I Will Passover You

The story of Passover and the exodus is a timeless story that has become a powerful symbol of liberation, but Passover represents far more than just national liberation. YHWH set his people free from slavery in Egypt so that they could worship him. Passover represents liberation from bondage in order to worship God, which entails the consecration of the community to God and deliverance from the judgment that comes upon the enemies of God.

The exodus under the leadership of Moses was just a stage in the long journey to redeem a people for God and restore them to the place from whence they were exiled. The story of the Jewish people is a microcosm of the story of man. To understand the real meaning of Passover we need to go back to the very beginning, to the events that led to the exile of mankind and brought him under the condemnation of death.

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17).

Man was created to live in God’s presence and to enjoy unbroken fellowship with God in a place where everything reflected His glory. The one condition was that he obey God’s command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The consequence of disobedience was death. When Adam disobeyed this command he was banished from the Garden of Eden to prevent him from eating from the tree of life:

And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22).

Man was exiled from the presence of God and sentenced to earn his keep through painful toil, but his harsh punishment was tempered with the promise of a Redeemer who would deliver him from the cruel bondage brought about by his own sin and restore his relationship to God. The redemption that God promised was to be effected through one individual, the Messiah, who was to come from a particular nation whom God called and consecrated for this purpose. This nation was brought into being with the calling of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Through God’s providence Jacob’s family went down to Egypt during a famine and settled there, but subsequent generations found themselves oppressed into forced labour for the Egyptians. Despite the harsh conditions the Israelites continued to multiply, and so the nation of Israel was forged in the furnace of affliction. After four-hundred years God raised up Moses as a deliverer of his people, but Moses knew that he was not the final deliverer and Redeemer that God had promised and he, himself prophesied concerning the Redeemer who was yet to come.

The Passover and exodus from Egypt foreshadowed a much greater Passover and exodus that would finally liberate men from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. The blood of the Passover lambs that the Israelites painted onto the doorposts of their houses to protect them from the angel of death anticipated the great act of deliverance that God would perform at a future Passover through the blood of the Passover Lamb. This final act of redemption would rescue the faithful from the consequence of sin and death and lead them into their eternal inheritance.

The deliverance from Egypt was preceded by the sacrifice of the Passover lambs. The Israelites were instructed to apply the blood of the lamb to the doorposts of their homes as a sign to the Lord of faithfulness and obedience. No assurance was given that the angel of death would pass over any Israelite home which had failed to apply the blood:

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals– and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt (Exodus 12:12-13).

There was loud wailing in Egypt on that night as every firstborn son and animal in Egypt died. The LORD said that by this the people would know that it was He who makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel (Exodus 11:6-7), but the distinction was on the basis of faithfulness and obedience to his word. The Israelites had to remain inside the doorway of the house to which the blood of the Passover lamb had been applied.

The Coming of the Final Redeemer – the Prophet like Moses

Although the firstborn of Israel were delivered from death in Egypt they nevertheless died in the desert without entering the land of promise. Through the blood of the lambs they were spared from the angel of death but in the desert they grumbled against Moses and were therefore killed by the destroying angel (cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-13). Moses predicted that Israel would become corrupt and turn from the Torah and that disaster would fall upon them (cf. Deuteronomy 31:14-29). Through the covenant made at Mount Sinai Israel was given the prospect of attaining life through obedience to the Torah:

This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live…(Deuteronomy 30:19).

However, they had neither the ability nor the inclination of the heart to fully obey (cf. Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:26-27). If the Israelites could have attained life and righteousness through their obedience to the Torah, they would not have needed another prophet like Moses to come as their redeemer. Even Moses himself failed to enter the land because he broke faith with the Lord in the presence of the Israelites (Deut. 32:51).

The Lord knows the beginning and end of all things. He knew that Adam would disobey his word and he knew that Israel would not remain faithful to the covenant. Our own rebellious and sinful hearts continually cause us to fall short of God’s glory and condemn us to death.

Although death, being universal because sin is universal, has become normal in that it is the common experience of every man, it still holds terror for us for the very reason that, apart from the natural shrinking of a living being from it, somehow we still retain the consciousness that it is the consequence of sin. It is a graphic reminder of the effects of sin, namely being cut off or separated from the life of God. Death is not the extinction of the soul. Our mortality and fear of death should cause us to fear God, who holds the power of life and death and to whom we must all give account, and urge us to seek his mercy and forgiveness. It is the sentence of certain death that admonishes us to listen to and believe the word of God who is able to raise the dead. The real meaning of Passover is to be spared from the final judgement that all men will face after death, which is referred to as the second death. This is the liberation that Messiah has obtained for us through his own blood and that restores us to live in God’s presence.

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” (Hosea 13:14)

It was no co-incidence that the climactic events of Jesus’ ministry were centred around the feast of Passover. While we can clearly see the fulfilment of all the feasts of Israel in the ministry of Jesus, Passover most clearly tells the whole story of man’s enslavement, redemption and ultimate restoration following a period of testing in the wilderness. God purposed that this would be the means to redeem his people from the very beginning. The book of Revelation speaks of “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (13:8).

