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Easter, Firstfruits, and the Roman Catholic Church

by Randy Nettles


In the book of Leviticus, the Lord spoke to Moses regarding the 7 annual Feasts of the Lord that the children of Israel were to observe when they entered the Promised Land. The 3rd Feast is known as the Feast of Firstfruits. The Lord told Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Leviticus 23:10).

Although it’s not obvious from this passage in Leviticus, the Lord was referring to the Sabbath (Saturday) that comes after the Passover, which is the 1st Feast of the Lord. Passover always occurs on the 14th day of the first month of Nisan (Leviticus 23:5) and can fall on different days of the week. The Feast of Firstfruits is always on the first Sunday following Passover. The 2nd Feast of the Lord, Unleavened Bread starts the day after Passover on the 15th of Nisan (Leviticus 23:6) and lasts for 7 days. Firstfruits occurs within the 7 days (Nisan 15-21) of Unleavened Bread.

Manna From Heaven and The Historical Fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits

Throughout the 40 years that Israel wandered in the desert, God provided supernatural food, manna (a wafer-like bread substance) to feed the growing nation. The Bible records that after these 40 years, Joshua and the Hebrew people crossed over the Jordan River on the 10th day of the first month (Abib or Nisan) and kept the Passover on the 14th day of Nisan. The next day, on the 15th of Nisan, the Jews ate of the old corn of the land. The next day, the 16th day of Nisan, was the last day in which God provided the supernatural manna as food. The day following was the 17th day of Nisan, the Feast of Firstfruits, and with no more manna available, the people began to eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year – the firstfruits of the Promised Land (Joshua 5:10-12). This historical event for the nation and people of Israel was the prototype for the ultimate fulfillment of Firstfruits by Jesus Himself.

The True Manna from Heaven and the Spiritual Fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits

Jesus spoke of this manna in the 6th chapter of John, where he described it as “bread from heaven”. The subject was brought up after the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 men (not including women and children) when Jesus graciously translated 5 loaves of bread and 2 small fish (total of 7 food items) into enough food to feed the huge crowd that had gathered to hear him teach. The next day, the people sought him out again and Jesus told them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6: 26-27).

The people then asked Jesus “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?” They believed their salvation depended on works. Jesus responded with some of the greatest words of truth ever spoken, “This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). The people didn’t understand this truth and asked him to perform a sign (as Jews do) so they could see it and then believe in him. “Therefore they said to Him, What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6:30-31).

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33). The people then asked Jesus to give them this bread. Jesus then explained to them the mystery of how to acquire this bread for themselves. And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

He then explained to them the difference between the two manna from heaven. “This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:50-51). The Jews could not understand this symbolism and wondered how could this man give his flesh for them to eat.

Jesus then taught about salvation and the resurrection for those who would believe in Him. “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54). This resurrection of the dead ‘in Christ” began on the Feast of the Lord, known as Firstfruits, when Jesus and many Old Testament saints were raised from the dead. This supernatural event/sign is known as Resurrection Sunday (now called Easter). “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that died”- 1 Corinthians 15:20. The second stage of the resurrection of the dead in Christ will occur at the Rapture. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the Feast of Firstfruits.

Calendars of the Past and Present

Before we review dates and years for historical events of the Bible, we need to briefly look at a few calendars that have been used throughout history.

The Jewish calendar was mostly a lunar/solar calendar. The calendar year always started on the first day of the first month when the crescent moon was first sighted in early spring. Periodically (every 2 or 3 years) a leap month of 30 days would be added so it would align with the solar calendar and the Feast days would occur in their appropriate seasons. In ancient times, this intercalary month was added by direct observation of the conditions of the weather, crops, and livestock. If these were not advanced enough to be considered “spring”, then the religious leaders would add an extra month into the calendar at the end of the year. This would accomplish the Torah’s rule that the Passover should always occur in the spring.

