Easter even in the OT
The first purpose of this study is to present an integrated account of the events of that first Easter Sunday. Probably nowhere else in the Gospels does as much confusion reign in the minds of believers, for each gospel writer chose different elements from the most bewildering day in history, and consequently their reports appear to be contradictory, whereas in fact they are complementary. This study and the next harmonize all the biblical reports of resurrection day, so hopefully will dispel confusion. By studying the four Gospels together, we get a better grasp of the mood of the day, the original bewilderment of the embryo church, the excitement of spiritual creation at what had taken place, and develop a better understanding of God’s patience with man.
A further purpose of this study is to consider the theological implications of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Another purpose is to emphasize both the trustworthiness of the record (attested to by the lives and deaths of the apostles) and the significance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection.
If you have puzzled over the four gospel records of resurrection day, you are in good company for many, many Christians have done likewise. Like everything else in the Bible, however, there is a special satisfaction for anyone interested enough to harmonize these apparently divergent records, for in so doing a rich narrative emerges, one which portrays both the astonishment and then the ecstatic joy of the believers to whom Christ appeared, and yet also displays the fear that had permeated their very beings as a result of the crucifixion.
As I edited these notes, I was reminded of Martin Luther’s truism: the Bible is written for thinking men. Indeed, there is rich satisfaction in thinking our way through the record of the most significant day in human history; so join me as we work with God’s eternal word.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the whole basis of our Christian faith; it is the unique bedrock on which Christianity stands. In His death Jesus was but one of many tens of thousands whom the Romans crucified; He, Himself, raised men from the dead, but they were to die again; however, in His resurrection He is unique, for He is the first to be raised to life never to die again. As I Cor 15:23 promises men that He is the firstfruits of the resurrection, His resurrection guarantees that all mankind will be resurrected. Revelation 20:4–6, 12–15 make it plain that some of mankind will be resurrected to glory and the rest to damnation, but all dead mankind will be resurrected. It behooves us, therefore, to know the historical events of that momentous, significant day, and having learned them, to understand the significance of this supreme event, for no other event in all the history of creation can rival it in splendor.
We need to know, too, what assurance we have of the accuracy of this record, for it is the foundation on which our whole Christian faith rests as the Bible itself asserts (I Cor 15:17). Christ has not left us without witnesses, however, for He revealed Himself to the eleven remaining apostles, to His own half brother, James, to more than 500 believers at one time, and to Paul (I Cor 15:6–8). There is no record of any one of this vast host denying Jesus’ resurrection, but most significantly, the most conservative church tradition claims that seven of the apostles sealed their testimony with their life’s blood by dying a martyr’s death (the four who died a natural death all held firmly to their testimony of the resurrection).88 So we have eleven out of eleven witnesses adhering unshakably to their testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, seven of them sealing that testimony with their lives. This is remarkable indeed, for while one can theorize that the first man could die not realizing what the cost of his testimony would be, it is unthinkable to claim that six others would follow unflinchingly along the same path to certain death if they knew that they were dying for a lie!
But beside the eleven, James, our Lord’s half brother, also died a martyr’s death. Now, if anyone could be expected to know Jesus, surely it would be His own half brother in the flesh who had known Him for all of his three decades until His death! James did not believe in Jesus as the Christ until after His resurrection, so he was clearly a convinced skeptic—so convinced that the previous skeptic was prepared to die for his testimony, and did. Paul, too, falls into the same category. The liberal’s questioning of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection is empty and vain indeed when measured against the blood of this band of men who were God’s instruments in founding our faith.
Let us attempt to follow the events of that first Easter morning sequentially.
The meaning of Easter is the message of the Lord Jesus Christ, as foreshadowed in the Jewish Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. It has nothing to do with 'religion', Easter Bunnies, eggs or chocolate, and everything to do with you, sin, sickness, death, Life, Love... and Almighty God.
The birth of Christ marks the centre of the world's calendar, but 33 years later, three days in Jerusalem became even more significant. What happened then, forms the fulcrum of eternity. What you decide to do about the event will determine your eternal destiny.
