you say, "Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God' — then he need not honor his father or mother." Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" ' " (Matthew 15:1-9).

From the time of Moses till the time of Christ, the Jews corrupted their doctrinal traditions. And the corruption of their traditions continues to this time.

Take snapshots of Israel and the Jews in time: the time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Jesus Christ, and today. God gave instructions to Moses, and Moses faithfully recorded what God told him in the first five books of the Bible. During the rule of Moses and Joshua, Israel was correct in its doctrines and traditions.

By the time of Christ, the Pharisees and Jewish leaders had turned away from the teachings of Moses in many respects. They rejected the Bible and substituted their own man-made rules and traditions. And this is also true for the Jews of today.

That is why the Jews keep what they call "Passover" one day later than the Church of God. The Church of God keeps the true Passover on the correct night, the night portion of the 14th day of the first month, because we follow the Bible, and we understand the correct meaning. The Jews do not keep Passover on the correct night, nor do they understand the meaning.

In fact, the Jews do not keep Passover at all, though they call their dinner on the evening portion of the 15th day, "Passover". But it is not Passover.

Two significant events happened to Israel at the time of Moses when they were in Egypt. Those two events occurred on separate, consecutive nights.

These two events are commemorated by two observances that God commands, again on two separate nights, one after the other.

Each of those observances represents one of the two events that occurred in the time of Moses. Two events - two commanded observances.

Each of the two observances therefore represents one and only one of the two events.

In addition, each of the two observances represents something important in New Testament Christianity.

The event on the 14th day is the passing over the houses of the Israelites with the blood on the doorposts by God when He killed the firstborn of Egypt, thus sparing the firstborn of Israel. This is the true Passover. For New Testament Christians, this represents the sacrifice of Christ to pay the penalty of our sins, thus making forgiveness of sins possible. God commands that this be observed every year. We observe it, the Jews do not.

The event on the 15th day is Israel beginning their journey out of Egypt. God also commands a yearly observance to remember this event. This is called the Night to Be Much Observed, and it is the beginning of the seven days of unleavened bread. The Church of God observes this event with the added understanding that it represents coming out of sin, since Egypt represents sin. This is the day the Jews observe with the Old Testament understanding that it represents coming out of Egypt, but without the New Testament understanding that it represents coming out of sin. But they call it "Passover".

Ask a Jew what Passover represents, and he may likely tell you, "coming out of Egypt".

Of course, the Jews know about the slaying of the lamb, the death of the Egyptians' firstborn, and God sparing the families of Israel with the lamb's blood on the doorposts. But in their minds, the important thing is coming out of Egyptian slavery, and the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians is just one more plague to motivate Pharaoh to let Israel go.

It may be that this error contributed to the Jews' rejection of Jesus as the Christ. For if they kept the true Passover on the correct night, it would have been easier for them to come to a correct understanding of the role of Christ as a sacrifice. There are Old Testament scriptures that describe one as bearing the sins of the nation, and the Jews would have had a better chance of putting those scriptures together with Passover to gain an understanding.

But somewhere along the line, between the time of Moses and the time of Christ, the Jews stopped following the Bible and started trusting in their own understanding. They may have had reasons that seemed logical to them. But they went off track and have never returned to a correct observance and understanding.

That is why the Jews keep what they call "Passover" one day later than the Church of God. They have stopped keeping Passover. They keep the Night to Be Much Observed only, and they call it "Passover".

There is a lesson for us that we must remain diligent to believe and follow what God tells us in the Bible, which the Jews failed to do.

The Jews acknowledge the slaying of the lamb and the death of the firstborn of Egypt. But in their observance, they try to combine that with the leaving of Egypt, as if it happened in one night, as some of them may believe.

But anyone with common sense who reads the Old Testament account can know that it is totally impossible for the lamb to be slain, its blood splattered on the doorposts, the firstborn of the Egyptians to be slain at midnight, the Israelites to remain in their homes till morning, the Israelites to assemble and organize in orderly ranks, and to walk out of Egypt all in one night.

In trying to combine these observances, Jews tend to lose sight of the meaning and importance of Passover. Instead, they concentrate on the meaning of leaving Egypt.

But this confuses the issue for traditional Christians of this world who look at the observance of the Jews and think the Jews are celebrating Passover. For while the Jews lose focus on the true Passover, traditional Christians of this world lose focus on coming out of Egypt.

For as Jews do not understand the sacrifice of Christ, likewise many traditional Christians do not understand the need to come out of sin.

Yet both are necessary. We need the sacrifice of Christ, represented by Passover on the 14th day, and we also need to do our part to repent and put sin out of our lives, represented by the Night to Be Much Observed and all seven of the days of unleavened bread.

In overcoming sin, we need to rely and trust in God's help, but we also have to do our part to strive with all our strength to get rid of sin.

The fact that the Jews combine Passover and the Night to Be Much Observed into one night helps to confuse the issue for traditional Christian churches. For if these were kept separate, it might be easier for some traditional Christians to understand the separate meaning of unleavened bread.

And if they understood that, they would know of three Old Testament festivals with New Testament meaning: Passover, the days of unleavened bread, and Pentecost. And some then might ask, "If the first three Old Testament festivals have meaning for Christians, maybe the other four also have meaning". And if they ever understood the meaning of all seven festivals, some of them might ask, "Why don't we keep them?"

Satan has deceived the world, including Jews and members of traditional churches, and only by God's calling and help can anyone escape that deception and learn the truth of God and respond to it. Mixing Passover and unleavened bread in the traditions of the Jews is one way Satan accomplishes his deception.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

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