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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:
Acts 13:26-31 "Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the Word of this Salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath Day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher. But God raised him from the dead: And He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people."
Among the witnesses of Christ were those who were resurrected from the dead at His Resurrection. These witnesses were the "first fruits" (secondary to Christ, Who was The First Fruits) which were presented with Yahshua before the Father's Throne on the Day of First Fruits.
Christians today often have a bit of trouble with the timing of Messiah's Resurrection. We know He was the First Fruits and
that He was presented as such, with those witnesses, before the Father's Throne. But what isn't commonly known is that the Feast of First Fruits actually took place in three stages. Understanding this Scriptural detail helps us find the correct timing of His Resurrection - and it wasn't on Sunday, as most believe!
Let's pause and take a look at Messiah's Resurrection from Scripture, adding in the specific details about First Fruits. As we do this, we'll gain deeper insights into Paul's powerful sermon, debunking a commonly held Christian myth at the same time.
To get the Scriptural backstory and details, see Matthew 27:57-28:20. We've already read this passage in our daily Bible Reading, but now we'll be getting a quick memory refresher. Here are the main points, verse by verse:
- Christ died on Passover-at the precise time of the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb for the nation.
- As the evening is approaching, on the Day of Passover, Joseph of Arimathaea appeared before Pilate to request that he could take the Body of Yahshua down from the cross for burial - Matthew 27:57-58
- Having received permission, Joseph along with Nicodemus took Yahshua's Body down from the cross and buried Him in Joseph's own tomb. Joseph, Nicodemus, and the ladies (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Yahshua, and Salome) were unable to fully prepare Christ's Body for burial, as the sunset was coming and the next day was a Sabbath. They were able to wrap His Body in linen and they had some of the burial spices (aloe, etc) which they used - Matthew 27:59-61, John 19:38-42, Luke 23:50-54
- The next day (the Day after Passover), which was the first Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (an annual Sabbath, which may or may not fall on the Seventh-day Sabbath), a three-day tomb guard was put in place. Also, Messiah's Tomb was sealed with a Roman seal. This was at the request of the Pharisees, who told Pilate that Christ had prophesied He would raise up in three days and three nights (Matthew 12:38-40). The disciples of Christ rested on this Sabbath and could not finish buying spices or anointing His Body until it was finished. It was because the day after Yahshua's Death was a Sabbath (but not the 7th Day Sabbath - as we will soon see) that the Body of Christ had to be buried in haste, before the sun down (Sabbaths all begin at sunset on the previous day) - Matthew 27:62-66
Now, here's the strange part, which doesn't fit with the idea that Passover was on a Friday... The women work with Joseph to remove Messiah's Body and bury it. But they cannot finish because the Sabbath is coming... They wait for the Sabbath to pass... Then they buy spices and prepare them to come and finish preparing Messiah's Body... Then they wait for the Sabbath to pass again (markets in Jerusalem were always closed from sunset to sunset on Sabbaths), so that they can actually come to the Tomb and anoint Him... Also, those tomb guards aren't going to let the women pass... They know this also... So, there were two Sabbaths - not one - in the story of Christ's death. The first Sabbath was the annual Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. The second Sabbath was the Seventh-day Sabbath.
In other words, Yahshua's Body was in the tomb exactly three days and three nights - Matthew 12:38-40 - just as He foretold in the Sign of Jonah. Additionally, it is interesting to notice that the most repeated time-prophecy in all of the Bible is the time-prophecy concerning Christ's Death. Always, it was three days.
Matt.12:38-40 Yahshua foretold that He would be three days plus three nights in the heart of the earth (dead and buried). This was the only sign which He gave to prove His "authenticity" as the true Messiah.
Matt. 17:23 The third day He shall rise again.
Matt. 20:19 The third day He shall rise again.
Mark 9:31 And after He is killed, He shall rise again the third day.
Mark 10:34 They would kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again.
Luke 9:22 He will be raised the third day after being killed.
Luke 18:31-33 The third day He shall rise again.
Luke 24:21 Today is the third day since these things were done.
Luke 24:45-46 He will rise from the dead the third day.
Acts 10:39-40 He raised up the third day.
