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Why does the Church of God keep the annual Passover one day earlier than the Jews?

It is indeed correct that the Church of God keeps the Passover one day earlier than the Jews do today. The reason is that based on the Bible, the Jews keep the Passover one day too late.

This year, the Church of God keeps the annual Passover on Sunday evening, March 28, after sunset. However, the Jews keep the Passover, beginning on Monday evening, March 29, after sunset. As we said, they keep it one day too late. They keep the Passover when the Bible commands to keep the “Night to Be Much Observed”–two totally different and separate occasions.

Please notice our comments in our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days”:

“Today’s Jewish community is totally confused about the distinction between the Passover night and the Night to Be Much Observed. In fact, they keep the PASSOVER at the END of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th day [of the first Hebrew month of Nisan or Abib, according to the Hebrew calendar], TOGETHER WITH the Night to Be Much Observed, as if the two events were one and the same. But this is not according to Scripture. These are two separate events that are to be observed at two separate times… Scripture commands that the Passover is to be observed at the BEGINNING of the 14th day, while the Night to Be Much Observed is to be kept at the beginning of the 15th day—one entire day LATER! God said that at the END of the 14th day (or the beginning of the 15th day) unleavened bread is to be eaten until the END of the 21st day—that is, for seven days (Exodus 12:18).

“… the answer to the question of why the Church of God does NOT keep the Passover at the same time as the Jews, is simply because the Jews do NOT keep the Passover on the day as instructed in Scripture. The Church of God follows the example of Jesus Christ. Jesus and the apostles kept the Passover on the evening when Christ was betrayed (which would be [at the beginning of] Abib or Nisan 14)… this was one day earlier than the Jews keep it today. The Jews actually keep the first Day of Unleavened Bread (on Abib or Nisan 15), also called the ‘Night to Be Much Observed,’ AS the Passover, confusing the two occasions, by treating them as one and the same, and failing to see the distinction between the two…

“Although the Passover is at times referred to as a feast day (compare Leviticus 23:4–5), the Bible distinguishes between the day of Passover (on Nisan or Abib 14) and the seven Days of Unleavened Bread (on Nisan or Abib 15–21)…

“We find that Christ and His disciples kept the Passover on Nisan or Abib 14. At that time, the Passover was sometimes included in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but… the entire time was then counted as lasting eight days, not only seven (compare Matthew 26:17–20; Mark 14:12–18; Luke 22:1, 7–16). However, the distinction between the Passover evening and the seven Days of Unleavened Bread was still clearly understood (compare Mark 14:1–2).

“When the New Testament speaks of the FEAST during the spring season, it refers to the first Day of Unleavened Bread, not the Passover evening (compare John 13:1). During the Passover evening, Christ told His betrayer, Judas, to ‘do quickly’ what he had planned to do (John 13:27). Judas left the house, and the disciples thought that Jesus had asked him to buy those things they needed for the FEAST (compare John 13:29)—that is, the first Day of Unleavened Bread, which would start at sunset on Nisan 15—more than 20 hours later…

“The evidence that the Passover was, and still is, to be kept at the BEGINNING of Nisan or Abib 14, not at the end, is overwhelming. Christ and His disciples… kept the PASSOVER at the BEGINNING of the 14th, and they should have known when to keep it. Further, the death angel went through Egypt on the night of the 14th, not the 15th, and that event is called Passover because the death angel passed over the Israelites when he saw the blood at the doors of their houses (Exodus 12:27). ‘Passover’ [and this has to include the actual event of the death angel’s PASSING OVER the Israelites] was on the 14th—not the 15th (Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16). Also, the Israelites were not to leave their houses during the Passover NIGHT until morning (Exodus 12:22), yet we read that they left Egypt by night (Deuteronomy 16:1). Since it could not have been the night of Nisan 14, it had to be the next night—Nisan 15.”

