When Did Easter Replace Passover?

Matthew 28:1, When did the early Christians first celebrate a day commemorating the resurrection of Yeshua?

Although the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah is a biblical and historical fact, it’s celebration (known as Easter), is neither commanded in the Scriptures, nor was it celebrated by the original disciples of Yeshua. It is purely an invention of the church, which eventually replaced Passover! Here are the facts:

In A History of Christianity (vol. 1), Kenneth Scott Latourette states that notice of Easter as a festival occurs in the middle of the second century, but that festivals commemorating the resurrection of Messiah were presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier times (p. 137). Church historian, Philip Schaff, also attributes the beginning of the Easter festival to the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, p. 207). He states that the Christian Passover naturally grew out of the Jewish Passover, as the Lord’s Day (Sunday) grew out of the Sabbath. “It is based on the view that Christ crucified and risen is the centre of faith. The Jewish Christians would very naturally from the beginning continue to celebrate the legal Passover, but in the light of its fulfillment by the sacrifice of Christ, and would dwell chiefly on the aspect of the crucifixion. The Gentile Christians, for whom the Jewish Passover had no meaning except through reflection on the cross, would chiefly celebrate the Lord’s resurrection as they did on every Sunday of the week.” He notes that the early Christians commemorated the entire period between the death and resurrection of Yeshua with vigils, fasting, special devotions, meetings culminating in a resurrection feast celebrating the whole work of redemption. The feast of the resurrection gradually became the most prominent aspect of the Christian Passover (Easter celebration), but the crucifixion continued to be celebrated on Good Friday” (ibid., pp. 207–208).

Christians universally kept the Passover on the biblical date of Abib (also known as Nisan) 14/15, irrespective of the day of the week until A.D. 135 according to leading Sabbath scholar Prof. Samuele Bacchiocchi quoting the fourth century Christian historian Ephiphanius (From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 81). “This conclusion,” continues Bacchiocchi, “is supported indirectly by the two earliest documents mentioning the Passover celebration, since both emphasize the commemoration of the death rather than the resurrection of Christ. The Ethiopic version of the apocryphal Epistle of the Apostles [or Didache] says, ‘and you therefore celebrate the remembrance of my death, i.e., the Passover’ (ch. 15). In the Coptic version the passage is basically the same, ‘And you remember my death. If now the Passover takes place …’ (chap. 15)’ (ibid., p. 82).

The second document that attests to the early church’s emphasis on the death rather than the resurrection of Yeshua is the Sermon on the Passover, by Melito, Bishop of Sardis (died ca. A.D. 190). According to Bacchiocchi, Melito provides a most extensive theological interpretations of the meaning of the Passover for early Christians. “Though Melito makes a few passing references to the resurrection, it is clear from the context that these function as the epilogue of the passion drama of the Passover. The emphasis is indeed on the suffering and death of Jesus which constitute the recurring theme of the sermon and of the celebration” (ibid., p. 83).

“The resurrection,” Bacchiocchi admits, “however, did emerge in time as the dominant reason for the celebration not only of the annual Easter-Sunday, but also of the weekly Sunday. The two festivities, in fact,… came to be regarded as one basic feast commemorating at different times the same event of the resurrection.” Bacchiocchi concludes,

It would seem therefore that though the resurrection is frequently mentioned both in the New Testament and in the early patristic literature, no suggestion is given that primitive Christians commemorated the event by a weekly or yearly Sunday service. The very fact that Passover, which later become the annual commemoration of the resurrection held on Easter-Sunday, initially celebrated primarily Christ’s passion [death] and was observed on the fixed date of Nisan [Abib] 15 rather than on Sunday, makes it untenable to claim that Christ’s resurrection determined the origin of Sunday worship during the lifetime of the Apostles. (ibid. p. 84)

 

What Are the Weightier Matters of the Torah-Law? The Higher Torah and the Highest Torah Explained

This is a teaching that every saint who is returning to the biblical, Torah roots of their faith needs to read. Why? So they don’t become hyper-focused on the dos and don’ts of the Torah-law, become legalistic, become head-knowledge-oriented people who have forgotten the spirit and heart of the law, become those who end up bowing down to the idol of intellectualism, and, most importantly, so they don’t forget the centrality of the gospel message with Yeshua the Messiah at its center.  Natan

Matthew 23:23, Weightier matters of the Torah. What are the weightier matters of the Torah? Torah is not an end-all. It is a vehicle that leads us to something. What is that? What really matters to YHVH when all is said and done???? It is the greater Torah or the higher Torah. The Gospel of Matthew (23:23) records that Yeshua rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their not following the higher Torah. What did Yeshua really mean by “the weightier matters of the Torah”?

