The Passover Conundrum

 

Keep the Passover Right – or Perish!

 

                        Why can’t grown people, even ministers, get it right, and

                        see the light?  Why does it seem so hard for grown men to

                        study this issue and see the plain truth?  When you know

                        the truth, what are you going to DO about it?

 

William F. Dankenbring

 

I received a letter from a person who is in a quandary about the Passover.  He has proved to himself very carefully when the Passover should be observed, but he has a serious problem.  His Church fails to see it that way, and apparently refuses to change from its traditional practice.  They won’t even give him a fair hearing on the matter.  And to top that off, he is an elder in the Church!

 

I have edited his words a little, but he wrote as follows:  

 

“I appreciate the work you’ve done in helping me to understand

the Passover questions.  I have read all your articles. Because

of this I have challenged the powers to be at [name of church]

to explain the 6tth hour and other aspects of the Passover.  I was

going to get together with our regional director and [a minister]

to discuss the issue.

 

“I am an elder with [the church] but I am very disturbed with

the approach they are taking.  I would like your thoughts and

comments.”

 

            In reviewing his correspondence with his church leadership, I saw clearly that he had a right to feel “very disturbed.”  The were obviously not going to give him the time of day regarding the Passover questions he had.  They were stone-walling him. 

 

I analyzed the copies of correspondence he sent to me.  It was indeed disturbing.  After reading it, I reached the following conclusions about the leadership of his church – one of the off-shoots of the apostate Worldwide Church of God:

 

1)      they are in denial;

2)      they don’t want to change as that would entail much risk, soul searching, and probably loss of many members (i.e. it would be very destructive to the church, humanly speaking);

3)      they don’t want to upset the apple cart and lose members (tithes etc.);

4)      they lack a sincere humility and fear of God (Isa.66:2-3);

5)      they also lack FAITH in God to bless them;

6)      they are unaware that God is using this issue as a “litmus test” as to who is really serving Him and doing His will and following Christ, and those who only go “part way,” and then “part ways.” 

 

I then told the gentleman who wrote to me, 

 

“7)  This has also become a serious test for you in that you have proved this truth and are now fully accountable for it and any decision you make; God and Christ are your judge, and not any man (Acts 5:29; Col.2:16).  As Paul wrote, ‘So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God’ (Rom.14:12).”

 

            Perhaps YOU are facing this same spiritual TEST in your own life, at this very moment!  A lot is at stake.  Some may say, “What difference does it make?” but God demands perfection and truth (Matt.5:48; John 4:24).  Unless we are striving to become perfect, and worship God ‘in spirit and in  truth,” our worship is VAIN! 

 

            Jesus Himself said, to the Pharisees of His day – and it applies to modern day ministers who behave similarly to the ancient Pharisees – “You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.”  He went on, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!” (Mark 7:8-9, NRSV).  Jesus said, “in VAIN do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines” (verse 7).

 

            Let’s investigate, for a moment, the history of this controversy and debate.

 

The History of the Passover Imbroglio

 

I was a member of the Worldwide Church of God and studied under Herbert W. Armstrong and attended Ambassador College with many of the current ministers of many of the churches which have sprung out of the Worldwide debacle.  Men like Roy Holladay of United, Dick Ames of Living Church, Ron Dart of Christian Educational Ministries, Dave Albert of Worldwide, Gerald Flurry of Philadelphia, Fred Coulter, Richard Pinelli, and others.  I went to Ambassador with them, as a fellow student.  I was in the graduating class of ’63, along with Dave Albert, Roy Holladay,  Dennis Luker, and many others. 

 

Of course we all know that the current beliefs and teachings about Passover of these men originally came from Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God.   But does that fact by itself necessarily make them right? Could Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God have been wrong?

 

Let’s take a good look at this question.  Since those ancient days, the church has been uprooted, people have scattered, and what remains of the “truth” has been trampled in the mud and mire, torn apart by conflicting groups, and much disarray has resulted.  Worldwide itself has rejected the annual holy days, but still observes “Communion,” as they call it, on the evening beginning Nisan 14, according to the Jewish calendar.  How long they will continue doing this, who knows?  

 

Most all of the Churches that came out of Worldwide, including The United Church of God, and the Living Church of God, continue to observe Passover at the same time, but claim it is actually the same as the Old Testament “Passover.”  For a few years, after its formation, United was divided on this issue, insofar as the time of the original Old Testament Passover is concerned.   Some in their ministry acknowledged that the Israelites in Egypt observed it at the end of the 14th, beginning of the 15th of Nisan, as the Jews, today, observe it.  Time has not been lost.  But more recently, the United Church has abandoned that view and officially teaches that the original Passover in Egypt was held on the beginning of Nisan 14.  This corresponds with the teaching of the Living Church of God.  The Church of God, International, and Intercontinental Church of God, differ on this point.  They claim the Old Testament Passover was at the end of Nisan 14 but was changed by Christ in the New Testament.

