Church of God, New World Ministries

Does Easter Commemorate The Resurrection?

It has been taught for centuries that our Lord was crucified on “Good Friday,” laid in the tomb just before sunset, and that he arose very early on “Easter Sunday” morning.

Tradition has so firmly planted that belief into the minds of most Christians that it is generally taken for a fact without serious investigation. This theory, although believed by many people, make the Messiah’s only prophetic sign untrue.

Surprising as it may seem, Easter was observed thousands of years before the advent of the Saviour. It is nothing more or less than the ancient spring festival of the Babylonian Mystery-Religion. “Easter” is merely the slightly changed English spelling of the name of the ancient Assyrian goddess Ishtar. The word is pronounced today exactly as the Assyrians pronounced it then. Webster’s Dictionary affirms that “Easter” came from the name of the old Teuton goddess of spring. He states that the early Anglo-Saxon spelling was Eastre, the name of the “goddess of light or spring, in honor of whom a festival was celebrated in April.” Catholic authorities agree. Hislop advises in The Two Babylons that Easter “bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the “queen of heaven, whose name, as pronounced by the people of Nineveh, was evidently identical with that now in common use in this country--Easter.”

In the Holy Bible God condemns the worship of Astarte, the “queen of heaven,” as one of the most abominable of all pagan idolatries. In Ezekiel 8:13-18 God specifically condemns sunrise services. Even the making of “hot cross buns” is condemned in Jeremiah 7:18-20; 44:19. Revealing the truth of Easter worship is an important piece of unfinished business business that should have been finished by Martin Luther and others during the Reformation.

Would you consider it pleasing to the Almighty Father to use the names of pagan gods or goddess, integrating them with Christian worship as long as we first somehow, “Christen” or “sanctify” them give them a new meaning? Suppose we decide to make a holy day out of the day the Saviour was baptized? We don’t know when that day was any more than folks know the day He was born; so we’d select a day the pagans used to hold a feast on, and call it “Dagon Day.” Or we could change it a bit and call it “Dagoon Day.” Maybe call it “Baal” or “Baalah Day? Since Baal is supposed to mean Lord or Master would that be all right?

In reply to these questions you should observe that the Almighty plainly told His people, Israel, not to “mention the name of other gods” (Ex. 23:13 and Josh. 23:7). His people were to destroy all their (the heathen) pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quickly pluck down all their high places (Num. 33:52).The Lord did not intend for Israel to then salvage the names of idols and use them in worshipping Him.

Since we have identified Astarte, Ishtar, and Eostre as Semiramis, the Queen of Babylon, it should be obvious that Easter has come to us directly from Babylon. Does it now not come to be more obvious the already past fulfillment of the prophecy in Rev. 17:5-6? “And upon her forehead was a name written that not all could understand: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I wondered with great amazement” (Lamsa).

Easter isn’t like other anniversaries and national holidays; to most people it’s a “mystery” how its observance is computed. One usually needs some reference to know which “Sunday” is Easter. Last year’s date for Easter is no clue as to when it will be observed this year. The Jews celebrated the Passover on the 14th of the first lunar (or Biblical) month (Lev. 23:5-7). The early Church adhered to this rule. Gentile Christians, however, wishing to divorce themselves from any seemingly Hebrew custom, soon found it convenient to observe a different date. The Council of Nicaea ordained in A.D. 325 that the celebration of Easter should henceforth always take place on the Sunday which immediately follows the full moon that happens upon or next after the day of the vernal equinox. Should the 14th of the first lunar month (Passover), which was regarded as the day of the full moon, happen on a Sunday, then the celebration of Easter was deferred to the Sunday following in order to avoid concurrence with Jews and Christians keeping the time of the Passover. Previous to this Easter marked the resurrection of Attis.

Notice that observance of this rule of computation makes it necessary to reconcile three periods which do not have a common measure: the week, the lunar month, and the solar year. Since this can only be accomplished approximately, the determination of Easter is an affair of considerable complication.

The Eastern churches, including the Orthodox and Africa’s Coptic and Ethiopian Christian, compute Easter in a slightly different manner. In 1976 the Roman Catholic churches and Western Protestant churches observed Easter on the 18th of April, while the Eastern churches observed Easter one week later on April 25th.

