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BUNNIES, EGGS AND THE CROSS

What do bunnies and eggs have to do with the cross?  Absolutely nothing!! And yet all three have become the symbols of a most important holiday for Jews and Christians.  In fact, there’s another symbol that is completely missing, a sheaf of wheat!

easter graphic

cross graphic                                  first fruits

So let’s start from the beginning.

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it… it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.’” (Leviticus 23:9-14 NKJV)

God’s redemption and deliverance of Israel from Egypt would not be complete until He had brought them into the land He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God’s provision extended to houses they had not built and a harvest for which they had not sown![1]

Naturally God expected what the people gladly gave – thanksgiving!  God gave the people very explicit instructions to bring the first sheaf of their spring wheat harvest as a thanksgiving offering.  Only then could the celebration of the harvest could begin.

 

THE TIMING

The timing of this celebration (called the feast of  Firstfruits)  is very significant.  It was to be the first day after the Sabbath of Passover.

Actually there was quite an argument over the interpretation of this verse because Passover itself was considered to be a Sabbath.  But the Pharisee’s opinion prevailed, and Firstfruits was celebrated on a Sunday, the first day of the week, the first day after the Sabbath after Passover.

Passover could fall on any day of the week, but Sabbath was always Friday sundown to through Saturday sundown, thereby making Firstfruits always on a Sunday!

CONNECTION TO PASSOVER

To fully understanding the significance of  the timing of the celebration, we need to consider its connection with Passover.  Actually there were four separate feasts connected to Passover, three in the spring and one in the fall.

  • Passover is celebrated on the 14th of Nissan (aka Abib).  Passover commemorates God’s protection and redemption of Israel and all who would come under the blood of the sacrificed Passover lamb while the Angel of Death passed through Egypt killing all the firstborn of man and beast.
  • On the next day, the 15th of Nissan, Israel left Egypt; the feast of Unleavened Bread celebrates their exodus.  During the seven days of this feast, the people are to eat products made without leaven. This was also the first of the three Pilgrim Festivals.
  • Then Firstfruits, as we saw above, on the Sunday after Passover.  Firstfruits celebrates Israel coming into the Promised Land, harvesting crops they did not sow and living in homes they did not build – evidence of God’s gracious gift to those who believed Him.
  • The fourth Passover holiday is in the fall, called the feast of Booths.  This feast, also called the feast of Tabernacles, celebrates Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Clearly the celebration on the Sunday of Passover is a feast of the Lord mandated by God to commemorate His gracious acts of deliverance and redemption of Israel – from slavery to freedom.

But of course the story doesn’t end there.  God’s unique relationship with Israel was for the purpose of revealing Himself and His plan of redemption to the world.  Therefore there has to be significance of His feasts beyond Israel.  The feasts have to have significance to the community of the Kingdom of God with personal application to all believers in Christ the Messiah – Jewish and Gentile.

The significance and personal application of the feasts is found in the Person of Jesus.

PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT OF THE FEASTS

Each of these holidays has a spiritual and prophetic aspect, with their fulfillment in and through the life, death, burial, resurrection and return of Yeshua (Jesus).

  • Jesus was crucified on Passover[2]. By God’s grace through, our faith in His sacrificial atonement protects, delivers and redeems. He has been called, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
  • Jesus was buried on the feast of Unleavened Bread taking our sins into the grave, burying them, never to seen again:

As far as the east is from the west,so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)

  • Jesus rose from the dead on the feast of Firstfruits and by His resurrection enables us to enter the Promised Land of His rest.  Our salvation is a free gift, providing redemption by His precious and priceless blood.
  • Jesus is our Shepherd as we walk through the journey of life, providing and protecting His sheep.  There will come a day when He will return to gather us all and bring us into our final resting place.

FROM FIRSTFRUITS TO EASTER

There are quite a few differing suggestions, but all agree on one thing, “Easter” is a pagan holiday, totally subverting the biblical roots of the Lord’s feast of Firstfruits.

