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The Hebrew Month of Nisan 2012: Atonement and Resurrection (Part 3)

Nisan 14 / April 6, 2012 (Began at sunset on April 5):

         Four days after crossing the Jordan River, and exactly forty years after the first Passover in Egypt, the nation of Israel celebrated its first Passover in their new land:

         While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. [Joshua 5:10]

         They had received this teaching from Moses:

         “Your lamb shall be an unblemished male a year old; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight.” [Exodus 12:5-6]

         Also on this date, the Lord Jesus became our Sacrifice Lamb:

         So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” [John 19:16-19]

         We know that the Lord Jesus died on the cross at some point after the ninth hour[1]—about 3:30PM. The time was according to the Hebrew manner of reckoning the hours in the day, which began at sunrise. On that particular day, there were actually about 12.5 hours between sunrise and sunset, and sunrise took place sometime between 6:00 and 6:30AM. However, the gospel accounts do not say the Lord died at exactly the ninth hour, because other events took place after the ninth hour and before His death. It is safe to say He died somewhere between just after the ninth hour and with enough time remaining to bury His body before sunset.

         Also, this particular Nisan 14 was a Thursday, not a Friday. It was the fifth day of the week. Five is the Biblical number of Grace. The Lord did not die on a Friday. He died on a Thursday.  

         On the equivalent of Wednesday evening, the Lord and His disciples ate the Passover meal. He then suffered the trauma of Gethsemane. After being up all night, shuttled around to various false trials, and beaten severely, our Lord Jesus had been stripped of His clothes and nailed to the cross at the exact time of the Temple morning sacrifice, which was at the third hour of the day. This was somewhere between 9:00 and 9:30AM.

         Over six hours of excruciating pain and suffering later, the Lord died. His body continued hanging on the cross until it was taken down at the request of Joseph of Arimathea.[2]

         If the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, it meant the sacrificial lambs were slaughtered a day before the Sacrifice Lamb. The Lord must have partaken of the Passover since it was commanded in the Torah, and it was during which that He instituted the New Covenant by introducing His broken body and shed blood as a memorial.

         Could it be that the Lord’s death was progressive? It certainly appears that the “death angel” passed over the Garden of Gethsemane the night the Lord made His final surrender. At some point the sins of the world were placed upon Him. This was a legitimate form of death. There was no protection for the Sacrifice Lamb. It would have cancelled out His purpose. Once sin was placed upon Him, the spotless Lamb became sin on our behalf.[3] He continued “dying” until the next late afternoon when He breathed His last, when full payment was made, and when all was finished.

         Theoriginal Passover in Egypt took place in the middle of the night, when the death angel “Passed Over” each house while looking for the shed blood of lambs upon the door posts and lintels of the dwellings. Whichever family’s house did not display the blood of a perfect lamb suffered the loss of its firstborn son.

         Those families whose houses displayed the blood were representative of having the blood of Jesus displayed on their hearts as a substitute sacrificial firstborn Son, who died in place of their actual firstborns, and thus suffered no loss.

Nisan 15 / April 7, 2012 (Begins at sunset on April 6):

         After crossing the Jordan, the nation of Israel ate the produce of the Promised Land for the very first time:

         On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. [Joshua 5:11]

         This was the first day of the seven-day Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pesach 1, a day of holy assembly, which concluded with Pesach 7, another high holy day on Nisan 21.[4] It was the day after the Lord was slain, the sixth day of the week, and equivalent to our Friday.

Nisan 16 / April 8, 2012 (Begins at sunset on April 7):

         It was on this day that the manna which God provided for forty years during the wilderness wanderings ceased. From that point forward, Israel would only eat the food of their new land.

         The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. [Joshua 5:12]

         This was a Sabbath day. Manna never fell on a Sabbath, but a double portion always fell on the day before—the sixth day of the week (Friday morning). Therefore, there was still manna left over from Friday to eat on this day, but it never fell again. In the week of the Lord’s passion and death, this day was also the seventh day Sabbath, which always fell on a Saturday.

