ETERNAL LIFE - THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EASTER
E. Shailer, Australia
(The following article contains very interesting and important information which many have not considered when studying the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. However there are many aspects to this study.This topic should be studied in conjunction with the other ancient records as well as the many references
in the Bible before we come to our conclusion. - Ed.)
Nic. "The Book of Nicodemus." This book is divided into two sections. The first division, or "Acts of Pilate," gives detailsconcerning Jesus Christ's trial. The second division gives information about Christ's descent into the under world. The existence of this book was known in the early ages of the church. Mention is made at the end of the work that it was discovered by Emperor Theodosius the Great in the hall of Pontius Pilate among public records.
AE "The Books of Adam and Eve," I and II. These ancient manuscripts are the work of unknown writers who lived in Egypt. In general, the account begins where the Genesis story of Adam and Eve leaves off.
LGP "The Lost Gospel According to Peter." An incomplete manuscript discovered in the grave of a monk at Akhmim in Egypt which was being excavated by the French Archaeological Mission in 1886.It was published six years later in the Memoirs of the French Archaeological Mission at Cairo. Scholars had always recognised that such a document existed because it had been mentioned by numerous early church bishops.
Scriptural texts from Lamsa Holy Bible and The New English Bible.
Easter is the festival celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It commemorates the event which is the stone of Christian faith and hope and promises eternal life.
By the first Christians it was considered to continue the feast of Passover. The date of Easter varies from March 22 to April 25. Protestants and Roman Catholics
observe Easter on the first Sunday after the Paschal (Hebrew "pesach" = passover) full moon, the full moon following the vernal equinox.
The English name "Easter," according to the Venerable Bede, comes from the Anglo-Saxon "Eostre" (from Teutonic "Austro"), a goddess of light and Spring, whose festival was celebrated in April. Bede was an English historian and theologian who was born in 672 or 673. He was the most learned Englishman of his day,
his most important work being "Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum" (or "Ecclesiastical History of the English People"). Although Easter is now strictly a Christian religious festival, certain customs, some very ancient, corrupt it in modern times. The Easter egg was anciently a symbol of the mother goddess and of birth - the Saxon goddess Eostre was a life-giver.The Jews also have eggs at their Passover feasts. The Easter rabbit is said to be a sign of fertility, although how and when the custom originated is unknown-perhaps it is popular by reason of it being pushed for commercial interests along the same lines as Santa Claus.
Jesus Christ, and his divinity, is crucial to the validity of a resurrection and eternal life.The name "Jesus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Joshua," which means
"God saves." "Christ" is a title, and is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Messiah," "the Anointed One." Under the Mosaic law, priests and kings were anointed when installed to office, and were called the "anointed of the Lord," to show that their persons were sacred and their office from God. The duties they performed were by God's orders and they acted as His agent. Moses was instructed to anoint Aaron and his sons to minister to God in the priest's office. The appointment was an hereditary one - (Exodus 28:41). Samuel was instructed by God to anoint Saul to be king over Israel - (I Samuel 15).
When Aaron was appointed high priest the system of government which was then established was a theocracy, where the head is God himself. Under this system the position of high priest was of great importance because the holder of that rank was both the political and religious head of state under God. It was the high priest only who was permitted into the "Holy of Holies" to sprinkle the blood of the sin offering - (Leviticus16). A theocratic system of government remained in force until the time of Samuel who was confronted by the elders of Israel with the accusation,
"behold, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now give us a king to judge us like all the nations." - (I Samuel 8:5)
This lame excuse could only have been a blatant endeavour to snatch power to themselves because a similar situation had arisen with the previous high priest, Eli, but God had raised up Samuel to take the place of Eli's corrupt sons.
Samuel prayed to the Lord regarding the matter and was instructed to
"hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me that I should not reign over them." - (I Samuel 8:7)
Although the Israelitesof Samuel's time rejected God as ruler and took power to themselves, but even here they had to accept the rules God laid out under which
they would have to live. However, there was another covenant in existence dating back to the time of Adam which was superior in that it did not rely on any
covenants or actions on the part of the Israelites, as the one who had promised was God. As the scriptures declare,
"God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should be given counsel, he speaks and he shall do it, and his word abides forever" - (Numbers 23:19)
In the book of Titus it tells us very simply that this promise is "eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago." - (Titus 1 :2) If we want to find out more about this promise we have to go back in time, and link up what happened betweeen God and Adam with the message proclaimed.