To elaborate on this, it is clear from Scripture and virtually undisputed that Jesus and His twelve apostles kept the PASSOVER during the week of Christ’s death AT THE BEGINNING of the 14th day of Nisan–not at the beginning of the 15th day of Nisan (compare Matthew 26:1-2, 17-20; Luke 22:1, 7-16.) It is also clear that already during Jesus’ time, some of the Jews kept the Passover one day too late (compare John 18:28). That is one of the reasons why it was called the “Passover of the Jews” (John 11:55)–not anymore “the Passover of the LORD” or the “LORD’s Passover” (Leviticus 23:5). However, we learn from history that the Samaritans kept the Passover at the right time–at the beginning of the 14th day of Nisan–when Jesus and the disciples kept it.

George Carlow wrote in “A Defense of the Sabbath,” ed. 1847, on page 108: “[The Jews] kept the Passover on the wrong day… If you say that the Jews kept the right day, you must say that Jesus kept the wrong day.”

But Jesus kept it on the right day–He was the One who instituted it in the Old Testament. He had told the disciples to prepare the Passover for Him, and when the evening had come, He said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). None of the disciples asked Him: “Why do we keep it one day too early?” They KNEW when the Passover was, as they had kept it with Jesus before–at the beginning of the 14th day of Nisan–not at the beginning of the 15th.

The Israelites left Egypt by night (Deuteronomy 16:1). But this could not have been during the Passover night, when the lamb was eaten and the death angel went through Egypt, as they were forbidden to leave their houses until morning (Exodus 12:22), and they were to burn in the morning what remained of the lamb (Exodus 12:10). The Bible is very clear that “night” and “morning” are opposites–NOWHERE does the Bible say that “morning” could be part of the “night” (compare Numbers 9:15-16; Deuteronomy 28:66-67; Joshua 8:9-10; 1 Samuel 15:10-12).

The Passover was to be slain “at twilight, at the going down of the sun” (Deuteronomy 16:5-6). But they left Egypt one day later, “on the fifteenth day of the month; on the day AFTER the Passover” (Numbers 33:3). Since they left Egypt by night (compare again Deuteronomy 16:1), it had to be the night AFTER the Passover, at the beginning of the 15th day–it could not have been during the night of the 14th day, as they were forbidden to leave their houses until morning.

AFTER the Passover night and DURING the daylight portion of the Passover DAY, they received from the Egyptians articles of silver and gold. Notice Exodus 12:35: “And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses, and they borrowed [better: asked, demanded, required] of the Egyptians jewels of silver; and jewels of gold, and raiment” (Authorized Version. Some say, “had borrowed,” but this is an incorrect rendering). God had preordained that this would happen (Exodus 3:22). Subsequently, they left Egypt in the NIGHT of the First Day of Unleavened Bread–one full day AFTER the Passover.

We also read that the Passover lamb was to be slain “at twilight” on the 14th day of Nisan (Exodus 12:6). The Hebrew for “at twilight” is “ben ha arbayim” or “beyn haarbayim,” and means, literally, “between the two evenings.” Many commentators are confused on this phrase and conclude that it refers to the time between afternoon and sunset. This is wrong. Rather, the phrase refers to the time between sunset and dark (compare Moffat and the annotation of the German Menge Bible) or between sunset and complete darkness (compare the Imperial Bible Dictionary). The Revised English Bible says that it means, “between dusk and dark.”

Remember that the Passover had to be slain on the 14th day of Nisan, “at twilight, at the going down of the sun.” Since days begin and end with sunset, according to the Hebrew calendar, this had to happen AT THE BEGINNING of the 14th day, in order to be a PART of the 14th day. If it had occurred at the end of the 14th day, as the Jews believe, than in actuality, it would have occurred AFTER the 14th day had ended (after sunset, before nightfall); that is, at the beginning of the 15th day, after sunset. But the Bible says, it occurred on the 14th day; that is, “BETWEEN the two evenings”; i.e., AFTER sunset, but before nightfall.

The biblical evidence from both the Old and the New Testament shows overwhelmingly that the Passover was to be and must be kept at the beginning of the 14th day of Nisan–not at the end of the day. Consequently, this year, it is to be observed in the evening of March 28, after sunset. Those who keep it at the beginning of the 15th day (e.g., on March 29) do not keep the “Passover of the LORD,” nor do they follow Christ’s example as to when to keep it (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link