If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
|Ascension (John Singleton Copley, 1775)|
Today is the holiest day in Christianity. Known as Easter, it has come to mean the celebration of the resurrection of Christ three days after His crucifixion. It is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year because of what Christ did for us. His willingness to pay the debt owed by all mankind throughout history, for the sins we have committed, culminates at the Cross. He endured God's wrath [that we deserve] so that we could be forgiven our sins and reconciled with God, our Father in Heaven. Christ's crucifixion and resurrection constitutes the single most important event upon which Christianity is based.
All Christians should acknowledge that this day is in celebration of the restoration of our relationship with God. Christ's resurrection represents so much: He had finished the work His Father sent him to do; His death on the Cross completed His task, namely establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, and seeking and saving those who are lost. Through these acts, Jesus provided atonement for the sins of all who would ever believe in Him (Romans 3:23-25). None other than God in the flesh could accomplish such a task.
But there's more! Also completed was the fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecies, symbols, and foreshadowings of the coming Messiah. From Genesis to Malachi, there are over 300 specific prophecies detailing the coming of the Anointed One, all fulfilled by Jesus. From the “seed” who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15), to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, to the prediction of the “messenger” of the Lord (John the Baptist) who would “prepare the way” for the Messiah --- all prophecies of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death were fulfilled and finished at the Cross.
While I believe that all of Christianity worships this holiday in sincere faith, I am also convinced they do so influenced by Satan's deception. Let me explain: I have searched the Bible for any mention of a holiday called Easter ... I can find none. But in 325 AD, Emperor Constantine, at the Nicean Council, ordered all Churches to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ on "Easter Sunday". The early Church had celebrated the Resurrection during the Passover, beginning on the 14th day of the Hebrew month called Nisan, which could fall on any day of the week. But the Churches near Rome had abandoned the practice because they hated the Jews, blaming them for the death of Jesus, so they fixed the date to the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring, which coincided with the ancient Roman celebration called ‘Easter’, after the pagan goddess of Spring, Eostre.
It is important to note that during the first couple hundred years of the Early Church, believers followed the Jewish traditions of the Lord's Feasts. But Constantine's Satan-induced hatred of the Jews caused the Jewish influence (in the form of the Feasts) to be erased from the Church. Here is a direct quote from Constantine himself: “And truly, in the first place, it seems to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should follow the customs of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, polluted wretches! having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds. It is fit, therefore, that rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first day of our "Lord's" passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews.” (Council of Nicea, pg. 52.)
The consequences of this hostility towards the Jews has meant that nearly 2000 years after its establishment, the Church has lost the truth about God's commandments as to how we are to celebrate His Son's resurrection. And with this deception, we pay no attention to the Biblical connections.
I understand that there are many Evangelical leaders who do not see the pagan influences in our celebration of Easter. And I want to make it clear ... I rejoice with my Christian brothers and sisters when they celebrate the reason for Easter.. that Christ died on the Cross for us, so that our sin debt would be paid and we can be found acceptable in the sight of our Holy God... and that He was resurrected as the first among us who believe in God's power to do so. His resurrection is a mirror of what we will one day experience! Hallelujah!
I simply choose to see more in this celebration than what the Church has traditionally taught. I have been blessed to have the Holy Spirit reveal that God's Feasts show His plan for mankind's redemption, and that the Feast of Firstfruits was God's instituted "rehearsal" for the harvest of Jesus's soul and His resurrection, and the promise that we will one day be a part of God's end-time harvest.
This recognition in no way undermines the faith of those who want to celebrate Easter. For me, I just see no Scriptural reference to a holy day celebration called "Easter" in Scripture; but I do see references to the Feast of Firstfruits and its implications of Christ's [and all Christians'] resurrection in Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Nehemiah, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Romans, 1 Corinthians, James, and Revelation.
The regulations for Firstfruits were outlined by God in Leviticus 23. I would venture to say that most Christians skip this chapter of the Bible, labeling it as laws that pertained [only] to the ancient Israelites; too restrictive; too discriminatory; or just plain unnecessary for the modern Believer.
But if you do a deep study of the Word, you will find so much significance for this season of worship. Firstfruits was essentially the beginning of the grain harvest in Israel, and on this particular day a specific sheaf of barley, which had been marked for this occasion, was to be brought to the priest at the Temple, who would wave it (or exhibit it) before the Lord for acceptance. (Can you see Jesus hanging on the Cross?) It was representative of the barley harvest as a whole and served as a pledge or guarantee that the remainder of the harvest would be realized in the days that followed.
Accompanying this time of worship were other offerings to the Lord ... an unblemished male lamb, a drink offering of wine, and a meal offering of the barley flour mixed with olive oil (an unleavened bread). Are you starting to get the picture? During this holy season of worship, Jesus, our High Priest, can be seen in all the pictures of the Passover week ... as the sacrificial lamb; in the wine offering which represents His blood spilled for us; in the unleavened bread (leaven represents sin in the Bible and Jesus was without "leaven"); and as the climactic event, He is the First to be raised from the dead. He is representative of the harvest of Believers as a whole, and His resurrection serves as a guarantee that all those who believe and trust on Him will be harvested to resurrected glory as well. He is the beginning (Firstfruit) of God's final harvest of all mankind.
And for those who still struggle with the prophetic meaning of this holy day, consider this: after his death and burial, Christ rose again on the third day of the Passover season, on the very day of the Feast of Firstfruits. Do you think that this was coincidental? I am just overwhelmed with "the picture" of His salvation plan that God has given us through His Feast Days. If we truly meditate upon them, we will realize that they are more than just ancient rituals. They point to Christ at every turn!
In the final analysis, I am eternally grateful for Jesus's sacrifice for me; I eagerly look forward to the Father's reaping of souls and I thank Him for showing us the picture of what that harvest will look like through the resurrection of His Son ... the Firstfruit of all who will follow Him. And this is what I wish for everyone who believes.... that on this holy day, we will know that Jesus's triumphant and glorious victory over death is ours, as well. We can count on it! Just as He was resurrected to new life, so shall we be. And that certainty will give us hope so that we might endure suffering, persecution, and danger. Just as He did. We are living in perilous times, and our faith will be tested. Do not fear! We know our destination! When Jesus rose from the dead, He showed us that God has the power to resurrect us, too! No matter what God has in store for us, we can lay claim to His promise. On this day, we celebrate the blessed guarantee that those who believe in Christ will be victorious over Death and will be resurrected unto Eternal Life. It is with a humble and grateful heart, that I proclaim, He Is Risen!