"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" God's Powerful Word (4:12-13) by Mark Copeland


God's Powerful Word (4:12-13)


1. In He 4:11, we find a succinct summary of all that has been said
   in He 3:7-4:10...
   a. We need to be diligent to enter "the rest that remains", our 
      heavenly rest
   b. Or we may fall short of our rest, just as many Israelites fell 
      short of their Canaan rest...

   "Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone
   fall according to the same example of disobedience." - He 4:11

2. To stress the need for diligence, we are reminded regarding the Word
   of God - He 4:12-13
   a. That Word which provided the example of the Israelites' disobedience
   b. That Word which is now warning them not to emulate the 
      Israelites' example

3. In this passage, the Word of God is described in amazing terms...
   a. It is "living"
   b. It is "powerful"
   c. It is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the 
      division of soul and spirit"
   d. It is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart"

4. At a time in which God's Word is so often neglected, even by some 
   Christians, it never hurts to contemplate the wonder of God's Word...
   a. And so we take this opportunity to reflect upon what is said in this passage
   b. With a desire to renew and increase our appreciation of the power
      of God's Word!

[We begin by noticing...]


      1. Not only in this passage, but elsewhere we read of the abiding
         nature of God's Word
         a. Notice Peter's description of it - 1Pe 1:23-25
            1) It "lives and abides forever"
            2) It "endures forever" - cf. Isa 40:8
         b. Jesus said "my words shall not pass away" - Mt 24:35
      2. The "life" of God's Word is due to the nature of God Himself!
         a. God is eternal, He is "the living God" - cf. He 3:12; Jer 10:10
         b. He cannot lie, so what He says will come to pass - He 6:18; Tit 1:2
         -- Thus His Word will never perish!
      3. As Jesus said, "...the words that I speak unto you, they are
         spirit, and they are life." - Jn 6:63

      1. It has the power to accomplish its intended purpose - Isa 55:10-11
      2. The gospel in particular has the power to save - Ro 1:16-17; Jm 1:21
      3. Through God's word we can be born again - 1Pe 1:22-23; Jm 1:18
      4. It works effectively in those who believe - 1Th 2:13; cf. He 4:2
      5. It can build us up, and give us the inheritance that is ours - Ac 20:32
      6. It can make the man of God complete for all good works - 2 Ti 3:16-17
      -- How could anything with such power be a "dead letter"?

[With such a "living" and "powerful" word at our disposal, we would be
foolish to neglect the blessings it offers, or the warnings it gives!

It's power is seen further as we note how...]


      1. The Word of God is often likened to powerful objects
         a. Here it is described as a sword - cf. also Ep 6:17
         b. Elsewhere it is it described as fire, and a hammer - Jer 23:29
      2. To illustrate its sharpness as a "sword", the Word of God is
         said to pierce...
         a. "...even to the division of soul and spirit"
         b. "...and of the joints and marrow"
         -- i.e., the divine word is able to cut through everything 
            that is in man (Lightfoot)

      1. With its sharpness, it is capable of sifting through and 
         revealing the heart of man
      2. It's effect on man reveals his true heart...
         a. In some cases, that one's heart is sincere and open to 
            change - e.g., Ac 2:36-37
         b. Other times, that one's heart has no desire to change 
            - e.g., Ac 5:33; 7:54
         -- One cannot hear or read the Word of God without being affected!

[As stated earlier, the "life" of God's Word is due to the nature of 
God Himself.  In a similar way, the "power" of God's word is due to the
nature of God...]


      1. The word "omniscient" means "all-knowing"
      2. David extolled the omniscience of God in Ps 139:1-12
      3. Solomon also wrote of God's omniscience - Pr 15:3
      -- That is why "there is no creature hidden from His sight, but
         all things are naked and open" to His eyes

      1. As David counseled his son Solomon - 1Ch 28:9
      2. It is before this Omniscient Judge that we must one day give
         an account
         a. There is a judgment day coming, in which God will judge the
            world through His Son, Jesus Christ! - cf. Ac 17:30-31; Ro 2:16; 2Co 5:10
         b. We read of that Judgment Day in the last book of Bible 
            - cf. Re 20:11-15
      3. The standard by which we will be judged are the words spoken
         through His Son
         a. As stated by Jesus in Jn 12:48
         b. Which should give special force to the warning found in He 2:1-3
            1) If the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and
               every transgression was justly punished...
            2) ...then how shall we escape judgment if we neglect the 
               words spoken through God's Son?


1. Yes, the power of God's Word is derived from God Himself...
   a. God is omniscient, able to see into the hearts of men; therefore
      His Word is able to cut to the hearts of men and reveal their 
      true nature
   b. God is living, eternal, who will one day judge the world; 
      therefore His Word that abides forever will be the standard by 
      which we will be judged

2. In view of the power of God Himself and His powerful Word...
   a. How dare we neglect the warnings given in it, such as those found
      in He 4:1,11?
   b. How dare we neglect to even read about the warnings (as many do
      by not reading the Bible)?