Here is the explanation that seems to fit best.[3]

  • The first thing we must understand is that professing Christians were not the only ones who celebrated a festival called “Easter.”
  • “Ishtar”, which is pronounced “Easter” was a day that commemorated the resurrection of one of their gods that they called “Tammuz”, who was believed to be the only begotten son of the moon-goddess and the sun-god.
  • In those ancient times, there was a man named Nimrod, who was the great-grandson of one of Noah’s son named Ham.
  • ·Ham, Noah’s son, bore had a son named Cush who married a woman named Semiramis. Cush and Semiramis then had a son and named him “Nimrod.”
  • After the death of his father, Nimrod married his own mother and became a powerful King.
  • ·The Bible tells of this man, Nimrod, in Genesis 10:8-10 as follows: “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad,and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
  • Nimrod became a god-man to the people and Semiramis, his wife and mother, became the powerful Queen of ancient Babylon.
  • Nimrod was eventually killed by an enemy, and his body was cut in pieces and sent to various parts of his kingdom.
  • Semiramis had all of the parts gathered, except for one part that could not be found.
  • ·That missing part was his reproductive organ.
  • Semiramis claimed that Nimrod could not come back to life without it and told the people of Babylon that Nimrod had ascended to the sun and was now to be called “Baal”, the sun god.
  • Queen Semiramis also proclaimed that Baal would be present on earth in the form of a flame, whether candle or lamp, when used in worship.
  • ·Semiramis was creating a mystery religion, and with the help of Satan, she set herself up as a goddess.
  • Semiramis claimed that she was immaculately conceived.
  • ·She taught that the moon was a goddess that went through a 28 day cycle and ovulated when full.
  • ·She further claimed that she came down from the moon in a giant moon egg that fell into the Euphrates River.
  • ·This was to have happened at the time of the first full moon after the spring equinox.
  • Semiramis became known as “Ishtar” which is pronounced “Easter”, and her moon egg became known as “Ishtar’s” egg.
  • ·Ishtar soon became pregnant and claimed that it was the rays of the sun-god Baal that caused her to conceive.
  • The son that she brought forth was named Tammuz.
  • ·Tammuz was noted to be especially fond of rabbits, and they became sacred in the ancient religion, because Tammuz was believed to be the son of the sun-god, Baal.
  • Tammuz, like his supposed father, became a hunter.
  • The day came when Tammuz was killed by a wild pig.
  • ·Queen Ishtar told the people that Tammuz was now ascended to his father, Baal, and that the two of them would be with the worshippers in the sacred candle or lamp flame as Father, Son and Spirit.
  • Ishtar, who was now worshipped as the “Mother of God and Queen of Heaven,” continued to build her mystery religion.(Mary worship)
  • The queen told the worshippers that when Tammuz was killed by the wild pig, some of his blood fell on the stump of an evergreen tree, and the stump grew into a full new tree overnight. This made the evergreen tree sacred by the blood of Tammuz. (Christmas trees)
  • She also proclaimed a forty day period of time of sorrow each year prior to the anniversary of the death of Tammuz.
  • During this time, no meat was to be eaten.  (Lent)
  • Worshippers were to meditate upon the sacred mysteries of Baal and Tammuz, and to make the sign of the “T” in front of their hearts as they worshipped.  They also ate sacred cakes with the marking of a “T” or cross on the top. (Hot Cross buns)
  • ·Every year, on the first Sunday after the first full moon and after the spring equinox, a celebration was made.
  • ·It was Ishtar’s Sunday and was celebrated with rabbits and eggs.
  • ·Ishtar also proclaimed that because Tammuz was killed by a pig, that a pig must be eaten on that Sunday. (Ham dinners, bunnies and eggs)

 SO WHAT?

In other words friends, all the fun things about Easter are pagan.  No matter how hard we try we cannot make “Easter” holy when mixed with such pagan symbols.

There is only one symbol that should adorn our homes, our greeting cards and our churches – the cross.  There is no other symbol, there has been no other symbol nor will there ever be another symbol that carries with it so much:

The sacrificial love of God the Father,

The total obedience of Jesus, God the Son,

The pain and suffering of His atonement,

The reality of His death,

The hope of His resurrection.

