Christian Churches of God
Preparing for the Passover
(Edition 2.0 19970118-19990213-20080118)
The Passover is the most important period in the Church calendar. Preparation to take part in the Passover is a problem central to every Christian. Many did not prepare to take the Passover correctly over the years and have paid for the error, or lack of diligence, with their spiritual lives.
Preparing for the Passover
As we will see below, we are commanded to prepare ourselves for the Passover. The build-up over the preparation period culminates in the Lordís Supper and is again commemorated in the meal of the Night To Be Much Remembered. Firstly, the Lordís Supper represents the commission of the elect as spiritual Israel. Secondly, the meal of Exodus 12 represents the salvation of all who take shelter in Christ as part of the nation of Israel, being saved by the sacrifice of Christ, as the lamb killed that evening for them.
Paul said of the Lordís Supper:
1Corinthians 11:23-32† For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. 27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 31 But if we judged ourselves truly, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are chastened so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (RSV)
To eat the body and drink the blood of Messiah in an unworthy manner is to profane the body and blood of the Lord. He who does this without discerning the body drinks judgment upon himself.
What does this mean? We have to take the body and blood of Christ in a worthy manner. We are also to discern the Body.
Here, two commands present themselves: the first is to prepare oneself to take the Lordís Supper in a worthy manner; and the second is to discern the Body.
Discerning the Body
Let us examine the second command first, namely, to discern the body.
The text says: ďanyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment upon himselfĒ. However, the term actually is: ďfor the one eating and drinking judgment to himself eats and drinks not discerning the body" (see Marshallís Greek-English Interlinear). The judgment is krima, and the term discerning the body is diakrinűn to sűma. The word diakrinűn means to separate or make a distinction. It can mean to prefer or separate one from the rest. Here it is in the sense to determine, to give judgment or decide a dispute (see New Thayerís Greek-English Lexicon, p. 138). It can also mean people withdrawing from the true society of Christians (ibid.). The sűma here is the body and is used both of men and of animals. It can be a corpse or the body of a man, or of an animal offered in sacrifice (see also Heb. 13:11; Ex. 29:14; and Num. 19:3 LXX). It can also be the Temple of the Holy Spirit (see also Thayerís, ibid., p. 611).
The sense in which the distinction is made here in Corinthians is in relation to the text in 1Corinthians 11:18-22.
1Corinthians 11:18-22† For, in the first place, when you assemble as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and I partly believe it, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you meet together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal, and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. (RSV)
The factions (aireseis, i.e. heresies) are allowed among us to show who is approved (dokimoi) among us by God.
The discerning of the body is the determination of that part of the body, which is genuine among the factions or heresies, termed sects, which claim to teach the word of God. The word heresy is not used in a negative sense in the New Testament (see the Appendix to the paper Heresy in the Apostolic Church (No. 89)). It is used of the Pharisees (Acts 15:5) and the Sadducees (Acts 5:17), and of the Church itself (Acts 24:5; 26:5; 28:22). It merely means to choose and, hence, to be part of a choice, but rendered sect in English. In recent times, the term heresy has come to mean that which is not in accord with the orthodox system, but that was not its original meaning. Here it means to rightly divide the word of God and to identify those who are properly part of the Body of Christ and who partake of the Lordís Supper in the correct manner, at the proper time and in the proper way.
There are many administrations (diakoniűn) but one Lord, and many different operations (diaireseis energematűn) but the same God operating all things in all (1Cor. 12:5). Thus we must examine each of the administrations and operations that claim to be of the Body and partake only with those that are of the true Body of Christ, even though they are not all of the same group or administration or ministry. God works all in all. However, we must discern the Body and partake of the Lordís Supper with the true Body in the true Spirit under one Lord and One True God.
