Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris] Could it be the Easter traditions leave something missing in the story of Jesus Christ? You may celebrate Easter customs to remember the resurrection of Jesus. But, there are Christians who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, without observing the Easter traditions. I happen to be one of them. Could it be that Easter does not tell you the whole story about Christ's life, death and resurrection?If there is something missing - and there is - then it changes the entire story about Jesus Christ. What's missing and what you need to know is our topic on Beyond Today . Join us as we discuss “What Easter Doesn't Tell You.”[Announcer] Join our host Darris McNeely, and his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today ![Darris] Did you know that Easter as a celebration has nothing to do with Jesus Christ?The name itself does not mean “resurrection of Christ” like you may believe. The word “Easter” actually comes from the name of an anciently-worshipped fertility goddess. You can also go online and quickly learn the origins of Easter bunnies, colored eggs, hot cross buns and the sunrise service. You'll find these modern parts of the Easter celebration come from ancient, ungodly, pre-Christian religions. They were around a long time before the time of Christ, and they have nothing to do with the Bible record or the church.Now, maybe that doesn't matter to you. Maybe you believe it's fun to do as part of the worship of Christ. Perhaps, it makes little difference to you. If that's the case, let me show you in this program from God's Word why you should care. Let's look to the Word of God to find out why it's important for you and for me.Let's get down to the story.The church Jesus founded had a very clear understanding of who He was and how to worship Him. But over many decades things changed. Early Christians got confused and then they lost the plain biblical teaching about God and Christ.How could people who believed in God possibly let that happen? Well, we have a natural tendency to forget the things we learn. The early Church learned their true faith by the teachings of Christ and the apostles. But very early, we can tell from the writings of the New Testament Church that there was heresy. There was false teaching beginning to creep into the church.Paul warned the church that they were flirting with a false gospel (Galatians 1:6I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ to another gospel:×). The apostle Peter warned that “…there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them…” (2 Peter 2.1)Gradually through the years after the death of the original apostles, other teachings began creeping into the church. Among those false teachings was a changing of the truth about the death and the resurrection of Jesus.Peter warned that there was a danger of “denying the Lord who bought them.” That is, replacing the clear truth of Jesus Christ with a pagan myth and false teaching. It is exactly that denial. It denies the most important truth about salvation and eternal life. Yet despite Peter's clear warning Christians bought into the denial.Easter evolved from a story based upon an ancient god named Tammuz. The story of Tammuz is at the heart of the pagan world - and at the heart of Easter. It's a story of a never-ending circle of life without meaning, direction or purpose. You see, Tammuz died every year at the beginning of winter and was “resurrected” in the spring by a goddess named Ishtar.Did you hear that? Ish-tar? Does that name sound vaguely familiar?That's because the word, Easter, comes from the name of this ancient false goddess, Ishtar. Lots of what Christians do today to celebrate Easter are customs that come directly from the way ancient people worshiped Ishtar.Why and how did this happen? Well, people had been believing the Ishtar myth and other stories for centuries. In the decades following Jesus and the apostles, as Christianity spread across the world, local people started blending these myths into the true gospel story of Christ. Eventually, the fake stories replaced the true one. For the leadership of the church that was beginning to take hold at the time, and it was convenient to blend pagan myths into biblical truth to attract more local people to the church, so they could hold power over them. It is a recurring story told often in the Bible.The life of Tammuz and others is meaningless when it comes to salvation and what God is really doing with human life. Only God coming to live in the flesh could open the door of salvation for the human creation. Borrowing from false pagan myths to create a Christian story does not work. It is empty, futile, empty tradition. And every year in the United States and other countries, there are parades and Easter sunrise services. Here in America, Easter egg rolling takes place annually on the White House lawn.People dress in their finest and for many this is the one of perhaps two or three times a year they actually go into a church for a formal service. Easter services, even for a casual believer, eases their conscience. Easter services around the world are major events. Coupled with Good Friday, it becomes a long weekend of leisure and worship.Now you may think, “All of this really doesn't matter because, well, I do it to honor God.”But it does matter. There is something missing in this story. What's missing is truth! What's missing is understanding of the way to eternal life through Jesus Christ the Son of God. Christ came in the flesh and showed us the Kingdom of God - through His death and His resurrection. He made possible the most awesome reality - the potential to become glorious sons in the family of God - entering eternity crowned with infinite glory and honor.And this is the heart of the Bible's message to mankind. Christ tasted death for every man that God might give eternal life to those who call on His name. The festival that teaches this truth to us must do so in truth, not error or myth. Christ said those who worship Him will do it in spirit and in truth (John 4:24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.