Easter vs. the Passover

Acts 12:4 - 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.


I.    The context of our text indicates the celebration of Passover shortly after the resurrection of Christ (approximately 10 years).

A.     But this celebration is not Easter as we know it, but the Passover, as known to the Jewish people. 

1.       Note the parenthetical expression in verse 3, …(then were the days of unleavened bread)… 

2.       This parenthetical expression established the time of this persecution by Herod. 

B.     The word translated “Easter” is from the Greek word which means Passover. 

1.       According to verse 1, Herod is persecuting some of the church (believers).  

2.       Notice, the death of James, the brother of John, pleased the Jews (unbelievers), therefore Herod also put Peter into prison with the intention of killing him after Passover. 

3.       It would be anti-typical to kill believers during this period, which for the Jews was a time of deliverance, symbolic of their deliverance from Egypt. 

4.       The continuance of persecution against the church would further please the (unbelieving) Jews. 

C.     There is no other scriptural reference to Easter found in the entire Bible that may be used to prove the scriptural celebration of this pagan holiday. 

D.     Does the following sound familiar?—Spring is in the air! Flowers and bunnies decorate the home. Father helps the children paint beautiful designs on eggs dyed in various colors. These eggs, which will later be hidden and searched for, are placed into lovely, seasonal baskets. The wonderful aroma of the hot cross buns mother is baking in the oven waft through the house. Forty days of abstaining from special foods will finally end the next day. The whole family picks out their Sunday best to wear to the next morning’s sunrise worship service to celebrate the savior’s resurrection and the renewal of life. Everyone looks forward to a succulent ham with all the trimmings. It will be a thrilling day. After all, it is one of the most important religious holidays of the year. 

E.      Easter, right? No! This is a description of an ancient Babylonian family—2,000 years before Christ—honoring the resurrection of their god, Tammuz, who was brought back from the underworld by his mother/wife, Ishtar (after whom the festival was named). As Ishtar was actually pronounced “Easter” in most Semitic dialects, it could be said that the event portrayed here is, in a sense, Easter.

1.       Of course, the occasion could easily have been a Phrygian family honoring Attis and Cybele,

2.       or perhaps a Phoenician family worshipping Adonis and Astarte.

3.       Also fitting the description well would be a heretic Israelite family honoring the Canaanite Baal and Ashtoreth.

4.       Or this depiction could just as easily represent any number of other immoral, pagan fertility celebrations of death and resurrection—including the modern Easter celebration as it has come to us through the Anglo-Saxon fertility rites of the goddess Eostre or Ostara. These are all the same festivals, separated only by time and culture.


II.    Is there any Biblical date that associates Easter with a particular date?  - Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread. 

A.     Where would you go to discover the date of Easter? – some secular literature.  Why does the date of Easter change each year? 

1.       Where would you go to discover the date of the Passover?  - The Bible.  God put the time to observe the Passover into the Bible many times, so we can understand exactly the time of the Passover. 

2.       Passover 2009 begins at sundown on Wednesday, April 8. Passover lasts for seven days in Israel and eight days in the rest of the world (seven days for Reform Jews).

B.     Scriptures revealing the date of the Passover. 

1.       Exodus 12:6  And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. 

2.       Exodus 12:18  In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even. 

3.       Leviticus 23:5  In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. 

4.       Numbers 9:3  In the fourteenth day of this month, at even, ye shall keep it in his appointed season: according to all the rites of it, and according to all the ceremonies thereof, shall ye keep it. 

5.       Numbers 9:5  And they kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month at even in the wilderness of Sinai: according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. 

6.       Numbers 9:11  The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 

7.       Numbers 28:16  And in the fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the LORD. 

8.       Joshua 5:10  And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. 

9.       II Chronicles 30:15  Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. 

10.   II Chronicles 35:1  Moreover Josiah kept a passover unto the LORD in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 

11.   Ezra 6:19  And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month. 

12.   Ezekiel 45:21  In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. 


III.    There is no way Christ could have died on Good Friday and been raised from the dead on Sunday morning and been in the grave three days and three nights.  Friday and Saturday nights, then Saturday is not the same as three days and three nights. 


IV.    Not believing in Easter does not mean we do not believe in the resurrection of Christ. 

A.     I Corinthians 15:1-4 – The resurrection of Christ is a vital part of the gospel, which brings salvation to all who will receive it. 

1.       The resurrection of Christ sets Christ apart from all other religions, all of which are false. 

2.       Romans 4:23-25 – Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; 24 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; 25 Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. 

3.       Romans 6:9 – Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.  Sin does not have dominion over believers because of the resurrection of Christ.