1 Cor.15:3-4 He was buried and rose again the third day.
Some argue that Jews calculated days by counting partial days. However, it is clear that this wasn't the case in the story of Christ's Death. The Jewish Rabbis who asked for the Roman Tomb-guard specifically requested one for THREE DAYS. And the Roman reckoning of days was three 24 hour periods. This means that the women wouldn't have had access to the Body to finish anointing, even if they had been able to purchase the rest of the spices on Sabbath (which they couldn't).
The following chart outlines the events which took place in the Gospel records - showing the days upon which these events took place. The only way to fit two Sabbaths (one annual and one Seventh-day) and still have only three full days and nights was for Passover to have been on a Wednesday. Interestingly enough, Daniel foretold that Christ would die in the middle of the week (Daniel 9:26-27)!
The Weekly Sabbath
*Preparations were made for the Passover meal in the evening.
*Crucifixion took place in the afternoon.
*Veil rent from top to bottom when Christ died.
*An earthquake occurs .
*Joseph of Arimethea asked for the body of Christ.
*He with Nicodemus prepared the body.
*Christ’s burial at or near sundown.
*Rolled a stone over the tomb entrance.
*The women followed and watched all that happened.
*First day of Unleavened Bread was a High Sabbath.
*Everyone rested to observe the festival.
*No shops could be opened for business.
*Priests fearing the people, appealed to Pilate to secure the tomb through the third day.
*Seal and guard set at the tomb.
*First 24-hours in the tomb.
*Women buy and prepare the spices.
*Preparation for the weekly Sabbath day is also completed.
*Second day of Pilate’s guards watching over the tomb.
*Second 24-hours in the tomb.
*Christ in the tomb for the third 24-hour period ending at sundown.
*Resurrection at sundown. *Earthquake after shocks. Graves previously opened, then release their enlivened saints.
*These risen saints went into the city.
*Christ came from the tomb exactly 72 hours after being placed in the tomb.
As you can see from this chart, and the Gospel Record, Christ actually resurrected on the Seventh-day Sabbath, at the exact time when He had been buried in the tomb (three days and three nights in the tomb). This is clearly shown in the book of Matthew:
In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. (Matthew. 28:1)
We have observed days and nights changing at midnight for all of our lives. It is difficult, for some, impossible, to think in any other reference. To the Hebrew mind, however, a day was made up of “evening and morning,” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13) not morning, noon, and night, as is now regarded in the progression of a day.
The devout Jews in the first century began their days at sunset. They followed the lunisolar calendar in which the first day of a new month began with the sighting of a new crescent moon just after sunset. Calendar modifications had been made since the days of Jeroboam [“Calendar Reform under Jeroboam,” in King, Cult, and Calendar in Ancient Israel, Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1986.] None of the calendar changes altered the evening-morning reckoning, however. The Jews in Christ’s day kept Sabbaths from sundown to sundown, just as they do today.
From evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbaths, Leviticus 23:32.
The word “dawn” in the phrase, “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, “ is found in only two places: Matthew 28:1 and Luke 23:54. The Greek word usage in each of these texts is slightly different from each other. The number in Strong’s Concordance for “dawn” is #2020. The primary meaning of this word is "to draw near". In other words, it can be translated that as the Sabbath was ending, and the first day of the week was drawing near...
In Matthew 28:1, the time that could be spoken of as “In the end of the Sabbath,” would not be connected to “As it began to dawn toward…,” without recognizing the Jewish, and biblical, reckoning of the evening ending a day as the next day began. Indeed, the day always began at sundown. Only through this understanding may we prevent the text from speaking confusion. Certainly, we can see that it would be totally inaccurate to suppose that the Sabbath ended “as” the sun was coming up Sunday morning. We must conclude then, that Matthew 28:1 is referring to those few minutes as the sun is going down Sabbath evening, heralding the beginning of Sunday’s night (The evening and the morning was the first day, Genesis 1:5), reminding ourselves that a biblical day begin at sundown.
So, the women were coming to the Tomb as the Sabbath was ending (just prior to sunset on the Seventh Day)... And they had already missed the Resurrection! This means that Christ had to have raised from the dead before the sunset on the Sabbath.
