The precious atonement of Jesus, as portrayed by the Passover, was not an afterthought or something that came by chance. The sacrifice of God’s Son was foreseen by Deity long before the world came into existence. The atonement was planned in every detail to the very moment. The life of Christ on earth was laid out from birth to the cross, before He ever came to this world.
But more than this was entailed in the atonement. God chose to schedule events from Eden to the cross, leaving no possible room for doubt as to its divine purpose. Christ had a schedule to meet, not only a time to be born in Bethlehem, and a time to die on the cross of Calvary, but also an exact time for His second coming and an exact time for His third coming at the close of the millennium. Yes, Christ had a schedule to meet. “Jesus said unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come” (John 2:4).
Jesus’ words, “Mine hour is not yet come,” point to the fact that every act of Christ’s life on earth was in fulfillment of the plan that had existed from the days of eternity. Before He came to earth, the plan lay out before Him perfect in all its details. His last Passover supper spent on this earth was scheduled to the exact day. “And He said, Go into the city to such a man, and say to him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with My disciples” (Matthew 26:18).
Christ went to the Garden after spending the Passover with His disciples and this, too, had been scheduled. For it was here that He was to be betrayed. “Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45).
Jesus knew the time had come. Just as the Passover commemorated the deliverance from Egypt, so Christ understood the Passover lamb pointed to His coming sacrifice. Even the Passover in Egypt was scheduled in the time frame of God, for it took place exactly on the day that it was planned.
Abraham was told that his children would go into Egypt for four hundred and thirty years as slaves. (See Genesis 15.) “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:40, 41).
It required some drastic judgments from God such as the world had never seen before to bring it to pass on the exact day. Water was turned to blood. There were plagues of frogs, lice and hail, darkness, and finally a never-to-be-forgotten night, for in the land of Goshen, the first Passover was held. Each family met together to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their doorposts. The lamb was to be roasted and eaten just as the angel of death passed over each home at midnight.
In the land of Egypt, the same angel of death struck in every home, including the king’s palace. Every firstborn of man and beast was slain. The Israelites were commanded to leave immediately—and it all happened at the precise time God had predicted.
Israel was commanded to keep the Passover when they should reach the Promised Land of Canaan as a memorial of this mighty deliverance by the hand of God. The Passover was kept in the day of Christ. Jesus was twelve years old when He went to Jerusalem to keep His first Passover. As He watched the priest carrying out the Passover activities, Jesus suddenly discovered a sublime truth; for He understood that every act of His life was bound up in what the priest did with the little lamb.
New impulses awakened within Him. God was His Teacher. Like a sudden clap of thunder His mission in life opened up before Him. Silently, absorbed in divine thoughts, He studied the sin problem as never before. Finally the moment arrived. He saw Himself as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world.
Immediately there was a change in this boy of twelve. His meekness as a willing child had changed to an awareness of a higher responsibility. He addressed His parents, Joseph and Mary, in a remarkable new manner. “Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business” (Luke 2:49)? Divine inspiration tells us that as He spoke these words, He pointed heavenward, to the astonishment of His earthly parents. At this young age, he was aware of His divine Father.
His purpose in life became clear as crystal. Just as God delivered His people from the slavery of Egypt, so Jesus was to deliver His people from the slavery of sin. He, the Son of God, was to become the Passover Lamb by giving His own life as a sacrifice for our sins. Every moment of His life from then on was dedicated to preparation for the moment of sacrifice.
This preparation demanded total surrender to God’s will and a full commitment to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Every day of His life was a twenty-four-hour battle with Satan. “Satan was unwearied in his efforts to overcome the Child of Nazareth. From His earliest years Jesus was guarded by heavenly angels, yet His life was one long struggle against the powers of darkness. That there should be upon the earth one life free from defilement of evil was an offense and a perplexity to the prince of darkness. He left no means untried to ensnare Jesus. No child of humanity will ever be called to live a holy life amidst so fierce a conflict with temptation as was our Saviour.” The Desire of Ages, 71.