3. And remember, how we react to the Word of reveals our true character...
   a. Some are so "dull of heart", that they react with indifference
      and say "so what?"
   b. Some are "cut to the heart", angrily resist the Word, and blame
      the messenger - Ac 7:54
   c. Some are "cut to the heart", and cry out "what shall I do?" - Ac 2:37

What kind of heart do you have?  If your heart cries out "what shall I
do?" in response to the gospel message of salvation in Christ, then I
encourage you to heed what Peter said:

   "Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be
   baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins;
   and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." - Ac 2:38

If you have so responded to God's saving grace, then I encourage you to
heed the warnings found throughout the Scriptures, especially here in
the book of Hebrews, and in the words of our Lord Himself:

   "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life."
                                         - Rev 2:10

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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What the Bible Says About...Series by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


What the Bible Says About...Series

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

The central purpose of Apologetics Press, from its inception over 30 years ago, has been to produce materials that defend the Christian Faith. More specifically, A.P. has specialized in providing assistance in combating atheism, evolution, and skepticism. The staff has spent countless hours researching and refuting those who attack the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, the Genesis account of Creation, and the truthfulness of Christianity. Three decades later, that focus remains unchanged.

The onslaught of atheism and evolution over the past 50 years has naturally culminated in the present Culture War in which the nation is now embroiled. Consequently, A.P. is making every effort to “step up to the plate” and provide appropriate responses to the anti-Christian currents swirling throughout society. Not only are we articulating God’s view on such vital matters as abortion, homosexuality, and embryonic stem-cell research, we are also addressing the sinister assault that is chipping away at the foundational values on which the country was established (e.g., The Silencing of God/Christ & the Continental Congress). We are even endeavoring to prepare people to react to the non-Christian encroachments of the world religions (e.g., Islam).

In the midst of this spiritual “warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18), we also feel the pressing need to occasionally address unbiblical notions within Christendom that threaten people’s spiritual safety. This intention lays behind the development of our “What the Bible Says About...” book series. “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). We have no desire to offend, insult, or hurt anyone. On the other hand, to be faithful to God, we must be about the business of “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) on vital topics that affect salvation.

We believe you will find the volumes already produced in this series to be gentle, loving, and tactful in the treatment of denominational doctrines. Our sole intention is to encourage all people to lay aside human ideas and personal preferences, and to embrace God’s truth. Jesus said: “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). That’s all we want—for ourselves and for others. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). Please consider using these volumes to assist you in teaching others God’s truth.

What the Bible Says About the Baptist Church

What the Bible Says About the Catholic Church

What the Bible Says About the Church of Christ

What the Bible Says About the Lutheran Church

What Should We Call the Church? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


What Should We Call the Church?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

A visitor to this Web site recently wrote our offices inquiring about the name that the universal Church should wear. In a day when millions of church-goers are naming themselves after everything from angels to men to religious offices and activities (with many churches apparently feeling like the more bizarre they are, the better), this gentleman’s e-mail was refreshing to read. It was evident that he and those of the church where he worshipped had a desire to be called, not the latest trendy name or whatever denominational name their great-great-great...grandparents wore, but whatever God wants them to be called. What does God want the Church to be known as? If a congregation of the Church is going to put a sign outside of their meeting place, or put their contact information in phone books and on the Internet, or have an official name on the books at the court house, what name should the Church wear?

There is only one place to turn to find out what followers of Jesus Christ should be called: God’s Word (see Butt, 2007). God created man, saved man, and has every right to tell man what to do and how to do it. The teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles and prophets in God’s revealed Word is man’s ultimate authority and the book by which the world will be judged (Matthew 28:18; John 12:48; Colossians 3:17). If the saved want to please God in every area of their lives, including the religious name they wear, God’s Word must be consulted.

It is helpful, first of all, to understand something about the word “church.” The Greek word ekklesia, translated “church” in most English Bibles, was generally understood in the first-century Roman-ruled world simply to mean “assembly”—a gathering of people, whether for a secular or a religious purpose (Danker, et al., 2000, pp. 303-304; Thayer, 1962, pp. 195-196). Three times in Acts 19, Luke used the term ekklesia to describe a disorderly, secular assembly at Ephesus (vss. 32,39,41). The Septuagint translators used the term ekklesia more than 200 years before Christ in their Greek translation of the Old Testament to describe a group of 400,000 Israelite soldiers (Judges 20:2). In short, the word ekklesia was used before and after the time of Christ in reference to any kind of assembly. In the New Testament, however, it most often refers to obedient followers of Jesus Christ—those who have been called “out (Greek ek) of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, emp. added).