 

What is the truth?  Whatever it is, it is rapidly becoming something very controversial and disagreement rages.  We all have choices to make.  We all have to “count the cost.”  We all ought to have our minds focused on the “final reward” and final “judgment” and how we will ultimately answer to Christ.  Truth is truth.  What else counts?  Once we prove it, we should cherish it, love it, and be willing to even give our lives for it!  The truth IS and REPRESENTS Christ Himself, who said, “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life” (John 14:6). 

 

In the correspondence sent to this elder who is disturbed by his church’s position and approach regarding Passover, the church official declared:  “We have reviewed all the material of Dankenbring [and others] and we simply cannot agree.” 

 

What does “reviewed” mean?   What points do they “disagree” on?  He does not give any details or proof on the subject.  He just states that they “disagree.”  Why don’t they spell it out, and then show their evidence for believing as they do? 

 

The fact is, I have never seen any public “review” or “refutation” offered to people!   They seem to ignore me, like a bad cold that won’t go away.  I have exposed the “United” Church’s so-called “Passover Study Papers” over a year ago.  They certainly have NOT ANSWERED any of the points brought up!  Nor has the Living Church, or any other.  I have seen no answers -- only head-in-the-sand foolish ARGUMENTS.  Yet the official says, “We simply cannot agree.”

 

But God thunders, “Set forth your case, says the LORD; bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.  Let them bring them, and tell  us . . . so that we may consider them, and that we may know their outcome” (Isaiah 41:21-22).  God says of puerile arguments of those who oppose His truth, “You, indeed are nothing and your work is nothing at all; whoever chooses you is an abomination” (verse 24).

 

Where is their case?  Where are their “proofs”?  The official says they have “reviewed” the material I have written, “and simply cannot agree.”  Then why don’t they DISPROVE my statements?  Why don’t they REFUTE my arguments and conclusions?

 

As God also says, “Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD. . . . If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it” (Isaiah 1:18-20). 

 

It is time to honestly FACE these issues, and not continue to ignore them and sweep them under the rug!

 

At present, these men appear to be “blind” to the truth about Passover.  They won’t perform a thorough, real investigation of the facts.   Yet, like the Pharisees, they claim to have the “truth.”  Jesus said of such, “If you were blind, you would not have sin.  But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin  remains” (John 9:41).

 

Spiritual “blindness” I think is akin to spiritual insanity.  These men are simply rejecting the truth without any proof or basis for doing so.   Their comments are based on sheer emotion.   They don’t want to get into the nitty gritty.  They want to avoid anything that would compel them to CHANGE!  The apostle Paul wrote of such thinking, saying, “The carnal attitude sees no further than natural things.  But the spiritual attitude reaches out after the things of the spirit.  The former attitude means, bluntly, death; the latter means life and inward peace.  And this is only to be expected, for the carnal attitude is inevitably opposed to the purpose of God, and neither can nor will follow his LAWS for living.  Men who hold this attitude cannot possibly please God” (Rom.8:5-8, Phillips translation).  Human nature, we know, is hostile and enmity toward God and His law (Rom.8:7, KJV). 

 

The Amplified Bible has verse 7, “The mind of the flesh – with its carnal thoughts and purposes – is hostile to God; for it does not submit itself to God’s Law, indeed it cannot.”  Could this be why these men refuse to face the evidence that demands a change in their conduct and observance and teaching?  They don’t want to change.  They don’t want to admit they have been wrong all these years.  It is “inconvenient.”  They don’t want to face the humiliation and the consequences.  The carnal mind doesn’t like to have to eat ‘humble pie.” 

 

Why, the shame of it all! 

 

But when the Messiah comes, they will truly feel “shame” – and self loathing and humiliation. 

 

Putting Words in Herbert Armstrong’s Mouth

 

The official said: “As Mr. Armstrong always said there isn’t one single scripture that ever refers to any part of Passover being on the 15th.” 

 

That is a very disingenuous statement.  “Disingenuous” means “lacking in candor; giving a false appearance of simple frankness; calculating.”

 

I was at headquarters of the Worldwide Church of God from 1959 to 1987 -- 28 years.  I never ever heard Mr. Armstrong EVER say any such thing.  The subject never came up.  In those days, the issue never came up for discussion.  Everybody simply believed as Mr. Armstrong taught – that the Passover was at the beginning of Nisan 14. 

 

Let’s take a moment and review the history of this question as it pertains to Herbert Armstrong.  For years, from the ‘30s, till the late 70’s, he taught that the original Passover was held in Egypt under Moses on the beginning part of the evening of Nisan 14.  He believed the Jewish observance is a day late, that somehow they lost track of time on this observance, although he claimed they never lost track of the true seventh-day Sabbath. 

