Over this Passover it has become obvious to us all that there are some of us who simply do not fully comprehend the importance of the eight-day sequence and the duty imposed on us to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the full seven days. God is choosing to address this issue over the year’s festivals beginning with Passover. This is happening because we must be prepared to implement the festivals of God properly before we can be added to in significant numbers in the area God has targeted for development.
I am pleased to note that some of us are coming to a more complete understanding of the issue and some have developed a more zealous approach to keeping the Laws of God as they are given to understand them more fully.
The Passover is the most important festival of the Calendar. It is the means by which we renew ourselves spiritually each year and so remain part of the Body of Christ. It is the one festival we must keep correctly as commanded by God.
This festival is a command to remove one’s self from the world and go to a place set aside by God through the Church. The ancient requirement to kill the Passover lamb was to identify the requirement that the Messiah must die for the sins of the world, so that we may be able to partake of the promises extended to us by God as a gift of grace. It is the lamb that enables us to be delivered from Egypt. The lamb is the means by which we are delivered from sin, which we term Sodom and Egypt. Thus, the lamb is the mechanism by which we are taken out of Egypt. Initially we were in Egypt and we had to remain in our homes while the blood of the lamb protected us from the penalty of sin, which was death. The death of the firstborn was symbolic of the setting aside of the firstborn to God. We are the firstborn and the first fruits of the dead after Christ, destined for the First Resurrection of the dead.
The procedure was then reversed for the subsequent Passovers. God commands us as follows in Deuteronomy 16:5-8:
5 You may not sacrifice the Passover within any of your gates, which Yahovah your God gives you. 6 But at the place which He shall choose to cause his name to dwell there, you shall sacrifice the Passover offering at evening, at the going of the sun, at the time when you came out of Egypt. 7 And you shall cook and eat in the place where Yahovah your God shall choose. And in the morning you shall turn and go into your tents. You shall eat unleavened bread seven days and on the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to Yahovah your God. You shall do no work.
The words translated as “gates“ in Deuteronomy 16:5 is SHD 8179 sha’ar which means the gates of a city. The other word SHD 6607 pethach, means a door, or entranceway, and refers to an individual household. Sha’ar also means a door but has a much wider sense as a city gate, or port, or entrance to a city. The use of sha’ar is to make it clear that the removal from the normal urban domicile and the relocation to a place out of the normal habitations is meant. Otherwise, it would be permissible to swap houses and comply with the instruction if pethach was used. However, that is not the case and the term has a much more serious implication and sense.
Thus, the command is clearly given to us, as individuals and as a Church, that we must prepare for and identify a place that the Lord will place His hand and then we, as a people, need to go to that place and keep the feast as a pilgrimage.
Now, the instance where Jerusalem was used as a place of the Passover saw the nation make pilgrimage to there, and also internationally there were those who came to take the Passover. Christ and his parents made the pilgrimage annually and remained for the days of the feast. The position was that on the night of the Passover the pilgrims would be clad and shod and they would eat the Passover in vigil and remain until the morning. Thus the people of God were to remain outside of their tents until the morning and in the morning they could return to their tents. The word translated as tents is SHD 168 ‘ohel meaning a tent (a dwelling place being conspicuous from a distance), home, tabernacle or tent.
The concept here also is that God tabernacles among us whilst we are at the place where He chooses to place His name. We are removed from our tabernacles for this period and we remain in watching and anticipation of His coming. This was instituted from the beginning to look forward to his coming prior to 30 CE and in commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice from 30 CE and again in anticipation of his return for the millennial system. It will be kept in the Millennium as a commemoration of the redemption of the world.
Thus, the place of pilgrimage required everyone of all locations, even those of the city of pilgrimage, to leave their dwellings for the period of the preparation day of the 14th, which now also involves the meal of the 14th as the Lord’s Supper service of the foot washing, bread and wine; and the evening of the Passover meal of the 15th to be held away from our gates and cities. We eat lamb normally for the meal of the Night of Observation but we make no sacrifice of any lamb because that aspect was fulfilled in Messiah. However, our vigil concerns the expectation of his return and our commemoration of the fact of his death that afternoon.
The sequence prior to the death of Christ was of the lamb to be put aside on the 10th and the movement to the Passover site was made, if over distance. All people were in place by the evening of the 14th and the first of the meals took place. We now understand this meal as the Lord’s Supper but it originally was the first chagigah meal, which Bullinger also identifies (cf. Companion Bible notes). This was not a lamb sacrifice as we see from the behaviour of Christ and the disciples at the Last Supper. On the 14th the general preparation was done and the lamb killed in the afternoon of 14 Abib. The roasting was done on the evening of 15 Abib when it was eaten with bitter herbs. The people participating then discussed and watched until the morning. The term used for morning is SHD 1242 boqer meaning properly dawn as the break of day being early, or morning or morrow. It is not necessary to remain until after physical daybreak. The use of the term boqer allows us some leeway. It can refer to any time after the middle of the night to daybreak proper. No one, except the ill and the young, is permitted to go to bed before midnight on this symbolic night of vigil, and the healthy are expected to maintain the vigil until the morning hours. The men are commanded to be present for the period. Within the Churches of God the women who are able are also expected to be present when not caring for the aged, infirm or young.
The permission to return to our tents or dwellings on the morning of the 15th refers to the fact that we remain in the vigil of the Passover until the morning watch, which was always understood to be after the middle of the night. Thus, we are not to return to our dwellings until well after midnight on the 15th. The city of pilgrimage can and did remain operational from this time onwards but people did not return from the pilgrimage to their normal abodes until the seven days of Unleavened Bread were completed. This was the case with Christ and his parents as we see from the Gospels. Even when Christ was in Egypt they were still able to keep the feast in Egypt at Hieropolis because a temple had been constructed there by Onias IV in ca. 160 CE according to the command of God in Isaiah 19:19.
The fact that some Churches of God have turned this serious occasion into a short-term party and failed to keep the feast properly is due to ignorance on their part, and is no excuse for the elect to breach the law and treat it lightly or to fail to keep the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as a pilgrimage. In fact, some organisations even forbade Bible discussion on this most important evening because of their inability to explain what the evening symbolised having misidentified the Passover sequence.
We have an obligation to keep the festival properly and for the full seven days as we have repeatedly explained. If you have not done so, then stir yourselves to the zeal expected of you in obedience to God.
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