Epoch Periods In God’s Plan

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The Light In The First Day

In Genesis 1:1‑5 (KJV) we are first introduced to the “light” of the sun.

“(1) In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (2) And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. (3) And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (4) And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (5) And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. 

The Sun

“Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3) evidently refers to the light of the sun, which was sufficient for general illumination, but not sufficient to break through the mists to become an identifiable object in the heavens, until the fourth day when it was “appointed” (as the word there can mean), together with the moon and stars (Genesis 1:16). Genesis 1:11 shows that there were already plants and trees on day three, which required sunlight to grow. The sun was in place and burning before the earth was suitable for life.

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The Length of Each Day of Creation

The days of creation recorded in Genesis chapters 1 and 2 were epoch days of creative activity, of undefined length.

The word “day” customarily describes a normal day of 24 hours, but very often has a broader usage for any defined period of whatever length. For example, Genesis 2:4 says “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” Here “day” is a period that includes all of the seven days reported earlier.

In Hebrews 3:8, Paul refers to the “provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness” — which refers to a period of years, not a single day.

When we speak of Jesus’ day, we mean a period of history long ago, not a single day.

The work involved in these “days” of creation required lengthy periods of time for the natural processes to reach maturity, or completion.

Zechariah 14:7-9 provides another example, this time from prophecy, of the greater use of the term “day.”

“(7) It shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time [at the close of the Millennial day that spans 1000 years] it shall be light. (8) And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. (9) And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.”

The metaphorical use of the word “day” is usually apparent from the context.

The Third Day

In John 2:19-22 we read about Jesus being raised on the literal third day:

“(19) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (20) Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? (21) But he spake of the temple of his body. (22) When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.”

However, if we take the above passage to refer to the metaphorical body of Christ, that is, the body of believers in Jesus, then it is apparent that any application of the three days would be on a larger time frame. In this case the saints are raised on the third millennium from the time of Christ.

In Hosea 6:1-3 (KJV) we read about this “third day.”

“(1) Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. (2) After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. (3) Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”

In both of these cases — John chapter two and Hosea chapter six — the three days involved are evidently millennial days 4, 5, and 6 as counted from Adam. On the sixth millennium, which includes our day, Israel has been under process of restoration. Jesus’ first advent was in the fourth Millennial day, counting from Adam. Here are those “days”

(1) 3958 B.C. to 2958 B.C.
(2) 2958 B.C. to 1958 B.C.
(3) 1958 B.C. to 958 B.C.
(4) 958 B.C. to 43 A.D.
(5) 43 A.D. to 1043 A.D.
(6) 1043 A.D. to 2043 A.D.

The words of Hosea 6:1-3 is thus about natural Israel (not about Spiritual Israel — the Bride of Christ) because in verse one, we read that God has “smitten” them. God has not smitten the Church. But Israel was “smitten” following their rejection of Christ. God did smite Israel during the Roman wars that closed the Jewish Age. They were cast off in 33 A.D., in day “four” from Adam. After the close of day four, and the close of day five, thus “after two days,” they began to be restored in 1878 and forward, on day “six” from Adam.

Hence Israel is now being restored — presently as a nation, and later, in the Kingdom, to individual life after they recognize Jesus as their Redeemer.

Three Dispensations in the Divine Plan

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There are three large periods of time in the Divine Plan. Sometimes these are termed “Dispensations,” because the administration of these three periods varied. Sometimes they are called three “worlds,” drawing from these three scriptures —

  • World that Was 2 Peter 3:6 — Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water [the Flood], perished.
  • Present Evil World Galatians 1:4 — “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”
  • World to ComeHebrews 2:5 — “For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”

Epoch 1 – The World That Was

This epoch lasted from the time of Adam and Eve until the flood. In this period some of the angels were allowed to exercise influence in a way that was later restrained. It was not subdivided into ages because God’s method of dealing with men did not vary from Adam’s fall to the flood. God had given man his law, the law of conscience written into his nature. However, after he sinned God left him measurably to his own downward course, that man might learn through experience the wisdom of God in requiring obedience. The disastrous effects of sin were manifested showing that the tendency of sin is downward to greater degradation and misery, showing the necessity of Jehovah’s interposition, if the recovery of “that which was lost” — man’s first estate — would ever be accomplished.

Epoch 2 – The Present Evil World

The second great epoch (Galatians 1:4, 2 Peter 3:7) spans from the flood to the establishment of the kingdom of God. It is under the limited control of Satan, the usurper, “the prince of this world,” who has no interest in Christ’ followers except to oppose, tempt, annoy, and buffet them (John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 12:7, Malachi 3:15).

In this present evil world, or epoch, whoever will live godly shall suffer persecution, while the wicked flourish like a green bay tree (2 Timothy 3:12, Psalm 37:35).

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and until the era or “world to come” does come, Christ’s kingdom will not control the earth. For this we are taught to hope and pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.” Satan is the “ruler of the darkness of this world,” and therefore “darkness covers the earth and gross darkness the people.” Satan now rules and works in the hearts of the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2, 6:12).

The current epoch is divided into three “ages.”

(a) The Patriarchal Age. God’s dealings and favors were with various patriarchs, such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. At Jacob’s death his descendants were called “the twelve tribes of Israel.” They were together recognized of God as his “peculiar people,” and through typical sacrifices they were typically “a holy nation,” separated from other nations for a particular purpose, and therefore to enjoy certain special favors.

(b) The Jewish Age (or the Law dispensation). God specially blessed the nation of Israel during this age from Jacob’s death until Christ’s death, as evidenced in the following:

  • Giving the Israelites His law,
  • Making a special covenant with them,
  • Giving them the Tabernacle, whose shekinah glory in the Most Holy represented Jehovah’s presence with them as their Leader and King,
  • Sending them prophets,
  • Sending them His Son, Jesus, who performed his miracles and taught in their midst. Jesus ministered to the Israelites, and instructed his disciples the same during the time that he was with them. “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5,6). Jesus explained, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).

This national favor ended with their rejection and crucifixion of Jesus, as shown by Jesus’ words five days before his crucifixion, “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Matthew 23:38).

(c) The Gospel Age. From Jesus’ death, the good tidings of justification have been heralded for nearly 2000 years not only to the Jewish people, but to all nations; for Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man. During this Gospel age there is a class called to special favor, to whom special promises are made. Namely, to those who by faith accept Christ Jesus as their Redeemer and Lord and follow in his footsteps.