Trials prior to the Passover
In the period building up to the Passover, God allows us to be tried and tested. We are all brought to a point where we reflect on our own spiritual condition. God does not do this all at once for most people could not stand the exposure. Each year a little more of the facade is stripped away and we are made to overcome. This process is seldom very pleasant. During this period, the Adversary tries to attack and discourage us. We should all remember that the period is one of trial and overcoming Ė of improvement and growth.
The problem in our modern society is that the people have been brought up on the error of the health-wealth gospel. To be sick or to be poor indicates a weak relationship with God. Adversity is taken as indicative of the fact that God is not blessing us. However, God allows trial to correct us and to bring us to spiritual power and not material wealth. He also chastises nations in this way, and over long periods.
Let us examine how God was to deal with Judah and Jerusalem, in the Book of Ezekiel. When this was written it must be remembered that Israel had already long gone into captivity by some centuries, and Judah was returned from the captivity and was re-establishing. Yet Ezekielís prophecies concerned another and future captivity and trial.
Ezekiel 5:1-17† And thou, son of man, take thee a sharp knife, take thee a barber's razor, and cause it to pass upon thine head and upon thy beard: then take thee balances to weigh, and divide the hair. 2 Thou shalt burn with fire a third part in the midst of the city, when the days of the siege are fulfilled: and thou shalt take a third part, and smite about it with a knife: and a third part thou shalt scatter in the wind; and I will draw out a sword after them. 3 Thou shalt also take thereof a few in number, and bind them in thy skirts. 4 Then take of them again, and cast them into the midst of the fire, and burn them in the fire; for thereof shall a fire come forth into all the house of Israel. 5 Thus saith the Lord GOD; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her. 6 And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them. 7 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye multiplied more than the nations that are round about you, and have not walked in my statutes, neither have kept my judgments, neither have done according to the judgments of the nations that are round about you; 8 Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations. 9 And I will do in thee that which I have not done, and whereunto I will not do any more the like, because of all thine abominations. 10 Therefore the fathers shall eat the sons in the midst of thee, and the sons shall eat their fathers; and I will execute judgments in thee, and the whole remnant of thee will I scatter into all the winds. 11 Wherefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD; Surely, because thou hast defiled my sanctuary with all thy detestable things, and with all thine abominations, therefore will I also diminish thee; neither shall mine eye spare, neither will I have any pity. 12 A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them. 13 Thus shall mine anger be accomplished, and I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted: and they shall know that I the LORD have spoken it in my zeal, when I have accomplished my fury in them. 14 Moreover I will make thee waste, and a reproach among the nations that are round about thee, in the sight of all that pass by. 15 So it shall be a reproach and a taunt, an instruction and an astonishment unto the nations that are round about thee, when I shall execute judgments in thee in anger and in fury and in furious rebukes. I the LORD have spoken it. 16 When I shall send upon them the evil arrows of famine, which shall be for their destruction, and which I will send to destroy you: and I will increase the famine upon you, and will break your staff of bread: 17 So will I send upon you famine and evil beasts, and they shall bereave thee; and pestilence and blood shall pass through thee; and I will bring the sword upon thee. I the LORD have spoken it. (KJV)
From this text we are taken forward to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was not to occur until 70 CE. This destruction was to occur in accordance with prophecy and the time-frame allotted for the events by God (cf. The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 13) and Outline Timetable of the Age (No. 272)).
From the prophecy, we see that the Church had a part to play in this activity. The hair represented the people of the nation of Judah. The hair was divided into three parts. One-third part was to be destroyed during the siege. Another third was to be destroyed by the effects of the persecution and war, and the remaining third was to be scattered and hunted down with the sword.
The small portion of hair that was kept in the hem of the garment was the people of the Church from Messiah who were persecuted by Judah up until 63 CE, when James, brother of Christ and bishop of Jerusalem, was martyred. The Church fled to Pella under Symeon, the young cousin of Christ, who by that time had grown to succeed James as leader of the Church and become one of the Desponsyni or those Belonging to the Lord (cf. the paper The Virgin Mariam and the Family of Christ (No. 232)).
