“Theology” is the study of God, and “Soteriology” is the study of, or theology of, salvation.
As an Evangelical Christian, I believe that Salvation is by God’s Grace, through Faith implanted by God and acting in us. I believe that Salvation has always been by Grace, through Faith. In Temple times, yes, certainly there were many Jewish legalists, but the sages always understood that the sacrifices were a response of faith to Salvation, not a means of it. And if not, were Jews of the Babylonian Captivity forever lost because they had no Temple and therefore no sacrifices? No, they had their faith and a gracious God!
We understand that Salvation is, in one sense, a process (personal conviction of sin), culminating in an event. Not, I think, a result of following some yellow brick road through random verses in Romans with a well-meaning friend or stranger, and then repeating back a magic prayer. The best statement I know of to explain salvation is:
Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
While the Salvation event is a jewel to be sought, it is in reality a jewel with many separate facets (see slide, below): It gathers us into fellowship with likeminded believers; in fact, usually, God brings people into contact with believers in order to introduce them to the reality of His existence. The key facet is regeneration, replacement of our old nature by the new. This results in short- and long-term joy. It also brings redemption from slavery to sin. As we live among God’s people and learn God’s will, we experience sanctification, a turning from sin towards a purer life. Eventually, we all die, but we look forward to ultimate resurrection, followed by revelation of all truth.
So, these facets of Salvation are typified by the recognized themes of the Jewish Feasts! The order is precisely that of the feasts, on Israel’s civil calendar beginning in the fall.
It is important, and the reason for this article, that you recognize that
Jesus is not just the archetype of the Passover Lamb; He is also typified by, and fulfills the prophetic vision of, all Biblical Jewish Feasts and Sacrifices.
In1 Peter 1:18-19 (ESV), the Apostle tells us, “You were ransomed … with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb… without blemish or spot” The emphasis on “like” is mine, and I removed a comma that is not in the Greek. Peter is here comparing Jesus with, really, all of the efficacious sacrificial animals, not just the Passover Lamb.
John the Baptizer, in John 1:29 (ESV), said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” But, what does it mean to call Him “The Lamb of God“? Was John prophesying that Jesus would be crucified during the Passover Feast, some 3-1/2 years in the future? The people hearing John in that day, in that place, would have missed that point and immediately known that John was pointing out to them the person who he believed to be the promised Messiah!
Prior to Jesus’ appearance, the Jewish rabbis taught that personifications of “the Lamb” in the Old Testament were speaking of the coming Messiah. Take, for example,
Isaiah 53:7 (ESV)
 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
At the bottom of Part 4, I mentioned some reasons that many theologians mistakenly think that the Gospel of John conflicts with the synoptics, and thus proves that the Last Supper could not have been a Passover Seder. Part of their belief is that Jesus must have been crucified at the exact same time as the Passover sacrifices because “He was the Passover Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world.” That, too, is a misreading of John.
Here is a list of some things that I think make it impossible for Jesus to have died on Nisan 14, at the same time as the sacrifices:
- Most importantly, a proper understanding of the scriptures and the cultural traditions make the narrative of the four Gospels clear and consistent. The sacrifices were on Nisan 14, the Crucifixion on Nisan 15.
- In Exodus, the killing of the sacrifice was of little importance; what mattered is what happened in the home that night—the smearing of the blood on the doorposts and the sharing of the final meal in slavery. Followed, of course by the passing over by the angel of death. In the commemoration, the sacrifice was governed by ritual, but it was still not a holiday occurrence—the meal was now the essential feature and made more-so by Jesus. During that one, all-important twilight, at the Passover Seder, Jesus proclaimed for all time the New Covenant in His body and blood!
- If Jesus had died alongside the Passover sacrifices, His death would have been forever connected with that one sacrifice alone. In fact, His death represented every other sacrifice as well!
The key take-home from this lesson is that, while Jesus was certainly the ultimate Passover Lamb, it was not as the Passover Lamb that He saved us! Passover lambs were never sin offerings. A sin offering became a symbolic receptacle for the sins of the people, and could not be eaten, because one would be symbolically re-ingesting the same sins. The Passover lambs were a type of fellowship offering, a remembrance of redemption from slavery, and a celebratory meal between family and/or friends. It not only could be eaten, but it must be eaten.
So, where did salvation truly lie? In Jesus, the Scapegoat of Yom Kippur! Stay tuned for a future instalment.
Table of Contents: The Jewish Feasts
Start of Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 1, Chapter Introduction
Previous in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 5, Passover
Next in Series: The Jewish Feasts: Part 7, Unleavened Bread