The aim of this age is not to convert nations, but to call out a “little flock” as Jesus foretold (Luke 12:32), to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the Kingdom in an age to follow this.

Epoch 3 – The World to Come

The third epoch is to be a “world without end” (Isaiah 45:17) under divine administration, the kingdom of God. It is called “The World to Come, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” and during this period, all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Hebrews 2:5, 2 Peter 3:13, 2 Corinthians 12:2‑4, Revelation 21:1).

The thousand years of Christ’s reign is the first age in the “world to come” (Revelation 20:4). During the Millennial age, there will be a restoration of all things lost by the fall of Adam (Acts 3:19‑21). Then, all tears, sorrow, pain, and death resulting from the fall of Adam in Eden shall have been wiped away (Revelation 21:4). Following this 1000 year Millennium, there will be “a little season” of final testing time for the world of mankind (Revelation 20:3,7-10).

Revelation 11:15 says that when the seventh angel sounds his trumpet, “the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord [Jehovah] and His Christ [Jesus].” Thereafter our Lord Jesus exercises his power to remove present powers, and establish his Millennial Kingdom in order to bless the world in righteousness.

There are seven trumpet periods in Revelation. The seventh of these commenced in 1874 with the return of Christ and his subsequent parousia, or presence. Acts 3:21 connects this to the beginning of the “times of restoration.” There the process of restoring Israel commenced.

At the end of the Millennium will come the close of the seventh millennial “day,” introducing day number eight. At this time there will be “a little season” for the testing of mankind. Those found unfaithful and rebellious, disobedient to God and His principles, will not continue further. Thus the world is cleansed, purged, “circumcised” as it were, on the eighth day — evidently represented by circumcision of old being on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12).

Revelation 11:18, part of the description of the seventh trumpet, refer to the raising of the sleeping saints. “The time … that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets [Jesus’ New Testament spokesmen, compare Ephesians 3:5], and to the saints [holy ones of the Gospel Age].” The Millennium will be introduced subsequent, at the close of 6000 years, which we anticipate about a generation future, with the year 2043.

When that kingdom is established, all of the Bride class will have been gathered to glory, ready to serve as priests and kings with Christ to uplift the world (Revelation 20:6). Gradually all will be raised to life again, and have an opportunity to gain life everlasting.

Revelation 11:18,19 shows that the transition period into the Kingdom involves a general time of trouble. Evidently this commenced in 1914 with World War I. Jesus said, “No man can enter into a strong man’s house and spoil [plunder] his goods, except he will first bind the strong man, and then he will spoil his house” (Mark 3:22‑27). Jesus has entered the house of the strong man, Satan, and is in process of disrupting his affairs, incident to removing the influence of Satan altogether.

Satan is the “strong man” of the Present Evil World. The disruption of his “house,” and the binding of that strong usurper, is the necessary predicate for the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom. Satan will remain bound for “a thousand years,” allowing the world to grow and learn without the adversary’s deceptions.

We read of this in Revelation 20:2,3

“2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.”

The blotting out of evil will be gradual, requiring all of the first thousand years. Evil will not rule then. It will not prosper; it will no longer be the wicked that will flourish; but “the righteous shall flourish” (Psalm 72:7). Then the obedient shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19), and “the evil doer shall be cut off” (Psalm 37:9).

Heavens and Earth – Not Literally Destroyed

This earth is the basis of all these “worlds” and dispensations. Though ages pass and dispensations change, still the earth continues “The earth abideth forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

In 2 Peter 3:12, Peter refers to the dissolution of the present heavens and earth. “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.” Here “the heavens” symbolize the higher or spiritual controlling powers, and “earth” (verse 10) symbolizes human government and social arrangements.

The first heavens and earth, or social arrangement, ended at the flood, “being overflowed with water” (2 Peter 3:6). “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (2 Peter 3:7). The order and arrangement of things then existing ended at the flood. But the physical heavens (sky and atmosphere), and the physical earth, did not pass away.

Likewise, the present social structure, political and ecclesiastical, will pass away in deference to the Kingdom of Christ. The beginning of this work occurs in the “Day of the Lord” which “shall burn as an oven” (Malachi 4:1). But the complete integration of mankind into the new arrangement, the “new heavens” and “new earth” (2 Peter 3:13) will require time, as the work of the Kingdom proceeds.

Society will become reorganized in harmony with earth’s new Prince, Christ Jesus. Righteousness, peace, and love will rule among men when present arrangements give place to the new and better kingdom, based on justice and equity. The more we examine God’s plan of the Ages, the more we will find in it perfect harmony, beauty and order.

“Each age has its part to accomplish, necessary to the complete development of God’s plan as a whole. The plan is a progressive one, gradually unfolding from age to age, upward and onward to the grand consummation of the original design of the Divine Architect, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Ephesians 1:11). Not one of these great periods is an hour too long or too short for the accomplishment of its object. God is a wise economist of both time and means, though his resources are infinite; and no power, however malicious, for a moment retards or thwarts his purposes. All things, evil as well as good, under divine supervision and overruling, are working together for the accomplishment of his will” (Br. Charles T. Russell, The Divine Plan of the Ages, page 74).

Acknowledgement

Br. Charles Russell — for content shared from his book titled “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” which is Volume One (of six) of “Studies in the Scriptures.” This can be read from the Harvest Truth Data Base website. Here is the direct link: http://www.htdbv8.com/indexa.html

Br. David Rice — for content & editing assistance.

Further Suggested Reading

The Stream of Time by Br. David Rice. http://2043ad.com/streamoftime.PDF

Booklet titled: “I Will Come Again – John 14:3”
https://chicagobible.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/I-WILL-COME-AGAIN.pdf

God’s Millennium. A Dawn Bible Students Association Publication (booklet).
http://www.dawnbible.com/booklets/Gods1k.htm

Israel in History and Prophecyhttp://www.dawnbible.com/booklets/israel_hp.htm

The Approaching End of The Harvest
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/03/19/the-approaching-end-of-the-harvest/

1 CORINTHIANS 15:45 – How Long Until the Millennial Reign of the ‘Last Adam’?
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/06/06/1-corinthians-1545-how-long-until-the-millennial-reign-of-the-last-adam/

The Book of Revelation: A 2016 Perspective
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/06/30/the-book-of-revelation-a-2016-perspective/

 

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https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/08/16/epoch-periods-in-gods-plan/

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ACTS 3:19-21 – The Restitution of All Things

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The King of kings has come! We are even now in the parousia (presence) of the Son of Man! Soon the last members of his “elect” body, the Bride of Christ, will be gathered to him—glorified and invisible to men,—and then he will begin the rule of the iron rod which shall break the world’s vaunted institutions as potters’ vessels (Revelation 2:27).

