Just a few nights ago I had the privilege of participating in a Messianic Passover celebration (online of course due to necessary social distancing). As my cousin Vinny led us through the seder I couldn’t help but contrast the significance of the Jewish celebrating of Passover to the Spiritually-discerned (Christian) celebrating of Passover. My goal in this blog is to share some of the details that stood out to me, in the hope that my thoughts might just edify someone else.
Three specific parts of the Seder got me thinking of how we Christians need to not only understand the historical/theological context of the Jewish feast of Passover, but also we must understand the transition that is bringing shown, namely the revealing of that which was hidden, Jesus Christ, and thus moving the people of God “from hoping to having”. How and why does Jesus Christ identify with the afikomen? Are we still waiting and reserving a spot for “Elijah to come”? What restoration is celebrated with the 4th cup of the Seder?
Let’s start with the first question, how and why does Jesus identify with the afikomen? During the Seder the three matzah’s are introduced as the “bread of affliction”, remembering the burdensome and hasty retreat of the Israelites from Egypt. The middle piece is referred to as the afikomen and is taken and hidden at the beginning of the dinner, only to be sought out and resurrected later on (usually by the children present). During a Messianic seder it is mentioned that this afikomen piece is the bread Jesus identified with and said “This is my body, which is broken for you (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). Interestingly enough, Rabbi Hillel (who was most active between 30 BC-10AD) drew special attention to the afikomen as he led people through Passover celebrations. And, in the first century, Rabbi Gamaliel said that the bread pointed to the speed at which salvation came to Israel in Egypt. Furthermore, we know that by the first century, some Jewish people viewed the afikomen as a symbol of the Messiah, who remained hidden from view. Jesus transitioned the perspective of Passover from being about historical bondage in Egypt, slaves to the Pharaoh, to being about bondage in sin, slaves to sin and death. Jesus, the author and finisher of our salvation, was hidden and is what the prophets searched for intently, as the Apostle Peter writes in his epistle, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 10-12)”. So for a Spiritually-discerned Passover, the afikomen is no longer hidden, but has come and been manifested, Jesus Christ our Lord. I rather enjoy how the New Living Translation puts it, “For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God (Romans 10:4)”.
The Jewish tradition of setting a place for Elijah is connected to their waiting for the revealing of the hidden salvation. The prophet Malachi highlighted that before the great and terrible day of the Lord, Elijah would be sent from God to offer repentance to all people, especially noting fathers and children (cf. Malachi 4:5-6). It is important to understand that Malachi prophesied during the time then the Israelite captives from Babylon had returned to the land and were hoping to see revival in their midst, a return to their covenant faith and reality. As should be clear from reading Matthew chapter 17:10-13 and Mark 9:11-13, that Jesus Christ taught the disciples and they understood that John the Baptist was the “Elijah to come”. John the Baptist came and warned that terminal generation that the “ax was at the root” (Matthew 3:10) and that the “Lamb of God had come to take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). The “restoration of all things” that the “Elijah to come” would herald is covenant restoration, ultimately what the prophets and apostles highlight as “the hope of Israel”. The “hope of Israel” which would be made clear at the “great and terrible day of the Lord” would not only restore the living to right relationship with God through the New Covenant, but also would vindicate the righteous martyrs of the Old Covenant, discerned as a reality as Jerusalem was made desolate (cf. Matthew 23:34-38). Dr. Don K. Preston, of the Preterist Research Institute has written extensively about the significance of the “Elijah to Come” and how that relates to John the Baptist and the restoration of all things at destruction of Jerusalem, however I highlight this quote, “In Matthew 3, John’s message was the message of Elijah in Malachi 4. And John, as The Voice, The Messenger and Elijah, said that Day of the Lord was imminent. That Day, the time of the vindication of the martyrs (cf. Matthew 23, Revelation 6) did fall on Israel in AD 70! Prophecy fulfilled! The Voice, The Messenger, Elijah fulfilled his role!”.
Unfortunately, due to a variety of interpretations and presuppositions that Christians have brought to the Jewish details of the faith, many Christians fail to see the significance of the “Elijah to come” as per Malachi’s prophecy and how that relates to the message proclaimed by John the Baptist. Furthermore, a failure to be familiar with the hope of Israel as made known through the Law and the prophets, which is the Gospel the Apostle Paul said he preached (see, Acts 24:14-25; 26:22-23), many have totally missed and confused what the “restoration of all things” is. What doe the Old Testament prophets lament as lost and in need of restoration? I will provide links to some sermonsI have preached on exactly this at the conclusion of this blog.