The ancient Hebrews could look up into the sky at the moon and confirm when certain Feasts of the Lord were to occur in alignment with the seasons. For example, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred during the first full moon of spring, unless an intercalary month was added and then it would occur on the second full moon of spring. The Feast of Trumpets was celebrated during the new moon of fall and the Feast of Tabernacles occurred during the full moon of fall. In the 12th century, the calculation of the beginning of a new calendar month by actual sightings of the crescent moon had been fully replaced by the mathematical approximation of the moment the crescent moon begins to appear (Molad) rather than actual sightings. This calendar, with its leap years, is still in use today for religious convocations.

During the time of Jesus, the three spring Feasts of the Lord were basically merged into one Feast. Nisan 14 was called Preparation Day (as mentioned in the Gospels) and Nisan 15-21 was referred to as the Feast of Passover. Of course, according to the Bible, Nissan 15-21 is the 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of Firstfruits was merely incorporated into Passover. Even today, the Jews start their Passover on Nisan 15. This year they say Passover begins on March 27, 2021, and ends on Sunday, April 4, 2021.

The Roman calendar was one of the first calendars used throughout the Roman Empire and the Middle East. It was derived from many older calendar systems which were lunar calendars that followed the phases of the moon. This calendar was not very accurate and had to be revised constantly.

The Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC (or BCE) and replaced the Roman calendar in 46 BC. This was a solar calendar based entirely on Earth’s revolutions around the sun. The Julian calendar has 365 days and 12 months. The Julian calendar used a leap year every 4 years. The yearly calendar averaged 365.25 days per year. Eventually, the calendar and religious holidays like Easter were slowly getting out of sync with the equinoxes and solstices.

In AD525, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor introduced the A.D./Anno Domini (Latin for in the year of our lord) system for reckoning of years, counting the years since the birth of Christ. He set the date at A.D.1, but was off by about 5 years, as Jesus’ birth was in either 4 BC or 5 BC. The addition of the B.C./Before Christ component came two centuries after Dionysius, by the Venerable Bede of Northumbria in AD 731. Bede was not aware of the number 0, so he used 1 BC as the year before A.D. 1.

The B.C/A.D. system gained in popularity in the 9th century during the Holy Roman Empire. Emperor Charlemagne adopted the system for dating activities and events throughout Europe. By the 15th century, all of Western Europe had adopted the system. This dating method was an integral part of the Gregorian calendar when it was introduced in the 16th century.

The Gregorian calendar replaced the Julian calendar for it was more efficient and kept the religious holidays in sync with the equinoxes and solstices. This calendar also has a leap day added every fourth year but skips some pre-determined years and averages 365.2425 days per year. The Gregorian calendar is the internationally accepted civil calendar in use today. It is also known as the Western or Christian calendar. Pope Gregory XIII introduced this calendar in 1582 and was accepted by Spain, Portugal, and Italy. It took almost 200 years before England and the colonies (later America) accepted it as their official calendar in 1752. Orthodox countries still have not adopted our modern-day Gregorian calendar and still use the Julian calendar.

The Dates for the Two Fulfillments of the Feast of Firstfruits

Passover always occurs on a specific date and season. The date for this Feast is Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar. The first full moon of spring is called the Paschal moon. Nisan 14 -16 is always the time of the full moon of spring, be it the Paschal moon or the second full moon of spring (during a leap year). According to NASA records that track the phases of the moon, the Paschal moon occurred on April 3, AD 33 on the Julian calendar, which was Nisan 15th on the Jewish calendar. Likewise, the Paschal moon occurred on April 4, 1406 BC on the Julian calendar, which was Nisan 15 on the Jewish calendar. This is significant in the fact that these two great events in history occurred during the Paschal full moon and not during the second full moon of spring.

Jesus was resurrected from the dead on Sunday, Nisan 17, AD 33 on the Jewish calendar (April 5th on the Julian Calendar) during the Feast of Firstfruits. If the Gregorian calendar had been in effect at this time the date would have been April 3, AD 33. Joshua and the Israelites celebrated the Feast of Firstfruits on Nisan 17, 1406 BC on the Jewish calendar, when they finally entered the Promised Land. If the Julian Calendar had been in use at that time the date would have been April 4, 1406 BC. Likewise, the date would have been March 22, 1406 BC on the Gregorian calendar.