He declares, I will “gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. And then will I turn unto the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:8,9).

This symbolic burning and breaking will be the new missionary method, by which the glorified Bride of Christ and Church, will, after 2043, under and with her glorious Head, “bring in everlasting righteousness.”

“When the judgments of the Lord are abroad in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).

“The glory [majesty] of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” (Isaiah 40:5).

Through the words of the Apostle Paul in Acts 3:19-21, Christ Jesus, intended his disciples to understand that for some purpose, in some manner, and at some time, he would return. True, Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20), and by his spirit and by his Word he has been with the Church continually, guiding, directing, comforting and sustaining his saints, and cheering them in the midst of all their afflictions. But though the Church has been blessedly conscious of the Lord’s knowledge of all her ways and of his constant care and love, yet she longs for his promised personal return; for, when he said, “If I go, I will come again” (John 14:3), he certainly referred to a second personal coming.

Some think he referred to the descent of the holy Spirit at Pentecost; others, to the destruction of Jerusalem, etc.; but these apparently overlook the fact that in the last book of the Bible, in the Book of Revelation—written by the Apostle John some sixty years after Pentecost, and twenty-six years after Jerusalem’s destruction, he that was dead and is alive speaks of the event as yet future, saying:

“Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” And the inspired John replies, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:12,20).

Quite a number think that when sinners are converted that forms a part of the coming of Christ, and that so he will continue coming until all the world is converted. Then, say they, he will have fully come.

These evidently forget the testimony of the Scriptures on the subject, which declares the reverse of their expectation: that at the time of our Lord’s second coming the world will be far from converted to God; that “In the last days perilous times shall come, for men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-4); that “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived” (Verse 13). They forget the Master’s special warning to his little flock:

“Take heed to yourselves lest that day come upon you unawares, for as a snare shall it come on all them [not taking heed] that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34,35).

When it is said, “All kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him,” when they see him coming (Revelation 1:7), no reference is made to the conversion of sinners.

Do all men wail because of the conversion of sinners?

On the contrary, if this passage refers, as almost all admit, to Christ’s presence on earth, it teaches that all on earth will not love his appearing, as they certainly would do if all were converted.

Some expect an actual coming and presence of the Lord in the future, claiming that through the efforts of the Church in its present condition the world must be converted, and thus the Millennial age be introduced. They claim that when the world has been converted, and Satan bound, and the knowledge of the Lord caused to fill the whole earth, and when the nations learn war no more, then the work of the Church in her present condition will be ended; and that when she has accomplished this great and difficult task, the Lord will come to wind up earthly affairs, reward believers and condemn sinners.

However, when God’s Word and plan are viewed as a whole, we learn that Christ comes before the conversion of the world, and reigns for the purpose of converting the world; that the Church is now being tried, and that the reward promised the overcomers is that after being glorified they shall share with the Lord Jesus in that reign, which is God’s appointed means of blessing the world and causing the knowledge of the Lord to come to every creature. The Lord’s special promises include:

  • “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne” (Revelation 3:21).
  • “And they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).

There are two texts chiefly relied upon by those who claim that the Lord will not come until after the Millennium (the 1000 years of Christ’s reign with his 144,000 Bride “body” members):

1. “This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).

They claim this as having reference to the conversion of the world before the end of the Gospel age (the 6000 years of permission of evil). But witnessing to the world does not imply the conversion of the world. 

The Apostle (Acts 15:14) tells that the main object during the gospel age is “to take out a people” for Christ’s name—”the Church of the firstborn” (Hebrews 12:23) which, at his second advent, will be united to him and receive his name. The witnessing to the world during this age is a secondary object.

2. “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1)

The vague, indefinite idea regarding this text seems to be that Christ sits on a material throne somewhere in the heavens until the work of subduing all things is accomplished for him through the Church, and that then he comes to reign. This is misconception. The throne of God referred to is not a material one, but refers to his supreme authority and rulership; and the Lord Jesus has been exalted to a share in that rulership.

Paul declares, “God [Jehovah] hath highly exalted him [Jesus] and given him a name above every name.” He hath given him authority above every other, next to the Father.

If Christ sits upon a material throne until his enemies are made his footstool [all subdued], then of course he cannot come until all things are subdued. But if “right hand” in this text refers, not to a fixed locality and bench, but, as we claim, to power, authority, rulership, it follows that the text under consideration would in no wise conflict with the other scripture which teaches that he comes to “subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:21), by virtue of the power vested in him.

Right hand—signifies the chief place, position of excellence or favor, next to the chief ruler. Thus Joseph was at the right hand of Pharaoh in the kingdom of Egypt—not literally, but after the customary figure of speech. Jesus’ words to Caiaphas agree with this thought: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64) He will be on the right hand when coming, and will remain on the right hand during the Millennial age, and forever.

The specific work of :

(a) the first adventwas to redeem men. In Hosea 6:3, this period is referred to as the time of the “former rain.”

(b) the second advent—is to restore, bless, and liberate the redeemed. In Hosea 6:3, this period is referred to as the “latter” rain. Having given his life a ransom FOR ALL (1 Timothy 2:6), our Savior ascended to present that sacrifice to the Father, thus making reconciliation for man’s iniquity. He tarries and permits “the prince of this world” to continue the rule of evil, until after the selection of “the Bride, the Lamb’s wife,” who, to be accounted worthy of such honor, must overcome the influences of the present evil world. Then the work of giving to the world of mankind the great blessings secured to them by his sacrifice will be due to commence, and he will come forth to bless all the families of the earth.