Presuppositional thought and just plain ignorance has led many Christians to misidentify the elements of restoration. This surely effects the ability of Spiritual-discernment. Christians should be celebrating an entirely fulfilled Passover – celebrating our living in and identifying with the New Jerusalem, praising God for the glorified Body of Christ (otherwise known as the Church), and resting in the new heavens and earth. All Spiritually-discerned realities. This is what was being highlighted through the last and final cup of the seder. Christians should be celebrating the reality of moving from hoping for to having, but instead, most are somehow still waiting for the new heavens and earth, displaying a complete failure to see all that was hoped for by Israel as a reality for the Christian now. A few years ago, April 5th, 2012 to be exact, I posted the following points about the new heavens and earth on social media and I hope they might edify and clarify you understanding, “The new heavens and new earth Peter writes about are an echo from Isaiah sixty-five and sixty-six. In those chapters we read where God will pour out His wrath on Jerusalem (which in fact happened in AD 70) and on His rebellious people before He creates (spiritually, not physically) the new heavens and new earth. In the New Jerusalem of the new heavens and new earth, physical death will remain (Isa.65:20; 66:24) home building and agriculture will continue (Isa.65:21–22) there will be descendants (Isa.65:23; 66:22), there will be a new priestly group (Isa.65:24 which is describing the believer church) – which we believing Christians are! (see 1 Peter 2:9). The new heavens and new earth is referring to the New Covenant. This is the kingdom of God where Christ indwells the believer (Col.1:26–27), a kingdom not made with hands (Dn.2:44–45; Col.2:10–11)”.
I love how Pastor David Curtis, of Berean Bible Church, explains the feasts, in that he remarks, “Each feast is a prophetic picture of the Messiah.” It should be our goal to seek a contextually, Spiritually-discerned, and fulfilled prophetic picture of Jesus Christ. We must become familiar with the Jewishness of the faith, celebrating and discerning the feasts is great, but it must be accompanied by a reading, listening, and familiarity with the literature of the prophets. Pastor Curtis goes on to say, “I believe the seven annual feasts, or holy days, of physical Israel, which take place in the first seven months of their agricultural year, were all fulfilled both prophetically and spiritually in the period from the cross to the fall of Jerusalem, which equates with the return of Jesus Christ, the end of the Jewish age, the resurrection of the dead, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in A.D. 70. These feast must be viewed in their strategic order. Judaism today treats Trumpets as the New Year, and that is wrong. It is not the New Year. By doing that, they can never really understand prophecy. The feasts have to be viewed in their order from Passover through Tabernacles. The feasts actually convey two forty year exodus periods. The first exodus period is one familiar to all of us: Israel, after the flesh, was removed from bondage to Egypt at Passover, and they were put in the wilderness on a physical journey to a physical promise land. Now the more important and the spiritual exodus we are not so familiar with: This exodus runs from the Cross to A.D. 70. In this exodus, Israel, after the Spirit, left its bondage to the law of sin and death (Ro. 8:2) and begins a forty year spiritual journey to a spiritual inheritance: the Kingdom of God, or the New Heavens and New Earth.”
So, in conclusion, the difference between a Jewish celebration of Passover and a Spiritually – discerned (Christian) Passover celebration is understanding the hope for and the provided reality of sanctification, deliverance, redemption, and restoration. Let us praise Him for all that He provided – no more tears, mourning, or crying for the old things (Old Covenant and all it’s baggage) have passed away (see, Revelation 21:4)
The following links have information that connects to this blog.
Don Preston explains the “Elijah to Come”, https://donkpreston.com/responding-to-the-critics-is-elijah-coming-before-the-end-or-has-he-come/
David Curtis begins his extensive series on the “Feasts of the Lord”, https://www.bereanbiblechurch.org/transcripts/topical/feasts_lord_01.htm
And I preached two different sermons highlighting the fulfilment of the prophetically understood “Hope of Israel”,
May this information and our mighty God bless you abundantly.
In Service to Him,
Pastor Michael Miano
The Blue Point Bible Church