The Purifying of God's Remnant Church
The long-awaited night had finally arrived. All the pent-up anticipation of more than 200 years of slavery culminated in that one night. The almost-forgotten prophecies came back to memory and were excitedly repeated; liberty was finally on the horizon!
Since the time the prophecies had first been given to Abraham, each generation had repeated the precious promises. Abraham eagerly looked forward to this promised inheritance. The Lord had declared to the patriarch: “I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (). But Abraham was not permitted to inherit that land immediately because the people who inhabited it were not yet ripe to be replaced. God had explained, “In the fourth generation [the children of Abraham] shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” ( ).
God would not displace a people until their cup of iniquity was full. The merciful God we serve extended their probation four more generations after Abraham dwelt among them, so that they could see the character of God revealed to them in a personal way—“because,” as the Lord said, “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (). Abraham lived an example of godliness to the inhabitants around him. They not only heard the law of God proclaimed, but they actually saw it manifested in a person’s life.
God waited because He who created all the inhabitants of this world loves every individual and wants them to have ample time to repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (). Because He is so eager to save, He can wait a few more generations till every soul that can be saved will be saved.
This time of waiting was to be long after Abraham had gone to his rest. “Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age” (). This was not some unspecified amount of waiting time but was prophetic in nature. “He said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (verse 13).
This was not 400 years of servitude to the Egyptians, but rather 400 years of being afflicted in a strange land as well as being slaves. We know this because the apostle Paul dates the Exodus deliverance from the time that the covenant was made with Abraham until Sinai. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect” ().
Paul refers here to the promise that God made to Abraham at the time that the patriarch entered into the Promised Land and when he would have been 75 years of age.#cit1 However, the affliction did not begin until Ishmael began to mock Isaac after he was weaned. “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking” (). Isaac was born after Abraham lived in Canaan for 25 years. They even had a special festival when Isaac was weaned, at which time the mocking began.#cit2 If we compare all these texts, Isaac would have been around 5 years of age when this event of mocking would have occurred. This accounts for the 30-year difference in the reckoning of the apostle Paul and that given in Genesis 15.
Moses speaks of the entire period of sojourning, and he uses the same time frame that Paul would later refer to: “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (). It was exactly to the day, at the end of this prophetic period given to Abraham, that the Hebrew nation departed from Egyptian slavery.
During this liberating exodus from slavery, the Hebrew people learned the name of YHWH that had never before been used in communication with humanity. This name was used in conjunction with the Abrahamic promise as they are once again repeated. “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers” ().
You know the story of Pharaoh’s refusal to let Israel go, along with the accompanying plagues that devastated the entire slaveholding nation, including the very last plague—the destruction of the firstborn in the entire land, both of humans and of beasts. Only the Hebrews were protected along with any of the Egyptians that came within the protection of an Israelite household that had the symbol of blood on their doorposts and side posts of their homes.#cit3 It was at this time that the Passover festival was instituted.
The Hebrews were to experience a great liberation from literal slavery—and this liberation was a symbol of the liberation from spiritual slavery to sin. To demonstrate to the Hebrews that they needed a new beginning from sin, the exodus was to be a new beginning for them as individuals and as an entire nation. As a new beginning, they were to start the calculations of their religious year based on the time they were delivered from servitude. “This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you” (4). Ancient nations did not calculate time as Before Christ (B.C.) or Anno Domini (A.D.) in that period. Instead, all nations used some epic event in their national history as a point of reference. To the Israelites, this epic event was their deliverance from Egypt. The exodus marked their first month called Abib.
However, deliverance did not happen on the first day of that month. A few more things were to happen before they could be free. They needed a more spiritual understanding before they could leave. They needed to understand the place of the Lamb of God in their lives. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house. . . . Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: and ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it” (verses 3–8).
On the 14th day of that first month they were to kill the lamb—and during that night, they were to eat that lamb because at midnight was to be the obliteration of the firstborn in every Egyptian family, followed by the deliverance of the Hebrew people. This ceremony became a law in Israel. “In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the Lord’s passover” ().
The Passover lamb was a symbol of the death of Christ. “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” (). His character was represented by a spotless lamb that was used for the sacrifice and whose life is able to give us redemption. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” ( ).
The first Passover lamb was killed on the 14th day of that year so long ago and was eaten that night. That midnight all the firstborn in the land died. “It came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.” Sometime later that night Pharaoh expelled the Hebrew host from his land. “Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said” (). By morning light#cit 5 they were on their way.
That first Passover has great significance in everything they did. Because it was their last meal in Egypt, they had to be ready for travel. They were instructed: “Thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover” (verse 11). After all the preparation, they were actually packed and ready for travel. Not only were they dressed for departure, they even had to eat standing up. “At the time of their deliverance from Egypt, the children of Israel ate the Passover supper standing, with their loins girded, and with their staves in their hands, ready for their journey. The manner in which they celebrated this ordinance harmonized with their condition; for they were about to be thrust out of the land of Egypt, and were to begin a painful and difficult journey through the wilderness.”#cit6 It was only when they were in Canaan and settled in that country that they could eat it in a more relaxed position.
For that reason they remembered that night with special significance. “It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations” (verse 42). That is why the Passover service was instituted on that day.7
The Passover lamb was to be killed at a specific time on the 14th day. This is made clear in the marginal reading of the King James Version and also in Young’s Literal Translation. “It hath become a charge to you, until the fourteenth day of this month, and the whole assembly of the company of Israel have slaughtered it between the evenings.” F. C. Gilbert, a London-born Jew who converted to Seventh-day Adventism, explains in his book, Practical Lessons, the meaning of the phrase “between the evenings”:
“The Jews believed there were two evenings, the evening of the day, the evening of the night. See Num.margin. The first evening began at noon. One writer, on the words between the evenings, says, ‘We mean by this expression, the dark part of the day, after the noon hour.’
“When the first evening began is thus expressed by the commentator Rashi, a great authority among Jewish writers:
“‘From the sixth hour [twelve o’clock, see next note] and upward is called, ba-an ha-ar-ba-yim, between the evenings; because the sun inclines toward his home, which he reaches at evening.’ The thought evidently is, that the sun reaching its highest point at noon, begins to decline toward the west, in which direction it continues till sunset.’ And he continues:
“‘And by the language, ba-an ha-ar-ba-yim, we also understand it to be the hours between the evening of the day, and the evening of the night. The evening of the day begins with the seventh hour [that is, immediately after twelve o’clock noon], and continues till the evening of the night. And the evening of the night begins at night, or sunset.’—Rashi’s comment on. See also next note.
“From this we gather that one evening began at twelve, and the other began at six. The six hours between these two points being called between the evenings. But the word rendered ‘between’ is of itself extremely significant. It would indicate that the lamb would be killed between the time of the first evening and the time of the second evening. What would be the hour between the first and second evening? Between twelve and six? The answer is three. And this was just the hour the Savior expired on the cross. He was crucified at the sixth hour, He died at the ninth. The Scripture was fulfilled. Jesus Christ was the paschal Lamb. Even Josephus mentions the fact that the paschal lambs were slain from the ninth to the eleventh hours; the time they began to kill them was three o’clock. See Josephus, ‘Sixth Book of Jewish Wars;’ chapter 6, paragraph 3.”8
From this we can see that the Passover lamb was to be killed exactlyin the afternoon—the exact time of death for the Messiah. “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost” ( ). The ninth hour was three o’clock#cit 9 according to our calculation of time, as the Jews began counting the daylight hours at sunrise a.m.