Several times in the New Testament, the term “church” is linked together with the Greek term theos(God), and thus one easily can ascertain the fact that the Church to which obedient believers belong is the Church begun and owned by God. Paul wrote “to the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1, emp. added), and later commanded the Corinthians to “[g]ive no offense...to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33, emp. added). He confessed to the churches of Galatia that he had “persecuted the church of God” before becoming a Christian (Galatians 1:13, emp. added). Paul also wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, reminding them how they “became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea” (1 Thessalonians 2:14, emp. added), and even boasted of them “among the churches of God” for their endurance through persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, emp. added). One must not miss the point that the Church of the New Testament is God’s Church. It is of divine origin and established according to Deity’s “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11). Certainly then, the name “church of God” is a biblical name to wear. “Children of God” (John 1:12; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-2) are members of the “church of God.”

The Bible writers also referred to the “church of God” as the body or Church of Christ. Why would God’s Church be called Christ’s Church? Consider the following:
  • Jesus is Deity (John 1:1,3,23; 10:30,33; 20:28; cf. Isaiah 9:6).
  • Jesus said the Church was “His” (Matthew 16:18).
  • Jesus paid for the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
  • Jesus saved the Church from eternal destruction (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 5:23)
  • Jesus is “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18,24; Ephesians 5:22-23).
  • Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is His bride (Ephesians 5:22-32; Revelation 21:9; cf. Matthew 25:1-13).
  • Jesus is returning to take His faithful Church to a new home (John 14:1-3; Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Sincere, open-minded, obedient followers of Jesus Christ (i.e., Christians—Acts 11:26) who read the New Testament wondering what they should call the Church of which they are members, will come to the following conclusion: Though God did not assign one particular title for the Church, there are biblical designations that Christians can wear “by faith” (Romans 10:17), namely “Church of God” and “Church of Christ.” [NOTE: This is not to say that everyone who wears one of these names is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Sadly, many who wear both of these names dishonor God with unscriptural acts of worship, a variety of false teachings, lukewarm lives, etc.) A faithful follower of Jesus Christ must be committed to assembling with Christians who not only wear a scriptural, non-divisive name, but also who practice authorized, unadulterated, New Testament Christianity (see Miller, 2007).]

Nowhere in the New Testament was the Church called Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic, Guardian Angels’, etc. In fact, the Christians in Corinth were specifically warned about wearing divisive names that bring honor to men and imply that the Church is divided (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; cf. John 17:20-21). Sadly, millions of “Christians” around the world continue to call themselves by names other than those God has authorized in Scripture.

In addition to Scripture’s numerous examples of the Church being called God’s or Christ’s, common sense demands such biblical designations. Consider two examples.
  • If Christ owns the Church, should the Church not wear His name? If a man (we’ll call him Ricky) worked 20 years, saved his money, and bought a house, whose house is it? It is Ricky’s house. If anyone ever put a sign in front of Ricky’s house that said the house was any person’s other than Ricky’s, he would be doing that which is unauthorized and displeasing to Ricky. Only he who owns the house has the right to name it. The Church is “the house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15, emp. added), no one else’s. Christians should call His “house” by no other name.

  • If my wife informed me today that she wanted to wear another man’s name, I would be terribly hurt and “jealous with godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2-4). Perhaps it wasn’t another man’s name, but simply a name that correlates with something she likes. Say, for example, instead of Jana Lyons, she wanted to be called Jana Homeschooler. Would that bother me? It most certainly would. I love homeschooling, but I am seriously opposed to my wife calling herself by any other name than Lyons. Similarly, if the Church is the bride of Christ, why would any church claiming to be in love with Jesus and married to Him spiritually ever call themselves by another name? God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and nothing in Scripture authorizes His Church to call herself anything other than after Him.
When the Jewish Sanhedrin brought Peter and John before them not many days after the Church had been established (Acts 4) and inquired “by what name” they had been teaching, Peter exclaimed:

[B]y the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved(Acts 4:8,10-12, emp. added).

The Bible may not give one official title for the Church, but both reason and revelation demand that Christians put off party names and simply call themselves after the One Who saved them. When Jesus comes back to receive His bride and take her home, she better be wearing His name and no one else’s.


Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Danker, Frederick William, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich, (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Miller, Dave (2007), What the Bible Says About the Church of Christhttp://apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/wtbsatcoc.pdf.

Thayer, J.H. (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

What Must I Know to Be Saved? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


What Must I Know to Be Saved?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The question frequently is asked by those who are contemplating becoming a child of God, “How much do I have to know in order to become a Christian?” Some feel like they have to know virtually every detail in the Bible before submitting to the Savior to get rid of sin in their lives. Others believe they need every question under the Sun answered before becoming a Christian. Some want to know about the origin of the races. Others want to know whether or not there is life on other planets. The Bible, however, never indicates that for one to become a Christian, he has to know every detail about every book in the Bible, or that a person has to be able to answer every question that arises. But what, if anything, is necessary for a person to know before becoming a disciple of Christ?

