This lesson begins a series of seven lessons that should prove beneficial in not only introducing the subject to many for the first time, but also serving as a refresher that can be reviewed every year prior to each Feast. These lessons cover the fascinating subject of the feasts that God commands His people to observe for all time, including today. Together, these seven feasts picture the overview of God’s plan of salvation, with each Feast depicting a separate vital step in God’s overall Master Plan of Salvation.
Before listing the feasts and describing how each one was to be observed, Leviticus 23:4 presents the following statement: “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.” As the new sacred year begins each spring, the feasts occur in a particular sequence at a particular time, as we will examine in each of the seven lessons. Seven is God’s special number signifying completing and perfection. There are seven feasts in God’s Master Plan as well as seven Holy Days. A Holy Day is an annual Feast Day in which no servile work is done and God commands an offering.
Passover, the first feast, is not a Holy Day in which no work can be done, nor is an offering commanded on this day. Yet, this day precedes a Holy Day, in which an offering is commanded. Passover does require a convocation of God’s people. Passover immediately precedes the First Day of Unleavened Bread and makes possible the steps depicted by all the remaining feasts that follow it.
Many modern religionists claim that the issue of salvation ended at the “cross” (though Christ probably died on a stake – an upright pale)—that the acceptance of Christ’s death is all there is to salvation. They further proclaim that beyond the acceptance of this sacrifice, there is nothing more to do, since we are already “saved.” They mistakenly take the very first step in God’s plan of salvation and proclaim that this is the end of the matter. The Bible shows there is much more to this matter and that man’s obligation was not finished at the cross.
Christ did come to offer Himself for the sins of the world, and successfully finished this phase of God’s Plan, as He expressed in His dying words, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Before this, Christ had fulfilled His commission to preach the good news of the kingdom of God and to teach, train and prepare His disciples to continue this Work until His Return at the end of this age. Concerning this phase of the commission, He stated, “I have finished the work which You gave me to do” (John 17:4). Christ, indeed, finished His part in that phase of God’s Plan. Yet, today, He is busy and active in His current role as High Priest, interceding on behalf of those God has called (Rom. 8:34), as well as guiding His Work and His Church in the last years before this world faces the greatest time of suffering ever to befall mankind.
We must grasp the fact that Christ’s sacrifice was the first crucial step in the overall Plan of God that made all of the following steps possible.
Comment: Without the penalty for our sins being paid by someone of greater worth or value than all mankind, everyone would have to pay the penalty of death individually.
(2) Did God plan before the Creation for Christ to become the Savior of mankind? I Peter 1:18-20.
(3) Would Christ’s death and shed blood have saved us had He not been resurrected? I Corinthians 15:17.
Comment: We are reconciled to God by His death, but saved by His life. Christ has saved (rescued) us from the death penalty because He suffered death in our stead. Once having been rescued in this way, we are saved (preserved) by the living Christ, who sends His Holy Spirit, which strengthens and preserves those God calls in this age.
God allowed the tribes of Israel to remain in Egypt for almost two and a half centuries before delivering them out of bondage. He used Moses to reveal to Israel what was to take place to free them from Egypt. As nine of the ten plagues had already been unleashed upon Egypt, Moses relayed to the Israelites the details of what to do in preparation for the final plague. God revealed that the month of Abib was the beginning of the sacred year and that Israel was to take a lamb on the 10th of that month to keep until the 14th of the month, when it was to be killed. The lamb was to fulfill a special purpose.
(1) Did Isaiah prophesy of Christ in terms of a lamb taken to the slaughter? Isaiah 53:7-8.
(3) When the lamb was killed, what was to be done with the blood? Exodus 12:6-7.
(4) As the 10th plague struck Egypt, what purpose did the blood serve? Exodus 12:12-13.
Comment: Wherever blood had been smeared on the door posts, the death angel passed over that particular house—hence, the term “Passover.” The blood signified that the house was protected. This event symbolized the fulfillment of the Passover lamb, the one who would come in the flesh many centuries later as Jesus Christ.
(5) Was Israel instructed that it was permissible to observe Passover on the 15th of the month at the same time as the Feast of Unleavened Bread if they so desired? Leviticus 23:5-6.
Comment: Passover was to always be observed on the 14th, with the Feast of Unleavened Bread beginning on the 15th. This was clearly designated in Scripture. The fact that certain sects of the Jews had compromised by observing Passover on the 15th (after the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and his Hellenistic influence) does not override the clear scriptural commands to observe Passover on the 14th. The Jews of Galilee kept the Passover on the 14th during the time of Christ, although most Jews of Judea had compromised this command.
(6) For how long were the Israelites commanded to keep Passover? Was it left up to each succeeding generation as to whether and how they would observe it? Exodus 12:24.
(1) Did Jesus’ parents keep the Passover and go to Jerusalem on an annual basis? Luke 2:40-42.
Comment: Since Jesus, before His human birth, had been the LORD or Eternal referred to in the Old Covenant (As explained in Lesson 3 of this course), He obeyed the commands to keep the feasts that He had given to Israel. Christ submitted to the laws of God and to the will of His Father in heaven.
As Christ and the disciples were eating the Passover lamb on the eve of His crucifixion, He took this opportunity to show how His Church should observe Passover from that time forward.
(1) What action did Christ perform during the Passover meal? John 13:1-5.
Comment: It was actually “during supper” that Christ interrupted the meal in order to demonstrate a new ordinance the disciples were to carry out in each succeeding Passover service. The phrase in verse 2, “and supper being ended,” should be translated as “during supper.” It was at this point in the meal that the devil put the inclination into Judas Iscariot to betray Christ.