×).Do you want to do what Christ said? If so, then you need to learn what's missing in the Easter holiday.You may be surprised to learn that Easter is not even found in the New Testament story of Jesus and His followers. The Book of Acts which tells the story of the apostles and the Church in its first decades, it has no account at all of Easter. The apostles, they constantly preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But, they put the resurrection in the context of the festivals they already knew and observed.These festivals were central to the life of the Church of God in the first century. As recorded in Acts (Acts 2:1And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.×), the Church was gathered on the day of Pentecost. Later in Acts, Luke referenced key events taking place during the Days of Unleavened Bread (Acts 20:6And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came to them to Troas in five days; where we stayed seven days.×). Another festival, the Day of Atonement, is also mentioned in Acts (Acts 27:9Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them,×). The weekly Sabbath as well, it's featured several times as the apostle Paul went into the synagogues to preach to the Jews and to the gentiles (Acts 17:2And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures,×).On one occasion, Paul told the gentile church in the city of Corinth to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread (1 Corinthians 5:8Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.×). He said keep these days with the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” Easter celebrations were nowhere in the picture during the early days of the Church. The resurrection as found in the Bible was.Notice the first sermon that Peter gave on the day of Pentecost. Speaking of the prophecies about the Messiah that King David made, Peter said, “He, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:31-32 31 He seeing this before spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption. 32 This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. ×).When he was called to task for healing a lame man, Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and he said “let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom god raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:8-10 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said to them, You rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the weak man, by what means he is made whole; 10 Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand here before you whole. ×).Paul preached to a city in Greece for three straight Sabbaths “that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ” (Acts 17:2-3 2 And Paul, as his manner was, went in to them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, 3 Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach to you, is Christ. ×). Again, throughout the New Testament, it's the resurrection of Jesus Christ that was taught. But it is never found in connection with an Easter service.Christ's death and resurrection is clearly connected with the Passover and the Days of the Unleavened Bread festival . Jesus was killed as “our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7Purge out therefore the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, as you are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:×). He was buried just as the Days of Unleavened Bread began in that year. Three days and three nights later He was resurrected during this seven-day festival. And He appeared to the disciples the morning after His resurrection and it was on that day that He was accepted by the Father.All this was clearly understood by the Church. It was part of the “apostle's doctrine” or their “teaching” in the early days. Celebrating Easter was not part of the story and it - Easter - introduced doctrinal error!To give you more information on this Easter story and God's truth on the subject, we have prepared a brand new booklet that we're offering for the first time today, Easter: The Rest of the Story . It goes into further detail on this topic and explains what is missing in the Easter traditions.You can receive a free copy by calling: 1-888-886-8632. Again, that's 1-888-886-8632. You can also write to us at the address on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254]. Please note Easter: The Rest of the Story will be available in print for only a short time. Order your copy while our supplies last. After they are done, it will only be available on our website to read.And, while you're thinking about today's topic, go right to our BeyondToday.tv website and do a search and read much more on this subject: What Easter doesn't tell you .We just learned that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the most important teaching that the apostles gave when they preached the gospel. But the holiday of Easter was nowhere to be found.The story of how Easter inserted itself into the teachings about the resurrection is preserved for us though in history. About 200 years after Christ, the Christian faith was changing into something the original apostles would not have recognized. The false teachers that Peter warned about began to introduce false teaching about Christ's death and resurrection, and there was a great uproar in the church about it.It is known in history as the Quartodeciman Controversy. Now that's a big word, but the name really means the fourteenth day of the month, the day when the Passover was kept. Some churches were beginning to keep an Easter tradition that they had borrowed from pagan myth instead of the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.The controversy became so intense that some ministers were taking action to dismiss, or to excommunicate others who would not get with the times and begin keeping this new teaching about Easter. Listen from history to what happened next:A bishop named Victor from Rome who was teaching Easter got so bold as to put out of the church another minister named Polycrates who was standing up for the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. Polycrates gave one of the most spirited and inspiring defenses of truth ever recorded. He was not about to abandon his conscience or faith for a pagan myth. At great cost, he rose in defense of the faith and his words are recorded for us.Polycrates wrote this,