Almost all the information we have about Jesus comes from the four Gospels. The Roman historian Tacitus, writing after 100 A.D., makes a passing reference to "Christus,"and states that he was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. The purpose of the Gospels is to proclaim the "good news," the literal meaning of "gospel." Jesus preached the existence of the "Kingdom of God," a society divinely constituted and controlled - this was good news. The Gospel of John presents Jesus as the Messiah,the Lord's appointed who would deliver his people, and as the Son of God.
The gospel records contain fragmentary periods of the life of Jesus place particular emphasis on his crucifixion and his resurrection. That the belief in a resurrection was generally held by many people in Jerusalem before and at the time of Christ is evident, because at that time there was a sect called the Sadduccees whose most characteristic feature was the denial ofa resurrection.
The momentous events of the crucifixion and the resurrection were ushered in when about the year 26-30 A.D.John the Baptist began going " all over the Jordan
valley proclaiming a baptism in token of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" - (Luke 3:3).
"During a general baptism of the people, when Jesus too had been baptized and was praying, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove, and there came a voice from heaven, 'Thou art my Son, my Beloved; on thee my favour rests'" - (Luke 3:21-22).
Returning to the beginning, after God had expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and ordered them to live in a cave, they were so terrified that they fell
to the ground with fear. God sent His Word to raise Adam and Eve from their fallen state and to declare to them: "I have ordained on this earth days and years, and thou and thy seed shall dwell and walk in it, until the days and years are fulfilled; when I shall send the Word that created thee, and against which thou has transgressed, the Word that made thee come out of the garden, and that raised thee when thou wast fallen." (AE, 1,3: 1-2) It was clarified to Adam that "... these were 5,000 and 500 years; and how One would then come and save him and his seed." (AE, 1,3:6)
Adam and Eve encountered many problems with their changed lifestyle and on numerous occasions appealed to God for help. On each occasion the same promise was repeated to them:
I. "... I have made My covenant with thee, and I will not turn from it; neither will I let thee return to the garden, until My covenant of the great five days and a half [i.e. 5,500 years] is fulfilled." (AE, I, 7:2)
2. "... I have made thee a promise; when that promise is fulfilled, I will bring thee back into the garden, thee and thy righteous seed." (AE, I, 10:8)
3. "... every day I have determined for thee, until the fulfilment of My covenant; when I will save thee and bring thee back again into the garden, into the abode of light thou longest for,-wherein is no darkness. I will bring thee to it - in the kingdom of heaven." (AE, I, 14:2)
4. "... All this misery that thou hast been made to take upon thee because of thy transgression, will not free thee from the hand of Satan, and will not save thee. But I will. When I shall come down from heaven, and shall become flesh of thy seed, and take upon Me the infirmity from which thou sufferest, then the darkness that came upon thee in the cave shall come upon Me in the grave, when I am in the flesh of thy seed. And I, who am without years, shall be subject to the reckoning of times, of months, and of days, and I shall be reckoned as one of the sons of men, in order to save thee." (AE, I, 14:3-5)
5. "O Adam, as to the fruit of theTree of Life, for which thou askest, I will not give thee now, but when the 5,500 years are fulfilled. Then will I give thee of the fruit of the Tree of Life, and thou shalt eat, and live for ever, thou, and Eve, and thy righteous seed." (AE, I, 38:2)
Concerning the transgression which forced Adam and Eve from the garden, the blame has always been placed on Eve,but Adam makes a surprising admission to God: "Moreover, when thou commandest me regarding the tree, I was neither to approach nor to eat thereof, Eve was not with me; Thou hadst not yet created her, neither hadst Thou yet taken her out of my side; nor had she yet heard this order from Thee." (AE, I, 34:12)
Preparing for his death, Adam instructed Seth to wind his body up with myrrh, aloes and cassia after he had died, and to leave it in the cave (AE, II, 8:9), but
"The death of Adam ... on the fifteenth day of Barmudeh, after the reckoning of an epact of the sun, at the ninth hour. It was on a Friday, the very day on which he was created, and on which he rested; and the hour at which he died, was the same as that at which he came out of the garden." (AE, II, 9:3-4)
A connection between the flood and baptism is outlined in I Peter 3:20-21 where it is recorded: "... in the ark a few persons, eight jn all, were brought to safety through the water. This water prefigured the water of baptism through which you are now brought to safety."
