The single most significant event in the history of the human race took place on the first Sunday after Passover in about the year A.D. 30. It's the day we're celebrating today; "Resurrection Sunday," or it could be called "The Feast of First Fruits."
The Easter celebration is pagan, even the name comes from a pagan god. It is quite interesting that in the context of the feasts, God gave this commandment to Israel:
"Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth. Exodus 23:13 NASB
Yahweh told Israel not to even mention the name of pagan gods, but the church has a celebration that is named after a pagan god. In the fourth century, the Roman emperor, Constantine, issued the Easter Rule, which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. So the church adapted the pagan holiday of Easter and celebrated it on the biblical holiday of the Feast of First Fruits. By doing this, the significance of the Feast of First Fruits was lost in all the nonsense of the Easter celebration. This day is not about bunnies, colored eggs, or dressing up; this day is about the resurrection from the dead.
Let's look at what the Bible tells us about the significance of this day. To do so, we need to go back to the book of Leviticus. Old Covenant Israel had seven holidays that were prescribed by Yahweh. These seven holidays are discussed throughout the Bible, in both Testaments. But only in Leviticus 23 are all seven holidays listed in chronological sequence. These seven holidays are called, the Feasts of Yahweh:
'These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them. Leviticus 23:4 NASB
The KJV says, "These are the feasts of the Lord." The word "feasts" is the Hebrew word mow'ed, which means: "to keep an appointment" or "appointed times." The words "holy convocation" mean: "rehearsal." In other words, the feasts of Yahweh were appointed times of worship for Israel that would serve as "dress rehearsals" in Yahweh's prophetic calendar. These feasts are not just part of the heritage of Israel, there is something much deeper going on here.
Fundamentally, these seven feasts represent and typify the sequence, timing, and significance of the major events of Yahweh's redemptive career. They commence at Calvary, where Yeshua voluntarily gave Himself for the sins of the world (Passover), and climax at the consummation of the messianic Kingdom at the Lord's Second Coming. These seven feasts depict the entire redemptive career of the Messiah. The number "seven" is the biblical number of completion.
The first feast was called, "Passover":
'In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD'S Passover. Leviticus 23:5 NASB
The month that Yahweh was referring to was the month of Nisan. Prior to Yahweh's establishing the month of Nisan as the first month in the religious calendar, it was the seventh month in the civil calendar. Yahweh gave the religious calendar so we could understand that these feasts, which He gave and which are His appointed times foreshadow important events in His plan of redemption.
Passover is the foundational feast. The other six feasts that follow are built upon it. Passover occurs in the spring of the year, on the 14th day of the Hebrew month, Nisan (March/April). From Sundown Friday the 3rd to sundown Saturday the 4th was Passover this year. So Passover was yesterday on the Jewish calendar.
Of the many words that would best describe what happened in Egypt 3500 years ago—one word says it best—REDEMPTION. The events were real, the miracles genuine—all wrought by Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, who was greater than all the gods of Egypt. A group of slaves were redeemed, so they could worship the true and living God. But such a redemption was not without cost. Blood was to be shed to secure their redemption; the blood of a lamb, a Passover Lamb. All of those lambs sacrificed down in Egypt (one per household) pointed to the one true Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul draws the parallel for all time when he says:
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:7 NASB
Yeshua was the Passover Lamb of God:
These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. 29 The next day he saw Yeshua coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John 1:28-29 NASB
Passover was a shadow or type; the anti-type was Calvary. The Passover lamb was a shadow or type; the anti-type was Yeshua. Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan. And Yeshua was crucified on the 14th of Nisan. While Israel was celebrating their Passover, Yeshua, the true Lamb of God, was being crucified. This begins the second Exodus to the promised land of the New Heavens and New Earth.
The second feast is called the "Feast of Unleavened bread":
'Then on the fifteenth day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD; for seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. Leviticus 23:6 NASB
Yahweh appointed the Feast of Unleavened Bread to begin the very next day after Passover, on the 15th of the Hebrew month, Nisan. It was to last for seven days. The first and last days of this Feast were recognized and observed as high Sabbaths:
'On the first day you shall have a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work. 8 'But for seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day is a holy convocation; you shall not do any laborious work.'" Leviticus 23:7-8 NASB
On the first night, and again on the seventh, there was to be a holy convocation—these were high Sabbaths. So today, according to the Jewish calendar, would be the first day of unleavened bread which was a a high Sabbath for Israel.
The Days of Unleavened Bread did not serve as a reminder of what those ancient Israelites did or were, but of what Yahweh did for them. Yahweh freed them from wicked rule, tyranny, and slavery in Egypt. Freedom from slavery in Egypt is the type and the antitype is freedom from the sin and the death.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the Exodus:
'You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. Exodus 12:17 NASB
The rescue of the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Remembering God's deliverance and their exodus is a major theme of this festival.