 

Then, in the mid to late 1970s, Dr. Robert Kuhn, Dr. Lester Grabbe, and others, came out with a new study for the doctrinal research team, showing that the original Passover in Egypt was held at the end of Nisan 14, and the Passover meal was eaten on the 15th of Nisan.  This “new truth” was quietly accepted by the Church, under Herbert W. Armstrong, with hardly a whimper or ripple.  Why?  Because it was reasoned that Jesus Christ changed the date in the New Testament, moving the observance from the beginning of the 15th to the beginning of the 14th.  So the Church and ministry pretty much went along with the new evidence and historical documentation.  This new understanding did not appear to change the way or time the church observed Passover.

 

However, in 1978, Garner Ted Armstrong broke off from his father’s church and began the Church of God, International, over governmental issues.  His new church accepted the changes initiated and discovered by Kuhn, Grabbe, and other “intellectuals” in the Church, and so did Worldwide at that time.  For a brief moment, a few years, the church DID teach the new discovered facts.  But whether the rank and file ministry, or even Herbert himself, really accepted it, we will probably never know, as much confusion, controversy, and debate shook the church in those days, with Ted and others branching off, on their own.  As a result, the Passover issue was silently squelched and shoved onto the back burner.  Perhaps in the minds of many it was never really settled.  Others simply did not want to change Herbert Armstrong’s original teaching that the Jews were a day off in their reckoning. 

 

Candidly, I believe, the truth at that time was simply too big a chunk to swallow without painfulness, and got stuck in the church’s throat.  There was so much confusion and conflict in those days that after Herbert Amrstrong died in 1986, many other issues took precedence.  Eventually the church reverted back to being split on the issue (or never fully assimilated the “new truth”).  When Herbert died, Joseph Tkach further muddied the waters, allowing a Dr. Stavrinides to begin teaching that the Biblical day ended at nightfall not sunset, and therefore indeed, the Passover by his reckoning WAS on the 14th (after sunset but before nightfall and the beginning of the 15th).  So he reconciled the 14th Passover with the Jewish observance by changing the time the day ended.   This only added another element to the overall confusion.

 

Not long afterward, Fred Coulter, a former minister of Worldwide, took it upon himself to write a book entitled The Christian Passover.   In his book on the Passover, he rejects the new historical and Biblical evidence that the original Passover was celebrated at the end of Nisan 14,  and accuses the Jews of being in great error, and blasts Dr. Robert Kuhn, Lester Grabbe and others of being unduly influenced by “Judaism.”  He tried to prove that the original Passover was celebrated at the beginning of Nisan 14, as Herbert Armstrong originally taught.  But his book is shot full of errors, what some would even call “blasphemy,” in that He says that the scribe Ezra tampered with the law of Moses and rewrote and changed significant portions of Deuteronomy 16, concerning the Passover!   For an analysis of this book and its errors, write for our articles, “The Great Quail Question,” and “The Christian Passover – Fact or Fallacy?”

 

A Sick and Enfeebled Church

 

The present confusion over Passover is symptomatic of a very sick church body.  The ministry is sick.  The membership is sick.   The whole situation frankly reminds me of Isaiah 1, where God says to Israel, “Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the LORD has spoken:  I reared children and brought them up, but they have REBELLED against me.  The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.  Ah, sinful nation, people laden with iniquity, offspring who do evil, children who deal corruptly, who have forsaken the LORD, who have despised the Holy One of Israel, who are utterly estranged!  Why do you seek further beatings?  Why do you continue to rebel?  The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.  From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they have not been drained, or bound up, or softened with oil” (Isaiah 1:2-6, NRSV).

 

Truly, in our day, today, the whole body is sick, from head to to, the whole heart faint, and no soundness remains.   Isaiah says, “If the LORD had not left us a few survivors [a “remnant”], we would have been like Sodom, and become like Gomorrah(verse 9).   Only a “remnant” remains faithful!  Only a few have “survived” the Passover wars! 

 

Mr. Armstrong’s Own Words

 

In his memo, the church official declares, “While there may be historical issues that we don’t have an answer for, the issue is STILL SETTLED for us.”    As I said previously, their minds are already made up.  They don’t want to be confused with any new evidence or facts!  So they hide their eyes, and they attack the messengers.  Why pretend to be open-minded, if you are not? 

 

Herbert Armstrong wrote years ago that the mark of a true Christian, and the true Church of God, was willingness to CHANGE when proved wrong!  And he didn’t mean you set the standard for proof so high that no one could attain it!

 

Herbert W. Armstrong declared, “We are all human.  We are all fallible.  I have been wrong.  I have made mistakes.  The same is true of all those God is using in HIS WORK.” 

 

He went on, “God says, ‘PROVE all things.’ That means you are fallible.  This means all the ‘great’ men are fallible!  ALL are human.   ALL can be wrong -- and  nearly all are. The whole world is DECEIVED (Rev.12:9). . . .