The foot washing ordinance was entirely new, having never been a part of the Passover service. Christ was very passionate about what He knew would be His last Passover with the disciples (Luke 22:14-16). He went to great lengths to introduce what would be new ordinances for this occasion. In John’s gospel account, which was canonized long after the others, John was aware of the need to write about the ordinance of foot washing.
(2) What was the significance of Peter’s refusal to allow Christ to wash his feet and Christ’s response? John 13:6-9.
Comment: Peter’s impetuous response gave Christ the opportunity to explain that unless one participated fully in this ordinance, then he could have no part with Christ. Once Peter understood this, he went to the opposite extreme. However, Christ emphasized that only the feet were to be washed.
(3) What did Christ stress as the reason for this new ordinance? John 13:12-15.
Comment: In verse 12, after He had washed their feet, Christ asked the disciples, “do you know what I have done to you?” In verses 14 to 15, He stressed, “If I then your Lord and Master have washed your feet, then you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.” These were explicit instructions for His servants to keep this ordinance of foot washing—a task normally performed by the lowest servants.
The point is undeniable that Christ was also referring to a level of service extending beyond the realm of a Passover ordinance—to the way His servants would live their lives. If Christ extended Himself to the point of laying down His life, they had to be willing to do the same. The Passover ordinance of foot washing carries far more meaning than the physical act. The eleven loyal disciples went on to become apostles and, with the exception of John, eventually laid down their lives.
(4) Did Christ proclaim a blessing associated with keeping this ordinance? John 13:17.
Comment: Concerning the phrase, “happy are you if you do them,” the term “happy” means more than meets the eye. It comes from the Greek word makarios, which means “supremely blessed, fortunate, well off, blessed and happy.” This verse should more appropriately read, “If you know these things, supremely blessed are you if you do them.” This is a promised blessing for keeping the ordinance that Christ had just instituted.
(1) At what point during supper did Christ introduce the new symbols? Luke 22:20.
Comment: This verse shows that the new symbols (which constituted another new ordinance) were given “after supper,” whereas the ordinance of foot washing had been introduced during supper.
(2) What was the first symbol to be taken after the foot washing had been carried out (and as the supper portion of Christ’s last Passover was drawing to a close)? Matthew 26:26.
Comment: The Passover had always been eaten with unleavened bread. Unleavened bread represents being pure from sin and pride, both of which are symbolized by leaven.
Comment: We find that this broken bread symbolized the broken body of Christ, and that eating that bread is tied to having eternal life (John 6:58). The broken body is directly related to our physical healing.
Comment: This “fruit of the vine” referred to in Luke 22:18 (also Matthew 26:29) could only have been wine. Many professing Christians insist that this was referring to grape juice. In the spring of the year, the grapes from the former year’s harvest could have only existed as wine, vinegar or syrup. Grape juice simply did not exist beyond 40 days from the time the grapes were harvested. Wine was a prominent drink in ancient Israel and in Judea during Christ’s time (Hastings Dictionary, pp. 973-974). It was a staple with meals and on special occasions (John 2:1-11).
Comment: The wine was symbolic of Christ’s shed blood—the sacrifice of His life—which He as High Priest would later apply to cleanse the sins of those called by God.
Comment: A memorial is always observed annually or once a year—not every week or month.
The phrase in I Corinthians 11:26, “for as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…” does not mean “as often as you decide to eat this bread and drink this cup.” It simply means at every memorial of this event—at Passover, which occurs only once a year. As you take these symbols, you acknowledge and honor Christ’s death until He returns.
(1) Is Christ explicitly called our Passover lamb or sacrifice? I Corinthians 5:7.
(2) Did the Passover lamb’s blood serve a purpose after it was slain? Exodus 12:6-7.
(3) Why was it necessary for Christ to shed His blood? Hebrews 9:22.
Comment: The life of all flesh essentially exists in the blood, as these verses make plain.
Comment: Christ was beaten beyond recognition, as “His visage was so marred more than any man.” This was prophesied to happen and ties directly to what was stated in Isaiah 53:5: “and with His stripes we are healed.”
Comment: The terms “wounded for our transgressions…bruised for our iniquities” and “He bore our sins in His own body” relate to physical sins or transgressions, which are distinct from the spiritual sins covered by Christ’s blood. The apostle Paul clearly made the connection between the failure to discern the meaning and significance of Christ’s broken body and those who are sick or have died from ill health (I Cor. 11:29-30). Read James 5:14-15 in regard to healing being tied to the forgiveness of sins. Notice Psalm 103:2-3 with respect to the benefits tied to the meaning of the wine and bread. (Our booklet The Truth About Healing offers a thorough explanation of the vital topic of healing.)
(1) Did the early Church refer to “Easter” as a benchmark in time, indicating they must have been observing it? Acts 12:4.
Comment: The word “Easter” is a mistranslation from the Greek term pascha, which clearly meant “Passover.” The same Greek word was correctly translated “Passover” over 25 times in other places in the New Testament.
(2) Does secular evidence exist to support that the Church of God continued to keep Passover on the 14th day of the first month—well after the time of the apostles?
Comment: Polycarp, Polycrates and other loyal servants of God refused to compromise God’s commanded feasts.
Polycrates wrote, “We…therefore observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep which shall rise again in the day of the Lord’s appearing…Moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord…also Polycarp…All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith” (Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius, bk.5, ch. 24).
Our book Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History! provides more information on those who faithfully kept God’s true Passover from the time of the apostles, even to this present time.