From the dispersion, the Church itself was to be spread, and the Faith entered Israel from Judah as prophesied. We see that God was to deal with Judah and Jerusalem because they had changed the Law and turned Godís judgments into wickedness (Ezek. 5:6). They had perverted the Law with traditions and polluted the sanctuary with idols and foreign customs and practices; and they were sent into captivity. Their thinking was so perverse that when the Roman army surrounded Jerusalem on 1 Nisan 70 CE, exactly forty years after the death of the Messiah, the factions were actually at war fighting each other. They fought while the Romans were camped around them. Josephus says that effectively the Romans did no worse to them than they did to each other.
In all this, the Church was protected to a large degree, except the leaders. Many of them had suffered horrendous hardship especially in Judea, and collections had to be taken up from the churches outside of Jerusalem to assist the Jerusalem Church. Every one of the Apostles, save John and three others, were held to have been martyred, and most of the major sees had their leaders martyred for centuries. God allowed most of the key leaders of the church to be killed, except John and a few others.
In Ezekiel 6:1-14 we see the fate of Israel prophesied.
Ezekiel 6:1-14 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, set thy face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, 3 And say, Ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord GOD; Thus saith the Lord GOD to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys; Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. 4 And your altars shall be desolate, and your images shall be broken: and I will cast down your slain men before your idols. 5 And I will lay the dead carcases of the children of Israel before their idols; and I will scatter your bones round about your altars. 6 In all your dwellingplaces the cities shall be laid waste, and the high places shall be desolate; that your altars may be laid waste and made desolate, and your idols may be broken and cease, and your images may be cut down, and your works may be abolished. 7 And the slain shall fall in the midst of you, and ye shall know that I am the LORD. 8 Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries. 9 And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the LORD, and that I have not said in vain that I would do this evil unto them. 11 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, Alas for all the evil abominations of the house of Israel! for they shall fall by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. 12 He that is far off shall die of the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword; and he that remaineth and is besieged shall die by the famine: thus will I accomplish my fury upon them. 13 Then shall ye know that I am the LORD, when their slain men shall be among their idols round about their altars, upon every high hill, in all the tops of the mountains, and under every green tree, and under every thick oak, the place where they did offer sweet savour to all their idols. 14 So will I stretch out my hand upon them, and make the land desolate, yea, more desolate than the wilderness toward Diblath, in all their habitations: and they shall know that I am the LORD. (KJV)
This prophecy deals with Israel and its idolatry. The Church is not separated from the nation in all of this activity.
The Church will be within the nation during all of the period of its persecution, until the coming of the Messiah.
Messiah himself said that the Church would not have finished fleeing from persecution through the cities of Israel before he comes.
Matthew 10:21-23† And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. 23 But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. (KJV)
This text shows that betrayal within the Church and in families will be endemic in these Last Days. More particularly, the hatred of all men is levelled at us because we are of Christ. This also indicates a greater level of intolerance than ever before understood.
The Church is chosen and called according to Godís purpose. There is no guarantee that we will not be allowed to be poor or ill or suffer the trials and problems that our people are made to suffer. We have an obligation to work for and pray for our people in the nation and to eagerly await the Messiah, who will return to save us.
We are not to be discouraged by trials and other problems. The world will be brought to its knees in these Last Days, and we are still living in the world. We are told to come out of the world, but necessity dictates we live in it.
Preparing for the Lordís Supper
Let us now examine the first of the two orders: to prepare for the Lordís Supper.
It is obvious that no one can just take the Lordís Supper. It requires preparation and the development of a right relationship with God.
Often this is taken as a means of escape by some, in that they feel they are not good enough to take the Lordís Supper. This is of itself a contradiction in terms. Being good enough to take a meal that was only necessitated by the fact that we were sinners and were given salvation by grace means that we will never be good enough to qualify to take the Lordís Supper. However, having put our hands to the plough we must eat the body and drink the blood of Messiah or we will not enter the Kingdom of God. Christ said:
John 6:53-58† So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; 54 he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever." (RSV)
Many people fell away from the Messiah after this comment. They did not understand the significance of the matter. We cannot enter the Kingdom of God without taking the Lordís Supper. This sacrament has many requirements.