Yeshua was buried on the same day He was killed, Passover. He was put in the earth before the sun set on the 14th of Nisan. Unleavened Bread starts on the 15th of Nisan and pictures deliverance. The children of Israel left Egypt on the first day of Unleavened Bread and had crossed the Red Sea by the end of the seven day feast. Unleavened Bread is a seven day feast picturing a perfect redemption.
The third feast is called "First Fruits":
"Speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, 'When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 'And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. Leviticus 23:10-11 NASB
What date is this Feast to take place on? Passover was to take place on the 14th of Nisan. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to take place on the 15th of Nisan. What date is First Fruits? There is no date given! The inspired text says that this third feast occurs "...on the day after the Sabbath..."! Most scholars say the Feast of First Fruits took place on the 16th of Nisan. They take the Sabbath here to be the Sabbath of the first day of Unleavened Bread. If that was true, why not just say, on the 16th? I believe that the Sabbath referred to here is the weekly Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Let me try to explain why: If "First Fruits" occurs on the 16th of Nisan, and it pictures Christ's resurrection, this only allows Christ to be in the grave for a day and a half at best, but the Lord said He would be in the grave three days and three nights:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; Matthew 12:38-39 NASB
The word translated "sign" is Greek semeion, which means: "a sign or distinguishing mark whereby something is known, sign, token, or indication." It can also mean: "an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers, a miracle." So they are saying, "Show us a miracle!"
for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40 NASB
I take this to mean 3 full days, or 72 hours. We know that Yeshua was buried at the end of the 14th of Nisan, just before the sun went down. He was in the tomb on the 15th of Nisan and would have remained in the tomb until the 18th of Nisan. There is no date given in Scripture for the Feast of First Fruits, because it is "...on the day after the Sabbath..."! It is always on a Sunday! So, the date would change from year to year, but it is always on a Sunday—the first day of the week. What is interesting is that in the year that Christ was crucified there had to be three days between the 14th and the first day of the week. And it just so happens that there was. What a coincidence!
If Christ spent 3 days and 3 nights in the grave, this would mean that the traditional idea of Christ being crucified on Friday is incorrect. I believe that Yeshua was crucified on Wednesday and was buried by the end of the day. He was in the grave from Thursday at sundown until Saturday at sundown, which is 3 days, and 3 nights, or 72 hours. He rose from the dead on Sunday—sometime after sundown on Saturday evening.
The confusion about Yeshua being crucified on Friday may come from:
The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. John 19:31 NASB
Remember that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a special High Sabbath and no work is to be done. We assume they had to get Yeshua's body in the tomb before the weekly Sabbath, but it wasn't the weekly Sabbath; it was the High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread.
So, Passover occurs on the 14th, Unleavened Bread occurs on the 15th (and lasts till the 22nd ), and "First Fruits" occurs on the day after the weekly Sabbath or Sunday, the first day of the week. So First Fruits is ALWAYS on a SUNDAY. So on the Jewish calendar today would be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and it would also be the Feast of First Fruits. Which means He died on Saturday and was raised on Sunday, which wouldn't work, but it doesn't matter because the year Yeshua was crucified it was three days for the 14th of Nisan to resurrection Sunday.
As to the significance of the Feast of First Fruits, as with the other feasts, there is no room for doubt or speculation that it represents Christ's resurrection:
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NASB
On one particular morning, on the first day of the week, the Feast of First Fruits were being waved before the alter in the Temple, and that particular morning some women were heading to an empty tomb.
Note, this is the First Fruits of the barley harvest. This is a reference to Yeshua the Christ and His resurrection. The First Fruits were transferred to the Lord as an assurance of Divine blessing on the harvest. That is reiterated in:
If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. Romans 11:16 NASB
The First Fruits consecrates the harvest. Yeshua is really the first of the First Fruits.
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23 NASB
"...We ourselves"—this is the New Covenant saints (Paul and the Roman believers). Paul says that they have "the First Fruits" of the Spirit. It s likely that this expression of the Spirit is an appositional genitive, which we would render in English: "the First Fruits, which is the Spirit." The Spirit was given as a "pledge," which is the Greek word arrhabon. Arrhabon means: "a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase—money or property given in advance as security for the rest: earnest or guarantee."
Yahweh commanded the Israelites to present a portion of their harvest that ripened first as an offering to Him (Exod. 23:19; Neh. 10:35). This offering acknowledged that the whole harvest was from Him and was really His. It was an offering that the Israelites made in faith, confident that the rest of the harvest would follow. Similarly, God's gift of the Spirit to the first century believers is His pledge that He will complete the process of salvation.
