The Prophetic Meaning of the Passover Lamb – Part 1

Norbert Lieth

“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Someone once said, “Over a hundred years ago a man was born in poverty. He never wrote a book, never founded a school, and never acquired an army. Today, once a week the wheels of daily life stand still in His honor. Millions of people would prefer to lose their lives than be unfaithful to Him.”

That is our Lord Jesus Christ. He brought something completely new. With Him life, light and the redemption of the world were revealed. With this, a new era dawned. That is why Paul called Him our Passover Lamb. As Christ marked a new beginning, at that time the introduction of the Passover lamb also brought a new beginning. The feast of the Passover and the slaughter of a lamb were to remind the Israelites that God had delivered them with a mighty hand from the slavery of Egypt. The redemption manifested itself for the enslaved Israelites in Egypt, who had to smear the blood of the slaughtered lamb on the doorposts of their houses. And in this way death passed by their firstborn, but not those in the houses of the Egyptians.

In Exodus 12:1-3, we read of the introduction of the Jewish feast of Passover, “And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house.”

Actually, the Israelites celebrated the 1st of Tishri as the New Year—this day is also known as the Feast of Trumpets: Rosh Hashanah (according to our calendar, in September/October). In doing so, the people of Israel, according to tradition, refer to the beginning of creation. In rabbinical literature, in the Sa’adia from the 9th century, it is said in this context that the shape of the horn (the trumpet, i.e. the Shofar horn) symbolizes the duty of man to bow to God’s authority and will. Roger Liebi explains: “Through the creation of heaven and earth, God has the right to royal sovereignty. The blowing of the shofar at the beginning of the year expresses the worshipful acknowledgment of this right. With the redemption, a new era was introduced. Thus, the era of the creation and the redemption are parallel to one another.”

With the redemption through the Passover lamb, a new spiritual calendar began for the Israelites, a new era. The month Nisan (March/April) now stood for a new beginning, a new era, a new life, a new history. It was clear to every Israelite that the old Egypt, the slavery and the oppression, now lay behind them. Up until that moment, they were the prisoners of an inhuman tyranny. Now, however, they were liberated by God by means of a lamb. This experience of God was so fundamentally new, that the Israelites were to remember this every year at the feast of Passover—similar to how the Church today celebrates the Lord’s Supper on the basis of salvation in Christ.

With every one of us, it should come to these two dates. First, the normal birth which everyone experiences: this is the creation of life on our birthday. When Jesus comes into our lives as the Lamb of God, we experience a complete turn-around, a new beginning and a new birth. This is why Peter compares believers to newborn babies (1 Peter 2:2), and Paul says, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Without God, every person is controlled and enslaved; he is under a merciless dominion; he is not lord of himself but oppressed, tormented, hunted and bound (Ephesians 2:1-3). But liberation comes when one believingly clings to the Lamb of God.

At that time, at the introduction of the feast of Passover, God spoke to all Israel. Everyone was included; all should be saved. As it is written, “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house” (Exodus 12:2-3).

Today, no one has to think that God does not mean him, or that he is overlooked, or that his guilt is too great. Even the best person in a family, as well as the worst—they all need the Lamb. It was the same for the neighbors then. It is just the same today concerning Christ. Everyone needs Jesus!

In the directions for the feast of Passover, it says, “...If the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it” (Exodus 12:4). The lamb could never be too little.

If you call yourself saved, are you are aware that the Lord also has your neighbor in view and that He wants to reach him through us? What should we do about our neighbor? We should share the Lamb of God with our nearest neighbor, by pointing him to the redemption in Christ Jesus.

The lamb that was slain in every house at the feast of  Passover had to be examined and without blemish. Exodus 12:5-6 says, “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.”

Until the tenth day, the lamb lived “hidden” among the other sheep. On the 10th day it should be taken, that is from the flock, and at the end of the 14th day be killed. Why did it have to happen this way? The lamb had to be without blemish, without defect; it had to be perfect. During these four days (depending on the method of counting this could be five days), between the selection and the slaying, the people had time to observe the lamb closely, to see whether it measured up to the standards the Lord had prescribed.

“But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you…there shall be no blemish therein” (Leviticus 22:20-21).

Here we see a foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. On the 10th of Nisan (five days before the Passover), the Lord Jesus entered Jerusalem, probably on Palm Sunday. During the following four days, up to the 14th of Nisan (Thursday), Jesus was tested by the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes, and they found no fault in Him. Of these days, it says in the Gospel of Luke:

“And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. And they asked him, saying…And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace. Then came to him certain of the Sadducees…and they asked him…Then certain of the scribes answering said, Master, thou hast well said. And after that they durst not ask him any question at all” (Luke 20:20-21, 26-27, 39-40).

On the evening of the 14th of Nisan, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples in informal fellowship. With this His dying began: Gethsemane, captivity, torture, condemnation and crucifixion. And on that evening, in anticipation of His suffering, the Lord introduced the Lord’s Supper and the New Covenant in His blood.

John MacArthur points out in his Study Bible that the Galileans who lived in the north often calculated the time differently from the people in the south of Israel. This is testified to by Flavius Josephus, the Mishnah (“repetition,” a collection of religious/legal traditions of rabbinical Judaism), and other ancient Jewish sources. In the north, the day is from sunrise to sunrise; in the south, however, from sunset to sunset. Through this the 14th of Nisan lasted until Friday, and so the Passover lamb could be slain on Thursday or Friday. Jesus, as a Galilean, celebrated the Passover on Thursday, but the Jerusalemites on Friday (John 18:28; 19:14).

Not only in the days before His crucifixion did our Lord prove Himself without blemish. Also, the four Gospels are a fourfold portrayal of the unblemished person of Jesus Christ. When Jesus was born, a new calculation of time began. Up to His appearance in public, He lived quite normally among the Jewish people—as the lamb until the 10th day of the 9th month. And then came the public appearance of our Lord—He was selected. This time can be compared with the testing of the Passover lamb from the 10th to the 14th of the month.

Interestingly, the number four is in agreement with the four-day time of the testing of the Passover lamb; also, in the forty-day temptation of Jesus by the devil (Luke 4; 10 x 4 = 40). Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God without blemish that is portrayed for us in all four Gospels. The Lord Jesus said to the Jews, “Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?” (John 8:46). And Peter points out that we are “(redeemed) with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).

The time when the Passover lamb is slain is also of prophetic significance, “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening” (Exodus 12:6).

It was about the time between sunset and darkness, the time between 3 and 6 pm. This was the so-called “double evening.” “…There thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 16:6).

Jesus died at 3 pm; this was the time of the evening sacrifice (Mark 15:25, 33-34). First, it became dark, and then the Lord died: the first evening. “And it was about the sixth hour (12 pm), and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour (3 pm). And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost” (Luke 23:44-46).

The first evening was the sacrifice of the Lamb for the sins of the world. The second evening will be the wrath of the Lamb over the sins of the world: the coming time of the Great Tribulation. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:12-17).

News From Israel - 03/2018

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