Understanding the Passover
~A look at the powerful hidden meanings behind this popular holiday~
"So Moses said, "This is what the Lord says: "About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die... but among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel"' (Exodus 11:4-7, NIV). This April, a large majority of the world celebrated the holiday known largely as Easter. To an ever-increasing number it is known as the Passover, the annual observance of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But even among those who know the Old Testament story, the true message is hidden from many. As wonderful as the story is, even more wonderful is the hidden revelation of the Passover.
How God Speaks in the Bible...
"The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?' He replied, 'The knowledge of the secrets if the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them" (Matt. 13:10-11, NIV). When many people read the Bible, they see stories, history and literature, and that's all. But not so with us; God intended for us to see beneath the scriptures, to spiritually comprehend the mysteries and truths hidden in parables, types and symbols. God hid them there for His children to discover and be in awe at the wisdom of God. "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings" (Proverbs 25:2, NIV).
Did not 1 Peter 2:9 teach us that we are a "royal priesthood"? Beloved, we are the kings and queens whose honor it is to search out the matters that God has hidden in his word. What's more, when we search out these hidden mysteries of the word, we will find truths that point to one person -- the Lord Jesus Christ! (St. John 5:39, NIV).
The Symbolism of Israel and Egypt...
The Passover story begins when God brings ten plagues of judgment upon Egypt to deliver Israel. As the tenth plague nears, God informs Moses of His plan: to bring death to all the firstborn offspring of Egypt at midnight, and to spare the firstborn of Israel (Exod. 11:4-5). In this setting, Egypt is a type of the current world system: proud, idolatrous, neither knowing nor recognizing God, an enemy to God's people. Israel, on the other hand, is a type of the Church, a minority voice in this world, disliked, often abused, waiting on God's deliverance.
When you see Egypt here and its actions, you are seeing the world; when you see Israel and its actions, you are seeing the church! Just as God judged Egypt for its sins, He is also telling us that He will bring judgment on the world for its sins; and just as he delivered Israel from Egypt, He is telling us that He plans to deliver us from this world system. But what does the judgment of the "firstborn" mean?
Understanding The Firstborn...
Understand this: the firstborn was a very important child in this time, especially the male child. In him, the family bloodline continued. Adam was the firstborn of the human race; when he sinned and fell, all of us sinned and fell with him, even though we didn't participate in the original sin; all we did was inherit the bloodline after it was defiled by the act (Rom. 5:12-14). Because of the condition of the "firstborn" of the world, we all have inherited the judgment of sin. But consider Jesus: He was the "firstborn" of a new race, not of the world, but of Heaven: "For those God fore knew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29, NIV).
God's answer to the defilement of all mankind through the firstborn of mankind was to bring another firstborn into existence, except this firstborn would be birthed by the Holy Spirit. His bloodline originated from Heaven; Adam's bloodline originated on the Earth. Adam's origin was natural; Jesus' was spiritual (1 Cor. 15:45-49). When we accepted the death of Jesus as our own, his resurrected life and his sinless bloodline immediately became ours as well, and we changed from being of the firstborn of the world in Adam to becoming of the firstborn of Heaven in Jesus!
Now here is another symbol: Egypt and Israel. Just as the "firstborn" of Egypt opposed and persecuted the "firstborn" of Israel, the firstborn of the world (those in Adam) do the same to the firstborn of Heaven (those in Jesus); just as God's judgment came upon those of the firstborn of Egypt, God's judgment will also come upon those of the firstborn of the world; just as God's judgment passed over the firstborn of Israel, God's future judgment will "pass over" those of the firstborn of Heaven! Do you see the message, saints? Hidden in this passage is a prophetic message from God: the body of Christ will not see His judgment!
"And when will judgment come?" You might ask. God gives us a clue: "...about midnight..." (Exod. 11:4). What does that tell us? If we can understand the conditions of the natural, we can gain some insight into the spiritual meaning. The darkest part of the evening occurs around midnight every night. Throughout the Bible, natural darkness often speaks of spiritual darkness in the soul, the condition of being totally separated from God and entirely given over to sin and evil (Isaiah 60:2-3; Eph. 4:17-20, NIV).
Have you ever wondered why the ninth plague was three days of total darkness, immediately followed by the tenth plague of death? God is telling us that at the spiritually darkest time of the world, when sin and godlessness reach their climax, that will be the world's "midnight," and God will come and judge the world for its wickedness and rebellion against Him. Saints, we don't have to look too far to see that we are well into those times of gross darkness! And just as death followed darkness for Egypt, Death will follow darkness for the unrepentant world.
The Meaning of the Passover Lamb...
When you read about the requirements regarding the Passover lamb, you will see that God was very specific about everything: the quality of the lamb, the age of the lamb, the days and times on which to kill it and which to eat it, who was to be present when it died? Why? Why were these seemingly things so important? We need to understand that these conditions are not without meaning!
Exodus 12:5: "The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect... take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight..."
The inspection of the Passover lamb was very thorough; it could not be damaged in any way. If there were any imperfections found in it, it could not qualify to be the Passover lamb. Why not? Because Jesus, the true Passover lamb, was free from defect and sin. Jesus declared, " ...for the prince of this world (Satan) is coming. He has no hold on me..." (St. John 14:31, NIV). Jesus told us that even though he was going to die, it was not due to sin; Satan had no hold, or legal claim, to his life through sin!
