Passover marks the season of new beginnings. It is specifically during this time of year that we transition from the dormancy of winter into the new life of spring. Flowers come into bloom, and the sound of jubilant songbirds begin to announce the beauty of renewal within God’s creation.
It is certainly no coincidence that throughout history, the God of Israel has often chosen to perform His most powerful redemptive acts during Passover, in the spring, which on the Biblical calendar, occurs mid-way through the first month of the year. It was during this season of re-birth and revitalization, as the days begin to grow longer, and the darkness and the cold begin to thaw, that the Lord brought Israel out of the land of Egypt. It was also at this precise time that our Messiah was crucified, as the Ultimate Passover Lamb, thereby allowing us to experience the regeneration in our hearts that we simultaneously witness in the natural world.
Passover reminds us that even in the midst of darkness, hopelessness, slavery, and spiritual bondage, the latent power of the Spirit of the Lord is still present in our lives, preparing to bring new birth and order out of the chaos, confusion, and despair that so often disfigures our joy, and stifles our praise. Passover is God’s declaration that on the other side of slavery is our freedom, and on the other side of death is our resurrection.
Given these symbolic realities connected to Passover, it should not surprise us that Jesus also quite frequently connected Passover to the ultimate period of transition that will soon occur on the timeline of redemption history. Namely, the transition from this “present evil age,” into the time that in Judaism is most commonly called the Age to Come, or, as the New Testament often describes it, “the kingdom of God.” This is the time when Jesus will return, when there will be peace on earth, and when the knowledge and righteousness of God will cover the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). Every spring, every Passover season, is ultimately an anticipation of this better age, this better future that every heart yearns and longs for, and Jesus Himself certainly recognized this.
Of course, this connection between Passover and the dawning of the Messianic Age will certainly be a new idea for many people. So here are three places in the Gospels where Jesus either spoke of, or demonstrated, a connection between Passover, His Second Coming, and the arrival of His Messianic Kingdom.
1. Luke 22:15-16
Before eating His final Passover meal with His disciples, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus said,
“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
This is a foundational text when it comes to understanding the relationship between Passover, Biblical eschatology, and the coming kingdom of God. As important as Jesus’ sacrifice as our Passover Lamb most certainly was, notice that Jesus does not say in this passage that Passover would be “fulfilled” the next day, at the time of His crucifixion. Instead, He says that Passover will only be fulfilled “in the kingdom of God,” that is to say, in the Age to Come, when He returns in glory.
According to Jesus, this is the time when He will once again eat the Passover meal with us, His disciples, and this is what He was looking forward to on the night before His death. Jesus understood that Passover is a prophetic picture of what God will do for His people, and for Israel, when He returns. Jesus’ Second Coming will be an eschatological replay of the original Passover story from the book of Exodus. The future redemption will mirror the redemption of the past.
2. Matthew 23:39
Less than a week before His crucifixion, after He had entered Jerusalem, only days before Passover, Jesus said the following to a group of His Jewish brothers and sisters,
“For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.'”
The Scripture Jesus quotes in Matthew 23:39 is from Psalm 118:26. This is the portion of the text that reads, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.”
In the first century, Psalm 118 was a central part of the Jewish Passover liturgy, and in traditional Judaism, it still is to this day. This Psalm makes up part of what is known as the Egyptian Hallel in Judaism, and it was recited in the Temple as the Passover lambs were sacrificed, and it was/is also recited at the end of the Jewish Seder meal.
By reciting Psalm 118 at the end of the Passover meal, the Jewish people were, and still are, actually blessing the Messiah at this time, and proclaiming their faith and anticipation in the future Messianic deliverance. When Jesus quoted this passage to the Jews in Jerusalem, on the eve of Passover no less, they would have immediately recognized that He was referencing the Passover liturgy, and applying it to Himself.
In essence, Jesus was saying, “until you recognize that I am the One the Passover liturgy looks forward to, you will not experience the Passover deliverance you are longing for.” Interestingly, by making a connection between His future Second Coming and this particular Psalm, Jesus was also implicitly connecting His return to Passover, just as He would later do at His last Seder, as we saw above in Luke 22:15-16. This is another clear indication that Jesus Himself understood Passover to be an anticipatory celebration that looks forward to the inauguration of His Messianic Kingdom.
3. Matthew 21:9 (cf. Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-24; John 12:12-19)
Each of these Gospel accounts records what is often described as the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, right before the feast of Passover. At this time, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey to make a statement about His identity as Israel’s Messianic King. As He did this, the crowds began shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”
As you might have noticed, this crowd was quoting Psalm 118:26 (from the Passover liturgy) and applying it to Jesus. These Jews knew their Passover liturgy well, and because Messianic expectations often reached a fever’s pitch around Passover in the first century, they were proclaiming Jesus to be their New Moses and Passover Deliverer. The crowds truly thought He was going to vanquish the Romans and set up the kingdom of God on Passover, just as they had anticipated in their Passover celebrations year after year.
Many scholars and Bible teachers have been quick to point out how ultimately, Jesus did not meet the expectations of these first century Jews for a Messianic King like David, as He opted instead to go to the cross in humility, and establish a spiritual kingdom, rather than a political kingdom centered in Israel. While this is true to a certain extent, the idea that Jesus somehow rejected or “reformulated” traditional Jewish hopes of Messianic deliverance is completely mistaken.
By riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, Jesus was actually proclaiming Himself to be the heir to the Davidic throne, as well as the Messianic and political deliverer Israel had always anticipated. It is important to recognize that just because Jesus didn’t deliver Israel at that time in the way they were hoping, He was still giving them a prophetic glimpse into what He would one day do for them in the future. Furthermore, by specifically choosing to identify as Israel’s King during the Passover season, we could argue that Jesus was also once again giving us a hint that His Second Coming will be connected to Passover, as he would eventually state even more clearly at the Last Supper with His disciples (i.e. Luke 22:15-16).
Looking Back to Look Forward
The fundamental purpose of Passover is to look back in order to look forward. We meditate on God’s miraculous works in the past, because this allows us to more fully understand and appreciate what He will do for us in the future, when our Passover King returns to establish His kingdom.
We all must endure a certain measure of suffering in this life. But Passover reminds us that God is our Deliverer, our Miracle Worker, our Liberator, and our Ultimate Hope for a brighter future. Even as the earth escapes the shackles of darkness and dormancy every spring, we will escape the corruption of this world in the Age to Come, when our Messiah returns to redeem us. This is what Passover is about, and this is why Jesus said it will one day be “fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
Want to Know More About Passover, the Second Coming, and Bible Prophecy?
If you would like to know more about the relationship between Passover, the Second Coming, and Bible prophecy, please sign-up for our Voice of Messiah email list. You can also follow Voice of Messiah on Instagram. For the past year our ministry has been working on a book that more fully explores the connection between Passover and the return of Jesus, and we are looking forward to sharing more about this project with you in the coming months, before we release the book during Passover 2020.