To the Jews at the time, it was just another Passover Festival, they missed its crucial significance, one that applies to every person who's ever lived. It marked the start of what has become known as 'Easter', and is the fulfilment of God's provision of redemption for a lost sin-sick world. The Easter message is the Gospel of the LORD Jesus Christ; foreshadowed in the Old Covenant, symbolized in Jewish Festivals, fulfilled at Calvary, proclaimed to all mankind, and reaching out to the ends of the earth, until He comes.
It would be a grave mistake to treat Easter as a religious holiday, for many reading this it will be the last opportunity they have to be saved. Time is short. As you read on, the Lord will show you the true significance of Easter, what it means to you personally, and how He wants you to respond.
Calvary Foreshadowed at The Fall
As a marker of their integrity, the Lord told the first couple on earth:
You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. Holy Bible Genesis 2:17 NIV
They listened to Satan's lies, doubted God's Word, sinned and brought death, guilt and shame to the Garden of Eden and all mankind. Immediately they sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness before God. People are still trying to hide behind the fig leaf of religion, but God's Judgment can never be appeased by our attempts to atone for our sin. God must do it for us. God replaced their garments with ones He made from skin, to cover their shame. An innocent creature had to die, blood had to be shed to provide a remedy for man's guilt. Already God is showing what He was going to do at Calvary.
God cursed the Serpent, Satan, and prophesied Christ's victory over all the devil's works.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he (Christ) will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. Gen. 3:15
Adam and Eve were driven from God's Presence with no access to the Life of God. (Gen. 3:21-24) Each of their progeny, you included, is born separated from God, sinful, unrighteous, and doomed. But God was working on His beautiful plan, pointing at every stage to Himself as the Only Redeemer.
Calvary in The Old Testament
All through the Old Testament we see the Lord caring for His creation despite their increasing wickedness and rebellion, seeking those who's hearts had any faith in Him, blessing, testing, and encouraging them. In Abram (Abraham) He forged a relationship of trust, bringing him out of the land of his birth to the Promised Land of Israel. (See Genesis Ch. 12,13,17)
The Easter Message
The Day God Died
Satan's Eternal Defeat
Lamb of God
Raised With Christ
During Abraham's walk with God we see many reflections of what was to come. Because of his faith and obedience, God promised Abraham that He would make his descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens. The LORD asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Abraham was willing, reasoning that God had power to raise up the son. At the final moment, God spared Abraham this personal agony, but of course it foreshadowed the reality of God sacrificing His Only Begotten Son on the altar of the Cross to pay for the sins of the world.
Abraham was counted a friend of God and righteous because of his sincere trust in the Lord, and from Abraham's line came the Christ. Glory! And the blessing that was upon Abraham and his seed comes to all Christians through Christ, God's Seed. When any sinner repents and believes in the LORD Jesus Christ and His perfect Sacrifice at Calvary, they are made righteous, holy and blameless in God's sight, instantly and by God's grace.
This is the message of Easter.
Calvary in The Jewish Passover Festival
From Abraham's descendants, God formed a people called the Israelites, the Jews, and taught them His ways. But like all unregenerate mankind they rebelled against God, preferring to sin because of the sinful nature we inherit from our ancestors, Adam and Eve. When Israel's sin became too great they were thrust out of the Promised Land to live in bondage and slavery in Egypt.
They cried out in their agony, and God mercifully sent a prophet, Moses, to rescue, lead, and test them. Moses is another 'type' of Christ. When Egypt's Pharaoh refused to release the Jews from slavery, God struck down in one night the firstborn of every household in Egypt. But through Moses He instructed the Jews to slaughter a perfect lamb in sacrifice, paint its blood on their doorposts, and to stay inside. The destroying angel 'passed over' every house where he saw the blood on the doorposts, and so the Jews who trusted and obeyed God's Word were spared. This Judgment caused Pharaoh to relent, and a million Jews left Egypt heading home to the Promised Land.
To remind them of this event, the Jews were instructed to celebrate the Passover every year, followed by a Feast where they were to eat bread without yeast, unleavened bread. When Christ came, He declared that He was the Bread of Heaven whose body was broken for us. The Lord Himself came in Christ, the actual fulfilment of the Jewish Passover; He is The Lamb of God, sent to redeem sinners through simple faith in His Blood and Sacrifice. John the Baptist saw Jesus and declared:
Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Jn.1:29
Calvary in The New Testament
The Old Testament speaks of this event as the prophets looked forward, but the final Passover in Jerusalem was its actual fulfilment. God came in Christ, lived a perfectly sinless life, lifting repentant sinners, forgiving and healing everyone who came to Him believing, finally laying down His righteous life at Calvary to pay for the guilt of mankind.