“We, therefore, observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking there from. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again the day of the Lord's appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints …”The great lights in Asia that he was talking about were members of the first century church who first received the truth and kept it. They died in the faith and they await the resurrection of the just. Among those he mentioned was the apostle John and other early men and women.Polycrates went on to say this:
“All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of all of you, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have followed. For there were seven, my relatives [who were] bishops, and I am the eighth; and my relatives always observed the day when the people threw away the leaven.”Here Polycrates mentions the Days of Unleavened Bread. He was the eighth generation to keep these days and he was not about to abandon what he knew to be biblical truth.Listen to how he concludes,
“I, therefore, brethren, am now sixty-five years in the Lord, who having conferred with the brethren throughout the world, and having studied the whole of the sacred Scriptures, am not at all alarmed at those things with which I am threatened, to intimidate me. For they who are greater than I, have said, 'we ought to obey God rather than men.'”This is an inspiring but little-known story about how one man stood up against the Easter traditions that crept into the Church of God and overturned the true faith. But, what does this matter? So many times on these issues we encounter the idea, “but if we have turned a pagan idea into a Christian idea isn't that acceptable to God?” And sometimes we hear: “Christ conquers paganism.” It's a resignation that people make, and as time goes by and is so often repeated, it becomes accepted.But this doesn't square with God and the hard-won truths He planted in time and reality. What Easter doesn't tell you is you are missing out on the wonderful meaning of Passover and the death and reconciliation of Jesus. Because Easter only focuses on the resurrection.Christ suffered, died and was resurrected once for all time that men might have opportunity to enter into eternal life. Easter obscures the truth about that. Notice what we read in the book of Hebrews:“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. ×).Jesus entered once for all. He only needed to enter once. But the Easter traditions taken from ancient pagan myth commemorate a never-ending cycle of death and life, death and life. And it means nothing.What do you need to know?You need to know that Christ died according to the Scripture as our Passover Lamb, in fulfillment of the many Old Testament scriptures which foretold His coming, His suffering, His death and His resurrection.You need to know that the New Testament Passover observance, instituted by Christ the night before He died, fills this need.You need to know that the Days of Unleavened Bread show the life of the resurrected Christ and His power today. Because He was resurrected, we have the power to live a life of hope and meaning with the power of God in you. It is that spiritual power, the Holy Spirit, that can fill the void of despair you may sense and fill you with meaning and understanding in the midst of a crazy and confusing world. It is this festival that Paul taught the gentile world to observe. This festival of Unleavened Bread is what you can observe today to realize the full meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.You need to know that Easter misses all of this vitally important truth about Jesus Christ.Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15 that without Christ's resurrection we are of all people most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.×). The truth of the resurrection must be told according to what the Bible reveals. There is no room for error and myth in this most important event. Look at what you know, or what you think you know about the resurrection. The truth about the resurrection is a key to opening a relationship with Christ and the Father based on fact and truth.Paul said, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.×).Because Christ was resurrected from the dead and lives today, you have assurance that you too can enter eternal life. No humanly-devised holiday can tell you what God says through His Holy Days. You need to educate yourself with the full story.Now we are going to discuss this further with the Beyond Today panel. But let me tell you about - again our free offer that we're offering today - the booklet available for a limited time in print, Easter: The Rest of the Story . We have prepared this booklet with material that expands on what I have been discussing today. Ask for your copy now while supplies last.When you request this we will also send you a free subscription to The Good News magazine . Published six times a year, The Good News has in-depth articles on Christian living, Bible prophecy, mini-studies and other articles designed to help you understand the Bible and apply its teachings to your everyday life. The Good News helps you sort through the conflicting messages of our culture. It provides a message of understanding, hope and encouragement to live a godly life. We offer it free. Period. Take us up on this offer and try a few issues to see if it does what we say it does.Read Easter: The Rest of the Story and The Good News now online at BeyondToday.tv , or request a free copy to be sent to your home by calling: 1-888-886-8632. Again, 1-888-886-8632. You can also write to us at the address on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].Thanks to the generous support of members of the United Church of God and our generous viewers, we provide all our materials absolutely free of charge. You can also read Easter: The Rest of the Story and The Good News magazine online at BeyondToday.tv . I am now joined by our Beyond Today panel: Gary Petty and Steve Myers. We're talking today about Easter: The Rest of the Story . If a person is convicted to make a change from Easter, what is it that they then should do?[Gary] You know the word conviction is a very powerful word.[Darris] Yes it is.[Gary] When the Creator God convicts you to do something, He expects a response. He expects us to respond to Him. And so if you see that Easter is something that you shouldn't do in your worship of God, then you need to give it up. But you have to replace it with something, and that's where you talk about the Passover. We are supposed to replace it with the worship, or days of worship that we find in the Scripture.