Sixteen hundred years before Christ's resurrection, Yahweh predicted in type and shadow that Yeshua would be crucified on the 14th of Nisan and would rise from the dead three days later on the first day of the week, and it happened exactly as Yahweh said it would. Prophecy proves the truthfulness of the Bible. Yahweh said certain things would happen, and they happened. No other book in the world contains the kind of specific prophecies found all throughout the pages of the Bible.
So Christ was resurrected in the first century three days after His crucifixion. What about us? When are believers resurrected? Let's look at what Paul tells us about resurrection in his trial before Felix. In Paul's defense he makes this statement:
"But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets; having a hope in God, which these men cherish themselves, that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:14-15 NASB
Notice how Young's Literal Translation translates this:
having hope toward God, which they themselves also wait for, that there is about to be a rising again of the dead, both of righteous and unrighteous; Acts 24:15 YLT
The words "shall certainly" in the NASB are the Greek word mello. Whenever mello in the present active indicative is combined with an infinitive, it is consistently translated "about to." Paul told his first century audience, "there is about to be a resurrection."
If we are going to understand what Paul is saying about the resurrection, we must understand "audience relevance." Paul is not talking to us; he is talking to Felix, Ananias, Tertullus, and the elders. Paul told them that there was about to be a resurrection. So if the timing of the resurrection was "soon," what does this tell us about the nature of the resurrection? It must be spiritual! Time defines nature.
What we want to seek to understand is exactly what Paul meant by "the resurrection." The traditional view that is held by most of the Church is this: When a believer dies, their body goes into the grave, and their spirit goes to heaven to be with the Lord. They are in a disembodied state awaiting the resurrection at the end of time. Then at the end of time the Lord returns, resurrects all the decayed bodies of the dead saints, puts them back together, then changes the physically resurrected bodies into spiritual immortal bodies like Christ's. Does that sound like what you have been taught? That is basically what the Church teaches abut the resurrection, but is it what the Bible teaches?
The first thing we have to understand is that resurrection is resurrection from the dead. And by dead I mean spiritual death. When Adam sinned, he died spiritually, not physically. Man's problem is spiritual death, which is separation from Yahweh.
Because of Adam's sin, we are all born dead, separated from Yahweh. But through Yeshua came the resurrection from the dead. Yeshua came to restore what Adam had lost, fellowship with God. Yeshua the Christ came to redeem man from death, to resurrect man back into the presence of God. The Bible is God's Book, about His plan to restore the spiritual union of His creation. Resurrection is not about bringing physical bodies out of the graves, it is about restoring man into the presence of God.
Prior to Yeshua's messianic work, no one went to Heaven:
"No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man. John 3:13 NASB
If prior to Yeshua's messianic work no one went to Heaven, where did people go when they died? They went to a holding place of the dead and waited for the atoning work of Christ and the resurrection from the dead.
In the Hebrew Scriptures the word for where they were prior to the resurrection is Sheol. In the New Testament the Greek word is Hades. What this place amounted to was death or the grave, some see it as waiting area for disembodied spirits. Whatever Sheol was, it was not Heaven, they were not in the presence of Yahweh.
"Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Acts 2:29 NASB
"For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, Acts 2:34 NASB
David was dead, but he did not go to Heaven. But he had a promise that he someday would. Yahweh had promised to redeem His people from the grave:
Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight. Hosea 13:14 NASB
But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, For He will receive me. Selah. Psalms 49:15 NASB
These verses expresses hope that Yahweh will provide salvation beyond the grave, one of the few references in the Tanakh to life after death. This verse anticipates the clear New Testament teaching of life after death, eternal life, and salvation by God.
All people were believed to go to Sheol when they die:
What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah. Psalms 89:48 NASB
To be taken out of Sheol and brought into the presence of Yahweh is what the Bible calls, "resurrection." Resurrection has nothing to do with physical bodies coming out of graves. Daniel spoke of this in:
"And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2 NASB
According to the Bible, when was the resurrection to take place? The Scriptures testify that the time of the resurrection was to be at the end of the Old Covenant age:
"But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age." Daniel 12:13 NASB
We know this to have happened in A.D. 70 with the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The disciples knew that the fall of the Temple and the destruction of the city meant the end of the Old Covenant Age and the inauguration of a New Age.
Since we know that the resurrection is past, we know that it was spiritual and not physical. The resurrection of the dead that took place at the end of the Old Covenant in A.D. 70 and was not a biological resurrection of dead decayed bodies, was a release from Sheol of all who had been waiting through the centuries to be reunited with Yahweh in the Heavenly Kingdom.
