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The eleven disciples spent at least a full week in Jerusalem, which covered the entire feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus met with them as a group that first evening and then a week later.
His day of resurrection and presentation to the Father occurred, as I said, on an eighth day, according to the law in Exodus 22:29, 30. In this case it was the eighth day of the week, i.e., the first day of the week, which is called Sunday. He fulfilled the wave-sheaf offering, presenting Himself to the Father while the priest waved the sheaf of barley in the temple at the third hour of the day. The law of the wave sheaf offering is found in Lev. 23:11,
11 He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it.
The Sadducees and Pharisees disagreed in their interpretation of this law. The Pharisees taught that they were to wave the sheaf on the day after Passover, regardless of what day of the week it was. The “sabbath” to them was the day of Passover, since Passover (Abib 15) was to be a day of rest, and the sheaf was to be waved the following day, Abib 16.
However, the Sadducees taught that the sheaf was to be waved on the first Sunday after Passover, that is, the day after the first weekly Sabbath. The Sadducees were the rulers of the temple from the high priesthood of Annas until the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. Hence, their rules were followed during that time.
It happened, however, that Jesus’ resurrection took place on Sunday, Abib 16 of 33 A.D., satisfying both the Pharisees and Sadducees that year. While this made for good harmony and less grumbling that year, Jesus’ fulfillment of the feast did not resolve the legal question.
If Jesus had been crucified on a Monday (Abib 14), the day of Passover (Abib 15) would have fallen on a Tuesday; if, then He had been raised on Wednesday (Abib 16), we could say definitively that the Pharisees were correct in their interpretation of the law. On the other hand, if He had been raised on the following Sunday, Abib 20, we could say definitively that the Sadducees were correct, for then He would have been raised on the first Sunday after Passover.
But as it stood, Jesus was raised early Sunday morning and was presented to God at the third hour of the same day. The Sadducees waved the sheaf of barley in the temple at that hour, according to their interpretation of the law.
The Pharisees were happy as well that year, because the wave-sheaf offering occurred the day after Passover, Abib 16. All of this harmony, unfortunately, did nothing to resolve the dispute.
To resolve this dispute we must rely upon another law that is closely related found in Exodus 22:29, 30, which is the law of the presentation of the firstborn sons.
29 You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
This law demands that the firstborn must be presented on the eighth day alone. On the surface this refers to a newborn son or animal, which was to be presented to God precisely on the eighth day from his birth. This law is also prophetic of the presentation of the sons of God and, of course, of the Son of God Himself.
Jesus was presented to God when He was eight days old (Luke 2:21). He was again presented to God on the day of His resurrection to fulfill the wave-sheaf offering. That was why He told Mary not to touch Him until after he had “ascended” to the Father (John 20:17, KJV).
We too, as sons of God, must be presented to God on an eighth day to fulfill the law. The sons of God will be brought to birth on the first day of Tabernacles and presented to the Father on the eighth day of the feast. The law calls the first and seventh days “sabbaths,” although they might fall on any day of the week. Lev. 23:39 says,
39 On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest [shabbathon, “sabbath”] on the first day and a rest [shabbathon, “sabbath”] on the seventh day.
These sabbaths were not weekday sabbaths, because the feast itself was dated according to the lunar cycle each year. Hence, these sabbaths could fall on any day of the week.
When we study the laws of Sonship, we note that the birthing of the sons of God is prophesied to occur on the first of Tabernacles, regardless of the day of the week; and the ascension and presentation of the sons of God is to occur seven days later on the eighth day of Tabernacles.
I also suspect that in the age to come, the Sabbath day will be celebrated on the day of the week that Tabernacles was fulfilled. For example, if the first and eighth day of Tabernacles happened to fall on successive Thursdays, then the people will begin to celebrate their Sabbaths on Thursdays. Sabbaths always commemorate something in the past. In this hypothetical case, keeping Thursdays would remember and celebrate the new creation that has come forth on that weekday.
I may be wrong, of course. It is simply my interpretation of this prophetic law, based on previous patterns. The wave-sheaf offering, followed by seven sabbaths dating from it, jump-started the new Sabbath system of the Pentecostal Age, as we read in Lev. 23:15,
15 You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the [weekly] sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain [wheat] offering to the Lord.
Scripture tells us that seven sabbaths were to be counted, dating from Sunday, the day after the weekly sabbath. The 7-day sabbath principle remained intact, but the commemoration point was different. As we will see, the previous sabbath system was based on Passover, that is, the death of Christ and His “rest” in the tomb. But the new sabbath was based upon Christ’s presentation to the Father.
For this reason, Moses obscurely prophesies a change of sabbath by calling the seven weeks—dating from each Sunday to the next until Pentecost Sunday—“seven complete sabbaths.”