The Passover of +- AD. 30 was the climax of God’s plan of redemption for the world which had been set in motion centuries before through the patriarchs of Israel. This was the passing over from death to eternal life that the Passover in Egypt had prefigured. A plague of thick darkness over the land of Egypt, which lasted three days, preceded the final plague of the death of the firstborn. As Jesus hung on the cross, bearing the penalty of our sins upon himself, darkness came over the whole land from the sixth to the ninth hour. Through his death and resurrection he is both the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed for us and the deliverer “like Moses” who will lead us out of bondage and into our promised inheritance:

For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The ministry of the Messiah is compared to that of Moses whom God sent as the first deliverer of Israel (cf. Acts 7:35). Moses said that God would raise up a prophet like himself who would speak with the complete authority of God (cf. Deut. 18:18). 1 No prophet in Israel has ever claimed the same authority as did Jesus.

He claimed that his teaching is the very word of God which imparts eternal life. When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” it was tantamount to saying that he is one (echad) with God, for God said, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39). Jesus, indeed, unequivocally claimed to be one with God: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). He is the promised Redeemer who existed from before creation (see Micah 5:2) and who was destined to restore God’s people from exile. He is the way back to the Garden of Eden where we will be given the right to eat from the tree of life. He has been given all authority (see Daniel 7:14), including the authority to raise the dead and grant them the right to eat from the tree of life:

To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. . . He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death (Revelation 2:7;11).

Just as the Israelites perished in the desert because they failed to believe the promises of God Jesus said that everyone who fails to believe in the promise of redemption through his blood will die in their sins. They will not be raised to everlasting life, but to shame and everlasting contempt.

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

This is confirmed in the book of Daniel:

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2).

In the same way that God made a distinction between Egypt and Israel, God makes a distinction between those who are faithful and obedient to his Messiah and Redeemer and those who are not. Whereas Passover represented death and condemnation for Egypt, for Israel it meant life and salvation! Likewise the gospel is either a message of life and salvation or a message of condemnation – depending upon how it is received:

…. thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:14-16).

Just as there was wailing in Egypt and quiet, faithful trust among the Israelites that night, Jesus warned that there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” among those who, having rejected the word of life will not receive eternal life but will be eternally condemned (Matthew 8:12).

Jesus testified that he would speak the word of life even to those who were sleeping in their graves and that he would lead them into their heavenly, eternal inheritance:

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out–those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:24-29).

Those who believe in Jesus the Messiah have already crossed over from death to life. The term “Hebrew,” when used to describe a people, literally means “one who has crossed over.” A true Hebrew is one who has crossed over from death to life through faith in the Messiah and Redeemer. While most people believe in a future bodily resurrection of the faithful, the effect of the sacrifice of Jesus as the Passover Lamb was immediate for the saints who had already experienced physical death. Jesus said that the time when the dead would hear his voice had “now come.”

The spirits of the faithful who had died, who were imprisoned in sheol (the grave), were set free and taken into the presence of God. Furthermore, the record of the New Testament confirms that many dead people were actually physically raised from the dead and appeared to many people in Jerusalem, perhaps as a sign of the breakthrough of the kingdom of God and the triumph over death and as a foretaste of the resurrection of all the saints (cf. Matthew 27:51-53).

Jesus used the death of Lazarus to demonstrate his authority over death. However, it is clear from his discourse with Martha that Jesus wanted to give us more than just the assurance that he could raise Lazarus back to his physical life:

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:21-27).

The message of Passover assures all those who remain faithful to God’s Anointed King and Redeemer that they will not be harmed by the second death. The message of Passover is not about preserving our present life but about securing eternal life:

Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

Apart from the Messiah, who is our only hope of redemption, we remain cut off from the very source of life and will certainly die in our sins. Just as death entered the entire human race through Adam, everlasting life is given to all who put their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah:

For as in Adam all die, so in Messiah all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22).

In the revelation of the glorified, risen Messiah, which the apostle John received, it was revealed that physical death is merely a warning and precursor to the second death, the destruction of the soul. That is why Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). The death that we are to ensure is made to pass over us through our faithfulness to the word of God, is the second death, i.e. eternal separation from God.

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:6).

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15)

This is the culmination of the story of man that began with Adam. The long exile is finally over. In Genesis, the Book of Origins, we see man banished from the Garden of Eden to prevent him from partaking of the tree of life in his fallen state. Cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth were set in place to guard the way to the tree of life. In the closing passages of the Book of Revelation, the very last book of the Bible, the tree of life is again featured, but now the garden has become a city. The focal point of the city is the throne of God and of the Lamb. The way back has been made known. Jesus, the Lamb of God that was slain from the creation of the world is the way the truth and the life!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Rev. 21:1-8).

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:12-15).

The Lord God, the Creator of all things, has made himself known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living (Matthew 22:32). While we live in this earthly body, we apply the blood of the Passover lamb upon the “doorframes” of our lives by faith and we have the assurance that we will not be harmed by the second death. The Apostle Paul, exulting over the glorious victory of the Messiah over the last enemy, which is death, ends his discourse with the triumphant cry from the prophet Hosea:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:50-55)


1. See article on the prophet like Moses by Harald Folsch