Nisan 17 / April 9, 2012 (Begins at sunset on April 8):

         The Captain of the Lord’s host appeared to Joshua:

         Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. [Joshua 5:13-15]

         It was also on Nisan 17 that the events of the week culminated in the glorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

         Scripture says that the Lord was resurrected on the first day of the week, which would have been equivalent to our Sunday. This means He was actually crucified, as stated previously, on Thursday, Nisan 14. That evening at sunset, after Joseph and the others had taken the Lord’s body off the cross, prepared His body for burial, and encased Him in the tomb, it become Nisan 15. This was not only the high holy day of Pesach 1, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, it was also the day before the Sabbath.

         Then, after the Sabbath was over and the night had passed, Sunday morning dawned. This was Nisan 17, or the day of First Fruits, which took place after the Passover Sabbath each year.[5] On the agricultural calendar, it was the beginning of the barley harvest, and our Lord Jesus was the first fruits, the choicest portion. Imagine the scene, then, as all these days and prophetic events played out perfectly, and imagine the shock and delight of Mary Magdalene at the tomb that morning: 

         But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

         When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

         Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” [John 20:11-16]

         He had been physically dead, just as He said He would be, for three days and three nights:

         “For just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” [Matthew 12:40]

         But on that resurrection morning of Nisan 17, also in keeping with another prophecy, a new Temple was raised by the Lord Jesus Himself that will never be destroyed again:

         “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:19][6]

         This is the hope that every real Christian has, that one day he or she will also be resurrected bodily just as the Lord was, to spend eternity with Him and one another forever!

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 3 of 3]


[1] Matthew 27:45-50, Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46

[2] Mark 15:42-47

[3] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[4] Exodus 12:18

[5] Leviticus 23:11, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

[6] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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A Heavenly Homeland on Planet Earth

        

         Many of us are aware of a world beyond the senses.

         In the moments we allow ourselves the time to reflect on life instead of merely living it out day by day, we often perceive something beyond mere nature—an unanswered depth—a fleeting reality that is both difficult to grasp and easy as a dream. There is something there, beyond us, and certainly beyond a cheap existence characterized by routine and the mindless pursuit of material needs.

         Yes, we must possess the material if we are to live—we must have a living—but for what purpose? I learned very early in life that working to earn a living meant survival for most people. It meant something to do to pay the bills. It rarely was something enjoyed or chosen for its own benefit. For the few who enjoy their work at earning money, as if it is not about earning money, there is a happiness and lack of anxiety that does not exist in the lives of seemingly everyone else.

         For those who make peace with their profession—not because they enjoy it as a first choice or would choose it if earning money was not the primary option—they have accepted the sacrifice of themselves for the greater good and being comfortable as a solid member of society. They have eliminated any possible criticism of failing to carry their own weight, have their financial bases more or less covered, and the resultant peace is worth the price.

         But there is another peace that cannot be found in living for this world. This is the peace many search for but often never find or have a very difficult time finding. It is a peace that arrives from without, again, in those rare moments of reflection we allow ourselves. It is the same peace a child knows in his time of innocence when he doesn’t know any better. He never considers that he will not be taken care of or protected or fed. The child simply considers it a given.

         Most people want that kind of peace. It is never really about whether or not we will work and achieve and stay busy and accomplish things and be productive. It is instead about doing something and achieving something that goes beyond this mere mortal world in which people live for a short time and then go away forever.

         When we allow ourselves such a time of thinking about bigger concepts and deeper perceptions, we are actually attempting to look into eternity.

         We are attempting to secure our place there.

         We are trying to find our way home.

         Jesus came to us and met us on our level. There is no possible way for God to meet us otherwise. We can certainly never get where He is through our own means, even though we may try through various pursuits. Real Christianity is thus characterized by God reaching out for us, whereas religion breaks down into a fruitless search for God.

         The irony of searching for truth is that one will never find it.

         But the hungry in heart are those who God sees and appreciates, and at some point He begins guiding the searcher to Himself. The one who refuses to cease from the search is the one who can be led and eventually lands at his or her destination.

