I recently received a comment on this blog from a man who believes that it was Yeshua’s resurrection that atoned for man’s sins and not his death. Is this a new wind of doctrine that’s circulating out there?
When I suggested that he do a search of the New Testament to see if the death or the resurrection of Yeshua was emphasized more, and when I told him that his belief was heretical and false, he turned angry, vitriolic and attacked me. I had to delete his comments. Can’t have this kind of nonsense around here. I requested of him an honest and polite discussion on this subject, but instead he attacked me personally. That’s his problem, not mine.
Anyway I decided to do a study on the subject, and this one is hot off the press, so to speak. Please enjoy.
The Testimony of Yeshua (or New Testament) has more than twice as many references to the death of Yeshua (more than 99 references) than to his resurrection (approximately 49 references). Why is this? Why did the apostolic writers emphasize the death of Yeshua the Messiah more than his resurrection? This fact has perplexed some of us for years. We now will briefly explore why this may be.
To be sure, the resurrection of Yeshua is a momentous event in the history of the world not to be minimized or understated in any way, and is not sub par to the importance of his incarnation, life or death. Furthermore, had Yeshua not resurrected from the dead, there would be no hope of the resurrection of the saints, for as Paul writes,
And if Messiah is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of Elohim, because we have testified of Elohim that He raised up Messiah, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Messiah is not risen. And if Messiah is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Messiah have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Messiah, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Cor 15:14–19)
Adding to the perplexing fact that the Testimony of Yeshua emphasizes the death of Yeshua over his resurrection is that notable fact that of the seven biblical feasts mentioned in Leviticus 23 and elsewhere in Scripture, there no feast that specifically points to the resurrection of Yeshua. The day of Passover addresses Yeshua’s death and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the next biblical feast completely skips past the resurrection. After that comes the Feast of Weeks, which corresponds to the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two, which also occurred after Yeshua’s resurrection.
So why is there no biblical holiday, contrary to popular but ill-informed opinion, specifically portraying the resurrection of the Messiah? In answer to this question, some Bible students will point to the so called “Feast” of First Fruits (Lev 23:9–13) as the biblical holiday that answers to the resurrection of Yeshua. While First Fruits Day (the correct biblical name for this occasion) does definitely point prophetically to Yeshua’s resurrection, this day was neither a biblical feast or miqra kodesh or a high holy day Sabbath. Rather, it was a moed or divine appointment (all biblical feasts are moedim [the plural of moed] but not all moedim are feasts) on which the Levitical priest performed the ritual of offering up a sheaf of the barley first fruits before Elohim. But for the rest of the Israelites, First Fruits Day was not a Sabbath-day of rest or holy or sacred assembly (Heb. miqra kodesh). Rather it was a common work day when the Israelites went into their in the fields to harvest the newly ripened barley. (I discuss this subject at length in my 23 page article on this subject available at https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/firstfruits.pdf.) To call First Fruits Day a feast is a misreading, if not a twisting, of Scripture. Facts are stubborn things for some people to deal with, but facts are truth, and truth is still truth regardless of people’s opinions to the contrary.
So now let us attempt to answer the question of why there is no biblical feast that specifically commemorates the resurrection of our Master and Savior, Yeshua the Messiah, and why the apostolic writers of the Testimony of Yeshua emphasized the death of Yeshua more than twice as often as his resurrections. First, it is the death of Yeshua and the shedding of his blood that saved humans from their sins, not his resurrection. Scripture is clear on this in both the Tanakh or Old Testament and the Testimony of Yeshua clearly teach that the shedding of blood atones for man’s sin (for scriptural proof, see my article on this at https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/atone.pdf). The New Testament Scriptures that clearly state that Yeshua’s shed blood and not his resurrection is what redeemed or saved man from sin’s death penalty. One passage that specifically states this is Romans 4:25:
Who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Other scriptures that confirm this fundamental biblical truth include:
Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matt 20:28)
For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt 26:28 )
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32)
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Rom 5:9)
Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Gal 3:13)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace… (Eph 1:7)
[I]n whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Col 1:14)
Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to Elohim, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living Elohim? (Heb 9:12–14)
So, as we can see from the Word of Elohim, it is the blood of the Messiah through his death that man was saved.