Since the resurrection timing is cited as the reason for keeping Sunday sacred instead of the Seventh-day Sabbath, this is a huge revelation! Christ didn't resurrect on Sunday at all! The reason people have thought that He did is because they confuse First Fruits. They believe that He had to resurrect on the Day of First Fruits... But First Fruits happened in three stages - all of which took place on different days. Let's look at the three stages of first fruits.
First Fruits Stage 1: On Passover, the high priest would go out and look at the ripening barley grain. The grain which was deemed "abib" (ripe) was marked by draping a cord about it. This first stage of First Fruits did not happen on the Day of First Fruits. It happened on Passover.
First Fruits Stage 2: On the Seventh Day Sabbath, which fell during the Week of Unleavened Bread, the high priest would return to the marked barley. Now it was cut in preparation to be ceremonially "waved" on the Day of First Fruits. The cutting of the grain did not take place on the Day of First Fruits. It happened on Sabbath.
First Fruits Stage 3: On the Day of First Fruits (which was Sunday), the first fruits barley grain was ceremonially waved (presented as an offering) in the Temple. This ceremony took place at 9 AM on the morning of First Fruits. This is the only part of the First Fruits ceremony which actually happened on the Day of First Fruits.
Now let's see how Yahshua actually fulfilled each of these three stages of first fruits, in the story of His Death and Resurrection.
The Gospel of Matthew does not tell of Mary Magdalene’s private encounter with the Saviour in the Garden. This detail is added in the Gospel of John. In John 20:11-18, we find that after having viewed the empty tomb, Mary stood weeping the Garden, confused and in great grief. The Saviour appeared to her there, but at first she mistook Him for the gardener. When she realized Who He was, she clasped His feet and cried for joy. The Saviour spoke gently to her, instructing her not to touch Him, which is better translated as, “Please do not detain Me.” For He had not yet ascended to His Father. Yahshua was waiting for the precise moment of the offering of First Fruits to gather the resurrected saints and ascend to the Throne of God.
And now we see the three powerful stages of First Fruits reaching it’s final conclusion.
First Fruits Stage 1: The first stage of First Fruits took place on Passover. This was the time when the First Fruits barley was marked. The barley grain represented people- saved people, who were to be the First Fruits of those taken to Heaven.
As it says in Matthew 27:50-52, “Yahshua, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened.”
But, the Bible says clearly that no one came out of those marked graves until just after the Saviour was resurrected. Thus, the marking of the "barley" grain was the opening of the graves, which happened with the earthquake on Passover, at the precise moment when Messiah died.
First Fruits Stage 2: The second stage of First Fruits took place on Sabbath just before sunset. This was the time when the First Fruits barley was cut. Just before the sun set, the Saviour arose from the tomb. Immediately after this, the sleeping saints were raised from those marked graves, as the First Fruits of the final harvest of saints to be raised on the Great Day of Christ's Return.
As it says in Matthew 27:53-54, “…and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Yahshua, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.”
Think about it, if the Resurrection actually happened on First Fruits, the resurrected saints would have been instantly taken to Heaven (at the time of the "waving of the grain"). But there was time between the resurrection and the presentation of the First Fruits grain - time in which to witness!
First Fruits Stage 3: The third stage of First Fruits took place on Sunday morning at 9 AM. This was the time when the First Fruits barley was waved in presentation to God. This was the moment when Yahshua ascended to His Father and His sacrifice was accepted. Because of His accepted Sacrifice, the resurrected saints were accepted into Heaven.
The Psalmist portrayed this exciting First Fruits procession in Psalm 24:7-10
“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.”
Many confuse the time of the Resurrection with the time of waving the First Fruits grain. But, the Bible tells us that the resurrected saints had time to witness in the city and the women had time to encounter the Saviour before He ascended. None of this could have happened if the Resurrection was at the same time as the First Fruits grain presentation.
The Resurrection didn’t happen on First Fruits, this was First Fruits stage 2 – the cutting of the grain. But, the DAY of First Fruits, was the day when the grain was waved. Clarity in the order of events comes by looking at the whole Gospel account, and by studying the shadow picture of the rehearsal for First Fruits.
And with that understanding, we have gained some vital backstory behind Paul's powerful sermon - and have quietly nuked the whole basis for Sunday sacredness... (no offense intended).