True, the restoring and blessing could have commenced at once, when the ransom price was paid by the Redeemer, and then the coming of Messiah would have been but one event, the reign and blessing beginning at once, as the apostles at first expected (Acts 1:6). But God had provided “some better thing for us”—the Christian Church (Hebrews 11:40); hence it is in our interest that the reign of Christ is separated from the sufferings of the Head by this 2000 years of waiting since Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary in 33 A.D.

The period between the first and second advents, between the ransom for all and the blessing of all, is for the trial and selection of the Church, which is the body of Christ; the “little flock” and “joint-heirs”; otherwise there would have been only the one advent, and the work which will be done during the period of his second presence, in the Millennium, would have followed the resurrection of Jesus. God has designed the permission of evil for six thousand years, as well as that the cleansing and restitution of all shall be accomplished during the seventh thousand.

Jesus has been absent from earth—in the heaven—during all the intervening time from his ascension to the beginning of the times of restitution—”whom the heaven must retain until the times of restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).

We find the Scriptures teaching a further step in the divine plan—a RESTITUTION for the world, to be accomplished through the elect Church, when completed and glorified. The “little flock,” the overcomers, of this Gospel age, are only the body of “The Seed” (Galatians 3:16, Romans 4:13) in or by whom all the families of the earth are to be blessed. The fact that the world has not yet been converted, and that the knowledge of the Lord has not yet filled the earth, is a proof that it has not yet been sent on that mission.

Election and Free Grace 

While an election has been in progress during the present and past ages, what is by way of distinction designated free grace is God’s gracious provision for the world in general during the Millennial age.

Election—as taught in the Bible, is not the arbitrary coercion, or fatalism, but a selection according to fitness and adaptability to the end God has in view, during the Gospel Age.

God’s grace or favor in Christ is ever free, in the sense of being unmerited; but since the fall of man into sin, to the present time, certain of God’s favors have been restricted to special individuals, nations and classes, while in the next age all the world will be invited to share the favors then offered, on the conditions then made known to all, and whosoever will may come and drink at life’s fountain freely (Revelation 22:17).

Glancing backward, we notice the selection or election of Abraham and certain of his offspring as the channels through which the promised Seed, should come (Galatians 3:29).

The selection of Israel from among all nations, as the one in whom, typically, God illustrated how the great work for the world should be accomplished—their deliverance from Egypt, their Canaan, their covenants, their laws, their sacrifices for sins, for the blotting out of guilt and for the sprinkling of the people, and their priesthood for the accomplishment of all this, being a miniature and typical representation of the real priesthood and sacrifices for the purifying of the world of mankind.

God, speaking to the people, said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2).

This people alone was recognized until Christ came.

Afterwards, Christ’s ministry was confined to the Jewish people, and he would not permit his disciples to go to others—saying, as he sent them out, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not.”

Why so, Lord?

Because, he explains, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:5,6; 15:24).

All his time was devoted to them until his death, and there was done his first work for the world, the first display of his free and all-abounding grace, which in “due time” shall indeed be a blessing to all. However, God’s grandest gift was not limited to nation or class. It was not for Israel only, but for all the world; for Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man (Hebrews 2:9).

When the called-out company (called to be sons of God, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ our Lord—who have made their calling and election sure) is complete, then the plan of God for the world’s salvation, will be only beginning.

Not until it is selected, developed, and exalted to power, will the Seed (Christ—”head” and “body” in glory) bruise the serpent’s head (Romans 16:20Genesis 3:15). The Gospel age makes ready the chaste virgin, the faithful Church, for the coming Bridegroom.

In the end of the age—when she is made “ready” (Revelation 19:7), the Bridegroom comes, and they that are ready go in with him to the marriage—the second Adam and the second Eve become one, and then the glorious work of restitution begins.

In the next dispensation—the new heaven and the new earth, “the Spirit and the Bride say, Come! And let him that heareth say, Come! And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

For this promised and coming blessing, the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, waiting for “the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:22,19).

Thus, free grace in fullest measure, not merely for the living but for those who have died as well, is provided in our Father’s plan as the blessed opportunity of the coming age because Jesus died for all. 

The United Nations expects the global population to reach 9 billion in the year 2043. (www.thoughtco.com/most-populous-countries-in-2050-1435117) What then will happen to the vast multitude who have not heard about nor accepted Jesus as their personal savior and redeemer? Did God make a wretched and merciless provision for their hopeless, eternal torment, as many of his children claim? Not at all. The opposite is true. God has yet in store for mankind an opportunity for all to come to the knowledge of that only name, and, by becoming obedient to the conditions, to enjoy everlasting life. When the Bride class is complete, then they, together with Jesus Christ, will regenerate the world.

Satan will be bound so that he cannot intrude his deceptions upon mankind.

In Revelation 20:1-3 (ESV) we read,

(1) Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. (2) And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, (3) and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

The saints will reign with Christ for a thousand years, as priests, to bring mankind back to God (Revelation 20:6). The whole creation “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).

To Be Testified In Due Time

For those who will be of the “Church of the firstborn,” the bride of Christ, and share the kingdom honors, the present is the “due time” to hear; and whosoever now has an ear to hear, let him hear and heed, and he will be blessed accordingly. Though Jesus paid our ransom before we were born, it was not our “due time” to hear of it for long years afterward, and only the appreciation of it brought responsibility; and this, only to the extent of our ability and appreciation. The same principle applies to all: in God’s due time it will be testified to all, and all will then have opportunity to believe and to be blessed by it.

Since God does not propose to save men on account of ignorance,  but “will have all men to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4); and since the masses of mankind have died in ignorance; and since “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” (Ecclesiastes 9:10); therefore God has prepared for the awakening of the dead, in order to knowledge, faith and salvation. Hence God’s plan is, that “as all in Adam die, even so all in Christ shall be made alive, but each one in his own order”—the Gospel Church, the Bride, the body of Christ, first; afterward, during the Millennial age, all who shall follow Godly righteousness during that thousand years of Christ’s reign with his Bride.

Everything and Everyone To Be Restored To Perfection

As death came by the first Adam, so life comes by Christ, the second Adam. Everything that mankind lost through being in the first Adam is to be restored to those who believe into the second Adam. When awakened, with the advantage of experience with evil, which Adam lacked, those who thankfully accept the redemption as God’s gift may continue to live everlastingly on the original condition of perfect obedience, and the perfect ability to obey will be given under the righteous reign of the Prince of Peace (Pastor Charles Russell, Volume 1 of “Studies In The Scriptures”, p.107).