 

“The very recognition of that fact is the beginning of right knowledge.  We do recognize it -- that we ourselves could be wrong.  That is the first step toward coming out of the fog of error and deception, starting toward truth.”

 

Herbert Armstrong continued, “The second step, if you would know TRUTH, is to be able to admit being deceived or in error, and to reject it and accept truth new to me  -- when proved even though unpopular . . . To find and live the TRUTH requires a HUMBLED mind” (January 1985, Good News).

 

Herbert Armstrong wrote in a December 1976 Good News magazine, 

 

                  “Wouldn’t it be all right to compromise, ‘just a little,’ on some

                   unimportant minor point’?

 

       He answered his own question, saying:

 

                  “Nevertheless, if we begin to compromise with God’s TRUTH,

                   even in smallest, slightest manner, we have allowed Satan to

                   get a foot into the door of the Church, and soon he will push

                   open the door (he is stronger than we) AND TAKE OVER

                   THE WHOLE CHURCH.”

 

            How true!  So let’s analyze the church official’s memo again.  He declared, “While there may be historical issues that we don’t have an answer for, the issue is STILL SETTLED for us.”    How can it be really “settled” when new evidence keeps popping up all over the place? 

 

            One woman, who seems to have a similar attitude, told her husband, “I proved all this 30 or 40 years ago.  I don’t need to study it any more!” 

 

            Unfortunately, those people who only studied it 30 or 40 years ago are hopelessly out of date, and behind the times, and are stuck in the past.  There is much new evidence which they never even considered!  They didn’t really to their “homework” then, and they surely haven’t done it recently!

 

The official grudgingly says, “While there may be historical issues.”   Yes, history is important, but the real issues are not merely “historical” but BIBLICAL!  It is not only Jewish history, but the Biblical evidence itself which overwhelmingly shows the original Passover was held at the end of Nisan 14! 

 

This human minister and his companions in the ministry are confused and tangled up.  They remind me of when I used to go fishing a lot, as a young teenager.  We would drive to Curlew Lake, in eastern Washington, and go fishing for trout.  From time to time we would find a spot, and cast our lines into a area that seemed promising.  Once in a while – all too often, in fact – our lines would become snagged and snarled and caught on some underwater stump or branches.  Or the line in my reel would become tangled up like a rat’s nest.  We would have to break the line and lose our hook and bait, if we wanted to continue fishing. 

 

I wonder.  Those ministers remind me of that snarled fishing line.  God may just have to cut them off and get a new line! 

 

“Keep the Passover”

 

Mr. Official also said that there are “at least 4 statements in the NT that Christ kept the Passover or asked that plans be made for keeping the Passover.”  Now isn’t this disingenuous?  Indeed, HE certainly DID! 

 

Luke 2 says as a young boy He observed the Passover with his parents, at Jerusalem, “after the custom of the feast” -- together with all the Jews (Luke 2:42), KJV).  We read:  “Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year to the Passover feast.  And when he was twelve years [old], they went up AS WAS THEIR CUSTOM”   (Luke 2:41-43, Amplified Bible). 

 

            What was the Jewish custom regarding the observance of Passover during the time of Christ?  The ancient Jewish historian of the first century Josephus tells us in his Wars of the Jews.  He wrote, as a Pharisee, historian, and member of the Jewish priesthood:  So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover [Nisan 14], when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh hour . . . found the number of sacrifices was two hundred fifty six thousand five hundred” (Wars of the Jews, 6, 9, 3).   In Hebrew reckoning, from the ninth hour to the eleventh hour of the day was from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm as we reckon time.

 

            The ancient Jewish philosopher Philo, a contemporary of the apostle Peter, also wrote of the Jewish custom at Passover.  In The Works of Philo we read:  “And after the feast of the new moon comes the fourth festival, that of the Passover, which the Hebrews call pascha, on which [Nisan 14] the whole people offer sacrifice, beginning at NOON-DAY and continuing until evening” (p.582). 

 

            So that was the custom of the Jews which Joseph, Mary, and Jesus observed! 

 

            The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible declares concerning the Passover, “[Heb. pesah from pasah (to pass over, in sense of sparing) . . . ] The 1st of the 3 annual festivals at which all the men were required to appear at the sanctuary . . . known also as the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex.23:15; Deut.16:16).  It was instituted in Egypt to commemorate the culminating event in the redemption of the Israelites (Ex.12:1,14,42; 23:15; Deut.16:1,3).  THAT NIGHT WAS TO BE MUCH OBSERVED UNTO THE LORD, WHEN HE SMOTE ALL THE FIRSTBORN in the land of Egypt, but passed over the houses of the Israelites where the blood had been sprinkled. . . .The festival began on the 14th of Abib AT EVENING, THAT IS, IN THE BEGINNING OF THE 15TH DAY, with the sacrificial meal (Lev.23:5-6).  A lamb or kid was SLAIN BETWEEN THE EVENINGS, THAT IS, TOWARD SUNSET (Ex.12:6; Deut.16:6; cf. between the 9th and 11th hours” (article “Passover,” p.705).