By coincidence, in 1977, both means of computation indicate Easter be marked on April 10th. Early in 1976 Msgr.Charles Moeller of the Secretariat for Christian Unity stated: “The proposal is to make it the rule from next year that Easters falls on Sunday following the second Saturday of the month.” In May of 1975 Jan Cardinal Willebrands, of the Secretariat for Christian Unity had written to Catholic bishops, the World Council of Churches, and other Christian groups, asking for a single Easter date. This letter was published in the Vatican’s Latin language gazette Natitiae: “The Holy Father has instructed me to inform the Orthodox churches, the Anglican Commission and the various creeds with a concrete proposal, that in 1977 all Christians according to their different calculations will celebrate Easter on April 10th, the Sunday following the second Saturday of April.”

The Pope has once again proposed to “change TIMES and LAWS” (Dan. 7:25), proving further that he is the power of the “anti-christ.”

If our Saviour was crucified on Friday, as is commonly taught, why do people believe that He was resurrected on Sunday? How can He have died on a Friday evening, remained in the grave three days and three nights, and resurrected at sunrise on Sunday morning?

First of all, people assume that Jesus Christ was crucified on Friday because Luke 23:54 says that the day Joseph of Arimathaea took the body of Jesus off the stake, “And that day was a preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.” Two verses later, the 56th verse says, “And they (the women which followed when He was crucified) returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment.”

Next, people assume that our Lord was resurrected on the first day of the week because of Mark 16:9 which says: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils (demons).

Most all people would say: “Well that ought to be plain enough for anyone! Everyone knows that the Jews were forbidden to do any work on the Sabbath, so they had to prepare for the Sabbath on Friday. This was what was meant by the ‘preparation.’ ““And now when even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath” (Mark 15:42). Everyone knows what is meant by “resting the Sabbath day according to the commandment.” (Ex. 20:8-11) gives the commandment about the Sabbath: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the 7th day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy god: in it thou shalt not do any work.”

Mark 16:9 says simply, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week.” In view of such very plain statements, why should anyone ever question whether Messiah was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday!

The question might not come to mind except for Scriptures such as: “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign of thee. But he answered and said unto them. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall NO SIGN be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:38-40).

Some people will say “Didn’t the Jews count part of a day as a whole day or part of a day as night as a whole night?” Whenever you have the expression “day and night” mentioned together in the Hebrew Scriptures, it always means a full day and full night (see Esther 4:16; 5:1; I Sam. 30:12-13).

The Son of God defined what a day is. If you will turn to John 11:9, you will find that Jesus our Lord said, “Are there not twelve hours in a day?” Well, if there are twelve hours in a day, then there are twelve hours in a night. Three days and three nights would have to be 72 hours. Anything short of 72 hours would not fulfill the type of Jonah or the words of our blessed Lord. If He were crucified on Friday, and Joseph of Arimathaea “when even was come,” got the body of Messiah from the cross and put it in his own tomb, then the Messiah was in the heart of the earth (or the tomb) only Friday night and Saturday-- one day instead of three. He was in the tomb only Saturday-- one day instead of three. This would be only ONE HALF the amount of time he was supposed to be there, according to His own prophecy!

Read further and notice from the account in John 20 that not even all of Saturday night could be counted, because “The first day of the week comes Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and sees the stone taken away from the sepulcher.” It was still dark, this meant that since Messiah was then resurrected already, before the night was past, that it wouldn’t even be half the time which the Messiah had prophesied! Note that: “Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (Jonah 1:17).

Looking further, more information about the time of the “preparation day” may be observed: “And it was the preparation of the Passover, and about the 6th hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King” (John 19:14)! This sheds more light on what was meant when the Scriptures state: “And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is the day before the Sabbath” (Mark15:42).

Going to the Old Testament to find out what instructions were given about keeping the Passover, Lev. 23:4-8 states: “These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the 14th day of the first month at even is the Lord’s Passover. And on the 15th day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: Ye shall do not servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord seven days: in the 7th day is an holy convocation: ye shall do not servile work therein.”

