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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Passover and Night to Be Much Observed

If you look at a calendar you buy in a store or look up "Passover" on the Internet, you may find that the Jews start Passover on the evening of Monday, April 10, and that they keep Passover Day on Tuesday, April 11 this year. Yet the Church of God observes Passover one day earlier than the Jews, starting the evening of Sunday, April 9 (last night) with Passover day being today, Monday, April 10, 2017. Then, tonight we observe the Night to Be Much Observed and tomorrow, Tuesday, we observe the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

We observe Passover on the 14th day of the first month as God commands (Exodus 12:5-13, Leviticus 23:5). We also observe the Night to Be Much Observed and the First Day of Unleavened Bread on the 15th day of the month (Exodus 12:41-42, Leviticus 23:6-7).

The Passover and the Night to Be Much Observed are kept on two separate nights and represent two different things.

But the Jews don't know that.

It is my understanding that the Jews in Jesus's day also observed what they called "Passover" on the 15th day of the month, as Jews today do.

For the Jews, Passover represents being set free from Egyptian bondage. But they observe no day that represents the sacrifice of Christ and forgiveness of sins.

I do not know the line of reasoning the Jews use to not observe Passover on the 14th day but to observe only the 15th day and call it "Passover".

But it is fitting that they do not observe Passover on the 14th, because observing Passover on the 14th represents the sacrifice of Christ, and they do not accept Christ as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for their sins.

In regard to Old Testament events, Passover represents God sparing - passing over - the houses of the Israelites so that their firstborn did not die as the firstborn of the Egyptians died that night around midnight. This happened during the night portion of the 14th day. The night to be observed represents Israel coming out of Egypt during the next night, the night portion of the 15th day.

There is no way that the eating of the lamb, the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians around midnight, and the leaving of Egypt by the Israelites in orderly ranks could have occurred in one night.

In terms of spiritual meaning for the Church of God, Passover represents the sacrifice of Christ and the forgiveness of sins made possible by that sacrifice. The Night to Be Observed and the Days of Unleavened Bread represent our coming out of spiritual Egypt - coming out of sin.

Last night we remembered the sacrifice of Christ and how that sacrifice enables us to be forgiven our sins because Christ suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins.

Tonight we observe the Night to Be Much Observed, and that starts the seven day observance of the Days of Unleavened Bread.

God has not provided instructions on exactly how to observe this night. Mr. Armstrong made a judgment that we should keep it by having a special meal with other Church members, and so we do.

Some scattered members may have to observe this night alone, just as some may have to observe Passover alone at home. But even one person alone, if he is not able to keep it with others, can observe it by having a special meal to mark the occasion.

This is a time for appreciating God's calling, for reviewing how we were called into the truth, and for meditating on our need for repentance and putting sin out of our lives.

Passover represents what Christ did for us so we can be saved. It is a powerful lesson of love. We need to appreciate and accept Christ's sacrifice on our behalf, and we need to recognize that without that sacrifice we could not be saved. Our own efforts are not sufficient.

But we have our part to do, and that is represented by the seven days of unleavened bread. We are to repent of our sins and sinful nature and put sin out of our lives. To help teach this lesson, God has given us the symbol of leavening and leavened bread to represent sin and the symbol of unleavened bread to represent the righteousness of Christ, which we are to practice.

Jesus Christ set a perfect example for us to follow, as recorded in God's word, the Bible, and we are to follow His example. Christ also lives His life in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

During the Night to Be Much Observed, let us rejoice in our calling, and during all the days of unleavened bread let us recommit ourselves to being diligent to put sin our of our lives.

Here are links to other posts on this topic:

"Passover and the Example of Christ", dated April 20, 2016, link:

"Tonight Is the Night to Be Much Observed", dated April 22, 2016, link:

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

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Preparation for Passover - Believing in God's Love

As we approach Passover, we examine ourselves and we meditate on the sacrifice of Christ.

We do this to observe Passover in a worthy manner.

"Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Notice, we are to examine ourselves and we are to judge ourselves so Christ does not have to judge us and give us corrective punishment for our sins. We are to look at our faults and set our minds to repent and overcome them. But even if we fail to do this and God punishes us, it is for our ultimate good so that we are not condemned with the world.

One way we examine ourselves is by reviewing those parts of the Bible that will show us our faults. Examples include the ten commandments and the sermon on the mount, but there are many more.

And also, we should review the scriptures about Christ's sacrifice, both the prophecies in the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:1-12, and the actual fulfillment of those prophecies in the New Testament, such as all the passages concerning the sacrifice of Christ in the gospel accounts. It is especially good to review Christ's words in John chapters 13 through 17.

There is one point of self-examination that directly relates to the sacrifice of Christ.

Many of us - when we go through trials, when our prayers are not answered for a long time, when we struggle against sinful habits and cry out to God for help to overcome, yet may feel we can't overcome even after praying for help - may be tempted to doubt God's love for us. We may not doubt God's love for the world and for the Church, yet we may have doubts about God's love for us personally.

Some may think, "Yes, Christ was sacrificed for the world and for the Church, but that doesn't necessarily apply to me personally".

And yet, the Bible is full of instruction to show us that God loves all mankind, including each one of us individually, and wants as many as possible to make it into His kingdom.

Christ knows and understands our problems. He knows what it is like to have His prayer unanswered (or the answer is, no) (Matthew 26:39-42). He knows what it is like to feel abandoned by God (Matthew 27:46).

Yet God tells us, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).

For those who struggle against sin, seemingly unable to overcome, God gives us encouragement through the apostle Paul who also struggled with sin (Romans 7:14-25).

But though God gives us many scriptures and passages of encouragement, to show us that He loves each one of us, and many promises to help us, the requirement of faith still applies. We must believe God's promises. We must believe that God loves us.