So what actually occurred when these laws were fulfilled? First, if we do the chronological study (which is lengthy), we find that historically, Jesus was crucified in 33 A.D. precisely at the end of Daniel’s 70 weeks (490 years since 458 B.C.). He had been baptized in September of 29 A.D. on the Day of Atonement shortly after He reached the age of 30. He had ministered for 3½ years until His crucifixion in April of 33 A.D.
In that year, Passover fell on the Sabbath (Saturday, April 4), and Jesus was crucified on the Preparation Day, April 3. When crucified, Jesus was precisely 80 x 153 days old, having been born on Sept. 29, 2 B.C., which was the feast of Trumpets that year.
Jesus’ resurrection was a new birth, for He was raised as a New Creation Man, no longer limited by the flesh. He then ascended to present Himself to the Father on the third hour of the day that same morning, and this was lawful only because it was an eighth day.
In this case, it was the eighth day of the week, in accordance to the Sadducees’ interpretation of the law of the wave-sheaf offering.
Jesus presented Himself a second time a week later—again, on an eighth day—but this time to His disciples. John 20:26 says,
26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
In this presentation, all eleven disciples were present, and Jesus proved to them that He was indeed the Son of God who had been crucified and then raised from the dead.
Even Thomas, the skeptic, affirmed that He was indeed “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
This second presentation suggests also what happened the previous week when Jesus presented Himself to the Father. He showed the Father the wounds which proved His crucifixion, which were marks of honor, even as Paul considered his own scars on his back to be so in Gal. 6:17,
17 From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.
Just as Paul bore the “brand-marks” proving who he was in Christ, so also Jesus Himself bore the marks as evidence in the divine court to prove who He was. Furthermore, He bore His own blood to sprinkle upon the altar in heaven (Heb. 9:12-14).
So we see that two weeks in a row, Jesus presented Himself as “the Firstborn of all Creation” (Col. 1:15) and “the Firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18). On Sunday, Abib 16, the eighth day of the week, He presented Himself to the Father in heaven.
On the following week, Sunday, Abib 23, on His eighth day of new life as the Firstborn from the dead, He presented Himself to His disciples—those who had been given authority as judges in the earth (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; John 20:22, 23). Hence, by the law of the double witness, Jesus was officially proclaimed the Living Son of God, the Firstborn from the dead and the Firstborn of all Creation. Heaven and earth came into agreement!
Recall that the purpose of the Gospel of John was to present the “signs” by which Jesus Christ would manifest the glory of God in the earth. The idea was to bring the glory of heaven to earth and to bring them into unity, that great marriage between heaven and earth. Earth had suffered through disagreement with heaven since the sin of Adam. Christ came to restore agreement, so that He could enjoy a New Covenant marriage.
Hence, when Jesus presented Himself to those called as judges in the earth, and when they agreed with heaven’s decree, a new creation was established by the law of the double witness. While it has certainly taken a long time to work its way into the earth, we can be confident that His purpose will be fulfilled, as established by law.
The eighth sign in the Gospel of John followed these two presentations. Its purpose was to show the outworking of that which had been agreed upon earlier. As we will see, it was about learning the heavenly technique in being successful “fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Although both God and His authorized judges had come into agreement, there was still much work to be done to bring the rest of the world into agreement. Because of the nature of this particular sign, the disciples had to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Hence, the two angels gave the disciples instructions that Jesus would meet them in Galilee (Matt. 28:7).
There is another underlying factor that is largely hidden in the law and in the timing of these events that fulfilled the law. As we have seen earlier, the law can be obscure, such as the precise day on which to wave the sheaf of barley. The prophets clarified many of those obscurities by their own revelation, and the Gospels reveal the actual way in which the law was fulfilled.
The law of Unleavened Bread is another that needs some clarification, for it has to do with fellowship with Christ.
The day of Passover, Abib 15, was the first day of Unleavened Bread. Exodus 12:17, 18 says,
17 You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening.
The 14th of Abib “at evening” means sundown, the start of Abib 15, because they were to remove leaven from their houses on Abib 14. Hence, part of Abib 14 was still leavened and could not qualify as part of the feast of Unleavened Bread.
On the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, the people were removing leaven from their houses in preparation for sundown, the start of Abib 15. Just before sundown, Jesus was buried by Joseph and Nicodemus. The next morning would be the anniversary of Israel’s departure from Egypt. The law dates Unleavened Bread on the very day that God brought Israel out of Egypt, Abib 15.
That day of Passover happened to fall on a Sabbath (Saturday) in 33 A.D. The following week was Unleavened Bread, from Saturday to Saturday.
However, running almost concurrently with that week was the seven-week period leading to Pentecost. These weeks, however, were one day different, because the seven-week countdown to Pentecost began on the next day, Sunday.