In view of the cross, every greeting card we send or church bulletin we circulate that proclaims “Easter” is just another slap in God’s face.

How can we continue to do that knowing the truth?

At least change your language.  Erase “Easter” out of your vocabulary. 

Call the holiday what it is – the day of Christ’s resurrection – the firstfruits of the dead.

Remember the challenge of Paul to the Galatians:  A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9)

Rid yourselves of the old leaven (Easter cards, bunnies and eggs) wherein you are entertaining idols unaware, and worship God in spirit and in truth.  Celebrate your Passover Lamb and His resurrection!

HE IS RISEN! 

HE IS RISEN INDEED!!


[1] Is this not a picture of God’s extreme gift of our salvation; a free gift not the wages of our efforts?

[2] The exact day of the crucifixion is unknown as He would have to be dead and buried before sundown.

[3] Meyer, David J.,

Last Trumpet Ministries International,

PO Box 806

Beaver Dam, WI 53916

Law versus Grace

God not only revealed His memorial name to Moses, but also His character.  When Moses insisted that God show him His glory, God showed Moses His goodness.  Then He proclaimed His character.  Sadly over the years people have tried to redefine  Him, but God’s self-description has proved to be true through His actions.

Law versus Grace

“We’re not under “law” but under “grace.”  How often have you heard-or even said-that?

But is that true?

If so, that means that God has changed over the years.  It means that God revealed Himself to Adam, Eve, David, and Isaiah as being vengeful, angry, and without mercy.  I doubt you believe that.

The Bible assures us that God never changes.  He cannot change.  The theological word for God’s change-less-ness is “immutable.”

So where does this lie against God’s character come from?  Perhaps from this verse:

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

At first glance, this verse appears to be a comparison between “law” and “grace and truth.”  It’s as if there were a scale to measure God’s character, putting Law on one plate and Grace on the other.  How ridiculous!

What is being compared?  The comparison is between the methods of mediation.

God transmitted “the law” through the hand of Moses, but God BECAME grace and truth in Jesus.

Consider this: wasn’t the “law” an act of God’s grace?  Look again what the “law” has done for us:

  • Revealed our sinful nature
  • Convicted us of our sin
  • Proved our need for forgiveness
  • Provided for our atonement by God’s grace through faith.

Look again at that list and ask yourself, “Wasn’t the law an act of God’s grace to allow sinful men to stand in His presence?”

The answer must be a resounding “YES!”

Thus I contend that the God who gave the law to Moses on Mt Sinai is the same changeless God who gave His life on Mt Calvary.

Maybe at this point we need to consider what God says about Himself? To answer that question, we can simply turn to Exodus 34:5-7 which records God’s self-revelation to Moses.

Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”

To correct this false understanding of God’s character we need to understand the Hebrew phrase: וֶאֱמֶֽת רַב־חֶסֶד [rav hesed v’emet] which is translated as ‘abounding in goodness and truth.’

This phrase used often throughout Scripture will prove to us that the character of God never changes.

 

Truth: אֱמֶֽת

Did you know that you speak Hebrew? Every time you say “Amen” [אָמַן] are speaking Hebrew!

We end our prayers with this precious word as an exclamation point showing our approval or our faith that God has heard us.

Amen carries the meaning of certainty, solidarity, firmness regardless of circumstance, constant, or consistent. It evokes the picture of the strong arms of a parent holding a helpless infant:

The eternal God is your refuge. (Deut. 33:27)

The word in our passage is אֱמֶֽת [emet] which is a derivative of ‘amen’ meaning ‘truth.’   Another derivative is אֱמוּנָה [emunah] which is translated as ‘faith’ or ‘faithful.’

In the letter to the Laodiceans, the same word is used three times.

These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness.  (Revelation 3:14)

I think God is trying to tell us something!

Regardless of which word is are it describes the trustworthy, changelessness of God.

 

Grace: חֶסֶד

The word translated as “goodness” in our passage is the Hebrew word is חֶסֶד [hesed].  This is, without doubt, my favorite word to describe God.  The word is translated many ways ‘kindness,’ ‘mercy,’ and ‘love.’  None of these definitions really captures the word’s depth and breadth. Even our Hebrew lexicons have difficulty in defining this incredible word. In my opinion, the best definition is ‘faithful, covenant-keeping love.’  Hesed is best seen in God’s everlasting relationship with Israel.

