Acts 12:1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.
2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)
4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.
The apostle Paul tells us:
II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Every born again Christian needs to learn how to study God’s Word to meet His approval. Every true local church should be training those who are members, how to study God’s Word properly. The lost need to be taught the importance of true salvation and the blessings of salvation. Until they are saved, there are many things from God’s Word they will not understand nor receive.
We have mentioned many times the importance of context. If a preacher is going to do a topical message, like I am doing with these latest devotionals, it is always important to keep the context of the passage in mind. It is quite possible to make up a false doctrine by taking verses out of their context and making a doctrine by ignoring the context.
For example, this has been done many times with regard to salvation. The Bible is abundantly clear that salvation is always by grace through faith. No one has ever been saved by works. Since God is not a liar and He never contradicts Himself, any verse that we think suggests works salvation or that salvation is not an eternal gift, is due to our finite understanding and lack of proper study. There is no verse in the Bible that teaches that a person is saved by works and there is no verse in the Bible that teaches a person can lose their salvation. Salvation is a gift of God. He gives it and He does not take it back. We have dealt quite a bit on the matter of Biblical salvation in our devotionals and will do so in the future as well. It is important to remind ourselves of God’s truth and be sure we are walking in His truth.
When we come to the subject of our last couple of devotionals, we have been looking at the fact that we are all sheep. We have noted that the good Shepherd is Jesus Christ. We have noted that He declared that He would spend three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. We have also noted that He is the Lamb of God that fulfilled the typology of the Old Testament Passover.
In the book of Acts we have the only place in the Bible where we find the word Easter. The Greek word translated as “Easter” is found 29 times in 27 verses. Every other time it is found, it is translated as “Passover”. The question has been asked: “why is it translated as Easter in Acts 12:4?” “Did the translators make a mistake?” According to research that I have done, the Latin and Greek word for Easter is “pascha”. This is a form of the Hebrew word for passover which is “pesach”.
Thus the translators of the King James Version did not make a mistake in using the word Easter in this text. In fact, they were wise in using that word because of the context. In Acts 12:3 we are told “Then were the days of unleavened bread”. The days of unleavened bread followed immediately after the Jewish Passover. Thus it would have been wrong to translate the word pascha as passover in verse 4. It would not make sense to have the passover after the days of unleavened bread.
We also need to keep in mind that the text is talking about the plans of king Herod. King Herod was a Roman king. The Romans kept the feast of Easter which was a pagan feast which originated with the Babylonians. That feast was kept in close proximity to the Jewish feast of the Passover and the days of unleavened bread. The origins of the name Easter comes from Isthar, the queen of heaven and the goddess of spring. What Herod was waiting for in our text was the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz, the Sun god. The sunrise services that I was taught of and was involved in as a young person, follow that pagan event.
The timing of Easter was debated for many years and was not settled until the 8th century. It was a debate between the Eastern and the Western religions. Both of those religions were false, but they had quite a sway over the world affairs. The Council of Nicaea in 325 declared that Easter should be observed on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox which is on March 21. That is why we find the date for Easter floating on our calendars between the dates of March 22 and April 25. It can fall on any Sunday in that range.
Observing that fact as a young person was one of the things that made me question the entire event. The Bible is clear that the Passover was to be held on the 14th day of the first month, Nissan. It never changed. Why then did Easter change if it was supposed to be the same thing as the Passover? Obviously Easter is not the same thing as the Passover, and it does not reflect the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the Catholics who crammed that into the pagan festival and many foolishly accepted that addition which was made by a pagan religion.
It was quite common for the Romans to adopt what were viewed to be important religious rituals of the different pagan countries they conquered. That is still the way the Catholic church operates to this day.
Our text tells us that king Herod had already killed James because it pleased the Jews. However, he was not going to kill Peter until after he had celebrated his pagan feast of Easter.
When we look at all the events that are associated with Easter, it should be clear to the true child of God, that Easter has nothing to do with the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Chocolate rabbits and eggs and chicks are tasty. Children have fun doing the Easter-egg hunt. However, all of that takes away from the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The devil likes these distractions. Furthermore, Easter was designed to celebrate a false religion.
All of my growing-up years included all the Easter events. I remember the girls in church would come in with their new Easter dresses and bonnets. I also remember painting Easter eggs. My mom would bake many loaves of Paska for that occasion. She would put icing on them and jelly beans. I always enjoyed that time of the year. However, that has nothing to do with the sober event of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Even after I was saved and married, we kept the Easter festivities for a number of years. We attended New Evangelical churches and that was all part of their teaching. It was not until I began to be obedient to God’s Word more and began to study to meet God’s approval, that He began to open my eyes to the contradictions and even the evils of some of the rituals we held to. We moved away from the Easter events. We would still buy the chocolate bunnies for our children because they were inexpensive chocolate, but we did not equate that to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If I was to do it over again, I would not have purchased the chocolate bunnies because of the association and the confusion it causes. That is part of the learning process and the growth that needs to take place in the true child of God. Having been taught the truth, it is now important for me to help others to rethink what they are doing and follow God’s Word rather than the traditions of men.
Every Sunday is a reminder of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We meet together on Sunday because Jesus Christ rose on the first day of the week. Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper prior to His crucifixion and God directed the apostle Paul to teach on that important time in I Corinthians 11. It is important to remember Jesus’ death till He come. Those who are saved need to be reminded often of the price that Jesus Christ paid for our salvation. We need to be reminded of the importance of the broken body and the shed blood. Jesus Christ laid down His life for the sheep. He shed His blood so that lost sinners could be cleansed of sin and saved.
The Passover that was instituted prior to the Exodus from Egypt was a picture of the forgiveness of sin and the gift of eternal life that is found in the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s Supper is only for those who are born again. It is to be held in the true local church. Those who partake need to be saved and walking in obedience to the Word of God. They need to be members of the local church. We will look at this further yet.
As we have noted earlier in these particular studies, those who are saved need to follow the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd will lead His sheep to a true local church. That is His design. The sheep that are part of His fold need to listen to Him. True pastors need to be students of God’s Word. We cannot simply follow the traditions because “that is how it has always been done.” True pastors need to follow the good Shepherd and help those in their care to build their lives on the truth. Change for the sake of change is not necessary. Change for the sake of drawing closer to God is always the right way to go.