 

Notice!  It was their “custom” to keep the Passover every year in Jerusalem, as it was for all other observant Jews of that time.  They kept the Passover by killing and roasting the Passover lamb during the afternoon of the 14th, and eating it that evening, when the roasting was done, after sunset, on the 15th.   

 

“Prepare the Passover”

 

We all agree that Jesus kept the Passover.  In the days before His crucifixion, He told the disciples to go and “prepare the Passover” (Matt.26:17; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:10-12).   So what?  Of course He did!  That statement does NOT by itself tell us WHEN the Passover would be -- only that they went out, as instructed, to “prepare.”  And they did so.  They went out, found a room and got it ready, and did whatever else was necessary, making sure that the room was clean, unleavened, and ready, and they obtained the necessary supplies for the up-coming Feast. 

 

Jesus kept the Passover all His life.  We know that.  The church official implies -- concludes -- that Jesus kept the Passover that last night with His disciples at the “Lord’s supper.”  But that is the $64,000,000 dollar question!  WAS that night’s supper really the Passover?  As I have shown over and over again, that night was BEFORE the end of the 14th, and beginning of the 15th, when the Passover was observed!  Nor did Jesus tell His disciples He was changing the date or time of the Passover observance! 

 

In fact, Alfred Ederstheim discusses this very question in his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.  He wrote, “Equally untenable is it, that Christ had held the Paschal supper a day in advance of that observed by all the rest of the Jewish world – a supposition not only inconsistent with the plain language of the Synoptists, but impossible, since the Paschal Lamb could not have been offered in the Temple, and, therefore, no Paschal Supper held, out of the regular time” (ii, 482). 

 

Edersheim makes the same point in his book The Temple:  Its Ministry and Services.  He relates:  “At the outset we may dismiss, as unworthy of serious discussion, the theory, either that our Lord had observed the Paschal Supper at another than the regular time for it, or that St. John meant to intimate that He had partaken of it on the 13th instead of the 14th of Nisan.  To such violent hypotheses, which are wholly uncalled for, there is this one conclusive answer, that, except on the evening of the 14th of Nisan, no Paschal lamb could have been offered in the Temple, and therefore no Paschal Supper celebrated in Jerusalem” (p.193).

 

This should be self-evident.  But some refuse to accept this plain and obvious fact.  Edersheim, on the other hand, goes to the opposite extreme and places the actual crucifixion on Nisan 15, the high holy day, also an unwarranted and violent hypothesis!  Neither extreme is necessary when we simply realize that the Last Supper was NOT and could not have been the same as the Passover!

 

The fact is, as our literature shows (see the articles, “Jesus’ Last Week,” “John 19:14 -- the Sixth Hour”), that particular supper was the NIGHT BEFORE the 14th of Nisan began – that is, it occurred or the night when the 13th of Nisan began.  It wasn’t even the beginning of the 14th of Nisan!   Therefore, those who observe what they call the Passover on the beginning of Nisan 14 have no authority or basis for doing so!  That night, in fact, was the night Jesus spent in the dungeon, after being condemned by Pontius Pilate and beaten by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:15-20).  The fact that Jesus spent a night in prison, after He was condemned, was prophesied by Isaiah, who declared, “He was taken from prison and from judgment” (Isaiah 53:8).

 

Therefore, since the “Lord’s Supper” occurred on Nisan 13, if people want to insist that the “Lord’s Supper” was the Passover, then they ought to observe it on Nisan 13, not Nisan 14!  But of course, that would blow their theory completely out of the water!

 

Reasoning in Circles

 

Mr. Officious says: “To declare that it [the “Lord’s Supper”] wasn’t the Passover contradicts Scripture.”  Now wait a minute.  Is that really true? 

 

Now that statement is interesting.  He says to claim the Lord’s Supper was not the Passover “contradicts Scripture.”  Oh?  Where?  I would like to know!  Where’s his proof?  He just makes a flat-out statement, AS IF it is true.  But it isn’t.  It is an error.  Just one man’s opinion.  Such a statement is nothing more than “reasoning in a circle.”  He assumes the Passover has to be the Lord’s Supper, so he says it must be, and that to believe otherwise “contradicts Scripture.”  End of discussion.  Pray tell, what Scripture does it contradict? 

 

In a similar way, evolutionists claim the fossil evidence proves evolution, then use evolutionary theory to date the fossil record in the rocks of the earth!  To claim the strata of the earth are dated by the fossil evidence, and then to use toe fossils to date the strata, is nothing but foolish reasoning in a circle.   It proves nothing, and gets you nowhere!

