THE TERM PASSOVER amongst the Jews was frequently applied as the name of a festival week, otherwise called the Feast of Passover, beginning on the fifteenth day of Nisan. But we must not confound this with the frequent references to the Passover found in the Scriptures when the word feast is not used, which generally referred to the lamb that was killed, the Passover. For instance, we read, "Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed." Again, our Lord sent disciples to inquire of a friend, "Where is the guest-chamber, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" Again we read, "And they made ready the Passover." When our Lord sat down with the disciples to eat of the lamb he said, "With desire I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you I will no more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God."Luke 22:7,11,13,15,16.
While the Jews still apparently think more of the Passover week than of the Passover lamb, we, on the contrary, and in harmony with the example of our Lord and the apostles, have special respect for the lamb, which typified the "Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," and under whose blood of sprinkling we who now believenamely, the "Church of the First-Born"are passed over or spared in advance of the world.
God's arrangements for the Jews were typical and full of valuable lessons for us who belong to antitypical or Spiritual Israel. In the type the Lord provided for two great religious occasions amongst his people, the one at the beginning of the secular year and the other at the beginning of the religious year. The religious year began in the spring, counting from the first new moon after the vernal equinox, approximately April 1st, but varying because of the difference between lunar and solar time. It was in connection with this, the beginning of their religious year, that the Lord appointed the Passoverthe killing and eating of the Passover lamb on the 14th day, to be followed by a Passover week of unleavened bread. The civil year with the Jews began six months later, in the seventh month, approximately October 1; and it was in connection with this civil year that the Atonement Day sacrifices were appointed, in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, in which the Israelites called to mind their wilderness journey on leaving Egypt en route for Canaan.
These two great religious celebrations pictured the same lesson from different standpoints: the first emphasized more particularly the passing over of the first-born, who subsequently were represented in the tribe of Levi, at whose head stood the priesthood. Although the type seems to carry forward and to picture the deliverance of all Israel through this priestly tribe, to which Moses belonged, yet specifically, particularly, in detail, it dealt merely with the deliverance, the blessing, of the priestly tribe, the first-born. The other type, in the seventh month, more particularly pictures the atonement for the sins of the whole world, the forgiveness and reconciliation of all mankind who desire to be reconciled to God: nevertheless, in connection with this Atonement Day sacrifice, the special favor of God to the Church is also represented as preceding the blessing coming upon the world, reconciliation for the Church's sins being represented in the first sacrifice of the Day of Atonement, while the sacrifice for the sins of the world in general was represented in the second offering.
There is a force and meaning in the Apostle's expression, "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us," which is not generally appreciated. (I Cor. 5:7.) Our Lord is not the world's Passover, but the Church's Passover. All Israel prefigured or represented the world of mankind, and the bondage of the whole people represented all mankind under the bondage of sin and death, the great taskmaster in the type being Pharaoh, [R3749 : page 100] in the antitype being Satan. Deliverance is desired for all, and the Lord's arrangement is ultimately to deliver all. The Apostle so explains when he writes, "The creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God."
But the Apostle divides the groaning ones into two classes, saying, "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now""waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God." (Rom. 8:19,21,22.) His reference here is to the world of mankind whose deliverance from the bondage of Satan and the power of sin and death will only come through the manifestation of the glorified Church, the Christ in glory and power, as God's Kingdom ruling the world. The Apostle also mentions the Church of the First-Born in her present condition, saying, "But ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, do groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the deliverance of our body." Both classes have an experience of groaning, both classes have an experience of waiting, but they wait for different things. The latter, the Church of the First-Born, waits for her deliverance as the body of Christ through a share in the First Resurrection. According to the divine promise, the former, the world, waits until the Church class shall have been perfected, glorified, empowered, and shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father for the blessing of all the families of the earth, for the uplifting of all who desire divine favor on divine terms.