Reading further in the same chapter: “And on the 10th day of this 7th month there shall be a Day of Atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you: And ye shall do no work in the same day. It shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the 9th day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your Sabbath.” “Also in the 15th day of the 7th month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord 7 days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, and on the 8th day shall be a Sabbath” (Lev.23:27, 28, 32, 39).

This was most interesting: here was a commandment to keep a Sabbath- not just one Sabbath, but several Sabbaths. Now which of these Sabbaths did the women obey when they. . . . “returned and rested the Sabbath day according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56)?

Since it may be seen that there was a “preparation day” for something other than the 7th day Sabbath, return to the 19th chapter of Luke and read: “The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross (stake) on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.”

Here is an exciting clue! That Sabbath was an High Day! In other words, this was not the 7th day Sabbath after all! What day was it? “It was the preparation of the Passover.” (John 19:14). According to Lev. 23:7 the first day of “Unleavened Bread” was a Sabbath day.

Now notice Matthew 28:1: “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.” Since the Sabbath begins and ends at sunset, how could it be “in the end of the Sabbath” while it was getting daylight Sunday morning?

Since this Scripture very evidently needs clarification, observe how the direct interlinear translation reads: “Now late one Sabbath, as it was getting dusk toward (the) first (day) of (the) week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher.

Perhaps a study of the Greek words which were translated in this verse would help. Two phrases in particular are of interest: “in the end of the Sabbath” and “as it began to dawn.” The Greek words for the first phrase were: opse de sabbaton. The word opse was a word denoting time, or at the end of the time which might be named by another word. The word sabbaton was in the possessive case, like saying “the house of the president, “showing that it belonged to the president. This obviously meant then, “the late part of the Sabbath.” There was nothing wrong with that translation “in the end of the Sabbath” was right, according to the usual usage of the word.

One Greek lexicon says about the word opse . . . . . . . “followed by a genitive seems always to be partitive, denoting late in the period specified by the genitive” (and consequently still belonging to it). Hence in Matthew 28:1 “late on the Sabbath” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, p. 471. The “genitive’ means a form of a word in the Greek which equals “possessive” in English. In English, possession is usually shown by adding apostrophe “s,” while the Greek and some other languages change the spelling of the word. Sabbaton Matthew 28:1 makes that change.

The Greek words for the second phrase were: “te epiphoskouse eis.” Epiphoskouse is used only twice in the New Testament. The other place it is used is in Luke 23:54: “And that day (when the Lord was crucified) was the preparation, and the Sabbath drew on.” The words drew on” were from epiphoskouse

This verse stated definitely what it meant that while one day was ending, the evening when Joseph of Arimathaea placed Messiah’s body in the tomb, another day (that Sabbath which followed the preparation day) was “drawing on” or approaching.

Now we must consider why Matthew 28:1 is translated “as it began to dawn toward the first (day) of the week.” The matter is simple. Just as we say in our times, “It just dawned on me,” meaning that we were just getting an idea but didn’t have it clear yet, so it was that the Greeks used this word to mean that something was approaching but not there yet. Just as we have borrowed many things from Greek civilization, so have we borrowed the expression “It just dawned on me” or “I see the light” meaning “I understand.”

As “dawn” means the approach of day, so it began to mean the approach of anything. “In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week” really makes good sense after all. “In the end of the Sabbath, as the first day of the week approached” was the real meaning. The way the word was used in Luke 23:54 to say “the Sabbath drew on” proves the meaning.

Now let’s attempt to understand Mark 16:9, which states: “. . . Jesus was risen early the first day of the week.” By comparing the four Gospels we learn:

Matthew tells of two women going to the sepulcher: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mark tells about Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, three women going to the sepulcher. Luke tells about Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (there would have to be at least two more to be “women”) which meant at least five women. John tells about Mary Magdalene only one woman. That was strange two women, three women, five or more women, and one woman.

Matthew tells about an event which happened “in the end of the Sabbath.” Mark tells about an event which happened “when the Sabbath was past” very early in the morning the first day of the week at the rising of the sun. Luke simply said, “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning.” John said, “The first day of the week . . . . . when it was yet dark.” At least three definitely different times are mentioned: in the end of the Sabbath, while it was still dark Sunday morning, and at sunrise Sunday morning. The other statement “very early” could have been either while it was still dark, or at sunrise.