 

What Scripture does it contradict if we believe the Passover and the Lord’s Supper are two completely independent things?   If you read Matthew’s account of the last supper, you will discover that nowhere does he call it the “Passover” (see all of Matthew 26).  Likewise Mark (chapter 14).  In fact, the apostle John says of this last supper, “Now BEFORE the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.  And supper being ended. . .” (John 13:1-2).  The Amplified Bible has this, “[Now] BEFORE the Passover Feast began . . . So [it was] during supper . . .  Notice two things:  1) this meal occurred BEFORE THE PASSOVER FEAST BEGAN!  And 2) it was called “supper,” not “Passover”!

 

            Notice!  This was “before the Feast of the Passover”!  Therefore it could not have been the traditional, normal Passover!  Supper was still being served when Jesus arose to wash the disciples' feet.  John nowhere calls this meal a “Passover.”  He simply calls it “supper.” 

 

            At this supper they ate regular “bread,” because the Feast had not yet begun (John 13:1).  The Greek word for “bread” used for this evening’s bread is artos and normally refers to leavened bread unless qualified otherwise with a modifier.  The Greek word for unleavened bread is AZUMOS.  The bread Jesus and the disciples ate this evening was the kind that one would “dip” into a gravy, or sauce, as a “sop.” Jesus told John, when he asked Him who would betray Him, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it” (John 13:26).  “And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him.  Then Jesus said to him, What you do, do quickly” (verse 27). 

 

            The next verse explains that no one knew why Jesus said this to Judas.  “For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, ‘Buy those things we need for the Feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor” (verse 28). 

 

            Now if this was the PASSOVER DINNER, doesn’t it seem rather strange that the disciples thought Jesus was sending Judas away from the Passover, right in the middle of it, to GO BUY GROCERIES FOR THE FEAST or to GO OUT AND DONATE SOMETHING FOR THE POOR PEOPLE? 

           

            That makes no sense at all! 

 

            If this HAD BEEN the Passover, then the markets would have been closed, and certainly no shopping would be allowed to interrupt the very Passover dinner itself!  The very fact that the disciples had such a thought in their minds indicates plainly that they knew this meal itself was not the Passover, but was simply a final going-away meal eaten together.

 

                                        "With Fervent Desire . . . THIS Passover"

 

            Now we come to the most enigmatic, perplexing verse of all.  Now we come to Luke 22, verses 15-16.  Here Jesus said to the disciples:

 

                                “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you

                        before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is

                        fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 

 

            Let’s take a spiritual microscope to this verse, and analyze it very carefully.  Let’s notice what it does say as well as what it does not say.

 

            What, then, did Jesus mean when He said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”?  The word for “desire” in this verse is an unusual word, epithumia in the Greek, and means “a longing, especially for that which is forbidden” (see Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #1939).  The word for “desire” in this verse is very important to understanding the context of Jesus’ words.  Says Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, “desire, craving, longing,” “specifically for what is forbidden.  This is the “strongest expression of intense desire,” whether good or bad, says the Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Critical-Experimental Commentary. 

 

            In other words, Jesus here was saying He REALLY desired to eat the normal, traditional Passover with His disciples, which would be held a few days hence, but He knew that such a thing would be impossible -- that it is forbidden -- that for Him to fulfill God's PLAN He must be dead and in the grave that evening, when the Jews ate the Passover, and therefore it was forbidden and impossible for Him to eat that Passover seder meal with them, with all its special meanings and profound significance!

 

            Suppose a man was having dinner with a friend in the community, and told him a few days before the Thanksgiving holiday, “With desire I have desired to celebrate this Thanksgiving with you before I leave, but unfortunately I have to take a long trip and won’t be here for the holiday.  In fact, I won't be able to keep the holiday with you until many years from now, because I am going away.” 

 

            In other words, it is nothing more than pure assumption on the part of some to conclude that this verse proves Jesus was celebrating the Passover that very evening!  This verse proves nothing of the kind -- in fact, it really implies the very opposite, when we understand the context!  Notice!

 

We can argue all we want to about Jesus’ words to the disciples about His “desire to eat this Passover” with them, but mere DESIRE doesn’t mean that He DID it!  Yes, Jesus wanted to eat the Passover with them (Luke 22:15).  He said, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16, NRSV).  He did not say that meal itself was the Passover.  He only said He wanted to eat the up-coming Passover with them.  In fact, He literally said, if we believe His words – “I will NOT eat it again UNTIL it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”!  -- He said He would not eat it!  And He said this BEFORE eating this final meal with His disciples, where He introduced the bread and wine ceremony (Luke 22: 19-23).

 

            The Critical-Experimental Commentary points out:  The last meal one is to partake of with his family or friends before his departure even for a far distant land, in all probability never to see them again, is a solemn and fond one to any thoughtful and loving person.  The last meal of a martyr, of Jesus with his friends in the truth, before being led forth to execution, is still more touching.  But faint are these illustrations of the emotions with which Jesus now sat down to supper with the Twelve.  All the sweetness and all the sadness of His social intercourse with them, from the day that He first chose them to be with Him, were now to be concentrated and heightened to their utmost intensity during the brief hour or two of this their last meal together.”

