|Volume 24 Number 6 June 2022
Jerry R. Kendall
“Where do we find out about Easter in the Bible?” “What kind of Easter service are you having in your church this year?” Based on the truth of the Bible, one Sunday is no more special than any other throughout the year. Many have been led to believe that observing and celebrating one particular Sunday appointed by the authority of man is what is found in the Bible. They are surprised, and often in disagreement, when they learn that historically Easter was both unknown and unpracticed by those taught directly by the Lord Jesus Christ and guided into all the truth through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17). What this means is its origin is not from God; its authority is not from the Word of God – His revelation. Therefore, observance of Easter as a holy day, supposedly established by God, is incorrect. Setting aside a Sunday between March 21 and April 25 is without heaven’s approval (Galatians 4:10-11). To study God’s Word, trying to find such an idea commanded, is fruitless and vain. Setting aside this particular Sunday was first adopted by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Where’s the authority of God in that? God’s revealed and inspired Truth is completely silent regarding Lent, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday or Easter. Theses observances were neither commanded by God nor practiced by early Christians. We must turn to another source other than the Bible to find these days, and that’s forbidden (Revelation 22:18-19).
How did the practice of Easter begin? It was the convergence of the Jewish Passover (celebrated in the spring of the year), the commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and a pagan spring festival that fell on the vernal equinox on March 21. The merging of these became associated with the unauthorized festival of the resurrection which was celebrated at the time of the Passover. The term “Easter” was derived from the Anglo-Saxon eostre, the name of the goddess of spring. Sacrifices were offered in her honor at the time spring began. The Sunday to be used was not set until the 7th century. It was determined that the man-established observance would be the first Sunday after the first full moon following the first day of spring, which falls on March 21 each year. Easter Sunday may fall anywhere from March 21 to April 25, a period of 35 days. By the 8th century, the man-designated term came to be applied to the anniversary of the resurrection. It is a fact that the New Testament contains no reference (not even one) to a yearly celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
Someone may say, “You mean you don’t believe in and celebrate the resurrection of the Christ?” Yes, as a Bible-believing and practicing child of God, every Lord’s day (Sunday) I, along with fellow Christians, partake of the Lord’s Supper (Communion) (1 Corinthians 15:23-29; Acts 20:7), not celebrating our Lord’s resurrection but His sacrifice for us. We certainly DO believe in Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, life, death, burial and resurrection, but we will not change, skip over, neglect or compromise the legitimate scriptural teaching of precisely what God has given us to observe. No unauthorized and uninspired teaching or practice of men (Matthew 15:8-9) will be substituted in place of God’s truth. Our worship services will follow God’s commands – every week!
Were New Testament
Some say that New Testament writers, like John, James, Paul and Peter, taught and believed that Christ’s coming again was imminent in the first century. If they taught and believed that, they were mistaken because it did not happen. Would God allow His inspired writers to believe and teach something that was not true?
In 1 John 2:18, John wrote, “It is the last hour,” and then, he added that he knew it was the last hour because the anti-Christ had come. Did John mean to teach that the Second Coming of Christ was just at hand? If that is the meaning of the phrase, then he made a mistake because almost 2,000 years have transpired, and the world is still standing.
Peter made a similar statement in his first epistle, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 4:7). James wrote in James 5:8, “The coming of the Lord is at hand.” Did these inspired writers err about what was soon to happen? Did they believe that the return of the Lord and the end of time on earth was soon to occur?
The phrase, “at hand” is found in other New Testament passages, and it always means something that is very near to occurring. Inspired men taught that something was about to happen, not something that would occur thousands of years in the future: Matthew 3:2 – “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Matthew 25:46 – “He who betrays me is at hand” and Romans 13:12 – “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” These are a sampling of passages with the phrase “is at hand.” Others could be cited.
So, when Peter said, “The end of all things is at hand,” he must have meant that something extremely significant was about to happen. He was not referring to the end of the world, but Peter likely referred to the end of the Jewish system, or the end of things as those of the first century had experienced up to that time. He could possibly have referred to the destruction of Jerusalem and its impact on the world of that day, or to persecutions that Christians faced at the time. He could have meant that the way they had lived and conducted their lives and the world they lived in was about to be drastically changed.
Paul wrote that, “In the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1). Christ said to His apostles, “The time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (John 16:2), and He told the Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming and now is” (John 4:21, 23) when He expressed the truth concerning the worship that God accepts.
When we put all of this together, Paul said perilous times would come “In the last days” (2 Timothy 3:1). John said the anti-Christ had come and that it was a critical perilous time, “The last hour.” James said, “The coming of the Lord is at hand,” evidently meaning some kind of judgment was about to be executed. All of these passages were written before the destruction of Jerusalem and at a time when Christians were undergoing persecution; they have could referred to either or both of those two things. Christ came in judgment on nations in the Old Testament (Isaiah 13; 19:1) riding on a swift cloud. He came in judgment on Jerusalem because of its rejection of the Gospel. Matthew 24:30 reads, “The Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” That was not a personal coming but a coming in judgment.
Since the world did not come to an end in the first century, and something was “at hand,” that occurrence was described as “the last hour.” Those phrases must refer to a critical situation of the first century when persecution, a great upheaval of that time and danger of death for Christians were imminent. John wasn’t saying that the end of time on earth was rapidly approaching, because that is still yet future. John as an inspired writer knew there was no way to predict the coming of Christ, so how could he have referred to that? By using the phrase “last hour,” he must have meant that it was a critical time of urgency and that they needed to be prepared for whatever was coming. We use the phrase “the eleventh hour” to refer to something highly important that is about to happen, or something impending that requires urgent attention. If he had said it is “the eleventh hour,” we would understand that he was referring to a critical situation that demanded particular attention and action. What is the “eleventh hour”? It is the “last hour” before time reaches its zenith or culmination at 12 o’clock whether noon or midnight. That is how John used “the last hour,” saying that anti-Christs had arrived, and it was a do or die situation; we cannot sit idly by and allow them free course. That is why James could say in James 5:8, “The coming of the Lord is at hand.” Those things to which they referred indeed took place not long after they wrote their messages. It was either the destruction of Jerusalem and the widespread upheaval that event would cause in their world, or something else so drastic that it would impact the church with tremendous effect.
Yes, the writers and the church taught and knew that Christ could come at any time, just as we teach and believe today, but they neither taught nor believed that His coming and the end of time was rapidly approaching in the first century. With this understanding, the veracity of those inspired writers cannot be challenged. They were not deluded about the coming of the Lord and the end of the world. They were referring to events that actually transpired in their time.