Look now at the type: notice that it is not all Israel that is in danger from the destroying angel, but only the first-born. Only the first-born of the Egyptians were slain. Hence it was only the first-born of the Israelites that were spared or passed over. These first-born ones, protected by the blood of the lamb, the Lord declared to be specially his; and, with a view to marking them out and keeping them as a special, peculiar people, an exchange was made whereby the first-born of all the tribes were exchanged by the Lord for the one tribe of Levi, which he accepted as specially his and which in the type represents the household of faith. Out of this household of faith, in turn, a priestly family was selected, which typified Christ our High Priest and the Church his body, the under priesthood, the Royal Priesthood. So, then, those who perceive the matter clearly see that the Passover has to do only with the household of faith. It is in full accord with this that the Lord's Supper, which antitypes the eating of the lamb, is not offered to the world, but is strictly and exclusively an institution for the household of faith.
Seeing in the type the slain lamb, its blood sprinkled upon the posts and lintels of the home and its flesh eaten with bitter herbs, we apply this in the antitype and see Christ the antitypical Lamb, see that his blood sprinkled upon our hearts cleanses them from a consciousness of evil and gives us an assurance of our being PASSED OVER, of our being spared, of our being granted life through his blood. This sprinkling represents our justification by faith; and the subsequent eating of the lamb with bitter herbs is represented in the antitype by our consecration, our partaking of Christ, our participation with him in his sufferings and self-denialsalso represented by the bitter herbs, which [R3750 : page 100] give zest to our appetite and encourage us to partake more and more abundantly of the Lamb. All who believe the testimony, all who trust in the precious blood, are passed over, and, more than this, are expecting a general deliverance of the whole people, of all who love God, who desire to do him reverence and service. So many as thus believe realize themselves pilgrims and strangers under present conditions, looking for a better country, even the heavenly Canaan. All this was represented in typical Israel, for while eating the lamb on that night of Passover they stood staff in hand, girded for a journey. Likewise the Lord's faithful today should realize themselves pilgrims and strangers, having no continuing city, but setting their affections on things above.
All Christian people to some extent discern what we have above stated to be the basis or foundation for the commemoration of our Lord's death, usually designated the Lord's Supper, the Communion, the Eucharist, and by WATCH TOWER readers usually known as the Memorial. The difficulty seems to be that the majority of Christian people are not sufficiently critical and persistent in their study of the Word, and that for this reason their faith and hopenot only upon this subject but upon all religious subjectsare more or less confused, indefinite. To us the ministry appear to be considerably to blame in that they have not sufficiently taught the Word of the Lord but too frequently the traditions of men, indeed preaching chiefly to the world and comparatively little to the Church of the First Bornthe passed-over ones, passed from death unto life, adopted into God's family as sons.
This indistinctness of view respecting our Lord's sacrifice as our Passover Lamb slain for us is well represented by the confusion of thought respecting the appropriate times for commemorating our Lord's death. As we look throughout Christendom we find Protestants generally observing the celebration, observing the Memorial, not upon its anniversary but as irrespective of it, as though they had no knowledge of the relationship between the typical Passover and the antitypical one which our Lord enjoined upon us to celebrate. Some, therefore, have Communion every four months, some every three months, some monthly, some weekly, all except the latter considering it a matter of convenience and expediency, and not observing this special and appropriate annual observance. Our brethren of the Christian denomination, otherwise styled Disciples, hold tenaciously to a weekly observance, because they read in the book of Acts of weekly meetings of the Lord's people in commemoration of his resurrection, at which they had "breaking of bread." Not seeing the [R3750 : page 101] principles involved they have too hastily concluded that a communion service would be the only proper breaking of bread amongst the Lord's people.
On the contrary, we see that as the early Church remembered that our Lord after his resurrection made himself known on several occasions in connection with breaking of breadas at Emmaus and again in the upper roomthey were glad to meet together on the first day of the week as a fresh reminder of the joys of that resurrection day which meant so much to them and to us all. There is no suggestion anywhere that these were anything more than ordinary meals or love-feasts, such as we often have at the conclusion of a general convention. There is no intimation that in so doing the early Church thought they were keeping the Passover the first day of the week, because Christ our Passover was slain and because we have been passed over by the mercy of God through faith in his blood of sprinkling. There is no intimation that they considered this the Lord's Supperthere is no suggestion anywhere of the cup, which was an equally important feature with the bread in the Lord's Memorial Supper.