Matthew tells about one angel sitting on the stone (outside the tomb), which he had rolled away. Mark tells of one angel sitting inside the tomb, on the right side. Luke tells about two angels appearing beside the women, standing, after the women entered the sepulcher. John tells about two angels, one sitting at the head, and the other sitting at the foot of where Messiah had lain while dead. Is this not peculiar: one gospel tells about an angel sitting on the rolled away stone, another gospel tells that one angel sat inside, another tells of two angels standing, appearing after the women came in, and the other tells about two angels sitting inside when Mary looked in!

One gospel, Matthew, tells that the women merely came “to see the sepulcher.” Mark says that the three women came to anoint Messiah with spices. Luke says the five women came with spices to anoint Him. John simply says that Mary “came.”

One thing is evident: If all these men were trying to tell the same story they certainly got it mixed up!

Is there any reason to assume that they are telling the same story? Are they not, in fact, telling about a most natural thing that these women who went to the tomb in the afternoon of the Sabbath decided that they had not really seen our Lord after all. John 20:9 says: “For as yet they know not the scriptures, that he must rise again,” and “for he taught his disciples and said unto them, the Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him: and after that he is killed, shall rise the third day. But they understood not the saying, and were afraid to ask Him” (Mark 9:32).

It is not true that these women went repeatedly back to the tomb to see; each time bringing others more than before? The two Marys even saw Messiah in the end of the Sabbath, and went away rejoicing to tell the disciples. But when He did not appear with the disciples, Mary returned early the next morning while it was still dark to see for sure what the situation was. She decided that the Messiah had simply been carried away and wondered where they had laid Him. She went and told the disciples that this was what had happened. Two of the disciples came to the sepulcher, saw that He was not there, and went away. Mary remained after they left, and the Lamb of God appeared to her again.

The Lord had even allowed her to touch Him the afternoon before, but at this time He would not. Evidently, unbelief is not even cured by sight or touch when it is too strange a thing causing the disbelief.

Jesus explained that He had not yet appeared in the presence of the Father, so He would not allow her to touch Him any more until He had.

Mary had been there Sabbath afternoon; she came while it was still dark next morning. She went to tell the disciples and returned. She saw the Lord as Mark 16:9 says: “. . . when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene.” Mary went again to return with the other women once with the mother of James and Salome, and another time with these women, Joanna, and others. This is not a discrepancy in the stories; it is merely the telling of details remembered by one and details remembered by another. Put together they make a picture of what we too would do to verify so unusual an experience the raising of the dead!

When the Greek manuscript was written there were no punctuation marks of any kind. Punctuation, a much later invention, can make a drastic difference in the meaning of a statement. Someone had to decide where all the periods, colons, semicolons, commas, and parentheses were to be placed.

You may have noticed that at the time of the King James Version was written, quotation marks were not yet invented, and our Bibles are still written that way. Let’s experiment with punctuation a little in Mark 16:9 and see what happens. If this results in making agreement between this Scripture and the plain teaching of the rest of the Scriptures, it is legitimate to make the change. However, one should make a very careful distinction between doing this to find the truth and harmony of one scripture and with another and doing this to harmonize the Scriptures with his own thought, that is not legitimate.

Here is the King James Version of Mark 16:9: “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.”

Compare that with this punctuation: “Now when Jesus was risen, early the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” The King James way tells when Jesus was resurrected. This way tells who saw Him first on Sunday.

This would agree with Matthew 28, for that scripture says that two women saw Him in the end of the Sabbath, which would not harmonize with the statement in mark 16:9 as punctuated in the King James Version, for the KJV punctuation implies a Sunday morning resurrection, not at all possible. If He had already appeared to the two Marys on Sabbath afternoon.

If each Mary saw Him at the same time on Sabbath afternoon, then he could not have appeared “first” to Mary Magdalene on Sunday morning.

But, if this refers only to who saw Him first on Sunday morning, and not to who saw him first, then perfect harmony exists.

To this point we have established the fact that Messiah was resurrected in the end of the Sabbath, and not on Sunday morning. This was the proposition we offered to substantiate; but if we stop here we have a very big question unsolved: what about the three days and three nights?