The History of the Anniversary of Resurrection Sunday and/or Easter

After the death of Jesus, early Christian followers celebrated the Resurrection on the same date as the Jewish Passover, which fell around Nisan 14 in March or April. Some others instead preferred to hold the festival on a Sunday, since that was the day of the week Jesus’ tomb was found empty.

“The date of the Resurrection became a major controversy in the early church. The first discussion of when to observe the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection occurred in AD 150 when Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna and a disciple of the apostle John, visited the bishop of Rome. Christians of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey} wanted the Lord’s Supper on the same day as the Jewish Passover with Easter being celebrated two days later, regardless of the day of the week. On the other hand, the Roman church believed that Easter should always fall on Sunday. Twenty years later, the same argument broke out in Laodicea. The controversy came to a head throughout the Christian world between AD 190 and 194 and was the subject of discussion at many synods.

In AD 325, the Roman emperor Constantine, who was a new convert to Christianity (supposedly), organized a meeting of Christian leaders called the Council of Nicea to resolve important disputes regarding Christ. One important decision (and a rare correct one) was about the status of Christ. The council recognized Jesus as “fully human and fully divine”. The other important issue to be resolved at the council was to set the date for the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection. The Eastern bishops of Asia Minor favored the date should be as Leviticus described the Passover and F.O.F. since many of them were of Jewish origin, and since the Gospels had placed Resurrection Morning a few days after Passover” {1}

“The Western bishops of Rome, being mostly Gentile, favored a date closer to the beginning of spring because there were already a number of pagan festivals held during that time and a religious holiday would fit right in. Perhaps this is when the Western church began referring to Resurrection Morning as Easter Sunday, after the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar. The Feast of Ishtar was always celebrated at the beginning of spring and involved eggs and rabbits and other signs of fertility. Even today, you can see how elements of the two have been merged together.

Eventually (due in part to their view that since the Jews had rejected Christ, Jewish traditions shouldn’t be used in selecting the date for Easter), the Western Church (Roman Catholic Church) settled on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or just after the vernal (spring) equinox. If the Paschal full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is celebrated on the following Sunday. Soon Easter Sunday became disconnected from Passover by as much as several weeks.

The adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752 (by England and the American colonies) did nothing to correct this disconnect, and since the Easter or Orthodox Church stuck with the earlier Julian calendar, we now have two dates for Easter in most years” {2}

The Apostasy of the Roman Catholic Church

There have been many articles and books regarding the apostasy and sacrilegious beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, including Terry James and other writers for Rapture Ready, so I will not spend too much time on this subject. Dave Hunt wrote an excellent book on this topic called “The Woman Rides the Beast”, in which he recounts the false teachings of the Catholic Church including Purgatory, worship of Mary, the Pope being the head of the church and has the authority of Christ, priests being called Father, the belief that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation, the forgiveness of sins and salvation is by faith plus works, and others.

Although these are very serious errors of doctrine and are not taught in the Bible, I believe some of the worst errors are in the dates that the Church leaders assigned for the life and death of Jesus Christ. Here are some of the most egregious ones, in my opinion:

  1. As I mentioned earlier, Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor, introduced the A.D. (Anno Domini) system, counting the years since the birth of Christ. He set the date at A.D.1, but was off by about 5 years, as Jesus’ birth was in 5 BC. If this system of reckoning years is off by 5 years, that means our current year of AD 2021 should really be AD 2026. That is quite a mistake when you think about all the dates given to specific events throughout the history of civilization.

  2. The Catholic Church chose December 25th as the date Jesus was born. There were different reasons for this but none of them were good ones. The Church now claims this might not be the actual date of his birth, but everyone still uses it. We know, according to Luke 2:8-20, there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock at night, when angels appeared unto them and proclaimed the birth of the Messiah. The shepherds would not have been outside at night with their sheep during late December as it would be the wrong season for that to occur. Late December gets very cold in Israel. However, it is possible that December 25th could have been when Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and 9 months later born on the Feast of Tabernacles (Tishri 15-21). “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Greek word for “dwelt” is tabernacled.

