Can We Find Atonement in the Passover?
Written by Craig Lyons
Earlier in my life an evangelical Christian I was taught to draw a comparison between the Passover Lamb and Jesus. My teachers insisted that the former foreshadows the latter. This same idea is advanced in the New Testament, particularly in the book of John where Jesus is portrayed as the fulfillment of the Passover lamb.
Through my years of study as I combed through volumes of materials to help better understand Passover and the Day of Atonement I was brought to have questions about where exactly in the Passover do we find the forgiveness of sins that was taught by the church as pictured by the death of Jesus. My research verified for me that instead of looking at the Passover for atonement of sin one must look to the Day of Atonement, and only then we find atonement for unintentional sins and sins of the first Tablet of the Law. Remembering that Jesus is taught to be the Passover Lamb for the life of me I cannot make any connection with this representation and the forgiveness of sin. Such is a major problem for the thinking Christian.
a.. Answer for yourself: How valid is the premise that the Passover sacrifice foreshadows the life and ministry of Jesus?
b.. Answer for yourself: What is the Passover holiday really about?
LOOKING AT THE PASSOVER
The Bible relates that when the Jewish people were preparing themselves for their momentous exodus from Egypt, God commanded them to slaughter a year-old sheep or goat on the 14th day of the first month (Nissan) and publicly place its blood on the outside doorposts of their homes. Because missionaries insist that this blood was the antitype of the blood of Jesus at Calvary, it behooves us to question the soundness of this claim.
The Torah never states or even implies that the Passover sheep or goat atones for sin. This notion that the Paschal lamb is a representation of a crucified savior or atonement for sin is as foreign to the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures and the Torah as is the notion of the man in the moon. Such identifications of crucified saviors and atonement can be found but not in Judaism; one has to look at Gentile Sun Worship and their crucified Sun Gods and Sun-Godmen to find such teachings. The hidden truth that most never see when studying the Exodus was the judgment of Egypt's false g-ds by the true and living God. Every one of the plagues upon Egypt was a Divine Judgment against their false g-ds and the Lamb was no exception. The death and desecration of the Lamb in Egypt was a dramatic statement against the false g-ds of Egypt by Moses who himself was heading up a tremendous rebellion against idolatry in Egypt. One only needs to read good books on this topic to understand the reason for such plagues in the first place. There was no atonement in such an action by Moses and the rest of the "mixed multitude."
A careful and dedicated study aimed at verifying the truth rather than vindicating one's present actions reveals that the Torah had alluded to the Paschal Lamb long before the exodus from Egypt had occurred. Centuries earlier, the Almighty tested Abraham's faith when God commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. As the two ascended Mount Moriah together, Isaac turned to his father and asked, "Here is fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the offering? Abraham then replied, "God will see to a lamb for an offering, my son." The question that immediately comes to mind is: What happened to that lamb that Abraham promised? A few verses later we find that it was a ram, not a lamb that was sacrificed!
Answer for yourself: Where was the lamb to which Abraham was prophetically referring?
The answer of course is that our father Abraham was referring to the Paschal Lamb. Just as God tested Abraham's faith to show his worthiness to be the father of the Chosen People, the young Jewish nation also had to have their faith tested to show their worthiness to participate in the exodus from Egypt, receive the Torah at Mount Sinai, and become the progenitors of the covenant people who would forever be known as "a light to the nations."
In the pagan Egyptian society; where the Jewish People were enslaved, the lamb was considered a sacred god, similar to how the cow is deified and worshipped in India today. In ancient Egypt, molesting a lamb in any way was considered a crime punishable by death. That is why when Egypt was overcome with the third plague of lice, Moses refused Pharaoh's initial offer that the Jews bring their sacrifice to God while remaining in Egypt. He explained that if the Israelites were to kill these animals before the Egyptians, they could be stoned. Therefore, the Almighty used this to text the faithfulness of the Jewish people by commanding them to not only kill Egypt's secret god, but to publicly place the lamb's blood on their doorposts for all to see. Thus, only those Israelites who, like Abraham, demonstrated that their fear of God exceeded their fear of the Egyptians, will be deemed worthy to have their homes passed over during the tenth and final plague.
Answer for yourself: Did you read anywhere for yourself that forgiveness of sins is connected to the Passover ceremony? No.
Answer for yourself: Acknowledging that forgiveness of sin and atonement is connected with the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur, then how do we account for the fact that the death of Jesus is supposed to atone for sin according to Christianity when his death was at the wrong time of the year at the wrong Biblical Festival no less? There is no atonement connected with Passover and if Jesus' death is to even be remotely considered as a form of atonement by Christianity then if they are true to "types and shadow" fulfillments then Jesus should have died at Yom Kippur. He did not!
For Christians who consistently say that Jesus "fulfilled" the Biblical Festivals it would do them good to study the Biblical Festivals from a Jewish view and try to understand them the way the Jewish scholars and people understood them. In so doing they would see that atonement is connected with the Fall Biblical Festivals and not the Spring Festivals. Atonement is connected with the High Holy Day of Yom Kippur and was NEVER connected with the Passover. If one is true to "types and shadows" and tries to apply such an analogy to Jesus then understand in the most critical of all analogies [atonement] you are out of step with the Festivals themselves and forcing your pre-formed theology into time frames where God's message to us is completely different.
It would do us well right now to understand in summary from Gods' mo'eds [appointed times] and Biblical Festivals. Here in summary fashion is the message in the Biblical Festivals that Moses and the Jewish people have always understood.
UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLICAL FESTIVALS CORRECTLY
God makes His salvation available through faith and this foundational concept is pictured in the physical salvation of Israel from Egypt. Faith is not just a "mental assent" but an alive response to a religious beliefs. Saving faith is not dead but alive and responds. The key is responding in "obedience." This response can be called appropriately "works" for such actions as one's fruit of one's faith accompany such beliefs for if the Israelites had not responded accurately & obediently to their faith in God and failed to apply the blood to their door then they would likewise had died. So we learn that faith that responds in obedience "saves."
What we need to notice is that this "saving faith" was seen at the Passover. Salvation of God delivers the believer from death and this salvation is "imputed" to us yet the reality of its fullness yet awaits us. You might say we have an "earnest" of our salvation today but not the whole ball of wax; at least not yet. Passover serves as the starting place for one's faith in God and His saving Word. It is one's obedient faith to the Words of God that produces this "saving faith" and the Passover was the perfect example for demonstration of one's faith in the God of Israel and in so doing then God's judgment of sin "passes over the believer" due to his obedient faith. Of course for us such obedience [Israel responded in saving faith by applying the blood of a lamb to their doorposts] is seen in obeying the various Commandments of God involved in our unique Covenants with God; both for the Jewish people and the non-Jews as well.
Once we are saved by our faith in God with obedience unto Him at our personal Passover one comes to the next Festival of YHWH where we learn of the purpose of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The Festival of Unleavened Bread follows "faith in God and his Word" where obedience really comes to the forefront. It is time to get the "leaven" (picture of sin in the Bible) or sin out of our lives. Since sin is the transgression of the Law then getting this "breaking of God's Commandments" out of lives means that we must grow in our understanding of God's Torah and Laws which frame our respective Covenants; both Jewish and non-Jewish [for the Christian the Covenant and Laws of Noah]. This is a sanctification whereby we make ourselves through repentance and obedience to the Word of God acceptable vessels for God's Spirit to inhabit.
Once we grow as worthy vessels for God's spirit to inhabit through repentance and a heightened obedience then God's Spirit comes to such a one in the fulfillment of Pentecost. We have just personally experienced our own Passover where God's judgment passes over us because of our faith in Him and obedience to His word. As our obedience grows then God comes to dwell within us to the degree that we are worthy vessels. As we find in Israel we find in our own lives. These first three Festivals are called the Spring Festivals and they are observed during the first rainy season in Israel.
It helps to understand that Israel had two rainy seasons a year separated by a long dry period. We find the same example in our lives. We all get excited when we come to God, turn from sin, and are filled with His Spirit. But over time the day to day drudgery of life wears us down. We like Israel experience our own dry period as symbolized by a life-time of temptation and drudgery. We are confronted daily of living lives that overcome or lives that fail. Once we are saved, cleansed, and filled with God's Spirit, we are equipped to live out our lives where we must deal with the good and the bad as we encounter them in life. Sometimes life is hard as seen in the dry season following Pentecost; yet we have the Spirit of HaShem to comfort and sustain us throughout the middle and autumn years of our lives.
After the dry season of Israel and our lives we come to the next Festival which is Rosh HaShannah which symbolizes our death at the end of our life. Rosh HaShannah is the resurrection and judgment. It is appointed for man to once die and then the judgment which is also a second part of Rosh HaShannah. After the resurrection at Rosh HaShannah and the judgment and reward for believers as well as non-believers, then one awaits final atonement at Yom Kippur. The only thing lacking is the eternal dwelling of the Spirit of God with mankind at the Festival of Tabernacles. This is the eternal Sabbath where God and man are one. This is only a summary to say the least of what the Biblical Festivals reveal...the Plan of Salvation of God.
And if you noticed, this plan is very understandable to the Jew and non-Jew without trying to "force" Yeshua to fulfill passages that yet remain unfulfilled.
It is these Biblical Festivals, correctly understood as given above, which will further enable the Jew and the non-Jew to become one in expectation of the coming of the Messiah.
As you see the cycle of observance of the Biblical Festivals, called a "mo'ed," in Hebrew, literally means a "rehearsal." What God intends is that all His Children, both Jew and non-Jew, keep and observe these rehearsals in order that they learn God's true plan of salvation and in so doing make their calling and election certain in order that they be the "bride" and not find themselves excluded. God repeated His salvation message to His people year after year in order than no one get it wrong. With Rome's help...we did!
Matt 22:9-14 9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. 10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. 11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: 12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. 13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 14 For many are called, but few are chosen. (KJV)
2 Pet 1:10 10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: (KJV)
Answer for yourself: Were you aware that the sacrificial system and blood atonement as understood by the Rabbis and the Jewish people ONLY provided atonement for the sins of ignorance of the First Tablet of the Law [sins between man and God] and intentional sins were not atoned for in the least?
Answer for yourself: Were you aware that the sacrificial system and blood atonement as understood by the Rabbis and the Jewish people DID NOT provide atonement for the sins of the Second Tablet of the Law [sins between man and man] and that these sins were NEVER atoned for in the least through Temple blood offerings?
Answer for yourself: What are Christians to do once they come to the realization that even if atonement was connected to Jesus' death, the "lamb" and the sacrifice of a lamb at Passover, or even at Yom Kippur, then what are we to do once we come to the understanding that such blood and lamb atonement never atoned for intentional sins or the sins of the Second Tablet of the Law?
Answer for yourself: It is possible, just possible that Jesus was right in teaching repentance and return to obedience to the Commandments of God as a form of atonement? Have we missed the true message of Eternal Life and atonement as taught by Jesus, the Rabbis, and the Jewish people and accepted a false atonement instead? It is just possible that Rome, because of their hatred of Jews, gave us their own brand of Sun Worship in their own book called the New Testament and and their version of Sun God atonement and we not know?
It is time to study our Hebrew Roots of Christianity to uncover the truth and the answers to these questions.