One of the greatest evidences that Jesus is the promised Messiah, God Himself in the flesh, is the prophecies of the Old Testament. These prophecies declare in unmistakable language exactly who Jesus is and what His mission would be.
One of the largest, most comprehensive and detailed prophecies in the Bible compose much of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is the Sanctuary service itself, a vast prophecy of Christ presented in types and symbols that was acted out by the priests of Israel.
Now let me illustrate this for you using the Passover and its associated feasts and ceremonial Sabbaths as an example. The entire Passover festival was in effect a Passion Play - a prophetic foreshadowing of Christ’s death, as it is written; “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Let’s start with a general overview of the Passover itself.
The observance of the Passover began with the birth of the Hebrew nation. On that last night of their Egyptian bondage, God commanded them to prepare for an immediate release. He had warned Pharaoh of the final judgment, and he directed the Hebrews to gather within their homes. Having sprinkled the doorposts of their homes with the blood of the lamb, symbolic of the blood of Christ, ”the Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 36), they ate the lamb, roasted, with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
Exodus 12:11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover.
That midnight all the firstborn of Egypt died. Then, as it is written in Exodus 13:31, the king sent to Israel the message; “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.” (Exodus 12:31).
The Passover was the opening feast of the yearly round of religious services. It was both commemorative and symbolic; not only pointing back to the deliverance from Egypt, but also forward to the far greater deliverance which Christ was to accomplish for us, freeing us not merely from the bondage of Egypt, but from the far more terrible bondage of sin.
The sacrificial lamb represented none other than Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus the apostle Paul was moved to write; “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
It was not enough that the Passover lamb was slain, but its blood had to be applied to the door posts of the home. Likewise, it is not enough that Christ died for our sins, but his cleansing blood must be applied to our own hearts. We must be cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, by the blood of Christ.
The Passover lamb was to be prepared whole. Not a bone of it was to be broken. Prophetic of the fact that as Christ was sacrificed for us, as he died on the cross, not one of his bones would be broken. This wholeness was also representative of the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
The flesh was to be eaten, nothing being left for morning; signifying the fact that it a mere profession of belief is insufficient; (many will say Lord, Lord in the last days), we must also be constantly receiving spiritual strength and nourishment from him through his word. Jesus said: “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 6:53-4). And to explain his meaning he said; “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63).
The Passover lamb was to be eaten with bitter herbs, commemorating the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt, and also symbolic of the bitter fruits of sin - the sins that Jesus bore for us on the cross.
It was expressly commanded in the Passover law that no leaven was to be found in the houses during the feast, symbolic of the fact that we must all remove the leaven of sin from our lives. And so we find the apostle Paul writing to the Corinthian church; “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore 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.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).
And just as the Passover lamb has for centuries been taken from the flock a few days before it was to be slain, and set apart from the other lambs, a lamb marked for death; even so a few days before Jesus was to be crucified, the Sanhedrin marked him for death.
John 11:53-54 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
Jesus was seized at night by the cruel mob and condemned by false witnesses. The following morning they took him to Pilate, and Jesus was brought into the Roman judgment hall. But the Jews, the Bible says; “went not into the judgment hall, lest they should be defiled; but that they might eat the passover.” (John 18:28).
Jesus had already celebrated the Passover with his disciples a day early, because, according to the Passover law, the Passover lamb was to be slain the evening of the 14 day of the month of Abib. And in the year that our Lord was crucified, in the year that Jesus our Passover was sacrificed for us, that day, the 14th of Abib fell upon a Friday, for the Scriptures are very clear that the following day was the Sabbath day according to the Commandment. The 7th day of the week. (Luke 23:52-56).
It was not by chance that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the 6th day of the week. For 1500 years God had ordained in Leviticus 23:6-7 that the day following the Passover was to be kept as a ceremonial Sabbath, thus signifying the fact that Jesus, the real Passover, would be offered the day before the Sabbath.
There was also an appointed time when the Passover lamb was to be slain. It was to be killed in the evening. (Exodus 12:6). Jesus our Passover, as he hung on the cross, an offering for sinful man, about the ninth hour the Bible says, cried “It is finished,” and died, an offering for our sins. At this very hour the Bible tells, when the priests would have been preparing to slay the Passover lamb, suddenly there was an earthquake, thundering, and lightning, and most notably of all, “the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” (Matthew 27:51).
The shadow had met it substance. Christ our Passover, the true Lamb of God was slain. The symbol had met with reality. Do you see? Do you understand? The entire Passover service, far more than being a simple memorial of their deliverance from Egypt, was an acted prophecy. The Passover service was nothing less than a passion play. Every year for 1500 years the Jews acted out in this service the events of the crucifixion. The whole service was a prophecy. The whole Passover service was in effect a Passion Play.
While the Passover lamb they slew each year was a shadow of Christ our Passover, the very fact that the Passover lamb could only be slain on the 14th day of the month of Abid was a prophecy that Jesus, the true Passover Lamb would give up his life for us on that very day, and not only on that very day, but also (as we have seen) at the very time of day prophesied in the service.
The one unanswerable argument that Jesus is the Messiah is that he died on the cross the very day, the very time of day, that God had said the Passover lamb was to be slain.
It is God himself who fixed the dates for the celebration of each of the 7 annual feasts. The entire system of sacrifices, offerings, and rituals, are a series of acted prophecies of the gospel.
And there is more. The day following the 14the day of Abib, whatever day of the week that happened to fall on, was a ceremonial Sabbath day. Thus it was not by chance that in the year that Jesus died, the Passover came on a Friday, the day before the7th day Sabbath. Neither was it by chance that the ceremonial Sabbath, the 15th day of the month of Abib, came that year on the 7th day Sabbath of the Lord. It was symbol meeting reality. Shadow meeting substance.
The apostle John says; “That Sabbath was a high day.” (John 19:31). A high day? This is what they called it when a ceremonial Sabbath chanced to fall on the 7th day Sabbath.
Four thousand years earlier, when God had finished the work of creation, he pronounced the finished work very good. And Jesus is none other than our Creator. On that day when Jesus had finished the work of creation and pronounced it very good, the Bible says; “he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” (Genesis 2:2).
It was a mighty work to speak the world into existence, and it is no lesser work to take a people sunken in sin and recreated in them the image of God. When Jesus died on Calvary, crying out “It is finished,” the work of redemption was completed on that Friday, the 6th day of the week, and just as he rested after the work of creation, Jesus rested in the grave all through the sacred hours of that holy Sabbath day.
And there is more. Very early in the morning on the day following the ceremonial Sabbath the priest brought a very special offering and a special service took place. Do you know what it was called? The 14th day of the month of Abib was the day the Passover lamb was killed. The 15th day was a ceremonial Sabbath. And the day after the ceremonial Sabbath, the 16th day of Abib, the first fruits were waved before the Lord. Here is the resurrection in types and symbols and shadows.
1 Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
And there is more. After fifty days there was to be another ceremonial Sabbath (see Leviticus 23: 15-21) after which the harvest was to begin. (Leviticus 23:22). This was the day of Pentecost, the beginning of the harvest of souls into the Church, the disciples being the reapers.