What Is the Ultimate Goal of the Torah?

A strict obedience to the Torah is NOT the ultimate goal the Torah! The Torah, as wonderful as it is, points us to something even better and higher!

What are the weightier matters of the Torah? Perfect obedience to the Torah is not the ultimate goal of the saint. The Torah is merely a vehicle to lead us to something. What is that? What is the greater Torah, the higher and the highest Torah? What really matters to YHVH when all is said and done???? The Gospel of Matthew (Matt 23:23) records that Yeshua rebuked the religious leaders of his day for their not following the higher Torah.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Torah, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

What did he really mean by “the weightier matters of the Torah”?

The Deeper Meaning of the Word “Torah”

Almost every place where you see the word “law” in the Old Testament (or Tanakh), it is the Hebrew word “Torah.” This word is used 219 times in the Tanakh, and in almost every case it is translated in the KJV and in most other English Bibles as “the law.” Is this all this word means? Is “law” even its main definition according to the Hebrew?

Let’s begin to answer this question by asking another one. When you think of the term “the laws” what comes into our mind: good thoughts or bad thoughts? Do you think of a list of dos and donts—what you are legally permitted to do and not to do? Do you think of red and blue flashing lights and a sirens? Or a man in a blue uniform with a star and a gun? A black-robed judge with a gavel? A prison or jail cell? If so, these can be scary thoughts!

Let’s see what the word “Torah” really means according to the Scriptures.

In Proverbs 13:14, the Bible tells us that the Torah is the fountain of life and keeps one and keeps one from the snares of death. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? It fact, it sounds really good!

Next start open your Bible to Proverbs 1:7 where we read that the fear of Elohim is the beginning of wisdom. In verse 8, Solomon urges us to not forsake the law. The word law in this verse is Torah. Continue reading what Solomon teaches us about the benefits of YHVH’s instructions and wisdom found in the Torah. Start reading in verse 9 to the end of chapter. Here he is talking about the path of sinners (those who lawless or Torahless). Next start reading in chapter three and continue to the end of chapter four. Whenever you see the words “law,” “instruction,” “wisdom,” “instructions” “commandments,” “truth,” “mercy,” “knowledge” or “words” think of Torah, for that is what these words are referring to. Does this sound like the Torah-law of Elohim is a bad think that should evoke thoughts and emotions of fear and anxiety in a person? Or does the Bible view Torah as a fountain that brings life, wisdom, mercy, truth and knowledge?

On our journey to discover what is the higher Torah, let’s turn to Psalm 119. Perhaps no other biblical chapter explains the ramifications and extols the virtues of the Torah more than this psalm of David.

Based on Psalm 119 and Proverbs chapters one through three, what are the blessings and benefits of Torah-obedience?

  • It takes away feelings of shame, guilt, reproach and contempt. (Ps 119:6, 22)
  • It gives us an upright (straightness of) heart. (Ps 119:7)
  • It cleanses one’s ways and keeps a one clean. (Ps 119:9)
  • It keeps us from sinning against YHVH. (Ps 119:11)
  • It brings delight and joy. (Ps 119:24, 70, 77, 162, 174)
  • It gives us the ability to answer those who reproach (taunt, defy, rail against) us. (Ps 119:42)
  • It gives us freedom (a large or broad area to walk in). (Ps 119:45, 96)
  • It allows us to speak wisely before leaders. (Ps 119:46)
  • It brings us comfort. (Ps 119:52)
  • It gives us something to sing about (Ps 119:54)
  • It brings hope. (Ps 119:74, 81)
  • It makes us wiser than our enemies. (Ps 119:98)
  • It gives us more understanding than our teachers and the ancients. (Ps 119:99, 100)
  • It keeps our feet from evil. (Ps 119:101)
  • It gives light to our path. (Ps 119:105; Prov 6:23)
  • It helps to order our steps and keeps sin from having dominion over us (Ps 119:133)
  • It shows us what truth is. (Ps 119:142, 151)
  • It gives something to love. (Ps 119:159, 163)
  • It causes us to hate evil. (Ps 119:163)
  • It gives us great peace. (Ps 119:163)
  • It defines righteousness for us and gives us understanding as to what righteousness is. (Ps 119:172; Prov 2:9)
  • It brings an understanding of the fear of Elohim, which is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 1:7; 2:5)
  • It gives us discretion (purpose, to know the difference between good and evil). (Prov 2:9)
  • It delivers us from the way of the evil man. (Prov 2:12)
  • It will keep us from the strange woman (a metaphor for sin or wickedness). (Prov 2:16)
  • It shall bring long life and peace. (Prov 3:2,16)
  • It shall give you favor and good understanding in the sight of Elohim and man. (Prov 3:4)
  • YHVH will direct your paths. (Prov 3:6)
  • It shall bring you good health physically. (Prov 3:8)
  • It will bring you physical wealth (because you tithe to YHVH). (Prov 3:9–10, 16)
  • It brings the loving correction and chastisement of YHVH. (Prov 3:11–12)
  • It brings happiness. (Prov 3:13, 18)
  • It brings honor (glory, abundance, riches). (Prov 3:16)
  • It is a tree of life. (Prov 3:18)
  • It brings life to your soul and grace (favor) like an ornament around the neck (Prov 3:22)
  • It will cause you to walk safely so that your foot will not stumble. (Prov 3:23)
  • It will make you so that you are not afraid—so that you can sleep safely at night and have sweet sleep. (Prov 3:24)