 

            There is much evidence that this final meal was certainly not the Passover.  There is no mention of lamb, yet lamb is necessary for the Passover.  The bread was regular leavened bread.  There is no mention of “bitter herbs,” also required for the Passover (Exodus 12:8).  And, of course, it was held before the customary Passover dinner of lamb, herbs, and unleavened bread.  John specifically calls it what it was, a “supper,” not the Passover.   And so does Luke (Luke 22:20).  None of the apostles or New Testament writers ever calls it “Passover”!  None!  So why should we assume it was a Passover?  It was, in actuality, “the Lord’s last supper” with His disciples, and that is all.  

 

Why couldn’t Jesus eat the real Passover with His disciples that year?  The reason is simple.  He couldn’t eat it with them because He was going to BE the Passover that year, slain at the very time the Passover lambs were being killed throughout Jerusalem and the Temple!  He couldn’t do both. 

 

Q.E.D.

 

The church official ends his email asking:  “Should we contradict Scripture or Jewish custom?”   Of course, the answer should be obvious.  We should obey Scripture – the Word of God – as opposed to ANY church custom or tradition, whether Jewish or “Christian”!

 

Frankly, this question reminds me of a cat’s “hair ball.”   You know what I mean.  Cats are notorious for eating hair and such things, and the hair clumps together in their digestive system until they cough it up and spit it out, usually leaving a mess behind on the floor.  

 

When Jewish custom coincides with Scripture, then there is no contradiction to worry about.  If the two are different, then the Word of God says we ought to OBEY GOD (Acts 5:29).  Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ” (I Cor.11:1).  We all know that, so what is Franks’ point?  He has not proven that keeping Passover at the end of Nisan 14 is nothing but “Jewish custom.”  Not even in the remotest sense!  So what is his point?  Again, he is speaking as if he has proven something to be true when he simply states that it is the truth.  He is speaking as if the matter were now settled, when he hasn’t even begun to prove his case!  He is simply concluding a priori that his assumption is true. 

 

Reasoning in a circle! 

 

The fact is, Christ kept the Passover on the right day all His life, as the law requires (Exo.12:14-16).  He observed it from the time He was a child through adulthood.  He then DIED when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed as “OUR Passover” (I Cor.5:7).  

 

Why can’t this church official and men like him -- these supposedly converted, sincere, humble, learned, erudite men -- SEE these things?   Why won’t they admit their case has no supporting evidence?  Why won’t they admit their case has no legs?  Why won’t they deal with these issues honestly and above board?  Are they really blind? “There is none so blind as those who will not see!”

 

“Gird Up Your Loins Like a Man!”

 

            What about YOU, dear friend and reader?

 

You are in a jam, if you attend a church similar to that of this man.  Maybe you, too, have been trying to patiently obey God yet keep your foot in your present church.  Yet you know that it refuses to change.  When are you going to gird up your loins like a man, risk opprobrium and censure, and publicly stand up and TELL people the TRUTH?  Can compromise work?  Will anybody else follow the truth if you don’t have the courage to stand up and  set others the right example -- publicly?  How can you be a WITNESS to others unless YOU obey God – publicly?   By being silent, and hiding your disagreement with them in a wrapper, as it were, are you not denying Christ?

 

Think about it. 

 

What kind of example are you setting?  Are you like Nicodemus, who for fear of the “Jews” came to Jesus by night, so he wouldn’t be seen?  Are you afraid to stand up, to be disfellowshipped, to be excoriated, whipped, and to suffer for Jesus’ sake?  Are you afraid to be pilloried, castigated, have your name flung out with contempt and derision, because you publicly stand up for the TRUTH of Christ and of God?  Are you fearful and afraid of mere men? 

 

You, too may be in a dilemma.  It may have been some time, now, since you’ve learned these things and proved the truth about the Passover.   Your present church will not give you the time of day.  They won’t confront these issues.   They ignore them, sweep them under the carpet, issue threats if you persist, even command you to keep silent about it or be thrust out of the church – your decision.  What are you going to do about it?  They say, “it is settled.”  They have locked it away in a vault.

 

But what’s really settled is God’s Word in heaven.  It has been settled, since long, long ago.  Let God be true, but every man a liar.  God’s Word is truth.  I am afraid that “Mr. Church Official” and all those like him will soon get their hash “settled” too.  It is no small thing to disobey God and to teach contrary to His commandments.”

 

Yes, those are strong words, I know!  But it’s high time we face the facts, and put them on the table, and call the bluff of those who insist they have all the cards on their side.    Its time for a show-down.   We have the winning hand – the truth.  They have a losing hand – just a few small cards of no value.  As they say in poker, “Let’s see your hand.” 

