The Passover was one of the great living pictures which in Bible symbolism, prefigured the salvation of mankind through the death of the lamb of God, the man Christ Jesus. The understanding of its significance buttresses the assertion of James the apostle that “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.” - Acts 15:18.
The word Passover, is drawn from the Hebrew word pesach, and the Greek word pascha, which means a passing over. The name derives from the fact that on the eve of their departure from Egypt, the angel of God passed over the houses of the Israelites who had the blood of the lamb sprinkled on the posts and lintels of their houses but passed through the houses on which the blood mark was absent. (Exodus 12:12-14) The Lord ordained that the Passover feast should be observed throughout the generations of the people of Israel.
The law given to the natural Israelites through Moses the prophet, was that on the 14th day of the month Abib or Nisan, which became for them the beginning of months, each house or houses, should select from their flocks a lamb without blemish, a male of the first year and kill it in the evening. Thus, the Passover was the first of three annual festivals of the Jews. They were further directed that the blood should be sprinkled on the two side posts and on the upper doorposts of the houses in which they intend to eat the Passover. The flesh should not be boiled but roasted with fire and eaten with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs. None of the bones was to be broken. - Numbers 9:12; Exodus 12:46.
While observing the Passover, the people were instructed to adopt the attitude of people in a haste to travel, with “loins girded, shoes on the feet and staff in hand”. The instructions further stated that if any family was not large enough, they should associate with another small family to eat the Passover. The feast was to last seven days, from the 14th to the 21st of the first month of the Jews. The first and the last days were holy convocations and Sabbaths unto the Lord, the directive being that “…no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat…” (Exodus 12:11-16) If any one was unable to keep the Passover at the time appointed, he was to observe it in the second month. But the person who wilfully neglected it, the law was that “that soul shall be cut off from Israel...” – Exodus 12:15.
St. Paul points out in Hebrews 10:1 that the law “was a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things” and that what happened in the past were “ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come”. (1 Corinthians 10:11. See also Romans 15:4) The sacred festival of the Passover was both commemorative and typical. Through His visible Organisation, then represented by the nation of Israel, God Almighty, by the Feast of Passover, foreshadowed events of immeasurable significance or import to mankind. It is of first importance therefore for all people of goodwill to understand the symbolisms conveyed by the celebration of the Passover.
The lamb which the Jews killed during the Passover, pictures Jesus Christ who was identified by John the Baptist as “the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world”. (John 1:29) See also Revelation 14:1; 1 Peter 1:18-20
Thus, the killing of the lamb without blemish pointed to the death of the Perfect One “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth”. (1 Peter 2:22) St. Paul also stated, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” - 2 Corinthians 5:21.
The antitypical lamb, Jesus Christ, was killed on the day of preparation of the Passover, the 14th of Nisan, (that is, our April). (John 19:31. Compare John 11:55, 56; 12:1) The “cross” in the text should be properly rendered as “tree”, that is, an upright stake or beam or piece of wood.
When the soldiers came to the body of Christ, they found he was already dead and so they did not break his legs. This was a fulfilment of the type in the law of the Passover that no bone of the Passover lamb should be broken. (John 19:35, 36) The “scripture” Apostle John referred to in the text is Psalm 34:20, which states, “He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.”
In the typical observance of the Passover in the land of Egypt, God told the Israelites through Moses, “…when I see the blood, I will pass over you…” (Exodus 12:13) The blood sprinkled on the door posts typified the blood of Jesus Christ which was “shed for many for the remission of sins”. (Matthew 26:28). And in Hebrews 9:22 it is written “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” Only the blood of a perfect man could make restitution for the perfect life lost in the Garden of Eden - for Jehovah's standard of Justice demands that a (perfect) life shall go for a (perfect) life. - Deuteronomy 19:21.
Whereas, in the literal Passover the Israelites had to kill a lamb every year, in the Christian era, the perfect sacrifice offered by Christ is sufficient for mankind. - Hebrews 10:10-13.
The unleavened bread eaten during the Passover is bread that is not mixed with yeast and symbolises the pure word of God, unmixed with lies - the truth, which Jesus Christ brought. It also means sincerity, or a pure heart condition. St. Paul, in his letter to the Christians at Corinth, stated, “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.” He added, “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) St. Paul describes the people of God as “unleavened” because they are new creatures who abhor “the unclean thing” in that they give themselves to truth, righteousness and holiness. - 2 Corinthians 6:17, 18.
Roasted meat and Bitter Herbs
Roasted meat is sweeter than boiled meat. The eating of roasted meat with bitter herbs is a symbol of the fact that the person who is dedicated to the work of God must be prepared to experience sweet and bitter things in his onward march to the Promised Land. St. Paul stated “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) He also stated, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…” - Philippians 1:29. See also 2 Timothy 3:12.
The loins being girded, feet shod, staff in hand as people hastening to travel, symbolise zeal, willingness, and preparedness to do the will of God. (Ephesians 6:14, 15) Christians must be expeditious in carrying out the Lord's instructions for the “kings business requires haste”. (1 Samuel 21:8) They should be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord”. (Romans 12:11) In Titus 2:14 the Bible states that Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works”.
As the Israelites observed the Passover to mark their departure from Egyptian bondage to the promised land, so Christians, having been freed by Jesus Christ from satan's bondage, are on a journey to the antitypical land of Canaan, the kingdom of God fully established. – Compare Hebrews 2:14, 15. See also John 8:31, 32, 36.
Because Christians are in the world but are not of the world, they are referred to as sojourners, pilgrims and strangers in the earth. - 1 Peter 2:11; 1:17. See also Psalm 39:12; Hebrews 11:13-15.
Eating the lamb whole
The Jews were further directed to eat the lamb completely, wholly; that nothing should remain until the following day. (Exodus 12:10) Eating the lamb completely typifies the worshippers' total dedication to the service of God. In the work of God there is no room for hypocrites and spiritual adulterers - those who serve God and mammon, who are “partakers of the Lords table and of the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21; Matthew 6:24; Mark 12:29, 30) Furthermore, eating the lamb whole signifies that the work of God involves fulfilling “all righteousness”, that is, doing all that is required of us in God's service. (Matthew 3:15; Matthew 23:23; James 2:10, 11. See also Luke 17:10.
The Death of the First born
The death of the first born is a prophetic picture of the destruction of this evil world called “Egypt” (Revelation 11:8; Isaiah 30:1-3; 31:1). The obstinate, arrogant and wicked Pharaoh stands for Satan the devil, whose visible representative he was at that time. The fate of Pharaoh and his cohorts in the Red Sea typifies the doom that awaits the devil and all those wilfully opposed to the Lords Organisation in Jehovah's day of vengeance now impending. – Exodus 9:16; Zephaniah 1:14-18; Isaiah 27:1; Revelation 20:1-3, 7-9.
When the slaying angel, at the command of Jehovah's Executive Officer, the greater than Moses, Jesus Christ, begins his destruction work, only those who have the mark – faith in the shed blood of Jesus, accurate knowledge, righteousness, etc., – shall be spared. Just as the Israelites were protected in the land of Egypt on that Passover night, so the children of God will be protected when the world will be destroyed. (Isaiah 26:20, 21. Compare Exodus 12:23; Ezekiel 9:6; 2 Peter 1:5-11) Surely, the Battle of the Great Day of God Almighty will spell doom for the antitypical firstborn of Egypt.