First, an individual contemplating his spiritual life must understand that the reason there is even something for him to do is because he has sinned. Everyone who has reached the level of mental maturity (sometimes referred to as “the age of accountability”) so that he or she understands what sin is (cf. 1 John 3:4; 5:17), has sinned (Romans 3:10,23; 1 John 1:8). [The one exception, of course, was Jesus—1 Peter 2:22.] Sin is that which separates man from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). For a person to be saved, he first must have knowledge that he is a sinner, and as such stands in a lost condition. One of the reasons Jesus condemned certain Jewish priests, elders, and sects was because they did not admit their sinfulness after hearing the preaching of John the baptizer (Matthew 21:31-32)—though the tax collectors and harlots (i.e., sinners) did acknowledge their sin, and believed.
Second, the one who aspires to become a Christian must know something about Jesus—the One Who came to save us from our sins (Luke 19:10; John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8). A person does not have to know every one of Jesus’ parables, or be able to quote the Sermon on the Mount, but he must know that Jesus is the Son of God Who died and was raised so that all men might have their sins forgiven and live eternally with Him in heaven (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:9). In other words, before becoming a Christian, a person must have heard the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Finally, the individual who aspires to become a child of God must realize there is something for him to do (cf. Acts 2:38; 16:30; 8:36). If one understands that the Bible says he must believe that Jesus is the Son of God (John 8:24), repent of his sins (Luke 13:3,5), confess that Jesus is God’s Son (Romans 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of his sins (Acts 2:38), he or she then possesses enough knowledge to put on Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27) and become a Christian, being added by God to the church that Christ established (Acts 2:47; Matthew 16:18; Romans 16:16).

Contrary to the belief of some, a person who desires to become a Christian does not have to know the whole Bible thoroughly before he takes action. Nor is there a need to have every question imaginable answered. The Ethiopian eunuch heard one Christ-centered lesson from Philip before asking, “What hinders me from being baptized” (Acts 8:35-36)? The three thousand on Pentecost heard only one Gospel sermon before accepting the grace of God and obeying the plan of salvation (Acts 2:41). They did not wait around for years, thinking they were not knowledgeable enough to be followers of Christ. Rather, they were convinced of their sins (Acts 2:37), heard the Gospel, believed it, and obeyed it. It is after one becomes a Christian that God commands us a person to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and to continue to study the Word in order to teach others (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 3:15).

What Kind of Bread did Jesus Use to Institute the Last Supper? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


What Kind of Bread did Jesus Use to Institute the Last Supper?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

As one of the three major Jewish feasts, the Passover came complete from God with strict regulations regarding the proper rituals to be observed. Exodus 12:1-28 detailed specifically that the Passover lamb was to be killed at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first Jewish month (12:6). Furthermore, its blood was to be sprinkled upon the lintels of the houses in which the Israelites ate the meal (12:7), and the flesh of the lamb was to be roasted—not eaten boiled or raw (12:8-9).
Numerous additional regulations pertaining to the lamb’s preparation, the length of the feast, and various other such facets of the festival could be cited. The one other injunction most specifically pertaining to this discussion is found in verses 15, and 18-20. These verses explicitly state that no leavened bread should be eaten from the 14th day of the month to the 21st day of the month. Verse 15 explains that any person eating leavened bread would be “cut off from Israel” (a phase often implying the death penalty). Verses 18-20 read as follows:

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. Seven days shall there be no leaven found in your houses: for whosoever eateth that which is leavened, that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he be a sojourner, or one that is born in the land. Ye shall eat nothing leavened; in all your habitations shall ye eat unleavened bread.

Simply put, God directly commanded Moses to warn the children of Israel that anyone caught eating leaven during the Feast of Unleavened Bread would be punished severely, possibly with death.

As we move approximately 1,500 years from the initial institution of the feast, we find the Jews of Jesus’ day bound to the same regulations and specificities as those ancient compatriots of Moses. In fact, we find Jesus—as a faithful Jew “born under the law” (Galatians 4:4), and abiding without sin under that same law (1 Peter 2:22)—adhering to the proper commands of the Law of Moses. On occasion, upon healing leprous people, Jesus instructed those individuals to present themselves to the priest as the Law of Moses commanded (Matthew 8:4; Luke 17:12-14). The Pharisees’ accusations of Jesus’ breaking the Sabbath notwithstanding, Jesus lived perfectly under the Law of Moses. Since He obeyed the Law consistently, when Jesus ate the Passover feast and celebrated the ensuing Feast of Unleavened bread, it is a fact that He would not have used any leaven from the 14thday of Nisan [originally, the first Jewish month was called Abib (see Deuteronomy 16:1-10), but its name eventually was changed to Nisan (Esther 3:7)] to the 21st day of that same month, as commanded in Exodus 12:15,18-20.