And that is where self-examination and reviewing the sacrifice of Christ overlap. That sacrifice, above all, demonstrates God's love for us. But if we doubt that love we are failing to believe God and sinning by doubting His promises to love us and save us. And if we have fallen into that sin, we need to repent and begin to believe and trust God that He loves us and will go all out to save us, EVERY ONE OF US. And we discover that sin through self-examination.

Is God's love for us unconditional?

Yes, there is an aspect of God's love that is unconditional. God is not willing that any be lost, but only those who reject God's salvation will be lost. That shows the unconditional aspect of God's love. God will try, right to the end, to save all of us. If we are lost in the end, it will not be due to God not trying, not going all out, to save each and every one of us.

"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

" 'For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord God. 'Therefore turn and live!' " (Ezekiel 18:32).

"Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?' " (Ezekiel 33:11).

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:8-10).

There are many more such scriptures, and those who read the Bible regularly, all of it, will find them.

Is all of God's love unconditional? Well, there seems to be an aspect of God's love that is conditional. Notice this passage. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him...If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (John 14:21-23).

Here, a special love from God the Father and Jesus Christ is promised towards those who love Christ and demonstrate that love by keeping His commandments. That is a condition. "If anyone loves Me...My Father will love Him."

But the love God has for all mankind and everyone in the Church of God, to go all out to save them, is truly unconditional. It is God's desire that everyone eventually fulfill the condition described in John 14:21-23 so they can be fully loved by God, and God will work with us to bring us to that point.

When God calls us, He brings us to Christ. It is then Christ's job, and the Father's job, to save us. And Christ glorifies the Father by working to the end to save each and every one of us, no exceptions. Concerning His disciples, Jesus said to the Father, "While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled" (John 17:12).

"Jesus answered, 'I have told you that I am He. Therefore, if you seek Me, let these go their way,' that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, 'Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none' " (John 18:8-9).

God has given Christ a certain number of people on this earth to save in this age, those who are called. Your name, and mine, are on that list. God the Father tells Jesus Christ, "Here they are, those who are called - save them." Do you think Jesus Christ will not go all out to save every single one who is called, every person, you and me included, that is on that list? Of course He will. He wants to please the Father. Every single person who is saved glorifies the Father and Christ. It is not just Christ's love for you and me that motivates Him to save us, but also His love for the Father. You can bet your life He'll go all out for every one of us.

There is no greater witness to the love the Father has for all of us than the sacrifice of Christ. The Father will not cheapen that sacrifice by not applying it to every human being who is willing to repent, and God helps us even to repent. And Jesus Christ will not disrespect the Father by failing to go all out to save every single one of us.

God will work with us to help us repent and develop His righteous character. Our human nature wants to resist, and if we are weak it can take a long time, and we may go through a lot of unnecessary suffering and have a smaller reward in God's kingdom. And if we continue to resist, we can lose out, not because of God giving up on us, but because by our choices we refuse God's salvation. But if we do our part, God will save us. He may have to put us through severe and prolonged trials to teach us lessons, but as long as we do not give up on God and as long as we keep doing our part to strive to overcome, God will not give up on us.

"This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day" (John 6:39).

There is an abundance of proof in the Bible that God loves each one of us, every individual, and will go all out to help us "make it", as we say.

But we are being tested, not only in our obedience, but in our faith to believe God's promises and to believe His word that He loves us and will work to save us.

We have to trust God and believe in His promises.

Faith, believing God's word, is one of the weightier matters of the law (Matthew 23:23). In other words, believing and trusting God is part of God's law and way of life. If we refuse or resist believing and trusting God, we sin, for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). We need to repent of that sin.

So in our self-examination, we need to examine ourselves by the Bible and judge ourselves if we have been doubting God's love for us. And if we have doubted God's word, we need to repent and believe in God's love, not just His love for others or the world or the Church in general, but for each one of us individually. And that belief in God's love should be a prod for us to give God thanks and to go all out to overcome our sins and live by every word of God.

And whenever we examine ourselves, which we do with special emphasis before Passover (but we should also do to a degree all during the year), we should do so by the Bible, letting the Bible correct us.

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Here are links to other posts in this blog on the subjects of Passover, self-examination, physical and spiritual healing, the sacrifice of Christ, God's love for us, and other related subjects:

"What the Sacrifice of Christ Teaches Us", dated April 1, 2012, link:

"Physical and Spiritual Healing", dated April 2, 2012, link:

"God Expresses His Love Towards Us by the Secrets He Reveals to Us", dated September 28, 2012, link:

"Why Did Christ Have to Suffer and Die?", dated March 21, 2013, link:

"Passover Symbols: What Part of the Sacrifice of Christ Makes Possible the Healing of Our Character? / Should You Partake of the Passover?", dated March 23, 2013, link:

"We Should Judge Our Own Decisions, Not the Guilt of Others", dated August 10, 2013, link:

"Passover", dated April 11, 2014, link:

"Observance and Meaning of Passover", dated April 1, 2015, link:

"Unbelief Is Sin, and We Must Put It Out of Our Lives", dated April 8, 2015, link:

"God's Love for Us", dated July 17, 2015, link:

"Christ's Love for the Church", dated July 27, 2015, link:

"Have Faith in God's Love", dated August 20, 2015, link:

"Easter and Passover - Differences in Motivation", dated April 1, 2016, link:

"Self-Examination, and the Three Weightier Matters of the Law", dated April 18, 2016, link:

"Passover and the Example of Christ", dated April 20, 2016, link:

"Preparation for Passover, and Satan's Big Lie to the Church of God", dated March 22, 2017, link:

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

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2