The primary requirement is to be baptised. If we are not baptised, we are dead in our sins and we will be consigned to the Second Resurrection. This is the resurrection of krisis or judgment. We are judged and corrected there by what we know. It is not sufficient to abstain from baptism now or put it off to a later time, as we are judged by what we know and how we act within that knowledge. Thus, some who put off baptism will be corrected for that fact in the Second Resurrection.
We will now examine the sequence step by step so that each of us can work out our own salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).
If we are not baptised, we should prepare for baptism. If we are baptised, we should review our baptism and what it means. Study the paper Repentance and Baptism (No. 52) and the subsidiary papers:
We should now prepare for the Passover, having become eligible to partake of the Lordís Supper.
When is the Passover? Study the paper Godís Calendar (No. 156) and the subsidiary papers:
What symbolism does the Passover have in the Bible? What is the overall plan? Study the paper The Seven Great Passovers of the Bible (No. 107).
The Passover is the first of the Feast offerings. Malachi says that the sign of the return to the Lord is that the tithe is paid (Mal. 3:6-12).
Malachi 3:6-12 "For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed. 7 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, `How shall we return?' 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, `How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (RSV)
The Lordís Supper is the sacrament of the return to God. Tithing is a physical sign of that return. Have we established our relationship with God on a firm footing? Have we paid our tithes, and do we have an offering ready for the first of the three Feast seasons? Remember, there are only three offerings a year. Each offering is at the commencement of the Feast, either of Passover or of Pentecost or of Tabernacles. Study the paper Tithing (No. 161) and the subsidiary papers:
We should now be at the Passover ready to partake of the Lordís Supper. Study the paper The Lordís Supper (No. 103).
The following papers are of importance at the appropriate time over the Feast of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. The Wave-Sheaf Offering must be delivered at 9 a.m. on the Sunday within the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
How did God deliver Israel at the Passover? Study the paper Moses and the Gods of Egypt (No. 105).
How was sin overcome? Study the papers:
Links in the Story of Salvation:
The Five Megilloth
How does the story of Esther relate to the salvation of Israel? This text is normally read on the feast of Purim by the Jews. However, its clear Messianic content and its role in the salvation of Judah is appropriately a Passover text. The Song of Songs is usually read for Passover, as it portrays Israelís cleaving to the Almighty in the eyes of the Jewish worshipper. However, when we study the Song of Songs, we see that it is a story of the Messiah and his relationship with the woman, who is his betrothed. This woman is seen by Judah as the physical body of Israel, but it is more appropriately the spiritual body which is the Church. Hence, the Song of Songs is the link between Passover and Pentecost. The Book of Ruth is the text for Pentecost or Shevuoth. It represents the humble Moabite proselyte, who left her people to live in poverty in Israel and who became the ancestor of the Davidic line of kings. This story is that of the Church as a nation of kings and priests. Lamentations is read on 9 Ab or the fall of the Temple and Ecclesiastes is read on Sukkoth or the Feast of Tabernacles. Study the paper Commentary on Esther (No. 63).
This then leads us into the build-up to Pentecost.
Study Psalms 1-41 (The Genesis Book of Psalms). This work can be studied from the end of Tabernacles. Study The Exodus Book of Psalms for Passover and up to Pentecost.
Psalms 42-49: For Israelís Ruin.
Psalms 50-60: For the Redeemer (refer to Psalm 45 also).
Psalms 62-72: For Israelís Redemption.
These Psalms all lead to Pentecost.
Study of the papers should be completed in the appropriate sequence prior to Passover and Unleavened Bread. The responsibility for the adequate preparation for the Passover rests on the individual and their relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. No one else can do it for us.