Therefore, it can be determined beyond any doubt that Jesus would have used unleavened bread during the Passover meal. This fact is of utmost importance, since the Last Supper (at which Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper) often is thought to have occurred on the 14th day of Nisan during the evening of the Passover, marking the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened bread. If Jesus did not institute the Lord’s Supper on the actual Passover, then there remains no biblical basis to insist upon the use of unleavened bread during the Lord’s Supper.

The original language provides no assistance in ascertaining whether the bread was leavened or not. The Greek word used to identify the bread distributed by Christ at the Last Supper is artos (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24), which is the general word for any kind of bread (Arndt and Gingrich, 1967, p. 110). The use of this word does not exclude the possibility that it was unleavened bread, since the Septuagint translators the word artos to refer to unleavened bread (Leviticus 8:2,26). At the same time, use of the term does not demand that it was unleavened bread. In fact, another Greek word, azumos, could have been used to mean strictly unleavened bread (Arndt and Gingrich, p. 19). Therefore, from the word used to describe the bread eaten by Jesus at the Last Supper, we can deduce only that it could have been either leavened or unleavened. As noted earlier, the only way to prove from the Bible that the bread was unleavened is to verify that Jesus ate the Last Supper on the 14th of Nisan—the actual Passover.

This may, at first, seem quite easy to establish. Matthew’s account explicitly states: “Now on the first day of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Where wilt thou that we make ready for thee to eat the passover?’ ” (26:17). And also, “Now when even was come, he was sitting at meat with the twelve disciples” (26:20). According to Matthew, then, Jesus instituted the Last Supper “on the first day of unleavened bread.” Mark’s account is equally specific and descriptive: “And on the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover, his disciples say unto him, ‘Where wilt thou that we go and make ready that thou mayest eat the passover?’ ” (14:12). And, as in Matthew, Mark states: “[W]hen it was evening he cometh with the twelve” (14:17). Mark clearly declared that the Last Supper was instituted on the first day of unleavened bread. He further defined that day as the day when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, which would have been the evening of the 14th of Nisan according to Exodus 12. Furthermore, Luke’s account is equally definitive when it states: “And the day of unleavened bread came, on which the passover must be sacrificed. And he sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and make ready for us the passover, that we may eat’ ” (22:7).

Were the discussion to end at this point, it would be crystal clear that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the evening of the first day of Unleavened Bread when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. But when John’s account is consulted, the picture seems to get a little fuzzy. John’s record certainly is not as specific as the other three. In John 13:1-4, we read:

Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And during supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all the things into his hands, and that he came forth from God, and goeth unto God, riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments; and he took a towel, and girded himself.

Apparently, the thoughts of Jesus recorded in John 13:1 occurred sometime before the Feast of the Passover. How long before the feast is unknown, but some assume it means at least a day. That time frame is based upon other statements found in the book of John. In John 18:28, the chief priests and the leaders of the Jews “led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium: and it was early; and they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.” If “the passover” in this verse means the Feast of the Passover lamb, which was eaten on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened bread, then that would mean the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with His disciples occurred about 24 hours earlier. Furthermore, John 19:14-18 states:

Now it was the Preparation of the passover: it was about the sixth hour. And he saith unto the Jews, “Behold, your King!” They therefore cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate saith unto them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then therefore he delivered him unto them to be crucified. They took Jesus therefore: and he went out, bearing the cross for himself, unto the place called the place of a skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha: where they crucified him, and with him two others, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst (emp. added).

Those who believe that the events of John 13 happened at least a day before the Passover generally base that belief on the idea that John 19:14-18 seems to indicate that Jesus was crucified before the actual Passover, since it was the “preparation of the passover.”

Several of the early church fathers held to the belief that Jesus was crucified on the Passover, which would mean that the Last Supper occurred before the Feast of Unleavened bread. Tertullian (An Answer to the Jews, Chapter 8) and Clement of Alexandria (Paschal Chronicle Fragment) both took this view. Furthermore, in the Talmud, early Jewish rabbis concluded that Jesus was “hanged on Passover Eve for heresy and misleading the people” (Bruce, 1960, p. 101). In more recent times, many have advocated this view. The editors of the Pulpit Commentary wrote: “It appears that our Lord was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, on the very day of the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, a few hours before the time of the Paschal Supper, and that his own Last Supper was eaten the night before, that is, twenty-four hours before the general time of eating the Passover Supper” (Spence and Exell, n.d., pp. 196-197, emp. in orig.).