The beginning of this carelessness respecting the annual celebration of our Lord's Memorial is easily traced. The early Church observed the matter annually, and this annual celebration is still preserved in the older Christian churches, Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Episcopal, etc., all of which celebrate Good Friday, as the memorial of this slaying of Christ our Passover. But to them the whole matter has lost much of its vital importance. The sacrifice of the massa gross error introduced somewhere about the third centuryhas drawn to itself the special interest which still should center in the annual Memorial and the great sacrifice which it commemorates. In the sacrifice of the mass it is held that the priest officiating, by the pronouncing of three sacred Latin words, works a miracle upon the bread and wine, by which they are transformed and become actually the flesh and blood of Jesus. Thus the officiating priest claims to make a fresh sacrifice of Christ, and as a priest to offer a fresh atonement for the particular individual sins represented in the mass, sinners for whom the mass is performed. Thus the hearts of mankind have been turned away from the one atonement sacrifice for sins, by which all believers were passed over once and forever, and have their gaze attracted to the priest and the mass and the blessings and the holy water, etc., etc. No wonder the Lord in his Word refers to this as the "Desolating Abomination" set up in his Church, his Temple.Dan. 11:31. MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. III, Chaps. III, IV.
As the Protestants received their earliest conceptions of religious matters from Roman Catholicism, with which they were originally identified, it is not surprising that many of the errors of that system clung to them, and blinded the eyes of their understanding as respects the deep import of many of the spiritual teachings of God's Word. And this is true of the subject we are now discussing as well as of others. What we all should desire would be to have our minds freed from the errors of the "dark ages," that we might see clearly the teaching of our Lord and the apostles, Moses and the prophets, the inspired instructors of the Church.
The entire Scriptural narrative pertaining to the Passover and pertaining to the Lord's Supper, which was instituted as a substitute for it, by which his disciples might commemorate him as the antitype, all indicate particularity of timethat it must be celebrated, in the evening, not in the morning, not at noon nor in the afternoon, the common custom of various denominations of Christians. Our Lord and his disciples did not sit down to the Passover until eventhe beginning of the fourteenth day of Nisan. And so all who recognize themselves as members of the household of faith, as members of the Church of the First-born, should be careful in following the Master's guidance in this matter as well as in others. There is a blessing and meaning in it. It was the same night in which he celebrated, the one in which he was betrayed, that he took bread and brake and gave unto his disciples. We are still in that night, and the eating of that bread and the drinking of that cup are still in progress amongst the Lord's disciples.
Our Lord, of course, was equally particular respecting the fourteenth day of the month as the proper time for the celebrationthat all Israel might celebrate appropriately on the same day. But as for the proper beginning of the dating there was evidently less particularity. The Jewish method of reckoning, based upon the phases of the moon, was necessarily different from ours, and it was therefore very much less easy to determine an exact beginning for their month. Especially was this the case when the spring equinox had a bearing upon the matter, and when, as was the case with the Jews, another type demands that the Passover should come at the time of the harvest. All who have knowledge on the subject will admit that it would be practically impossible to fix dates for the beginning of the Jewish year by lunar time, in harmony with the harvest season, without there being room for dispute and difference of opinion. From our Lord's standpoint all that was settled for the people by the decision of the Scribes, whose business it was to fix a date as the beginning of the new year, and the fourteenth day of that year became the established date for the Memorial. In other words, whether the Scribes fixed a date earlier or a date later would not have particularly mattered; the object was to have a uniform date and to recognize the fourteenth day of the first month at even.
So the matter remains today. We do not understand that any stress or hair-splitting is necessary in the ascertainment of the particular counting of the first day of the first month, Jewish time, but that there is appropriateness associated with a general commemoration upon the same day after sundown, a concensus of judgment as to which day shall be observed as the fourteenth of Nisan being all that is necessary and proper. [R3750 : page 102] In our issue of January 15 we have pointed out that this is one of the years in which the definite fixing of the first day of Nisan, the first day of the new moon after the spring equinox, seems to be difficult. We attach no importance to this, however, and have recommended the keeping of the Memorial on Sunday night, April 8. This is in harmony with the Jewish observance, and tallies with the fact that the full of the moon occurs on April 9, corresponding to Nisan 15. The important features to be remembered are: (1) that it be in the spring of the year, approximately at the Passover season; (2) that the date be uniformly observed; (3) that it be observed in the evening, to correspond with the original institution in Egypt and with our Lord's subsequent Memorial institution.
