A PASSOVER QUESTION
There has long been confusion as to whether the Passover is part of the First Day of Unleavened Bread, or if it stands apart and acts as an introduction to the annual Holy Days. The basis for confusion is partly found in a very few unclear scriptures relating to the word “evening”. In this brief article, I will present evidence that seems well worth considering in an honest attempt to help answer this question without addressing the specific and difficult arguments as to the interpretation of the word “evening”. This is because reasonable scholars are themselves confused as to why the word is sometimes attached to the beginning of a particular day, and sometimes to the end of a day. A wealth of various opinions are available elsewhere if a person wishes to wade into the word “evening” head on, but it may well be an exercise in futility. So here we will take a different approach.
For many brethren, the question seems moot, since in the “old days” it was long settled WWCG tradition that Passover itself was to be observed 24 hours prior to the First Holy Day. The church primarily relied on scriptures like Lev. 23 which drew a seemingly clear line by specifying that the Passover is the 14th and the first Holy Day is the 15th. Also compelling were circumstances in the New Testament regarding the entire day of Christ’s death and that specific day having been a normal working day, and not a Sabbath of any kind. And as the church took a hard look at God’s commands regarding the original Passover, other glaring problems emerged. For example, the Israelites were forbidden to leave their homes until after morning arrived when anything left over from the Passover meal was to be disposed of in fire. Therefore the Church concluded that Israel could not have left Egypt that same night. However, there are also legitimate concerns about how to render the word “morning”, so again we are compelled to look elsewhere for ways to shed light in our search for clarity.
So it is better to forgo all the traditional confusing arguments and examine very clear and tangible differences between the Passover and the first Holy day. The differences seem to me to be as stark as the difference between the Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day. (See my article about the Eight Day.) In my mind the primary reason that the Passover is not part of a Holy Day is that without the Passover, there would be no redemptive plan of God, therefore there would be no need for holy days by which that plan is acted out.
The idea depicted during the Days of Unleavened Bread is one of discovering and then removing sin from our individual human lives. Doing so, however, is not possible unless a person is led by the Holy Spirit, as it alone empowers a person to see beyond the human imagination, and begin to see with the mind of Christ. The Spirit is not provided until after a person accepts Christ as their personal Passover lamb. Christ’s death, pictured in the Passover, became the ultimate sacrifice that would pay the penalty for all sins of all mankind throughout history, but each in his own order. For the few called in this age, the gift of the Holy Spirit provides a person the power to understand and to participate in the plan that begins to unfold with the First Day of unleavened bread.
With that idea fresh in our mind, it is useful to further examine the differing symbolism of unleavened bread as used at the Passover verses that of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The unleavened bread provided specifically with the Passover meal is symbolic of the pure life of the true Passover Lamb who was entirely sinless, while the bread used in the next seven days is a picture of removing sin by those who are loaded with all kinds of sin, two starkly different visions. This alone is a compelling reason that there is separation.
But perhaps equally important is the vision of the Passover as a solemn occasion picturing the agony of our savior’s death in the modern version, and the death of all the firstborn of Egypt at the time of the original. Yet the days of Unleavened Bread are a vision of joy and release from agony and slavery, again two totally different ideas are depicted. Just imagine how it would look if your neighbors children died this evening and you went out dancing in the street immediately after. Would you not instead be humbled and heartsick for your neighbors, and mourn yourself, even if you disliked your neighbor? Surely you would. Thus we have an additional reason that the Passover day was and is truly a solemn occasion. Ancient Israel would not have been flaunting their escape from death at the exact same moment that their Egyptian neighbor’s were in great agony with death of all their firstborn. A little time for mourning seems more than logical prior to any celebration.
And one final thought. Exodus 8 assures us that Israel was forbidden to make Festival sacrifices while still living among the Egyptians, thus why Moses would not accept Pharaoh’s offer to let Israel sacrifice in Egypt. The service of the Passover was not forbidden while Israel remained in Egypt and was in fact performed in Egypt. Therefore the Passover was considered by God to be very different from the sacrifices presented during the subsequent festival season. We see here a separation that was set in motion by God’s specific commands.
Clearly any Holy Day sacrifice was forbidden till Israel had gone outside Egypt’s border. Once again we see two totally different concepts depicted, and more reason that the Passover cannot be part of the first Holy Day, but must be prior to it. For us in today’s conflicted church, we receive the grace of the meaning of the Passover Lamb while still sinners, or while still in spiritual Egypt, then as we repent, we start on our individual journey out of Spiritual Egypt, very much like our ancient Israelite brethren’s experience at the very first Passover season.