The more you look into this, the more there is to tell, but in essence it's simple, and crucial to your eternal destiny. The Jews missed it, most still do, claiming Christ was a sinner justly crucified for declaring Himself to be God in the Flesh. But His resurrection from the dead on the third day proves He was sinless, the Son of God, God in the Flesh, and that He declared to us the Truth.
I am the way, and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.Jn.14:6
If Christ had sinned once He'd have stayed in the grave like an ordinary man. But God raised Him up alive, the same, because He had no sin of His own. After He'd paid for the sin of the world, God's righteous Judgment was satisfied, He arose victorious. Death had no hold on Him. Now, He offers everyone eternal life and perfect peace with God when they are willing to repent and believe in Him. Have you done that yet?
This is the message of Easter.
Resurrection and New Life: NOT Religion
Without the resurrection of the Living Christ in evidence we have just another dead religion or man-made philosophy. As the Holy Spirit says through Paul;
If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you (believers) are still in your sins. 1 Co. 15:14+17
Oh praise Him you saints for the unshakable confidence we have before God, because our faith is not futile, it is based on the Gospel fact of the resurrected Christ. How do we know He's raised from the dead? Oh Glory! Not just because God's Word says so, or Paul said so, not just because Peter said so, or five hundred other biblical witnesses saw Him, but because we too have met the Living Christ in person.
Like the prophets of old we can also testify, 'The Word of the Lord came to me.' Indeed, what we have is far better than the prophet's blessing. He came upon them to deliver a message, and then left, they were not born again. The New Covenant believer receives the Living Word of God, the LORD Jesus Christ into their hearts, and He never leaves them. What a wonder, what an experience, Heaven on earth.
Have you had it yet? Has the Word of the Lord come to you beloved? Have you repented and received the LORD Jesus Christ and been born again? Have you got the testimony of God ringing clearly in your heart declaring that God has given you eternal life, that you have the Son of God in residence, and His banner of Love is flying over you forever? (See 1 Jn. 5:10-13)
You can have it right now. The Word of the LORD has come to you through this message, He's with you now, turn to Him, repent of your sins and believe He paid for your guilt, took all your punishment, and will forgive you completely if you will trust in Him today.
This is the message of Easter.
Calvary, Easter and You
Don't be like the Jews who read Isaiah daily, but missed the reality in Christ:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
We all like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. Isaiah 53:3-7
Kenyon on Easter
I don't care what you're religion is, be it 'Christian', Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, New Age, Buddhist, and so on, you are condemned to eternal torment in Hell, and there is only one way to avoid it: You must be born again.
I don't care who you follow, be it Allah, Mohammed, Buddha, Ghandi, Krishna, the Virgin Mary, your priest, vicar, pastor, or prophet. If you are not following the Living God, the LORD Jesus Christ, you are still in your sins and Hell-bound. He said, You must be born again.
I don't care what you believe in, your Creed, church, doctrine, philosophy, denomination, belief-system or whatever. God has told us plainly, we are to believe in the LORD Jesus Christ as only Saviour, for He is Almighty God in the Flesh, and all other 'gods' and 'saviours' are imposters, fakes, and utter failures.
Jesus Christ said, I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. God's Word declares, For there is one God and one mediator between God and people, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people Jn.14:6, 1 Tim. 2:5
This is the message of Easter.
Satan's strategy has always been to substitute religion for reality, tradition for truth, and idols in the place of Almighty God, in order to keep you from God's Plan. Once you grasp the truth and simplicity of God's redemption, you will love Him, worship Him, and honour Him in Spirit and in truth, and the devil will lose all power over you forever.
Are you ready to believe in the LORD Jesus Christ?
88 88 Church tradition is not unanimous on the fate of the eleven, but it is clear from Scripture that James, Peter and Paul each died a martyr’s death, and it seems plain that at least seven of the eleven died similar deaths.
Mills, M. (1999). The Life of Christ : A study guide to the Gospel record. Three volumes: 1. The Advent of Jesus 2. The Beginning of the Gospel 3. Jesus presents Himself ot Israel. Dallas: 3E Ministries.