All mankind shall be fully released from the slavery of sin, and the corruption of death, into the glorious liberty of children of God. But attainment to all these blessings will depend upon hearty compliance with the laws of Christ’s Kingdomthe rapidity of the attainment to perfection indicating the degree of love for the King and for his law of love. If any, enlightened by the Truth, and brought to a knowledge of the love of God, and restored (either actually or reckonedly) to human perfection, become “fearful,” and “draw back” (Hebrews 10:38,39), they, with the unbelievers (Revelation 21:8), will be destroyed from among the people (Acts 3:23). This is the second death.

Restitution Concerning Typical and Antitypical ISRAEL

Peter tells us that this restitution is spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets (Acts 3:19-21). They do all teach it. Ezekiel says of the valley of dry bones, “These bones are the whole house of Israel.”

And God says to Israel, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I …shall put my spirit in you, and I shall place you in your own land; then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:11-14).

To this Paul’s words agree (Romans 11:25,26)—”Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles [the elect company, the bride of Christ] be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved,” or brought back from their cast-off condition; for “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew” (Verse 2). They were cast off from his favor while the bride of Christ was being selected, but will be reinstated when that work is accomplished (Verses 28-33).

The prophets are full of statements of how God will plant Israel again, and they shall be no more plucked up (Jeremiah 24:5-7; 31:28; Jeremiah 32:40-42; 33:6-16).

“In those days, they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge, but every one [who dies] shall die for his own iniquity” (Jeremiah 31:29,30).

This is not the case now. Each does not now die for his own sin, but for Adam’s sin—”In Adam all die.” The day in which “every man [who dies] shall die for his own sin,” only, is the Millennial or Restitution day.

While Israel as a nation was typical of the whole world, its priesthood was typical of the elect “little flock,” the head and body of Christ, the “Royal Priesthood”; and the sacrifices, cleansings and atonements made for Israel typified the “better sacrifices,” fuller cleansings and real atonement “for the sins of the whole world,” of which they are sharers in, by God’s grace.

After comparing Israel with Sodom and Samaria, and pronouncing Israel the most blameworthy (Ezekiel 16:48-54), the Lord says, “When I shall bring again their captivity, the captivity of Sodom and her daughters, and the captivity of Samaria and her daughters, then will I bring again the captivity of thy captives in the midst of them.” In death all are captives; and Christ comes to open the doors of the grave, and to set at liberty the captives. (Isaiah 61:1Zechariah 9:11) In verse 55 this is called a “return to their former estate”a restitution, when Jehovah says to Israel:

“(60) I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth, and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant. (61) Then, thou shalt remember thy ways and be ashamed, when thou shalt receive thy sisters…. (62) And I will establish my covenant with thee, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; (63) that thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more because of thy shame, when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done, SAITH THE LORD GOD” (Ezekiel 16:60-63).

To this Paul adds his testimony, saying, “And so all Israel [living and dead] shall be saved [recovered from blindness], as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins.’…They are beloved for the fathers’ sakes; because the gracious gifts and callings of God are not things to be repented of” (Romans 11:26-29).

A Summarized Explanation of Acts 3:19-21

Acts 3:19speaks of the “refreshing” that comes from the face of Jehovah (“presence” is not the Greek word parousia here, but prosopon, Strongs 4383) whenever they would convert and come to Jesus.

Acts 3:20The sending mentioned in verse 20 means sending Jesus not at his second advent, but sending him to bless them in their repentance. (As in verse 26, “Unto you first God, having raised up his son Jesus [by the resurrection] sent him to bless you [early Gospel Age work, not the second advent], in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”)

Acts 3:21This verse explains that Jesus will remain in heaven until the times of
restoration, and then he will return. We understand those times of restoration have begun as evidenced in the restoration of Israel, which is what these Jewish hearers of Peter were interested in. Since Christ’s second presence (“parousia”), the saints here who are still living, continue on here for some time, before their service here is complete as we read about in Luke 12:36-37. Here it speaks of a time when Jesus returns, knocks, and asks those saints the living to “open unto him.”  Further explanation about the Second Presence of Christ is provided in the “Further Reading” links, below.

As we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), may we rejoice in knowing that “great joy shall be TO ALL people” (Luke 2:10“in due time.”

Acknowledgement

Br. Charles Taze Russell. The above post was based on content from Study 6 of Volume 1 of “Studies In the Scriptures.” The series of six volumes by Br. Russell can be read at http://www.htdbv8.com

Br. David Rice. Editing and content.

Further Reading

Christ’s Parousia (Second Presence) In 1874.
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/11/10/christs-parousia-second-presence-in-1874/

“Where Is The Promise Of His Advent. The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine. Sept/Oct. 2014 issue.
URL: https://herald-magazine.com/2014/09/01/where-is-the-promise-of-his-presence/

The Prophetic Date, 1874. The Herald of Christ’s Kingdom Magazine. March/April 2003 issue.
URL: http://www.heraldmag.org/2003/03nd_5.htm

Signs of Christ’s Presence. Beauties of the Truth. Volume 3, Number 1, February 1992
URL: http://www.beautiesofthetruth.org/Archive/Library/Doctrine/Mags/Bot/90s/BOTFEB92.PDF

A chapter by chapter studies of the Book of Daniel in the “Journal” section at www.2043ad.com

Free Booklet titled: “I Will Come Again – John 14:3”
https://chicagobible.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/I-WILL-COME-AGAIN.pdf

Jesus – The Name. BIBLE Students DAILY website.
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/07/05/jesus-the-name/

Time and Prophecy by Br. David Rice.
http://2043ad.com/timeandprophecy.pdf

 

This post’s URL:
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/08/02/acts-319-21-the-restitution-of-all-things/

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The Origin and Meaning of Easter & Lent

Apostle Peter in prison-BSD.jpg

The Word Easter in the Bible

The only place in the Bible where the word “Easter” is found is in Acts 12:4, yet it is a mistranslation of the Greek word pascha. The word pascha should properly have been translated “Passover” (Strong’s G3957, “pascha, the Passover”). It has been correctly translated Passover in most modern translations. The corresponding word in the Hebrew Old Testament is Strong’s H6453, pecach, also defined as Passover.