We have noticed two things which make sense: Jesus was placed in the tomb in the afternoon, and he was resurrected in the afternoon. That is what a person would expect, for three days and three nights later would come out at the same time of the day.

It really didn’t make sense to expect Him to be resurrected in the morning, if He was crucified in the afternoon, anyway. A day and a night later would be the first afternoon later; three would be the third afternoon later.

Look back now to a prophecy relating to the crucification of the Lord. Daniel 9:27 says: “And He (the Messiah mentioned in verse 26) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” Since there are seven days in a week and Sunday is the first day of the week, naturally Wednesday is the “midst of the week.”

Those who teach a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection can only harmonize this scripture by saying that it applies to the “anti-christ,” and that its fulfillment is yet to come. Yet it does apply to the Messiah, and He actually caused the “sacrifices and the oblation to cease” at the time of His death. When Jesus came, He came to be our sacrifice. Paul wrote: “And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after their death, the judgment; So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of man; so that at his second coming he shall appear without our sins, for the salvation of those who look for him” (Heb. 9:27-28 Lamsa). In other words when our Lord had been slain for our sins, He had no other sacrifices to make, and according to Daniel 9:27, this “caused the sacrifices and oblation” to cease, “in the midst of the week.”

That God did not recognize the sacrifices being made in the temple any more was very graphically illustrated by events which happened when Jesus died: “And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst” (Luke 23:45).The significant or important thing about this is the veil being torn. This was an act of God, exposing the Holy Place, which was to be viewed by no one but the high priest and by him only once a year. This was God’s sign to the people that they should trust in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the remission of their sins. It was by this means that the “sacrifice and oblation” were caused to cease.

Some people may say that the observing of Easter is taught in Acts 12:4 where we find the word used in the King James Version. But is this verse talking about Christians? No, it is talking about the Roman King Herod. Herod was considering a holy day of the Jews and had decided to wait until after this holy day to bring Peter out of prison for trial; this annual holy day was the Passover. The word rendered “Easter” should be “Passover” and is so rendered in the Roman Catholic version and in all revisions and modern speech versions of the Scriptures.

The colored “Easter” eggs children hunt each year, as symbols of the renewal of life, were part of a custom that goes back centuries before the birth of Christ. They were a symbol of fertility in many lands easily traceable to ancient pagan lore. The same goes for the famous “Easter bunny.” Because of their rapid breeding and multiplying habits, rabbits are an ancient symbol of fertility. Modern children, hunting for “Easter eggs” they are told were laid by rabbits, are unknowingly following an ancient fertility rite. Even the “Easter parade” can be traced back to similar rites in ancient Germany, Greece, and India. Hot-cross buns were eaten by pagan Saxons in honor of Easter, the goddess of light and spring (Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19). Easter sunrise services go back to the pagan custom of prostrating before the rising spring sun (Ezk.8:13-18). Lent is nothing more than the “days of weeping for Tammuz.” Even the custom of wearing new clothes on Easter comes from Babylon. The pagans would go high up on the mountain and there at a “sunrise service” they would strip off their clothing, take part in their naked dances and rites, and then put on new clothes.

The Gentile Galatians, who had been aforetime pagans, were warned by the Apostle Paul relative to these pagan customs: “Ye observe days, and months, and times and years, I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Gal. 4:10-11).

There is no record in the Bible of the early Christians, or the early Church observing Easter. There is evidence in abundance that, as our Lord commanded, they continued observing Passover each spring. It was observed on the 14th of Nisan, commemorating Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins! At the Last Supper (on Passover) the Messiah instituted the ordinance by which we should remember His sacrifice. He changed the emblems of the ancient Passover. The Passover lamb, symbolizing the Messiah, was no longer to be killed. Rather, the taking of wine and the unleavened bread now symbolize Christ’s suffering and death for our sins. These emblems were taken on Passover, annually, as Paul instructed the Corinthians:

“. . . . . . For our Passover is Christ, who was sacrificed for our sake. Therefore let us celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of evil and bitterness, but with the leaven of purity and sanctity” (I Cor. 5:7-8 Lamsa). Easter does not commemorate Christ’s resurrection. It has its origin in paganism and true Christians should not observe it.

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