 

The truth is, the United Church of God, thee Living Church of God, and all these other remnant churches that came out of the Worldwide experience, are now facing God’s judgment. 

 

The handwriting is on the wall.  Daniel said to ancient king Belshazzar of Babylon:  “And this is the inscription that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN – numbered, numbered, weighed, divisions.  This is the interpretation of the matter:  MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingship and brought them to an end;  TEKEL, You are weighed in the balances and are found wanting;  PERES, Your kingdom and your kingship are divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26-28).  

 

Belshazzar lost his kingdom that very night! 

 

These end-time churches are also being weighed in the balances, and found wanting.  They are still in spiritual Babylon.  Their “kingdom” will soon be “finished” -- it will be “divided,” and given over to the wolves, Gentiles, and wild animals for destruction (compare Ezek.34:1-6).   

 

Repent Now – or Perish Soon!

 

            How important is it that we observe the Passover correctly, and upon the proper appointed day?  Some think it doesn’t make any difference, so why belabor the issue?  However, consider this:  If ancient Israel had observed it on the wrong day,  and got the commandment mixed up, and put the lamb’s blood on the doorposts of their dwellings a day early or a day late, then when the Lord went throughout the land of Egypt, Passover night, their homes would not have been spared the plague of the death of their own firstborn sons! (Exo.12:11-13).  Doing things correctly, at God’s appointed time, is VERY important!

 

            To keep the festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread at the designated time, according to God’s Calendar, is EXTREMELY important!   God’s Word declares:  “For seven days shall no unleavened bread be found in your houses [beginning with Passover]; for whoever eats what is leavened shall be CUT OFF from the congregation of Israel” (Exodus 12:19, NRSV).

 

            “Cut off”!  To be cut off from the congregation of God, from the true body of Christ, is an extremely serious consequence! 

 

            It is high time we take this matter to heart, and with the utmost seriousness.  Jesus Christ said to those of his time, when Pontius Pilate had slain many Jews in Galilee with the sword:  “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all PERISH as they did.  Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them – do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH just as they did” (Luke 13:2-5, NRSV).

 

            REPENT – or perish!  That is our choice!  This is not “fun and games” time.  This is not a joking, laughing matter.  These things are DEAD SERIOUS! 

 

            What about you?  What are you going to do about it?

 

            We will all be held accountable before the judgment seat of Christ.  How will we answer Him when He returns?  What will we say to Him?  Will He say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant, who has been obedient in all things!”???  Or will He say, “I never knew you!  Depart from me, you evil-doers who broke my commandments and trampled on my laws!”?

 

            The apostle Paul declared, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh [do what is convenient for you], you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit [obey God’s law and commandments], you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:7-9, NRSV).

 

            What about you?  If your church leaders refuse to address these issues faithfully and humbly, will you simply follow them into perdition and destruction?  Or will you come forth from them, and OBEY GOD instead?  Solomon wrote:  “It is good that you should take hold of this and from that withdraw not your hand; for he who [reverently] fears and worships God will come forth from them all” (Eccl.7:18, Amplified Bible).

 

            Perhaps the time has come for many of you reading this, to COME FORTH – come out of compromising situations, come OUT of spiritual “Babylon” and sinfulness and error and false teaching, and abhor them, and don’t let them cling to you or stain your garments!   God says, to those who have been compromising, seeking fellowship with men instead of friendship with God, “Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean;  then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (II Cor.6:17-18).  

 

Come out from whom? 

 

Paul says, “Do not be mismatched with unbelievers.  For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness?  Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness?  What agreement does Christ have with Beliar?  Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever” (verses 14-15). 

 

The answer should be clear.  Come out from those who do NOT OBEY God’s law and keep His commandments!  What may seem “little” in the eyes of men may be a HUGE matter in the sight of God! 

 

Obedience – or disobedience?  Which is it to be?

 

Solomon wrote, “Because sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the human heart is fully set to do evil.  Though sinners do evil a hundred times and prolong their lives, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they stand in fear before him, but it will not be well with the wicked, neither will they prolong their days like a shadow, because they do not stand in fear before God” (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13).

 

            What about you?  How long will you put off obedience to God?  How long before you give yourself whole-heartedly and completely to Him, to use as He sees fit, in humble submission and complete surrender to His will?             

 

            God thunders from heaven:  “Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murders, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:7-8, NRSV).

 

            These are the “times that try men’s souls.” 

 

            Stand up and be counted!

 

            Raise your voice to the roof-tops!  Tell all your friends and everyone the TRUTH which you have discovered!  Don’t bury your light under a bushel basket.  Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!  “You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to ALL in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may SEE your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt.5:14-16, NRSV).

 

It is truly better to obey God than to follow or fear men.   Much, much better!  In the long haul, what else counts?  Who will issue the final verdict and render the final judgment?    The answer is obvious.  What will you do about it?