Battle with Satan
You and I may think we have a hard time in this battle with Satan, but we in our struggle with evil do not commence to meet the battle as He did. The Son of God experienced temptation one thousand times greater than you and I ever could. “You have not a difficulty that did not press with equal weight upon Him, not a sorrow that His heart has not experienced. His feelings could be hurt with neglect, with indifference of professed friends, as easily as yours. Is your path thorny? Christ’s was so in a tenfold sense. Are you distressed? So was He. How well fitted was Christ to be an example!” Our High Calling, 59.
Will we ever be tempted in a way Christ was not? “If we had to bear anything which Jesus did not endure, then upon this point Satan would represent the power of God as insufficient for us. Therefore Jesus was ‘in all points tempted like as we are’ (Hebrews 4:15).” The Desire of Ages, 24.
He endured every trial to which we are subject and He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As a man, He met temptation and overcame in the strength given Him from God. And so it can be with you and me. “To Jesus, who emptied Himself for the salvation of lost humanity, the Holy Spirit was given without measure. So it will be given to every follower of Christ when the whole heart is surrendered for His indwelling. Our Lord Himself has given the command, ‘Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18).” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 21.
This is what Paul tells us: “For in Him the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in Him” (Colossians 2:9, 10 RSV). Peter admonishes us with the same encouragement. “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3, 4). How we should praise God for what He has made possible for us.
After the baptism of Jesus, three years of public ministry were scheduled in which Jesus was to reveal God’s love by miracles and by teachings. This accomplished, He knew His time had finally come to attend the last Passover of His life here on this earth. He said, “Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with My disciples” (Matthew 26:18 KJV).
The final crisis had arrived. The destiny of the whole universe was at stake. This is so serious that Christ felt He must find a place to be alone with His Father, for as a man, He knew that He could do nothing without God’s help. He chose the Garden of Gethsemane. As He entered the Garden, He became sad and silent. His form began to sway as if He were about to fall. Every step was labored. He groaned aloud, for He was under a terrible burden. The sins of the entire world were being placed upon Him.
Twice His companions had to prevent Him from falling to the ground. He cried, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). His frame convulsed with anguish as He fell prostrate to the cold ground. He was overpowered with fear as God removed His presence from Him, and He was alone with the pressure of the sins of the whole world weighing down on Him.
The gulf of sin that separated Him from the Father was so wide, black, and deep that His spirit shuddered before it. He clung convulsively to the ground as if to prevent Himself from being drawn still further from God. His convulsed lips uttered that bitter cry, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
If you are in tune with God, these thoughts will break your heart and bring tears to your eyes. The undeniable fact is this: sin and God cannot dwell together. In the struggle, eternal separation from God was possible. “Everything was at stake with him (Satan). If he failed here, his hope of mastery was lost; the kingdoms of the world would become Christ’s; he himself would be overthrown and cast out. But if Christ could be overcome, the earth would become Satan’s kingdom, and the human race would be forever in his power. With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christ’s soul was filled with the dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal. He would be identified with Satan’s kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God.” The Desire of Ages, 687.
What a struggle! Satan painted a picture that would discourage the strongest heart. He pointed to the ingratitude of man, to God’s people who would reject Him and reminded Him that His very own church would seek to destroy Him. Even His disciples would forsake Him and one of them would betray Him.
“Christ’s whole being abhorred the thought. That those whom He had undertaken to save, those whom He loved so much, should unite in the plots of Satan, this pierced His soul. The conflict was terrible. Its measure was the guilt of His nation, of His accusers and betrayer, the guilt of a world lying in wickedness. The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ, and the sense of God’s wrath against sin was crushing out His life.” Ibid.
Then the history of the human race came up before the world’s Redeemer. “He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish under the Father’s displeasure. He sees the power of sin, and the utter helplessness of man to save himself. The woes and lamentations of a doomed world arise before Him. He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. He accepts His baptism of blood, that perishing millions through Him may gain everlasting life. He left the courts of Heaven, where all was purity, happiness, and glory, to save the one lost sheep, the one world that had fallen by transgression, and He will not turn from the mission He has chosen. He will reach to the very depths of misery to rescue a lost and ruined race.” The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3, 99, 100.
Having made this decision, He fell in a dying condition to the earth. Had it not been for an angel, who was sent from heaven to support Him, He would have died then and there. But the angel enabled our Saviour to drink the cup. Christ now stood in the sinner’s place, forsaken by God and forsaken by man.