I AM bound Himself in covenant relationship with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knowing the faithlessness of the people in their loins! Aren’t you glad that God’s grace is based on His character and not on ours?!

Consider these verses which all use our word חֶסֶד:

My mercy I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall stand firm with him. Psalm 89:28

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.  Psalm 23:6

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?  He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. Micah 7:18

John 1:17

So now let’s look again at that troublesome verse in John’s Gospel.  The core of the issue is that simple conjunction “but” so let’s look at various translations:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (NASB)

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (KJV & NKJV)

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (NIV)

You can see the how the translators tried to deal with “but.”  The King James and the New King James versions put the word in italics that says to the reader, “inserted to by editors” while the other translations were able to omit it.  Probably the best translation is the New American Standard Bible.

An even better translation would be, “For the law was given through Moses and grace and truth BECAME Jesus Christ” or “Grace and truth were incarnated in Jesus Christ.”

God’s character never changes.

The God of Sinai is the same as the God of Calvary.

scales

Unleavened Bread -The Exodus

exodus

The second of the Passover holidays is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Let’s look at two of our four perspectives of the holidays:

Seasonal:  Of course it is in the spring, the day after Passover:

On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.   —Leviticus 23:5-6

National: It commemorates the day when Israel actually left Israel, therefore it is truly their Independence Day!

There are eleven salient points concerning this holiday gleaned from Exodus 12:1; 13:3-10, 15-20; and Deuteronomy 16:3-4, 8:1

  • It is celebrated on the fifteenth of the month.
  • The purpose of the holiday is to commemorate God’s deliverance of Israel.
  • God’s deliverance was a manifestation of His power, holiness, and love.
  • All leaven had to be removed from homes under penalty of excommunication.
  • Only unleavened bread was to be eaten for seven days, from the fourteenth to the twenty-first of Abib.
  • Unleavened bread is a reminder of the affliction in bondage and the haste of God’s deliverance.
  • The holiday began and ended with a holy convocation. The entire week was a Sabbath with no customary work
  • permitted on the first and last days.
  • Jewish males were required to go to Jerusalem either on this or one of the other two pilgrim feasts.
  • The holiday was to be observed by both Israel and strang- ers in the land.
  • Its celebration is an annual and everlasting ordinance, a sign and a memorial from one generation to another so that Israel would always remember what God had done for her.

 store passover 1

All leaven products are “hidden” in markets.

Testimonies

table

FROM NAGOYA INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLY, NAGOYA, JAPAN

We are a church of many nations, and wanted the people to see the importance of honouring and praying for Israel.   We wanted them to learn about the importance of the Feasts and deep meanings in them.

We heard about Joan Lipis and invited her to come teach on the Feasts and then have a Passover.

We had to use Mexican Tortillas for the Matzohs, but it worked fine.  We even found some lamb meat thru a Sri Lankan man who bought it from a Pakistani man!   …

We sold tickets ahead of time, and had very many people attend…even strangers came out.  There were over 80 people packed in.   But the attention was very high and Joanie
kept things moving and interesting thru it all…..it was not BORING as some Passovers can be.   Some of the Africans challenged her on some points, but she rose to the challenge and the Africans love that.

The whole Passover Seder was translated into Japanese also…quite a
job!   But it helped them to follow along.   What a great time we all had!!!

The Feasts and Passover took on a whole new and real meaning.

 nagoya seder

Pastors Gary and Carol Hall

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Victor L. Anfuso, Esq

Many years ago we celebrated our first Seder with our dear friends and neighbors who are Jewish. They had been asking about our faith and were offended by the name of Jesus. So, when we brought our children to their Seder dinner, not being a Christian event or so they thought,  they were amazed that we would do that. Not only did it enrich our faith to see the many things that are done and how it directly refers to Jesus, but it gave us the language to use to share the “rest of the story” in a way for them to understand. After we met Joan, we were thrilled to be able to celebrate a full Seder, with Jesus being the focus, with our family. It’s another rich way to see how God weaves the truth of the Old Testament with the New and that Jesus was always a part of His plan.