In his book, Radical Restoration, F. LaGard Smith mentioned some things that, in his opinion, seem to conflict with the idea that Jesus ate the Passover on the actual first day of unleavened bread. He commented:

The emerging picture tends to suggest that we may have misinterpreted the words with which Jesus began the Last Supper. It may well be that Jesus was not expressing his eagerness to eat the actual Passover, but his desire to eat the only “Passover” he could share with his disciples before he suffered. Which is to say, ahead of time. The day before. On the only evening left before his crucifixion. (2001, p. 280, emp. in orig.).

To further bolster the idea that the Last Supper might not have been taken during the Feast of Unleavened bread, Smith cited The Crux of the Matter by Childers, Foster, and Reese, who suggested that “from the ninth century, the common bread, leavened bread, was replaced by unleavened bread. Using regular table bread had been the practice of the churches for centuries of Christian worship from very early days” (2001, p. 38). McClintock and Strong observed:

At the institution of the Lord’s Supper Christ used unleavened bread. The primitive Christians carried with them the bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper, and took the bread which was used at common meals, which was leavened bread. When this custom ceased, together with the Agapè, the Greeks retained the leavened bread, while in the Latin Church the unleavened bread became common since the 8th century. Out of this difference a dogmatic controversy in the 11th century arose, the Greek Church reproaching the Latin for the use of unleavened bread, making it heresy. At the Council of Florence, in 1439, which attempted to unite both churches, it was agreed that either might be used… (1969, 5:514, emp. in orig.).

Even though McClintock and Strong stated that Christ used unleavened bread, they also documented that many of those in the early period of the church did not use unleavened bread—a fact that could be used to add credence to the possibility that Christ also did not use unleavened bread.

Obviously, the battle over which type of bread Christ used when He instituted the Last Supper has been going on for centuries. Is there any way to reconcile the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke with that of John? Can it be established, from the biblical text, on what day Christ and His disciples ate their final meal before His death? The answer is a resounding “yes.” Christ instituted the Lord’s Supper on the first day of unleavened bread, when the Passover lamb was to be killed—exactly as Matthew, Mark, and Luke plainly state.


In order to maintain that Christ ate the Last Supper on the first day of unleavened bread, a response must be formulated to the passage in John 19:14-18, which seems to indicate that Christ was crucified on the “Preparation of the Passover.” First, it must be noted that Matthew, Mark, and Luke each state that Christ was crucified on the “day of preparation.” Matthew, in speaking of the day after Jesus’ crucifixion, affirmed: “Now on the morrow, which is the day after the Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees were gathered together unto Pilate, saying, ‘Sir, we remember that that deceiver said while he was yet alive, After three days I rise again’ ” (Matthew 27:62-63). Mark’s account, in dealing with the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, observed: “And when even was now come, because it was the Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, there came Joseph of Arimathaea, a councillor of honorable estate, who also himself was looking for the kingdom of God; and he boldly went in unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus” (15:42-43). Not only did Mark specify the day of Jesus’ crucifixion as “the Preparation,” but he also defined that day for his readers as “the day before the Sabbath.” Finally, Luke related virtually the same facts in 23:50-54:

And behold, a man named Joseph, who was a councillor, a good and righteous man (he had not consented to their counsel and deed), a man of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews, who was looking for the kingdom of God: this man went to Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid him in a tomb that was hewn in stone, where never man had yet lain. And it was the day of the Preparation, and the sabbath drew on.

Observe that Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the day of Jesus’ death as the day of preparation of the Sabbath. Even John, in 19:31, stated: “The Jews therefore, because it was the Preparation, that the bodies should not remain on the cross upon the sabbath (for the day of that sabbath was a high day), asked of Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.” Because the Jews could do no work on the Sabbath, the day before provided them with the only opportunity to prepare for the following day’s meals. In Exodus 16, the Lord, through Moses, instructed the Israelites regarding how and when they should gather the manna that He was sending from heaven. In verses 4 and 5 of that chapter, the Lord stated:

Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or not. And it shall come to pass on the sixth day, that they shall prepare that which they bring in, and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

The “Preparation Day” was a well-known description used to speak of the day before the Sabbath. However, it was not used to describe a day before a festival or feast. Lenski accurately recorded:

Equally decisive is the fact that paraskeua [preparation—KB] is never used in the sense of “the preparation” or of “the day of preparation” for a festival but only in the sense of the preparation for the Sabbath. The law provided complete rest from work only on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:5); all preparation of food had to be made on the day before; but the law provided nothing of the kind for the great festival days, for on these days (save as one might occur on the Sabbath) food could be cooked as on any other day. The attempt to show that the festival days also had a paraskeua has failed completely (1998, p. 1272).