  3. The Catholic Church believed Jesus was crucified in AD 30. Some believe it was AD 32. Either way, both years are wrong. The correct year for Jesus’ death was AD 33. For evidence see In the Midst, Part IV: Return of the King:: By Randy Nettles - Rapture Ready

  4. The Catholic Church has always taught Jesus was crucified on a Friday (Good Friday). How can you get 3 days and 3 nights from Friday to Resurrection Sunday? The math does not add up; it never has. Jesus was crucified on a Thursday. For proof, see: Solving the Three Day Three Night Mystery – Grace thru faith

  5. Jesus was a Jew that observed the Feasts of the Lord and the statutes and commandments of God. He was crucified on the Feast of Passover, placed in the tomb before the Feast of Unleavened Bread began, and stayed there for three of those days. He and was raised from the dead on the day of the Feast of Firstfruits. The Roman Catholic Church named resurrection day Easter, after Pagan gods. I believe it should be called Firstfruits or Resurrection Day. Since Jesus was a Jew that observed (and fulfilled) the Law of Moses and fulfilled these 3 spring Feasts of the Lord by his death and resurrection, their anniversaries should be observed as the Bible declares. Instead, the Church makes Easter a strictly lunar holiday and not a Biblical one. The Church has mandated that Easter will be observed on the first Sunday following the Paschal moon after the vernal equinox. However, if the Paschal moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter is delayed a week, as it does this year in 2021. Easter should be observed on the date of Firstfruits as determined by Leviticus 23:10, on the day after the Sabbath (Saturday) after Passover (Nisan 14) on the Jewish calendar. This rule should apply whether or not Passover occurs on the first or the second full moon of spring. Easter is Firstfruits and Jesus is the Firstfruits. The last 7 days of Jesus’ life is called Holy Week. Holy Week should be in chronological order. Palm Sunday should come first (as it occurred 4 days before Passover), followed by Passover (Jesus’s crucifixion, now called Good Friday by the Church), and last, but certainly not least, the Feast of Firstfruits (now called Easter by the Church).

To show you how messed up the dating method has become for Holy week, take a look at the schedule for 2021. The Jewish Passover (now celebrated by the Jews on Nisan 15 instead of Nisan 14) begins on Saturday, March 27th at sunset. Palm Sunday is observed by the Church the next day on Sunday, March 28th. March 28th is also the date for the 100% Paschal moon. Good Friday (should be called Good Thursday) comes on April 2nd. Easter comes on Sunday, April 4th, and is also the date for the end of the Jews seven days of Passover. The moon will be at third quarter (half-moon) stage on this date. This year Passover occurs before Palm Sunday. How weird is that? Some years Passover and Easter actually occur a month apart. Of course, in the year of Jesus’ crucifixion, there were only 3 days between the two events. There should never be more than 7 days between them.

According to the Bible, the Passover should take place on Nisan 14. This year Nisan 14 will be on Friday, March 26, 2021. The first day after the Sabbath/Saturday is Sunday, March 28, 2021. This should be the actual date for Easter, in my opinion. Instead, we will be celebrating Easter a week later than we should. This means Biblical Pentecost (7 weeks or 49 days after the Feast of Firstfruits) will come a week later than it should as well. Of course, the Jews have done away with this dating method and celebrate Pentecost/Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on Sivan 6th. Why we, as Christians, don’t celebrate and observe Pentecost, the birth of the true church, I’ll never understand; but that is an article for another time.

Regardless, have a happy “Easter” and remember to celebrate the ultimate victory the Lord Jesus Christ had over death, the devil, and the grave on Resurrection Sunday. As Christians, you might even want to celebrate both dates, as Jesus’ resurrection is of double importance to us. Jesus’ victory over death is our victory as well, if we simply do the work of God, and believe on Him whom He has sent. Jesus brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). “That through death He (Jesus) might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).

Amen, even so Come (again) Lord Jesus.

Randy Nettles

nettlesr@suddenlink.net

Endnotes:

{1} How the Easter Date Is Determined? (timeanddate.com)

{2} The Feast of First Fruits – Grace thru faith

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