Acts 12:4 describes events that took place in the springtime when the Apostle Peter’s apprehension and imprisonment by King Herod coincided with the Jewish festival of Passover, after Herod had earlier arrested and killed the Apostle James, brother of the Apostle John. In respect of Jewish religious custom, Herod waited till after Passover to act on Peter’s fate, planning to kill Peter as he had James. God did not allow this, and sent an angel to free Peter. Soon after, Herod himself was struck dead of a ghastly disease (Acts 12:23).

The “four quaternions (“squads”—in the NIV) of soldiers” (Acts 12:4) refers to four groups of four soldiers each, perhaps each group of four serving in rotation through the 24 hour day, at Jerusalem. During each period four soldiers guarded one prisoner as indicated in Acts 12:6—Peter was chained to one soldier on either side, with two guarding at the doorway.

A Real Angel, A Real Deliverer

During the festive week of Passover and Unleavened Bread, God’s mighty power delivered Peter from prison and death in a miraculous manner.

“The angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me. (9) And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. (10) When they were past the first and the second ward, they came unto the iron gate that leadeth unto the city; which opened to them of his own accord: and they went out, and passed on through one street; and forthwith the angel departed from him” (Acts 12:8-10).

“It is worthy of notice that the miracles performed here were only such as were beyond Peter’s natural power. Whatever he could do he was required to do, namely, putting on of his sandals and his cloak, and following the angel. He could have been transported. His own sandals or other sandals could have been fastened to his feet. A new coat might have been provided. But the lesson is a more profitable one as it was given. Similarly in the Lord’s dealings with us today, we should remember that it is ours to do everything within our power, and the Lord’s to overrule all things for our good, and to supply our deficiencies from his abundance. Thus still he gives us day by day our daily bread, in the rain and the sunshine and the seed; but he expects us to labor for it, to plow the ground, to sow the seed, to harrow it, to thrash it, grind it and bake it.

” ‘When Peter was come to himself,’ when he realized the facts in the case, that he was free, he said, ‘Now I know of a surety that the Lord hath sent his angel and delivered me out of the hand of Herod and … of the Jews.’ St. Peter’s faith was strengthened. Willing to die, he found that the Lord was willing that he should live and labor and endure, and he was equally pleased, rejoicing, we may be sure, for the privilege of further service, even though it would mean further sacrifices and sufferings for the Lord’s sake and for the sake of his people” (Charles T. Russell, R4347).

From this account in Acts chapter 12, we are assured that “the Heavenly Father himself loves us and that all the heavenly powers are pledged to those whom he has accepted in Christ Jesus, and these unitedly guarantee blessings to all those who abide in God’s love. This means to abide in faith in the Redeemer. It means to abide loyal to our consecration, to do the Father’s will to the extent of our ability. That will is declared to be, that we shall love the Lord supremely, our neighbor as ourselves, and all the members of the household of faith, as Christ loved us” (Charles T. Russell, R4347).

Why Easter Sunday?

Dear friends, have you ever wondered WHY Easter Sunday is one of the most sacred Christian holidays?

It is because Christian churches have generally adopted Easter Sunday as the resurrection day and the proper time to celebrate the raising of Jesus Christ from the grave, which occurred on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus died on Nisan 14th  (Friday, about 3 pm, 33 AD), and was raised the following Sunday morning, Nisan 16th. This was the “third day” counting inclusively—Friday, Saturday, Sunday (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1‑2, John 20:1, Luke 24:1,24, 1 Corinthians 15:4).

Later on, it was determined in the Christian world to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus always on a Sunday, and remember the death of Christ by Good Friday, irrespective of whether Nisan 14th and 16th on the Jewish calendar actually falls on Friday or Sunday in a given year. Among brethren of the Bible Student fellowship, it is different. Jesus sat with his disciples for his “Last Supper” (Luke 22:20) on the evening that had just begun the calendar day Nisan 14th, and there instituted a memorial of his approaching death. We customarily observe our Memorial accordingly—on the night following Nisan 13th—that is, the night which technically begins the calendar day Nisan 14th. This year, in 2017, that means a Sunday night (April 9th) memorial of Jesus’ death, but the day of the week varies year by year.

Further in this post we shall explain why “Good Friday” is not celebrated by the Christian world closest to the exact day of our Lord’s commemorated day of death. But in brief, here, it is because of the decision made by the Papal Anti-Christ church (lead by Constantine as we explain later) and they were not concerned about the Jewish date of Jesus’ death. Their new rule (established in 325 A.D.) fixed it relative to the equinox rather than relative to the Jewish calendar. The truth of the matter is, that it is Nisan 14th which the Bible explains is the date when the memorial of our Lord’s death is to be annually commemorated—not the nearest Sunday to this or any other date.

Pagan Influences Came in Later

Today, in our memorial supper, we recognize the influence of the Hebrew traditions by observing it according to the days of the Jewish calendar. The celebration is not of the Jewish Passover, however, but of the sacrificial death of our redeemer, Jesus, the antitypical Passover Lamb. Subsequently, however, pagan influences also blended with popular Christian observances.

(a) The name “Easter” is from Ishtar—who was the Babylonian and Assyrian goddess of love and fertility. The Phoenicians called her Astarte (a sister and consort of Baal,) a god worshipped in many parts of the eastern world. Some of the ancient Hebrews also worshipped Baal.

(b) In Europe, Eostre (with variations in spelling) became the Anglo‑Saxon goddess of spring, emphasizing fertility and the rising sun. The month of April was dedicated to her, and the Old English word for Easter was “Eastre” which refers to Eostre. The festival of Eostre was celebrated at the vernal equinox, when day and night receive an equal share of light and darkness.

(c) During the early Middle Ages, Christian missionaries seeking to convert the barbaric tribes of northern Europe realized that the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection also coincided with the Teutonic springtime celebrations. The Teutonic goddess of fertility, Ostare, derives her name from the ancient word for spring. As the days of approaching spring grew longer, celebrations coinciding with the spring equinox emphasized the end of winter and a rebirth of nature, triumphing life over death. The Christian missionaries taught that this time also pointed to the resurrection of Jesus.

Easter Eggs and Bunnies

Eggs symbolize birth, fertility, and new life in many cultures. The ancient Egyptians and Persians would hand out coloured eggs as gifts during their springtime festivals.