But there is another point to consider that may help to answer the question of there is no biblical holiday that commemorates the resurrection of Yeshua. It is this: The Bible clearly teaches that death came on all humans because of his sin (e.g. Ezek 18:4; Rom 6:23). Had Adam and Eve not sinned, they would have lived forever (Gen 32:17). But because of sin of our first parents, sin and its penalty of death spread to the whole world (Rom 5:12). From this basic truth, it is self-evident to the nominally informed Bible student that if one does not sin, he will live forever. This is a simple logical deduction. This would have been a most elementary and basic biblical understanding among the apostles and their disciples. The Levitical sacrificial system that was still operating while most the apostles lived and wrote pointed to the coming Messiah (e.g. Isa 53). Every time an animal without spot and blemish was offered under the sacrificial system, the Messiah’s sinlessness was dramatically proclaimed. In continuation of this theme, the apostles taught that Yeshua was without sin. This fact was amazingly evident in his resurrection, which they had all witnessed. His resurrection was proof-positive that he lived a sinless life or else he would not have resurrected. Had he sinned, his own death would have atoned for his own sins and that would have been the end of that. Had he been a sinner, he would not have resurrected. This fact was as basic and self-evident to his disciples as one saying that water is wet, or fire is hot, or that if you drop an object it will fall to the ground. These facts are obvious to all and don’t need to be stated much less over-emphasized.
So the fact that the apostolic writers and the biblical feasts emphasized the Messiah’s atoning death over his resurrection should not be shocking. The fact that Yeshua saved man from the penalty of sin by his sinless life and his atoning death is a fact that is indivisible from his resurrection. His death and resurrection are two sides of the same coin and go hand-in-hand, for one cannot exist without the other. His death atoned for man’s sin, while his resurrection demonstrated his victory over the power of Satan, death, hell and the grave. It follows and goes without saying that all humans who are redeemed by the shed blood of the Savior’s death will automatically follow in his footsteps and experience the eternal life and the victories that come with it including being resurrected from the grave to immortal life even as he was.
That the Bible emphasized the crucifixion over the resurrection may be a hard concept to accept for those coming out of a mainstream Messiahian background in light of the church’s traditional emphasis on the resurrection as commemorated by the Easter holiday. So why did the early church fathers emphasize the Messiah’s resurrection over his death? There are several reasons for this, but the one of interest to us in this study is that it was good marketing to do so. After all, the early church fathers likely realized that emphasizing the Messiah’s resurrection over his death was a more successful plan for drawing the heathen to the message of the gospel rather than emphasizing Yeshua’s horrific death at the hands of angry sinners, and one’s need to repent of sin. Similarly, history records that the church fathers of the late fourth century wooed the pagans into Messiahianity by superimposing the birth of Yeshua over the top of their heathen winter solstice celebrations calling it Messiahmas. Although, this was a clever marketing tool, this is not the method that the disciples of Yeshua used to spread the message of the gospel in the first century. They neither watered down the message of the cross to better attract adherents to the Messiahian faith nor syncretized Messiahianity with pagan holidays to lure in the masses. Rather they preached the undilluted message repentance of sin, faith in the Messiah as the Savior of man from the sin’s death penalty and then living a godly, obedient life to the laws of Elohim in preparation for heaven’s coming kingdom. The gospel message stands on its own and is backed by the power and authority of heaven; it needs neither the help of pagan practices such as various heathen winter solstice traditions (as is the case with Messiahmas and its lights, tree, mistletoe, etc.) or perverse Babylonian sexual rites (as is the case with Easter and its rabbit and eggs) to advance its truth.
So what is the bottom line here? When sharing the gospel with others, let’s not reconfigure the message of Scripture differently than the way the biblical authors present it. We cannot improve on the manner and method by which the early apostles, the direct spiritual descendents of Yeshua the Messiah, preached the gospel. The fact is that in the short time of the early church, it was said that they turned the world upside down with the gospel message (Acts 17:6). All this was without the help of all of the extra and unbiblical traditions and methodologies for spreading the gospel that slowly crept into churchianity. Sadly, the church has spent the better part of 2,000 years reinterpreting and reinventing how the disciples of Yeshua preached and spread the gospel all the while claiming, largely errantly, to be walking in their exact footsteps. Claiming and doing are to different animals. Instead, of just talking about Yeshua and the early disciples, let’s do what they did and emphasize what they emphasized and not vice versa. Whatever you do, say or teach, before claiming apostolic authority for it, search all the Scriptures to ensure that what you do, say, teach, think and practice lines up with the Word of Elohim first. This is a tall order and requires rolling up one’s sleeves and delving into the Word of Elohim rather that just accepting unquestioningly the traditions of men that are spewed from the pulpits of church the world over regularly. Let these warning words of Yeshua our Master ring clearly in our ears:
He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of Elohim, that you may keep your tradition.… making the word of Elohim of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:9, 13)
Thus you have made the commandment of Elohim of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘THESE PEOPLE DRAW NEAR TO ME WITH THEIR MOUTH, AND HONOR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.’ “ (Matt 15:6–9)