What, then, shall we make of John’s statement that Jesus was crucified on “the Preparation of the Passover?” At first glance, we assume that John means that the “preparation” concerns the actual Passover lamb. However, that assumption is not correct. The “preparation” described by John simply was the day before the Sabbath that fell during the Passover festival. Lenski noted: “When John uses the exceptional combination paraskuea tou pascha, ‘Preparation of the Passover,’ he simply has in mind the Friday of the Passover festival, the one that occurs during the festival week. The Sabbath of this great week was considered especially holy, and preparation was made accordingly” (p. 1271).

In fact, the translators of the NIV were so confident of this meaning that they rendered the verse: “It was the day of Preparation of Passover week, about the sixth hour.” In their commentary on the NIVpassage, Bryant and Krause remarked:

The force of the NIV’s interpretation is that this is “Friday of Passover Week.” While this may be what John intends (and I believe he does), it is possible to interpret this as “Preparation for the Passover,” i.e., Thursday. This is the translation of the NRSV and others, but this is every bit as guilty as the NIV of overtranslation…. Actually, the text is ambiguous and cannot answer the day of the week by itself. It is from other considerations that we should conclude that this is Friday… (1998, p. 376).

If John 19:14-18 could mean simply the preparation day during the Passover feast, then John’s timetable would match perfectly with that of the other three Gospels—almost.


In order to match John’s timetable perfectly with Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the passage in John 18:28 must be clarified. It states: “They led Jesus therefore from Caiaphas into the Praetorium: and it was early; and they themselves entered not into the Praetorium, that they might not be defiled, but might eat the passover.” If this reference to eating “the passover” refers to the actual Passover lamb that was sacrificed on the 14th day of Nisan, then John’s account would stand in direct opposition to those of the other three gospel writers. It can been shown conclusively, however, that John did not necessarily mean the actual Passover lamb, and that his statement can refer instead to the Feast of Unleavened bread directly following the Passover.

First, it should be noted that John was not nearly as specific as the other the gospel writers. As was discussed earlier, they defined the day of the Last Supper as the first day of unleavened bread on which the passover must be sacrificed. [It is interesting to observe that Luke 22:7 uses the Greek word dei, which the ASV translators render as must. Arndt and Gingrich noted that the word means “of compulsion of law or custom,” and then used Luke 22:7 to illustrate this usage. They translated the pertinent part of the verse under discussion: “when the paschal lamb had to be sacrificed” (1967, p. 172). Which law or custom compelled the Jews to sacrifice the Passover lamb on this particular day? The obvious answer is: the law set forth in Exodus 12.] John’s reference to the Jewish leaders’ eating the Passover certainly does not detail an exact day on which the Passover lamb “must” be sacrificed.

As further evidence that John’s reference does not necessarily mean the 14th day of Nisan, the term “Passover” sometimes was used to refer to the entire Feast of Unleavened bread, not just the eating of the Passover lamb. Luke 22:1 is an obvious and clear example of such usage: “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.” Other passages that support this usage are John 2:13,23, 5:4, 11:55, and Acts 12:1-4. Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, wrote about an event happening “at the time when the feast of unleavened bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover” (14:2:1). Thus, the term “Passover” often had a more relaxed meaning, and could refer to the “feast of unleavened bread.” To add support to this conclusion, Lenski made an interesting observation:

In the present connection it is impossible to make the eating of the Passover mean the eating of the Paschal lamb. For the defilement which these Jews feared would not have debarred them from eating the Paschal lamb if this lamb was to be eaten on Friday evening. Defilement of this type lasted only until sundown and could then be removed by a bath. The Paschal Lamb was not eaten until some time after sundown (1998, p. 1213).

With a quick look back into the Old Testament, we find that many of the things that “defiled” people, or caused them to be “unclean,” lasted only until evening (see Leviticus chapters 11 and 15). From reading Numbers 9:10,13, it seems that, according to the Law of Moses, the only two reasons a man might be unable to keep the feast would be because he had touched a dead body or was away on a journey. Since neither of those two situations seems to apply to John 18:28, the passage certainly allows for the phrase “eat the passover” to mean something other than the Paschal lamb. In his concluding comments on John 18:28, Lenski summarized remarks from Zahn’s Introduction to the New Testament by stating:

It is quite incredible to believe that with an entirely incidental expression, not at all connected with the Passover as such or with the actions of Jesus but solely with the scruples of the Jews, John should wish to overthrow a view of his readers which he has left entirely undisturbed throughout all of his preceding chapters (p. 1214).

What, then, were the Jewish leaders specifically desiring to eat? Zahn observed: “Moreover, it is probable that the members of the Sanhedrin had specifically in mind the so-called Chagigah, the sacrificial meal of the 15th of Nisan, which, unlike the Passover meal, was held during the course of the day and not after sundown” (1953, 3:283). Thus, there remains nothing to require that the phrase “might eat the passover” in John 18:28 must mean the actual Passover lamb.