Europeans during the Middle Ages, collected eggs of different colours from the nests of various birds, using them as charms to avert evil and bring good fortune.

The Easter egg hunt custom was gradually phased out by the more popular egg painting custom where colourful eggs were hidden and children as well as others would search for them. Eggs were painted in bright colours to resemble the sun, the arrival of spring, and fertility, while Easter baskets, holding the collected eggs, were intended to resemble bird’s nests. Polish people today still decorate their eggs with many traditional symbols for Easter, many of them with religious representations.

Rabbits have also served as fertility symbols in some ancient cultures. Legends from ancient Egypt connected the rabbit with the moon because of their nocturnal feeding habits. This association with the moon is also thought to have originated with those who watched the cycles of the moon to determine the precise date of the approaching change of season, and the accompanying celebration. This event took place on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.

The first documented use of hares for the Easter festival was in Germany during the 1500’s. Later, edible Easter bunnies were prepared with pastry and sugar. These traditions made their way to America during the 1700’s by the Pennsylvania Dutch who had emigrated from Germany. During the years following the American Civil War, handcrafted chocolate Easter eggs and rabbits became increasingly popular.

Hot Cross Buns

Australians also celebrate Easter with hot cross buns, a spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top. The first recorded use of the term “hot cross bun” was around 1733. They are traditionally eaten on “Good Friday” in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and India. The cross on the bun represents the crucifixion of Jesus and the spices inside are meant to remind Christians “of the spices put on the body of Jesus” (See Mark 16:1, Luke 23:54‑56, Luke 24:1).

John 19:39 says that Nicodemus also brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, “about an hundred pound weight,” for the burial of Jesus. The number 100 is used for Jesus in the Tabernacle, as the square measure of the gate, door, and vail, representing that Jesus is the “way, the truth, and the life” for those who follow him (John 14:6). Also, there were 100 sockets of silver as a foundation for the Tabernacle, coming from the Ransom money of the Israelites, representing Jesus as the Ransom and foundation for God’s Plan of Atonement (Exodus 38:25-27).

Myrrh, a bitter herb, represents suffering, and aloes is used for healing. Thus these two elements represent the suffering of Jesus, from which comes the healing from sin and death from Jesus’ death. When Jesus is depicted as a king in glory, his “garments smell of myrrh, and aloes”these very two fragrances (Psalm 45:8). For Christ in his resurrection glory has achieved a death of suffering that brings healing for the world.

Lent

Does the Bible teach us to celebrate or commemorate Lent?

The following is an extract from a website by the Uniting Methodist Church explaining what “Lent” is about—a practice not observed within the Bible Student Movement:

“Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means ‘spring.’ The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.

“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self‑examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.

“Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days because each Sunday represents a ‘mini‑Easter’ and the reverent spirit of Lent is tempered with joyful anticipation of the Resurrection.”

There is no direct reference of this practice, of Lent, in the Scriptures. However, this pleasant custom probably has benefited various ones who applied themselves to it through the centuries, if it focused their minds and hearts on proper spiritual values. However, if afterward its observers supposed they were free at other times to practice worldly principles, then they would have missed the true value. A consecrated believer should remember that their life of service here first of all involves purity of heart and mind, always (James 3:17).

The Catholic Church believes that “Lent” is a time of repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self‑examination and reflection. This may have useful benefits. However, for the true Christian, their entire consecrated life should be one of devotion.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 ESV).

Fasting can be a good practice at any time of the year, both for our physical benefit, and for mortifying the things of the flesh, to focus on things of the Spirit. Sometimes eating less can cause the mind to sharpen. We are to be continuously humble and lowly of heart, as was Jesus (Matthew 11:29, Luke 2:37). Weaning away from earthly attractions, it can help us also to be satisfied with whatever God permits us to have in other temporal commodities also—food, housing, car, or job. God gives us what we need. If we experience some discomfort for the flesh, it can augment our hope for and appreciation of the spiritual values, and spiritual promises, that exceed anything Earth can provide.

Regarding the practice of baptism at Lent season—perhaps this custom also had some beneficial results. However, it is not something mentioned in the New Testament, and baptism is appropriate at any time of year, when the believer determines to proceed in full commitment to God, with a personal consecration of themselves and their life to Him. Thus it is not reserved for a particular month of the year. See the post titled: What Does It Mean To Be Baptized Into Christ? and What Does Being Consecrated To The Lord Mean?

Pastor Charles Russell’s Comments about Lent

The following is an extract from Reprint 3170.

“Our best wish for all the people of New York and of the whole world would be that all or at least some of them, may observe Lent and join in such petitions heartily: if but one in a hundred of those who will observe the Lenten season will do so, it will surely mean a great revival in their own hearts.

“To us who observe the Memorial Supper on its anniversary only, the occasion is one of the greater solemnity, and may well be approached with the greater reverence. We commend to all of ‘this way’ (Acts 9:2) that the interim between now and the Memorial (April 10th) be specially a season of prayer and fasting—drawing near to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:5). True, the Lord’s consecrated people are continually to live as separate from sin and from the mind of the flesh as possible, and are to “pray without ceasing”; but, as the Apostle intimates, there may profitably be special seasons of this kind; and surely none more appropriate than this Memorial season. The fasting which we urge may or may not affect the food and drink, according to the judgment of each, respecting what diet will best enable him to glorify God and to keep his “body under.” We refer specially to abstention from all “fleshly lusts which war against the soul”; these appetites always under restraint with the saints, may well be specially mortified at this time.”

However as the Apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 7:29‑31, our “fasting” or “mortification” should be a daily act moment by moment to those who have fully enlisted in the Priesthood of complete consecration in the “School of Christ” as far as it be reasonably possible and all depends on one’s level of maturity in Christ:

” (29) This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, (30) and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, (31) and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:29‑31).

Hebrew Customs

Concerning our opening text (Acts 12:4), let us consider the relationship between the Easter festival and the Hebrew Passover.

Passover is the oldest and most revered festival in Judaism. It is observed in the spring, in the month Nisan, the first month of the Jewish religious new year (Exodus 12:2). As Jewish months began with a new moon, the timing of Passover about halfway through the month puts it about the time of full moon. The afternoon that Jesus died was the time a full moon, and this represented that Israel’s favor was full—but because of their rejection of Christ, their favor would wane and diminish.