We can see from the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus several things about the resurrection beliefs of the early Christians:
and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:17-18 NASB
The early Christians must have believed that the resurrection would be spiritual in nature, and, therefore, not subject to confirmation by any physical evidence. If the early Christians had believed that the resurrection would involve the physical bodies coming out of the graves, as is taught today, Hymenaius and Philitus could never have convinced anyone that the resurrection had already happened.
They also must have believed that life on earth would go on with no material change after the resurrection. They didn't believe that they would be on a renovated planet earth as a consequence of the resurrection. Otherwise, the teaching of Hymenaeus and Philetus would have been impossible. No one would have paid any attention to them.
The reason that their teaching that the resurrection had already happened was over throwing the faith of some was that it postulated a consummation of the spiritual kingdom, while the earthly Temple in Jerusalem still stood. This was a mixture of Law and grace. This destroyed the faith of some by making the works of the Law a part of the New Covenant.
Alright, so I'm saying that the resurrection is not a physical rising of bodies from the grave, but a rising of Old Covenant saints into the presence of Yahweh. So what about Christ? Was His resurrection physical?:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NASB
YES! Absolutely, without a doubt. Since Christ's resurrection was physical, won't ours be? NO! Christ's physical resurrection was a SIGN to the apostles that He had done what He had promised. The resurrection of Yeshua's body verified for His disciples, the resurrection of His soul. The physical resurrection of Christ was essential to verify the spiritual to which it was tied. While the physical resurrection of our bodies would have no point since we will not continue living on this planet, breathing earth's oxygen, and eating earth's food after we die physically.
When Yeshua was resurrected was His body different, was it a glorified body? Many say that it was. But I propose that the body of Yeshua that came out of the tomb was the same body that went into the tomb.
Now you might also be thinking, "Well, Yeshua walked through walls after His resurrection" :
So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Yeshua came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." John 20:19 NASB
Notice that the text does not say He "walked through walls." It simply says He appeared in their midst. Well, doesn't that imply a different body? No, He did things like this before He was raised from the dead. Look at:
And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way. Luke 4:28-30 NASB
The crowd has Yeshua cornered on a cliff, and He "passes through their midst." How did He do that?
Think about this: Yeshua was spiritually raised while still in His physical body, and the Bible says the same thing of believers:
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, Romans 6:4-5 NASB
This can't be talking about biological death or resurrection. We were united in His death spiritually, and the resurrection is also spiritual. And we were spiritually resurrected while still in our physical bodies. Yeshua's resurrection demonstrated that we do not need to shed our physical body in order to be raised from the dead. The nature of resurrection life was that a person did not need to physically die to obtain eternal life, resurrection life.
So the resurrection that Paul said was "about to happen" in Acts 24:15 was a spiritual re-gathering of Yahweh's covenant people. The resurrection of the dead that took place at the end of the Old Covenant in A.D. 70 was not a biological resurrection of dead decayed bodies, but a release from Sheol of all who had been waiting through the centuries to be reunited with God in the heavenly kingdom. They were no longer separated from God (dead), they were now in His presence (alive).
For believers who have lived since A.D. 70, we are resurrected when we trust in Christ. Yeshua gives us spiritual life, which is a resurrection from our state of spiritual death:
even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), Ephesians 2:5 NASB
We have eternal life and can never die spiritually. Therefore, we don't need a resurrection. At death our bodies go to dust, and we go immediately to heaven.
Yeshua said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25-26 NASB
Yeshua is saying, "He who believes in me shall live [spiritually], even if he dies [physically], and everyone who lives [physically], and believes in Me, shall never die [spiritually]."
Two categories of believers are discussed: those who would die before the resurrection, and those who would not. For those who died under the Old Covenant, He was the Resurrection, but for those who lived into the days of the New Covenant, He is the Life.
Under the New Covenant, there is no death, spiritually speaking. Where there is no death, there is no need of a resurrection. We have eternal life and can never die spiritually. Therefore, we don't need a resurrection. At death, we go immediately to heaven.
The resurrection was a one time event in which the Old Covenant saints were brought out of Hades and finally overcame death to be with Yahweh. We have put on immortality. As believers, we live in the presence of Yahweh, and in physical death, we simply drop the flesh and dwell only in the spiritual realm.
You may remember that Joseph of Arimathea requested the body of Yeshua from Pilate:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Yeshua. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Yeshua. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. Matthew 27:57-58 NASB
Joseph had to be extremely wealthy and influential to be able to approach Pilate personally. We also understand from Roman law that he had to be the next of kin to receive the body. In an extra biblical conversation, we learn that Pilate was surprised at Joseph's request. "I don't understand, Joseph. You are a powerful and influential man and have just completed this new tomb for your family. And now you're going to use it to bury this criminal?" To which Joseph responded, "Why not? It's just for the weekend!"