In concluding the discussion as to the actual time of the Passover, John 13:1 needs to be revisited. In the verse, John wrote, “Now before the feast of the Passover….” It already has been established that certain schools of thought take this verse to mean at least 24 hours before the Passover. This time frame often is based on assumptions regarding John 18:28 and 19:31—assumptions that I have shown to be incorrect. Therefore, based on the textual evidence of the actual verse, can the phrase “before the feast of the passover” mean only a few minutes before the actual feast, or must it mean several hours? Morris concisely commented: “It is not impossible to understand this as meaning that Jesus knew certain things long before the feast. But it can also be understood to mean that the events now to be described took place before the feast began” (1971, p. 776). Bryant and Krause further clarified the situation:

John notes the time of the next event as just before the Passover Feast. According to ancient Jewish reckoning, the Passover Feast day would have run from sundown Thursday until sundown on Friday. This has caused some scholars to take the position that John understands the “Last Supper” to have taken place on Wednesday evening, just before Passover. This cannot be reconciled with the Synoptic accounts, which clearly identify the Last Supper as a Passover meal (e.g., Luke 22:15). But this is an easily explained contradiction. John does not say “the day before Passover” but “just before.” The episode he relates next, Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, is done immediately before the meal really begins (1998, p. 285, emp. in orig.).

“Before the Passover” could mean months, days, hours, or seconds before the meal took place. Considering all the evidence, John 13:1 makes reference to only a few minutes before the actual Passover lamb was eaten.

The second minor disagreement that needs to be answered suggests that John placed Jesus’ death on the 14th of Nisan, the evening when the Passover lamb was to be killed, in order to symbolize the death of Jesus as the Passover Lamb. Other New Testament verses linking Christ to the Passover lamb often are used in support of this view. For instance, 1 Corinthians 5:7 states: “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened. For our passover also hath been sacrificed, even Christ.“

While it is true that various New Testament writers refer to Christ as our Passover Lamb, it is not true that the power of His atoning blood was conditioned on the actual day that it was shed. As Zahn stated:

The conception of Christ as the Paschal Lamb which is found throughout the N.T. is in no way based upon this alleged coincidence of the hour of Jesus’ death with the time of the slaying of the Passover lamb, but was involved in the view that redemption under the new covenant was the counterpart of the deliverance from Egypt, and found merely a natural point of connection in the fact that Jesus died at the time of the Jewish Passover, and not, for example, during the feast of Tabernacles (John 7:2-10) [1953, 3:276].

Furthermore, to suppose that there is a clash between John and the synoptics—based upon what a person assumes John was attempting to symbolize—is a less than desirable conclusion and fails to give John the benefit of the doubt.


In an attempt to “help” John agree with the three other gospel writers, some have suggested that a difference in calendars might have caused the apparent confusion. In summarizing this view, Carson wrote:

These difficulties have led to a number of suggested resolutions that turn on calendrical disputes in the first century. The most important of these reconstructions, that of Jaubert, argues that Jesus and his disciples followed a solar calendar…. But the “official” calendar followed by the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Jerusalem establishment was lunar... (1991, p. 457).

After he summarized the main issues, Carson further noted: “these calendrical theories all involve delicate historical judgments or a paucity of hard evidence” (457). He concluded his section on the alleged calendar differences by saying:

More seriously, it is altogether unlikely that the Jewish authorities in the time of Jesus sanctioned the slaughter of paschal lambs on any day other than the official lunar day. Thus even if Jesus and his disciples followed a sectarian calendar—a very doubtful suggestion—they would not have been able to eat an early paschal meal, since the paschal lamb had to be slaughtered at the temple, and the priestly classes were not noted for affable flexibility (p. 457).

Furthermore, once the full meanings of the phrases “eat the Passover” in John 18:28 and “the Preparation of the Passover” in John 19:14 are explored, it becomes evident that the statements can be reconciled with the time table set forth in the other three gospels, without resorting to “calendrical theories.”


The exact day on which the Lord instituted the Last Supper is of utmost importance for two reasons: (1) If it was not on the 14th day of Nisan, when the Passover lamb was to be killed (marking the first day of the Feast of Unleavened bread), then very little (if any) textual evidence exists that would demand the use of unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper; and (2) the failure to reconcile adequately the time frame given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke with that given by John would indicate that there might be a contradiction in the Bible, which would leave the door open for skeptics to attack the reliability of the New Testament.

Yet, when the arguments are laid bare, it is evident that Jesus and the disciples did eat the Last Supper on the 14th day of Nisan, when the Passover lamb was to be killed. Once this fact is established, no one can legitimately deny that Jesus broke unleavened bread for His disciples. Nor can anyone claim that a contradiction exists between John’s timetable and that of the other gospel writers.


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