The start of the seven-week countdown began on the day that the sheaf of barley was waved in the temple, “on the day after the Sabbath” (Lev. 23:11).
Leviticus 23:15, 16 continues,
15 You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering [wheat] to the Lord.
In Jewish practice, the people took a measure (an “omer”) of barley and divided it into 49 small piles. One pile each day was counted, and they finished on the day before Pentecost. The word “omer” in Hebrew is spelled ayin, mem, resh (i.e., eye, water, head), prophesying that they were watching for “water” (the Holy Spirit) to be poured out on their heads at Pentecost.
As I wrote earlier, the seven weeks started on Sunday and ended on Sunday. These “weeks” are “sabbaths” and can be translated either way. Hence, these seven “weeks” are “seven complete sabbaths,” beginning on Sunday, which was “the day after the (weekly) sabbath.” In essence, the law tells us of two sabbaths, one referring to Saturday, the other to Sunday.
The seven sabbaths leading to Pentecost were designed to prophesy (obscurely, of course) of a change in the Sabbath law that would come after Jesus’ resurrection. The seven weeks leading to Pentecost were based on Christ’s resurrection and His presentation to the Father, whereas the previous Sabbath was based on Passover, i.e., Christ’s death.
The first time the word “sabbath” is mentioned in Scripture is in Exodus 16:23,
23 then he said to them, “This is what the Lord meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.
These were Moses’ instructions in regard to the manna which God was sending them six days a week. The original Sabbath began on the 15th day of the second month, which was the Second Passover, for we see this in Exodus 16:1,
1 Then they set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the sons of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.
This was when the people began to receive manna for six days and none on the seventh. The manna cycle determined their Sabbaths and established their Sabbath calendar until the crucifixion of Christ fulfilled the feast of Passover.
During Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness, their weekly sabbaths were determined by a cessation of manna and by a double portion of manna on the sixth day. If anyone lost track of the weekdays, he could always reset his calendar at the end of the week.
The important thing to note, however, is that the manna cycle began on the fifteenth day of the second month, and that this also set the first week of their sabbath system. Hence, their sabbaths were dated from the day that was later called the Second Passover (Num. 9:10, 11).
Under Moses, the feast of Passover was the most important feast, because it prophesied of the death of the Lamb of God that has redeemed us from the house of bondage. Even their sabbaths were dated according to the feast of Passover, although they did not begin to actually keep their sabbaths until they were at Mount Sinai. But when the question emerged as to whether or not an unclean person was allowed to keep the Passover, God instituted the Second Passover a month later.
In my way of thinking, I divide the ages into a Passover Age (Moses to Christ), followed by a Pentecost Age (from Acts 2 to the present), followed by a Tabernacles Age for the next millennium. Each of these ages are characterized by a sabbath that commemorates the age in which it is to be kept.
The Pentecost Age emerged with the resurrection of Christ, as Passover was superseded by Pentecost with its seven sabbaths that began on Sunday. In essence, we left the Passover Age and entered the Pentecostal Age, and this was characterized by a new reference point that the Sabbaths were to commemorate.
The first seven sabbaths leading to Pentecost jump-started this new system, even as the manna cycles had established the original Sabbath.
For this reason, Jesus met with His disciples every eighth day (where Scripture dates it). It was meant to set the pattern where His disciples would fellowship with Jesus each Sunday from that time on. His meeting with the disciples on the shore of Galilee is not dated, but we find in the gematria the predominance of the number eight, as we will see shortly in our study of John 21.
We find in the writings of the early church fathers that the vast majority of them met on Sunday. The only holdouts who had no revelation of the law of sabbaths were those of the small Jewish sects whose fellowships were not founded by either Paul, Peter, or John. (Hence, they lacked their revelation.) The vast majority from the beginning were agreed that they were to fellowship (partake of communion) with each other and with Christ on the first day of the week, when Jesus ate bread with them after His resurrection.
So the Didache, “Teachings” (of the Twelve Apostles), dated around 65 A.D., says, “On the Lord’s Day of the Lord, gather together and break bread and give thanks.”
The Epistle of Barnabas (115-140 A.D.) says, “Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead” (chapter XV).
Justin Martyr, who died in 165 A.D. affirms this, saying, “But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly.”
Centuries later, the Emperor Constantine legalized the day on which the Christians had been meeting for nearly three centuries. Constantine, however, did not change the day, nor did he force anyone to keep a day that they were unaccustomed to keeping.
There is much historical misinformation circulating in various churches in this matter. Therefore, we ought to know what the church fathers actually wrote—not the claims of modern teachers, who assume that the small Jewish communities in the first century were the true representatives of Christianity. The change to Sunday was not a regression toward paganism but was a new revelation of the law that was not understood before Christ’s resurrection.