Sunday, April 9, 2017

Passover Thoughts

“And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”       Matthew 26:26-29  NKJV

Passover arrives in Israel this coming week and because of that I thought it would be a good time to talk for a moment concerning something often overlooked about the Passover dinner Jesus shared with His disciples.  Specifically, something Jesus said, and did, which differed from the norm of the Passover Seder which most people would not be aware of if not Jewish or knowledgeable about the rules regarding it.

First of all, in Israel this event is called the Pesach Seder.  Pesach is the Hebrew word for Passover, and Seder is derived from the Hebrew word for order.  The dinner is an intricate part of the Passover celebration in which the memory of the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt is recalled.

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. ‘Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. ‘So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance.”      Exodus 12:12-14  NKJV

In the traditional Seder, there are fifteen steps, or observances which each signify and relate to the deliverance on that first Passover in Egypt.  I am not going to examine all of these today but will encourage you to do that on your own to better understand why this is such an important event.  What I am going to discuss today is four of those fifteen steps which I will call the Four Cups of Wine.  This is because during the entire Seder, there are four instances where the participants drink a cup of wine in remembrance of the promises God made to them when they were still in bondage in Egypt.

“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. ‘And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD.’ ”             Exodus 6:6-8  NKJV

The four cups of wine are taken to recall the four promises made in this passage which are referred to as the “four I wills”.  The first cup is called the cup of Sanctification…”I will bring you out from under the the burdens of the Egyptians”.  The second is called the cup of Blessing…” I will rescue you from their bondage”.  The third is the cup of Redemtion…” I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”, and the fourth cup is the cup of Acceptance…”‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.”

In the passage from Matthew 26, according to many scholars it is believed that when Jesus said “Drink from it, all of you. “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” during the Seder with His disciples, He was referring to the 3rd cup of the Passover, the Cup of Redemption.  Jesus was saying that by His shed blood we can be redeemed from our bondage to sin just as the Israelites were redeemed from their bondage in Egypt.  He then went on to say, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”    

Why?  In essence Jesus said He would not drink the Fourth Cup, the Cup of Acceptance, until He could do so with those who have chosen to believe in Him when we are together with Him in Heaven.  Since this will occur after the rapture of the Church, is Jesus somehow giving us a clue as to when the season of the rapture might happen?  Additionally, the fourteenth step in the order of the Seder is the recital of the Hallel, traditionally recited on festivals, followed by drinking the fourth cup of wine.  The Hallel is Psalms 113-118, with chapters 113-114 recited before the meal and chapters 115-118 recited now.  Take a closer look if you will at what we find in the last chapter;

“Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, And I will praise the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD, Through which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.”               Psalms 118:19-23  NKJV

According to the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish oral laws and traditions, Jesus is waiting for the marriage feast before He drinks from this cup.  (Mishnah, Pesahim 7:13)  Since we know that the marriage feast must take place after the rapture, is it possible that Jesus’ statement to His disciples about waiting to drink the Fourth Cup of Passover is actually His way of telling us that we will drink this cup with Him on a future Feast of Passover?

“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”      Revelation 19:7-9  NKJV

In all honesty, my favorite part of a wedding is not the ceremony but rather the food waiting in the reception hall. Now it isn’t that I don’t appreciate the importance of the wedding vows, and making a public commitment before witnesses to love, honor, and forsake all others until death do you part.  In fact, as we all know the Bible holds marriage to be one of the most sacred and important commitments an individual can make.  Yet one thing I noticed when I began to study the elements of a Jewish Wedding many years ago was that even though the steps might be a little different than those we are familiar with, they do save the best for last just as we do with something they like to call the Wedding Feast. 

If you are not familiar with a Jewish Wedding, let me give you just a brief summary of the steps involved.  First of all the father pays for the bride and establishes the marriage covenant.  Second the son returns to his father’s house and prepares the bridal chamber.  Third at a time determined by the father, the groom fetches the bride to bring her to his father’s house.  Because the bride does not know when this might occur, the groom’s arrival was preceded by a shout, which forewarned the bride to be prepared for his arrival.  The bride then undergoes ritual cleansing prior to the wedding ceremony, the private wedding ceremony is held, and then in the privacy of the bridal chamber the bride and groom consummate the marriage.  It is after this time that the Wedding Feast is held where all who have been invited can join in celebration with the bride and groom.

By looking at this outline, it isn’t very hard to see the steps of a Jewish wedding are the same as those spelled out for the Church, the bride of Christ, and our covenant with Jesus.  Why is this important?  One reason takes us back to what we talked about concerning the Fourth Cup of Passover.  We know from what Jesus said that we will drink of this cup along with Him at some future time, but is it possible for us to know when exactly that might be?  Although most of us understand that it is virtually impossible to get everyone to agree, the majority of scholars I have studied believe this event will take place at the Wedding Feast that follows the ceremony of Christ taking His Church as His Bride.

I thought I would share the thoughts of just three of those individuals with you this morning who believe this is the proper interpretation of the scriptures.  Dr. John Walvoord, who served as president of Dallas Theological Seminary for many years said this about Jesus’ words at the Last Supper;

“The new ceremony, instead of relating to the lamb slain in Egypt, now was referring to Christ as the new Passover Lamb, the one who would be slain on the cross. Although it was a new ceremony, it was also their last meal together, and He concluded the introduction of the Lord’s Supper with the words of verse 29, “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Here He was referring to the millennial kingdom, when Christ will return to the earth with His resurrected disciples and participate once again in the earthly scene.”

Dr. Thomas Ice, the executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center at Liberty University writes;

“We read in Luke 22:16-18 the following: "for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." This is called the Lord's Supper, which Jesus inaugurated for the soon to be born church to practice until His return to get His bride. Christ's promise not to not eat or drink again until He does it when the kingdom comes, means that He will not be celebrating His marriage supper in heaven before He descends at His second coming with His bride. Here He says the next time he eats and drinks will be at the coming of the kingdom, which will start at the beginning of the thousand years of His reign upon earth.”

Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, founder and Director of Ariel Ministries also agrees saying;

“The resurrection of the Old Testament saints will take place following the Second Coming in preparation for the Messianic Kingdom. …the Old Testament saints are to be the friends of the bridegroom at the marriage feast, but the marriage feast will take place on earth as an inauguration of the Messianic Kingdom. It is the wedding ceremony that takes place in Heaven before the Second Coming, but the wedding feast itself will take place on earth and will kick off the Messianic Kingdom.”

Weddings have always been the most happy of celebrations and a big part of that day is the opportunity to share a feast with the bride and groom as they begin their new life together.  Who can forget that Jesus’ first miracle was at a wedding feast when they ran out of wine?  It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that the Wedding Feast we are going to attend as the bride of Christ will be one we will never forget.  Especially when you consider we will finally get to drink the cup of acceptance, the fourth cup of Passover, with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.”                                1 Corinthians 11:23-26  NKJV

Keep Watching.