[Darris] The Passover really focuses upon that death, and the Days of Unleavened Bread then teach us a greater meaning.[Steve] Yeah, I think that is an important thing, that if we are convicted that means we have got to act upon those convictions. So what are we going to do? It means you've got to get into your Bible. You've got to start reading. What does God expect of me? What should be my response to what the truth of the Word really is? And find that out. We have got materials that can help with those kinds of things. And so people need to make that change and look at it and decide that they are going to act on it.[Darris] I don't think we can over emphasize too much the power of conviction. That when people do, become convicted, by what they hear on our program, read in our material, that they must act upon it. That the changes that you're looking for in their lives, require they act on that conviction.[Gary] And that's coming from God![Darris] Yes.[Gary] A response to God is what we are talking about here.[Darris] Why is it necessary then for a Christian to observe the death of Jesus Christ?[Gary] Well Darris, without the death of Jesus Christ, there is no Christianity. That is the foundation of Christianity - that we are dead in our sins, we are convicted by our sins before the Almighty Righteous God. And God supplied a way, a remedy, to pay the penalty for our sins. And so, Christ came from heaven to here to live a life as a human being and die to take the penalty for our sins. So without that, there is no hope.[Steve] Absolutely. It even comes down to a command. That we are told we have to keep it. I mean if we claim to be Christians, Christ said that we keep the Passover and we proclaim His death till He comes. And so that's very specific. It's not like it's a nice observance, but He says we need to do it. And by keeping that Passover, we are proclaiming His death and so we recognize His sacrifice for sin in our life.[Darris] And He said take, eat, this is my body…[Gary] That's right.[Darris] …which is broken for you. Without that there can be no reconciliation. There can be no hope. So, what about the resurrection? Where does that fit then in this whole matter of truth - in sprit and in truth - that Paul said to do in worshipping God?[Gary] That's the second half of the plan. Christ died for us, but like Paul said, if He is still in the grave, we are still in our sins. 1 Corinthians 15. We are still in our sins. He had to be resurrected, go back to His place in heaven, and now God is using Him to actually remedy sin in human beings. So, that was part of God's equation all along.[Darris] Easter focuses only on the resurrection. Let's kind of recap this for a moment. It really doesn't focus on the death of Christ. It's kind of passed over. But, the resurrection is a central part of the entire matter.[Gary] If His death… if He's not resurrected, it's all meaningless.[Steve] And it begins to show the plan. And that's what unique about God's Holy Days. Is that the Passover shows that we have a sacrifice for sin and so our sin can be forgiven. Now what are we going to do? Now, during the Days of Unleavened Bread is when Christ was resurrected. And now we can live a new life because of His resurrection. We can receive God's Spirit and we can be a new creation in Christ. And so, we recognize that resurrection and now it should change who we are. And how we live. And it should be reflected in the fact we've got God's spirit and now we are a new creation in Christ.[Darris] And that new creation comes as a result of our putting sin out, by working on our lives and living a righteous life, and God helping us to accomplish that. I think that's the one thing that all the other holidays and celebrations, especially connected to Easter, doesn't really focus on the matter of putting sin out. The fact that we also must engage in that way and actively work on a righteous life.[Gary] Christ didn't come just to supply forgiveness. He came to conquer sin in every one of us.[Darris] So we're done looking then at the Passover, the Days of Unleavened Bread. That's two key elements. The Passover begins the plan of God, the Days of Unleavened Bread, a full seven day festival then that really does focus on putting sin out of our lives, helps us to focus upon the life of Christ within us by which means we do that, and really completes and tells the whole story that something like Easter doesn't do.Today, you've heard the truth of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Are you going to do anything with the biblical understanding that you're receiving? Are you changing how you live and removing non-Christian, un-biblical traditions? I hope you'll make a commitment to God for the sake of your future. It's up to you.And, we would be happy to hear from you. We have hundreds of congregations across the United States and around the world.We have qualified pastors and counselors who can help you in your Christian journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Go to BeyondToday.tv - click on the “Contact” tab and find a congregation near you . Call one of our pastors and share your story with us. We're here to help.What does Easter not tell you? It fails to tell you the true path to eternal life through Jesus Christ the Son of God. Easter is based on a false myth of an idea of a man-god who died and rose year after year with no connection to a hope of immortality for mankind. Joining the truth of Christ's resurrection to such a myth turns the truth of God into a lie. Easter with all its traditions is a lie.We challenge you to look into your Bible to see what God tells us about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Instead of keeping a humanly-devised day rooted in myth, why not keep the festival God gives us - a festival that explains the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in its entirety, a festival that explains the victory of life over death.Thanks for watching us today and remember to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today , I'm Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching.[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today's program, go online to BeyondToday.tv . Please join us again next week on Beyond Today !