“The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God.” The Desire of Ages, 753. What a cost for our salvation!
Christ knew that His hour had come. He knew that the Passover lamb would be offered in the temple at the moment that He would die on Calvary’s cross. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit He sees it all. As the priest lifted the knife to slay the lamb on the altar, suddenly there was a rending noise as the veil of the temple was torn open from top to bottom, thus, opening the way into the heavenly sanctuary in which the true Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, would mediate for us before God the Father.
“All is terror and confusion. The priest is about to slay the victim; but the knife drops from his nerveless hand, and the lamb escapes. Type has met antitype in the death of God’s Son. The great sacrifice has been made. The way into the Holiest is laid open. A new and living way is prepared for all. No longer need sinful, sorrowing humanity await the coming of the High Priest. Henceforth the Saviour was to officiate as Priest and Advocate in the heaven of heavens.” Ibid., 757.
What an atonement Jesus made on Calvary for our sin! “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). It is one thing to believe this happened for us, but in reality, more than belief is necessary. There are responsive actions required by each of us.
“It was not enough that the pascal lamb be slain; its blood must be sprinkled upon the doorposts; so the merits of Christ’s blood must be applied to the soul. We must believe, not only that He died for the world, but that He died for us individually. We must appropriate to ourselves the virtue of the atoning sacrifice.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 277.
That is why we must come to the place where we know of a surety that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Hyssop, used to sprinkle the blood (a symbol of purification), was used by the priests to cleanse the leper and those defiled by contact with the dead. “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).
The lamb was to be prepared whole, for not a bone was to be broken in the Lamb of God, representing the completeness, the “wholeness” of Christ’s sacrifice. A full ransom was to be paid.
After the sacrifice, the flesh of the pascal lamb was to be eaten. “It is not enough even that we believe on Christ for the forgiveness of sin; we must by faith be constantly receiving spiritual strength and nourishment from Him through His word. Said Christ, ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life’ (John 6:53, 54).” Patriarchs and Prophets, 277.
To explain what He meant, He said, The words that I speak unto you they are spirit, and they are life. What does this mean? “The followers of Christ must be partakers of His experience. They must receive and assimilate the word of God so that it shall become the motive power of life and action. By the power of Christ they must be changed into His likeness, and reflect the divine attributes.” Ibid., 278.
And there was another lesson we would do well to recognize. “The lamb was to be eaten with bitter herbs, as pointing back to the bitterness of the bondage in Egypt. So when we feed upon Christ, it should be with contrition of heart, because of our sins. The use of unleavened bread also was significant. It was expressly enjoined in the law of the Passover … that no leaven should be found in their houses during the feast. In like manner the leaven of sin must be put away from all who would receive life and nourishment from Christ.” Ibid.
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump … For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). We have ministers today who are teaching us that we will sin until Jesus comes. God forbid!
Consider the blood that was sprinkled on the doorposts. This was a sign to show that the family was completely separated from Egypt. They must show their faith in the deliverance to be accomplished. They must separate themselves and their family from the Egyptians and gather within their own dwelling. This is the same message that has been given to the remnant today. Come out from among them and be ye separate (2 Corinthians 6:17).
“Had the Israelites disregarded in any particular the directions given them, had they neglected to separate their children from the Egyptians, had they slain the lamb, but failed to strike the doorpost with the blood, or had any gone out of their houses, they would not have been secure. They might have honestly believed that they had done all that was necessary, but their sincerity would not have saved them. All who failed to heed the Lord’s directions would lose their first-born by the hand of the destroyer.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 278.
The atonement Christ provided for each of us on the cross of Calvary demands not only belief but also obedience. “By obedience the people were to give evidence of their faith. So all who hope to be saved by the merits of the blood of Christ should realize that they themselves have something to do in securing their salvation. While it is Christ only that can redeem us from the penalty of transgression, we are to turn from sin to obedience. Man is to be saved by faith, not by works; yet his faith must be shown by his works. God has given His Son to die as a propitiation for sin, He has manifested the light of truth, the way of life, He has given facilities, ordinances, and privileges; and now man must co-operate with these saving agencies; he must appreciate and use the help that God has provided—believe and obey all the divine requirements.” Ibid., 279.
For more than fifty years, Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a church pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Elder Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.