As we can see so far, the Torah is more than merely a list of dos and don’ts.  It brings Continue reading

 

More Prophetic Allusions to Yeshua and the Ruach

Genesis 24:4, Take a wife for my son Isaac. Some Bible students see in Abraham’s sending Eliezer his servant an allegory of our Heavenly Father choosing a bride for Yeshua, his Son with the help of the Set-Apart Spirit or Ruach haKadosh.

The analogy goes like this: When speaking to Abraham, YHVH refers to Isaac as “your only son…whom you love” (Gen 22:2). In this statement, it’s hard to miss the similarity with the well-known John 3:16 passage where Yeshua refers to himself as the only begotten Son whom his Father in heaven loves. Isaac is an obvious prophetic picture of Yeshua in that Abraham sacrificed a ram in place of his only son whom he loved on the very spot where, one thousand years later, the Temple of Solomon would be built and where sacrifices were made to atone for men’s sin. This is the same spot later on where Yeshua himself was condemned to death and not far from there became the Lamb of Elohim who was sacrificed to atone for men’s sins.

In addition, the name Eliezer means “my El helps,” which many see as an allusion to the Set-Apart Spirit who helps or comforts us, and to which Yeshua refers to as the Comforter or Helper (e.g. John 14:16). It is the Set-Apart Spirit that is choosing and preparing a bride from among called and redeemed Israelites for Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of Elohim.

 

The “Sacrifice” of Isaac at Mount Moriah. 

Genesis 22:13, A ram caught in a thicket by his horns.

YHVH credited to Abraham’s spiritual account his willingness to sacrifice Isaac as if he had actually done so. In fact, there is an ancient rabbinical tradition that states Isaac actually died and was resurrected as the midrash comments on this passage: “As the knife reached his throat, Isaac’s soul flew away and left [e.g., he died]. But when a voice went forth from between the angels saying, ‘Do not stretch out your hand against the lad’ (Genesis 22:12), his soul returned to his body” (Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 31 as quoted in The ArtScroll Davis Edition Baal HaTurim Chumash Bamidbar, p. 1417) (bracketed comments are in the original).

The Jewish sages also note that Scripture states that both Abraham and Isaac ascended the mountain, but that it is recorded that only Abraham descended (22:19). Isaac’s absence from the Genesis narrative until many years latter (Gen 24:62) has given rise to much speculation on the part of the sages as to Isaac’s whereabouts in the interim (The ArtScroll Bereishis Vol. 1a, pp. 812–813).

Regardless of the rabbinic interpretations, does Scripture leave Isaac out of the narrative as if to highlight his absence, and to give the impression (albeit a prophetic allegorical one) that he was actually sacrificed? After all, what was the ram caught in the thorn bush thicket (wearing a crown of thorns) by its two horns all about? That ram was a substitute sacrifice picturing Yeshua the Messiah dying on the cross while wearing a crown of thorns. And who was it that commanded Abraham to lay down the knife and slaughter the ram instead? It was the Malak or Messenger of YHVH (verse 11–12) who was none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of YHVH-Yeshua some 1900 years before his appearance as the Messiah in human form on earth as the Lamb of Elohim slain from the foundation of the earth.