So what is the importance of the entire community of Israel being present when the lamb was killed? Think about the crowd of Israelites standing around watching Jesus die on the cross. The same crowd that was yelling "Hosanna!" when he entered Jerusalem and "crucify him!" before Pilate was also the crowd that was standing around watching as he died! "The people stood watching, and the rulers sneered at him" (Luke 23:35, NIV).
Now let's look at twilight (or "evening," in other versions). This refers to a very specific span of time, between 12-3 pm in the afternoon. Since Israel began and ended each day at 6 p.m., twilight referred to the span of time between the sixth and ninth hours of the day, with 6 p.m. being the 12th hour. Now look at Luke 23:44-46: "It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun had stopped shining... Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'" (NIV). Just as the communities of Israel in Egypt stood watching their Passover lamb die between 12-3 p.m., the community of Israel in Rome did the same thing some 2,000 years later, at the exact time of day prophesied by God!
The Blood of the Lamb...
"And they shall take the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it" (Exod. 12:7). This is one of the most recognizable acts of the Passover: the blood on the doorpost. Most saints can tell you what this means: Just as the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorway of the Israelite's house, so also is the blood of Jesus applied to our "door" of our hearts when we believe. Just as God's judgment passed over that home when He saw the blood of the lamb, so also will judgment pass over us when God sees the blood of Jesus covering us.
Now here is an important question: what was it about the blood that made God pass over it? If you recall, the lamb had to die before its blood could have value to God because, under the law, sin required the payment of death. Israel had sin in their bloodline just as Egypt did, but when God passed over their home, He didn't see their sin; he saw the blood of an innocent one, shed and offered to him in payment for the sins of others. The Bible teaches us that the life of all living things is in its blood (Lev. 17:14). Since He accepted the life of the innocent lamb, the ones covered with its life (or blood) need not die! Even though the real lamb had yet to come, God saw the symbol, knew that it pointed to Jesus, and was satisfied!
The Eating of the Lamb...
"And they shall eat of the flesh in that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs they shall eat it" (Exod. 12:8)
While judgment was falling on Egypt, Israel was to be inside of their homes that night, under the blood, eating the flesh of the lamb. What does this tell us? Remember Jesus' words to the Jews: "'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you?" (John 6:53, NIV). After they grumbled in confusion, he then explained further that he wasn't referring to his literal flesh: "The Spirit gives life: the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life'" (John 6:63, NIV).
John 1:1 tells us that Jesus was the Word of God wrapped in human flesh. Just as Israel ate the flesh of the Passover lamb to gain strength for their upcoming journey, you and I are to "eat the flesh of the Son of Man" so that we may have His strength for our Christian journey on Earth. Beloved, whenever we study the Word, we are eating the flesh of the Lamb and gaining strength. Without receiving the Word, we cannot have any part in Jesus' blessings! Like Job, we are to "treasure the words of His mouth more than [our] daily bread" (Job 23:12, NIV). You will notice that not only is God concerned with the fact that Israel ate the Lamb, but also with how they ate it. Israel was told to eat it "roasted with fire, and unleavened bread, and with bitter herbs" (Exod. 12:8). What does this tell us?
If you think that these are instructions about how to receive the Word of God regarding Jesus, you are right! The fire speaks of the Holy Spirit, who takes the things of Jesus and reveals them to us (John 16:13-15). He is the fire of God who prepares the Lamb and enlightens us regarding the Word. Without Him, we cannot understand the Word. When an unbeliever first hears the Word, it is the conviction of the Holy Spirit that leads him to receive it.
What about the unleavened bread? The Bible tells us in various places that leaven, or yeast, speaks of sin. Just as yeast spreads throughout the dough when it is added, sin also spreads wherever it is added (1 Cor. 5:6-8). When a person accepts the Word of God, they are to receive it without leaven; that is, they must be willing to turn from their sinful life. The bitter herbs speak of the sorrowful repentance a person feels towards the sins of their life when they are convicted by the Spirit and choose to separate themselves from sin (2 Cor. 7:8-11). We cannot receive salvation while holding on to sin!
Just as this passage tells us how to eat the flesh, it also tells us how not to eat it: "Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roasted with fire; his head with his legs and with the purtenance (insides) thereof" (vs. 9). Here we see the things that hinder a person from receiving a revelation of the truth. "Eating of it raw" speaks of trying to understand the Word of God with our natural minds and without the aid of the Spirit, which the Bible says is impossible to do (1 Cor. 2:14). "Nor sodden (or boiled) with water" speaks of attempting to digest the Word of God with man-made methods, theories and systems. This is the truth: there is no short cut to God's revelation. No hidden computer code or special Bible version can provide you with a shortcut around the Spirit! You must be led by the Spirit; the Lamb MUST be eaten "roasted with fire" from Heaven!
As you can see, there is much, much more to the Word of God than what first we believed. God wants us to search, to understand, and to receive; that is His hearts cry! "The Lord looks down from Heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God" (Ps. 14:2, NIV). Let us search and find the treasures of God together, and let us honor the true Passover lamb, JESUS, who makes it all possible!
~Pastor Ron Barnes