Victor L. Anfuso, Esq
CCLI, Chairman of the Board
Christian Copyright Licensing Inc.
(supplying music to the churches around the world)

 **********

Common Ground Church, Portland, OR 

“The Passover Seder gave me a different perspective on what the Last Supper was about.  Personally, when I reflect about how the Old Testament speaks of Jesus, the Seder has become part of this narrative for me.  In our Church’s celebration of communion, we have tried to incorporate elements of the Seder in what we do as a Church community for communion.”

Derek Chinn, Elder

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Kathy Kennedy-Mills

Since my first visit to Israel in the spring of 1996, celebrating the various biblical feasts has become part of my lifestyle.  The reality of who I am, grafted into the Family, became so much more real after that homecoming.  The trip occurred during the time of Shavuot and something has been carved on my heart ever since.

The best explanation I give people is that it is more about relationship than a law for me.

When our natural family is extended through marriage, we celebrate the birthdays of the new spouses with the same delight and gusto of our own.  Each grandchild is also celebrated with such joy – we celebrate the very life of God and the gift they are to our lives.  We “remember” them and the occasion of their coming into the world.

There are also other important dates to each of us that we “remember” – the passing of a loved one, moving to a new city or a new home, job promotions or changes, meeting someone new that has an impact on our lives, engagement and marriage…all remembered as part of life and our family story, enriching the fabric of our lives.

We don’t just remember the date, we reflect and think on what happened and how that affected us, changing us and the course of our lives forever.  That’s what celebrating the biblical feasts does in my life…they are the feasts of my Family, and what happened on those occasions has left an eternal imprint on my life, shaping me, even thousands of years later, into who I am.

What a privilege to be part of it all…what a reason to celebrate!

Kathy Kennedy-Mills
Sr. Chaplain with I.F.O.C. (Int’l. Fellowship of Chaplains)
Founder & President of Wings of Worship Int’l. Ministry.

 **********

 Ocean Park Community Church

I was invited to my first Seder 25 years ago. A Jewish follower of Jesus was attending our congregation and asked our family to join his family for Passover. When we arrived, a large room was arranged, with every place around the table displaying the Seder plate and my friend’s own hand-drafted Haggadah. He said it was his family tradition, and I questioned: “on 40 sheets of paper?” It was a bit daunting, I confess.

I must have prepared for something sterile and stoic, as I am a skeptic by choice. However, the evening was alive. The whole event was refreshing. While sticking to the OT Exodus story, it was obviously reflecting on my NT Savior. It passed “in a moment,” you might say, but has stuck with me ever since.

I have been impressed to remember, each year, and have joined others, been part of and facilitated our own Seder. I have done the event many ways, using various tools and retooling my own presentation. thanks to other devices, teachers and leaders, to recall the deliverance of GOD’S people from bondage.

I now, as a pastor-teacher, have conducted the Passover Seder each year for over 10 years, with no two in sequence being identical; in order to reflect on My personal Passover Lamb and to aid others in seeing how precious the types of Old are in the present.

Sometimes I bring to the forefront, the One, Who is Deliver from my wicked past, and am able to relate to the bondage of the Hebrew people, when I consider the bondage I knew, in my seasons of sin. I am not sin-free, nor totally guilt free, but I am wondrously aware that I am positionally free from sin and guilt, because of the True Passover Lamb of GOD, Who has taken away the sin of the world.

I have known the One, Who has come and is coming again (John 14) since February 1977. I knew of Him religiously before and whole-heartedly walked away from all that, giving myself to binge drinking, drugs and immorality of the lowliest kind. Yet, now I can say with assurance, that I know Him and His precious love for me, for you.

I love the Seder meal, because celebrating Passover and working through it’s elements helps remind me, that He is ever present, and for the one who listens in heart, they may recognize that He still passes … nearby.

Pastor Marty Cole

**************

Sri Lanka, 2013

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