The Three Trumpets

The first and last trumpets relate to the two horns of the ram caught in the thicket on Mount Moriah. The ram represents Yeshua the Sacrificial Lamb. The thicket represents human sinfulness. Humanity is entangled in the thicket of sin from which it needs to be freed. Yeshua the Messiah is the Lamb (or ram) slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), who, while hanging on the cross, wore a crown of thorns. Is this not a picture of the “ram caught in the thicket” (Gen 22:13) of the man’s sins? After all, the Scriptures say that the sins of man were laid upon Yeshua (Isa 53:6). The crown of thorns is a picture of this. Furthermore, in Matthew 13, in Yeshua’s Parable of the Sower, we see that some of the seed was cast into the thorns, which Yeshua explained represents the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches that choke out the word of YHVH. These references to thorns and thicket are a picture of sin. The wages of sin is death.

In Genesis 22, Isaac was about to die, but the ram caught in the thicket that YHVH provided was a prophetic picture of Yeshua (a Hebrew word meaning “salvation”) that became a substitute sacrifice for Isaac. Isaac was set free and the ram was sacrificed instead. This ram was a prophetic picture of Yeshua’s death on the cross for man’s sins.

In Hebraic thought and prophetically-speaking, the left horn of the ram signifies mercy and grace. This is also a picture of the left (or weaker) hand of YHVH, which symbolizes grace, or the feminine side of Elohim. Furthermore, the left horn of the redemptive ram signifies the purpose of the first coming of Messiah Yeshua as the Suffering Savior, as one bringing mercy and grace, and who refused to quench a smoking flax or breaking a bruised reed as a meek and quiet lamb going to its slaughter (Matt 12:20; John 12:47; Isa 53:7).

The right horn of the ram caught in the thicket represents judgment picturing Elohim’s stronger right hand of power, might and judgment (Ps 89:10,13–14). Thus, this horn represents the second coming of Messiah, who is seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:32–33), and who will come this time in power as King of kings to rule with a rod of iron and to judge the living and the dead, and to destroy all his enemies (Rev 17:14; 19:15).

That is why the first trumpet (representing the left horn of the ram) is sounded on Shavuot representing YHVH’s grace and mercy upon his people from Abraham until the Yeshua’s second coming—a time for his people to repent and return to him.

Genesis 22:4 says that Abraham saw the “place” (i.e. Mount Moriah) afar off “on the third day”. This is scriptural prophetic code for something significant. Mount Moriah was the place of Messiah’s crucifixion. Abraham saw—by faith—the place and work of Yeshua’s death afar off. “On the third day” signifies two things. First, a day in Scripture and in Jewish thought, in this instance, symbolizes 1000 years (2 Pet 3:8), and so it may represent the third one-thousand-year period from the time of Abraham (ca. 1872 B.C.). Messiah would come as the sacrificial Lamb in three days or in the third millennia from Abraham’s time. Yeshua was born and died in the first millennia A.D., or the third millennia from Abraham. Second, the phrase, “third day” can represent the time or millennia of Messiah’s second coming as well, as we shall see.

 The Messenger of YHVH at the Binding of Isaac

In Genesis 22:11, 15–17 we read the following,

11 And the Messenger/Malak of YHVH called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I … 15 And the Messenger/Malak of YHVH called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, 16 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith YHVH, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven.

In this passage, there is no mention of the Messenger of YHVH appearing to Abraham in some bodily form, only his voice calling from heaven. What we want to emphasize in this passage is that the Messenger of YHVH is equating himself with YHVH (verse 16). The biblical passages where the Malak of YHVH equates himself with YHVH while appearing in human form have perennially defied reasonable explanation by the Jewish sages.

Notwithstanding, the ancient Targum Jerusalem (the pre-Christian Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) equates the Malak of YHVH with “the Word of Elohim” in verse eight implying that YHVH and the Word of YHVH are in some way different from each other:

And Abraham said, The Word of Elohim will prepare for me a lamb; and if not, then thou art the offering, my son! And they went both of them together with a contrite heart.

Some Jewish sages asserts that “the angel speaks in God’s name, in first person” while others maintain that it was “God Himself who opened the heavens and addressed Abraham’ (The ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary, p. 808). If the latter is true, than the Malak of Elohim/YHVH here is none other than Elohim himself. And logically, if he is Elohim here, then he must be Elohim/YHVH in the other passages where he is mentioned. And if Elohim can appear in human form, speak to men and eat with them (as in Genesis 18) then the question must be asked: why can’t YHVH appear in human form as the Messiah; namely, Yeshua the Messiah? After all, in Proverbs 30:4 (a passage we will discuss at length later) we read,

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son’s name, if thou canst tell? (KJV) (emphasis added)

Additionally, in Isaiah 53, a passage recognized by both Jewish and Christian scholars as referring to Messiah verse one states,

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of YHVH revealed?