The Jewish Passover, under the administration of Moses, commemorated Israel’s deliverance from centuries of Egyptian bondage. The firstborn among the Israelites where passed over by the angel of death during the final plague suffered by Egypt. That tenth plague forced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from a life of compulsory servitude.

The Passover is celebrated on an annual basis in accordance with the instructions that were given by God to Moses:

“The Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Let the children of Israel also keep the passover at his appointed season. In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the passover” (Numbers 9:1‑4).

Our Lord Jesus became the antitypical Passover Lamb (John 1:29) when he gave his life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, during the time of the Jewish Passover.

Christian Traditions

Though the Easter festival became well‑established and accepted by Christians by the second century after Jesus’ death, there had been considerable debate between the Eastern and Western divisions of the Church over the exact date the event should be celebrated.

The Eastern Church preferred to not hold it as an annual Sunday event, but rather to observe it on whatever day Nisan 14 fell. These early Christians wanted to time the observance according to the timing of the Hebrew type. The Western Church, on the other hand, wanted to remember the resurrection of Jesus always on a Sunday—Easter Sunday—regardless of the day of the week indicated by the Jewish calendar (Exodus 12).

Emperor Constantine wished to resolve this issue at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325. The question of the Easter date was one of the main issues of concern. After lengthy dispute, the council was unanimous in its decision that Easter should always fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. After further discussion, it was decided that March 21st was to be the date for the spring equinox. This dating process has been the general guideline for most of Christendom ever since.

In Remembrance of Me

Students of the Bible stand free from many of the long‑standing traditions that have been passed down to us from the past. Their faith is based on the meaning and partaking of the symbolic emblems that represent our Lord Jesus’ sacrificial death. Jesus’ request given to his disciples that night in the upper room were, “This do in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19).

Every consecrated child of God joyfully accepts the privilege of partaking of the bread, representing Jesus’ flesh, and drinking of the cup, representing Jesus’ shed blood. This is the true meaning and purpose of observing this most important occasion each year on the 14th day of the first month Nisan.

Church of the Firstborn

In his letter to the Hebrew brethren, the Apostle Paul speaks of the “church of the firstborn” whose names are “written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23). Elsewhere, he explains that they are walking with our Lord in “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). They also remember his death, and solemnly renew their consecration to God annually by partaking of the meaningful symbols, bread and wine.

In keeping the type of Exodus 12, the blood of each lamb that was slain in Egypt that night was sprinkled on the doorposts and lintels of the houses of Israel.

  • Each Jewish household represents the Household of faith, that is, all believers in Christ. This includes both spirit begotten and non‑spirit begotten, both fully consecrated and not yet consecrated, both the baptized into Christ and not‑yet baptized into Christ, who believe in the blood of Christ as the redemptive value that saves us from the curse of Adamic death. On that night, however, only the firstborn were under jeopardy, as only the firstborn has a spiritual life that could be lost.
  • That all believers benefit from the Passover sacrifice is reflected in the deliverance of all the Israelites through the Red Sea, subsequent to the Passover night. (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Here are some lovely words by Br. Charles Russell on the Household of Faith, from Reprint 5457. “These words “Household of Faith”—are broad enough to include not only those who are fully in the way, but also those who have made more or less of an approach unto the Lord and the Truth. The very fact that any one is drawing near to the antitypical Tabernacle is a strong reason why we should wish to encourage him to press on. He has come a part of the way, even if he has not made a consecration.

In a strict sense, the Household of Faith, of course, includes only those who are consecrated. But the words of the Apostle justify us in believing that those who are considering the matter, counting the cost, would in a broad sense be counted as of the Household of Faith. And we are to give these special assistance—all in whom we see any prospect of consecration. Our constant desire and effort should be to point men directly or indirectly to the Lord. Thus we shall be showing ‘forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.’ ”

  • Each slain lamb—represents the antitypical Lamb of God: Christ Jesus.
  • The firstborn Israelites in each familyillustrate the Christ, head and body, the “church of the firstborn.”
  • The bitter herbs that were eaten with the lamb (Exodus 12:8)—illustrate the trials and afflictions that are experienced by the Lord’s people during the present Gospel Age.
  • The unleavened bread eaten with the lamb (Exodus 12:8)—represents our wish to be purged from the leaven of sin, as we feast upon the merits of our Lord’s sacrifice for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).
  • The household joining eating the Passover lambrepresents our common participation, our sharing together, of the merits of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16,17).

Those who are faithful to their High Calling will be privileged to share in the deliverance of the poor groaning creation during Christ’s future kingdom, as proclaimed by the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:22, 23).

Christ our Passover Lamb

The Apostle Paul directs our attention to the significance of the Passover type and our need to purge out all unrighteousness and sin (pictured by leaven). He wrote to the Corinthians brethren,

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:7,8).

The Jewish people were to slay their Passover lambs on the 14th day of the first month (Nisan) of the Jewish New Year. This was the exact time many centuries later when our Lord Jesus, as the antitypical Passover Lamb, died for the sins of the whole world of mankind.

All who recognize Jesus as the true Passover Lamb and have accepted the merit of his shed blood on their behalf, may appropriate the merit of that blood by purifying their hearts from a consciousness of evil. Because of their faith in the blood of Jesus, they are privileged to enjoy a new relationship and standing before God.

The Lamb of God

When John saw Jesus coming toward him, he proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Later, the Apostle Peter, when comparing earthly riches with the true value of our redemption (1 Peter 1:18), speaks of the exceeding value of Jesus’ blood of sacrifice, as “The precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (verse 19).

God’s wonderful plan of reconciliation for the sins of the whole world will become manifest to all during the Millennial Kingdom soon to be established. The meaning of “Christ our Passover” takes on a deeper significance when we look forward to the time when the entire human family will praise God for the gift of his beloved Son, the “Lamb of God,” that takes away the sins of the world.

Acknowledgment:

The Dawn Bible Students’ Magazine—Article from the Highlights of Dawn, April 2006. “Easter—It’s Pagan Origins and True Meaning,” used to present this post.

Bro. Charles T. Russell, The Reprints of the Original Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

Br. David Rice—editing assistance.

The Uniting Methodist Church website—for references cited from “What Is Lent and why does it last 40 days?”

The URL of this post:
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/04/07/the-origin-and-meaning-of-easter-lent/

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