In harmony with the foregoing the congregation at Allegheny, Pa., hopes to meet at the time indicated (see last page) to commemorate the death of Christ, our Passover slain for us. We hope to hear later on that little companies all over the world celebrated at the same time. We meet not as Jews to remember the deliverance from Pharaoh and Egyptian bondage, but as antitypical Israelites seeking to escape the power of Satan and the dominion of sin. We meet not to eat literal lamb and bitter herbs and to commemorate the passing over in Egypt, but as Spiritual Israelites to recognize and commemorate the death of the Lamb of God as our Passoverto feast upon him, upon the truths which he gave usto appropriate to ourselves the life rights which he gave up on our behalf.
More than this, as explained by our Lord, we not only will use the unleavened bread to represent the purity of his flesh broken for us, and the fruit of the vine to represent his blood shed for us, but also in the light of the Apostle's explanation we perceive that it is a part of our privilege to be broken with Christ as a part of the same larger loaf, and to have fellowship in his cup of suffering and death as a part of the larger cup. From this double standpoint we view our relationship to the Lord, first as those whom he passes over, and secondly as those who join with him in the sacrifice, that we may have share also with him by and by in the great work of leading forth from bondage to sin and Satan all who will accept of the divine favor and liberty as the sons of God! How wonderfully grand is the privilege thus accorded us! No wonder the Apostle said,
Our feasting upon this bread which came down from heaven and which was broken for us is not merely for the special occasion of our assembling annually. Rather that annual assembling which our Lord enjoins represents our experiences throughout the entire night of his absence, until he shall establish his Kingdom in the morning. It is for us to keep the feast, not merely in this special and commemorative manner once a year, but day by day, hour by hour, to feed upon the Lamb of God, to by faith realize and appropriate to ourselves his virtues and merits, and to grow in grace and knowledge and love and all the fruits and graces of the Spirit. Indeed, we remember the Master's words to be in the nature of a command, "As often as ye do this, do it in remembrance of me." There is no doubt in our minds now as to what we do in this annual celebration of our Lord's deathwe are keeping the feast because we have come to realize that Christ was slain for us as our Passover Lamb. Evidently no other time would be so appropriate as the anniversary. Whether that be reckoned by sun time or moon time, according to the days of the week or according to the days of the month, it is unquestionably an annual celebration; and as oft as we do it, every year as we do it, every year as the anniversary occurs, we do it not in remembrance of the type, but in remembrance of the grand antitype, Jesus, our Redeemer.
We trust that the coming celebration will be one very full of interest and profit to all. We urge that none overlook the privilege, and assure all who participate with honest intention of heart, as recognizing the Lord and the cleansing power of his sacrifice and the consecration which we have made to him, that a special blessing will surely result from the keeping of this feast, from the memorializing of the great central fact upon which the entire plan of God for this age and for the next is built.
We urge that the dear friends remember that this Memorial may best be celebrated in little groups, and not by having various companies of the Lord's people assemble together as in a convention. The Lord and his twelve apostles met alone, and this was after the pattern of the Jewish custom, each family alone. So each little group of the Lord's people is a family, a brotherhood. If unleavened bread cannot be procured, soda biscuits are easily obtainable, and they are unleavened breadthat is, bread made without yeast. If grape juice be not obtainable raisins may be stewed, and thus fruit of the vine may be obtained: or, if any consider it preferable, wine may be used. Just what our Lord used is not possible for us to determine: for our own part we prefer the unfermented fruit of the vine, lest the taste of fermented liquor should arouse a dormant appetite for strong drink and thus prove a snare to some who might partake. As we meet we trust that each little company in prayer will remember all others of the Lord's dear people everywhere, asking the Lord for more and more of his Spirit in all of our hearts, which will enable us all the more acceptably and the more completely to partake of his cup of suffering, of sacrifice, of death, and to be broken with him as members of the one life, the one Church, which is his body.
For the convenience of those desiring to symbolize their consecration to the Lord by baptism, such a service will be held in Bible House Chapel, Allegheny, on Sunday, April 8th, at 10 o'clock a.m. No doubt arrangements for baptism will be made by all the little congregations of the Lord's people everywhere, and those desiring the service as preceding their joining in the Memorial service of the evening here should communicate their desires, if possible, in advance.