Here, the Messiah is called “the Arm of YHVH.” Is the Malak of YHVH/Elohim this “Arm of YHVH” who does the earthly bidding of the One in heaven and who acts as the intermediary between Elohim and man? We believe so.

Genesis 22:15, YHVH called to Abraham. When Abraham was willing to deny himself and to follow YHVH no matter the cost even to the point of sacrificing of his son, it was only then that heaven opened up, Elohim revealed himself to Abraham and blessed him. It is when we’re willing to lose our lives for YHVH, deny ourself and pick up our cross and follow Yeshua that the life of the Spirit is revealed to us and the blessings of heaven open up before us. Abraham a man who had died to himself, realized that nothing he possessed was his, for he was wholly surrendered and obedient to YHVH’s will. Abraham was materially rich and had everything, yet he possessed nothing. At this point, the riches of heaven were opened up to him. For him, the real treasures were inward and eternal.

 

“Remember Lot’s Wife!”

A Man Called Lot: What We Can Learn from His Life

In Luke 17 32, Yeshua warns end times believers to “Remember Lot’s wife.” What did he mean by this pointed warning? Is Lot not a picture of the typical Western saint whether Christian or Messianic? I believe so. In saying this, as a pastor and having been a watchman on the spiritual wall for many years, I see very little if any differentiation (broadly speaking) between Christians and most Messianics, for the spiritual condition of both groups is fundamentally the same.

Primarily what differentiates the two groups is the religious jargons and nomenclatures each group uses in addition to the outward religious trapping or externals each uses to identify itself. What about Torah, you may ask? Don’t Messianics obey the Torah and Christians do not? My response is that there is not a huge difference between the two—at least not from the Creator’s perspective. YHVH looks at hearts, and not merely the superficiality of outward appearances and the religious trappings by which people identify themselves.

In reality, both born-again Christians and born-again Messianics follow Torah principles to one degree or another. The only difference is that the former group does not claim to follow Torah, but teaches that it was “done away with.” In reality, to a certain degree, many serious Christians do follow the “moral” principles of the Torah along with tithing. On the other hand, a majority of Messianics profess loudly and proudly their Torah-obedience, but largely, in practice (except for an often half-hearted adherence to the observance of the Sabbath, the biblical feasts and the biblical dietary laws) they don’t. If so, they do so only in a way that is copacetic and convenient to the secular, post-Christian society and lifestyle Continue reading

 

Yeshua Straightens Out the Rich Young Ruler

Matthew 19:16, What good thing. Yeshua’s answer to the rich young ruler when he asks him what he must do to have eternal life might, in a cursory reading, appear that Yeshua is promoting a works based salvation. However this is not the case. Yeshua cleverly shows the young man that he is incapable of obtaining eternal life through good works, for man isn’t capable of perfectly following the Torah. In the case of the young man, he thought himself to be perfectly righteous, when in reality, Yeshua showed him that he was covetous, and therefore still an unrighteous sinner thus disqualifying himself from reward of eternal life. Yeshua, on the contrary, instead of promoting a works-based salvation model, instructs the young man to deal with his sin by selling his possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor, and then becoming a follower of him. The lesson here is that salvation and eternal life can come only as we turn from our sin and become a follower of Yeshua.

What Yeshua is really saying when he answers the young man’s question in verse 21 is this: “If you want to be perfect [Gr. teleios meaning “brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness”],” turn from sin by obeying the Torah more completely, but also follow the Messiah by becoming his disciple. Remember, to hear and to obey (Heb. shema) the Messiah was a command of the Torah as well (Deut 18:15), and to not believe in him is sin (John 16:9 cp. 3:18). So according to the Bible, to be spiritually perfect or complete one must, as Yeshua said, love him by keeping his (Torah) commandments (John 14:15). It is the Torah that shows us how to love Elohim (and our fellow man as well).

Yeshua makes a similar point in his exchange with a scribe in Mark 12:28–34. While extolling the virtues of Torah-obedience, and commending the scribe for his understanding of the deeper heart issues of Torah-obedience, Yeshua makes an interesting concluding statement. He tells the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of Elohim (v. 34) as if to tell him, “You’re on the right spiritual track with regard to your Torah-obedience, and you’re heading for the kingdom, but that alone won’t get you into the kingdom. You must also become a disciple of Yeshua.