         Contrary to this, most people, including most “Christians,” accept substitutes for truth or watered-down versions of the Lord’s message. It is sad when people allow their strong wills and discipline to chain them to a religious life they see as a better life than the mere mundane—a spiritual life of sorts—but one falling far short of the spiritual reality the Lord wants for us. It is sad because these people cut themselves off from the very thing they are ostensibly searching for.

         It is as if one desires a college education and a Masters Degree, but becomes so enthralled with graduating from third grade he desires to travel no further. As a seasoned nine-year-old, he compares his new life of enlightenment to his old life when he was an ignorant child of five and could not read, could not understand arithmetic, and had next to no knowledge beyond his tiny existence. He ponders the facts: A third-grader can read. A third-grader can add and subtract and multiply and divide. A third-grader is a quantum leap above the child he was a mere three or four years before.

         This is how most Christians are. They become satisfied with eating manna because it’s better than starving. They have no desire for moving on and fighting for an elusive future. They have next to no faith to allow God to take them into a Promised Land of milk and honey. They exist in a quotidian circular pattern of routine and redundancy that takes them nowhere but where they were yesterday and last year and last decade.

         They are not following God. Maybe they did. But they stopped at some point and became comfortable with a Sinai wilderness light years from the birthright and the place God tries to take them.

         You see, God is a romantic at heart. He is a traveler. He is an explorer. He loves doing new things. But when you know everything it’s no fun unless you can take others on the journey with you. It is the same as when you read a book that has a giant impact on your life. You want others to read it and enjoy it as well. You may not want to see your favorite movie again at a particular time, but would love to watch it with someone else who shows an interest. It becomes a new experience due to the possibility of someone else enjoying it as you do.

         God is like that. He loves to turn us on to stuff and take us to places we’ve never been. He loves it when we have eyes filled with wonder, when we trust Him as an innocent child, and when we expect something really cool to come our way because He loves us.

         But there is a problem. There is a guy named Snidely Whiplash whose entire goal in life is to tie us and our dreams of eternal things to railroad tracks. He strives to destroy us by first destroying our dreams and innocence. He attempts to tempt us into the bondage of sin and bad habits and hate and fear. He tries to develop within us a cynical and bitter attitude. More than anything else, he tries with all his might to distance us from God and keep us from God and stymie every effort we make toward God.

         In the end, he will make many, many more converts than the Lord Jesus ever will. He will be more successful than God in this sense. Of course, he is not so much making converts as he is enforcing the default destination of the unrepentant soul without God.

         But God doesn’t keep score by numbers. He never has. And He has made a Way toward Life for all to discover. That the majority of humanity will miss the boat is not His problem. Eternity is not for timid souls with third-grade educations. It is for those with an explorer’s heart who love adventure and risk. It is for those who are forever getting up after being cast down. It is for those who never say die.

         It God’s book, this is the definition of winning. With Him, despite pain and suffering and setbacks and reviling persecution, the one deserving of eternity is the one who never quits. Spiritual success is the mere process of rising again, and again and again and again. It is the defeat of the devil by outlasting him. It is the defeat of this world by getting the hell out of it and into the kingdom of God. It is about disciplining oneself not to stay a third-grader forever but continuing on to greater spiritual heights and adventures. It is about seeing the mountain top and vowing to get there regardless of any obstacles no matter how hellish. It is not about giving up and constructing a proxy golden calf, which is what most churches and Christian expressions have become, but continuing on, even though we may leave, like Abraham, almost everything we know on the other side of the needle.

         The search for truth is the search for eternity. Nothing can replace it. Nothing else will be accepted by the real Christian.

         “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” [Matthew 6:33] 

         The secret is following the Lord. The next time you pause to reflect, don’t just gaze at eternity for a few seconds the way you often do, but get up and walk toward it. Take the Lord by the hand and let Him take you ever closer to the Promised Land. The kingdom of God is here, now. It is the city Abraham searched for his entire life. It is the place where faith activates all things possible according to the will of God. It is the place where dreams come true.

         And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

         By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

         By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going.

         By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

         By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.

         All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. [Hebrews 11:6-16]

         Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” [Luke 17:20-21] [1]   

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.