The crucifIxion of Christ took place at the third hour (9 a.m.) on Friday and he died at the ninth hour on a hill outside Jerusalem named in the Latin Calvary (a skull)
or in the Hebrew Golgotha (a skull). The selection of this site was by no means accidental because long ago God had informed Adam:
"O Adam, as to what thou sayest, 'Bring me into a land where there is rest, it is not another land than this, but it is the kingdom of heaven where alone there is rest. But thou canst not make thy entrance into it at present; but only after thy judgment is past and fulfilled. Then will I make thee go up into the kingdom of heaven, thee and thy righteous seed; and I will give thee and them the rest thou askest for at present. And if thou saidst, 'Give me of the Water of Life that I may drink and live'- it cannot be this day, but on the day that I shall descend into hell, and break the gates of brass, and bruise in pieces the kingdoms of iron. Then will I in mercy save thy soul and the souls of the righteous, to give them rest in My garden. And that shall be when the end of the world is come. And again, as regards the Water of Life thou seekest, it will not be granted thee this day; but on the day that I shall shed my blood upon thy head in the land of Golgotha. For My blood shall be the Water of Life unto thee, at that time, and not to thee alone, but unto all those of thy seed who shall believe in Me; that it be unto them for rest forever." (AE, I, 42:2-8)
From the Gospels we learn that the time of the crucifixion was nine in the morning (Mark 15:25) and at midday darkness fell over the whole land, which lasted
till three in the afternoon when Jesus died (Mark15:33).
"There was an earthquake, the rocks split and the graves opened, and many of God's people arose from sleep; and coming out of their graves after his resurrection they entered the Holy City where many saw them" (Matthew 27:51-53)
Initially it seems surprising that an event of this magnitude received so little space in the Gospels but this may have been due to the fact that the apostles were being hunted by the Jews, the elders and the priests: "...And I with my companions was grieved; and being wounded in mind we hid ourselves: for we were being sought for by them as malefactors, and as wishing to set fire to the temple." (LGP,v.7).
However, the Book of Nicodemus gives quite a bit of detail about the events of this time. Nicodemus appears to have been substantially involved with later events
together with the Jewish Council and the Governor, Pilate. There are five references to Nicodemus in the Gospel of John. He was a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish Council, but he defended Jesus before the Pharisees and assisted Joseph of Arimathaea to prepare Jesus's body for burial, even personally providing more than half a hundredweight of myrrh and aloes to be used with the linen wrappings.
The Book of Nicodemus contains the record of two of the people who arose from the dead at Christ's resurrection. They are identified as Charinus and Lenthius, the two sons of Simeon, the high priest. Annas and Caiaphas, being addressed by Joseph of Arimathaea at a crisis meeting of the Jews, were told, "we all knew
the blessed Simeon, the high-priest, who took Jesus when an infant into his arms in the temple. This same Simeon had two sons of his own, and we were all present at their death and funeral. Go therefore and see their tombs, for these are open, and they are risen: and behold, they are in the ciy of Arimathaea, spending their time together in offices of devotion. Some, indeed, have heard the sound of their voices in prayer, but they will not discourse with anyone, but they continue as mute as dead men. But come, let us go to them ...perhaps they will tell us some of the mysteries of their resurrection." (Nic.12:15-19)
A delegation composed of Annas, Caiaphas, Nicodemus, Joseph and Gamaliel found Charinus and Lenthius in the city of Arimathaea and took them to the
synagogue at Jerusalem, and shut the gates. Charinus and Lenthius were requested to "tell us what ye have seen, and how ye were raised from the dead." (Nic.
12:23) They first had to seek divine leave to do so because they had been forbidden to declare "... the secret things, which were wrought by thy divine power in hell" (Nic.13:2) So they asked for some paper and wrote down all the things they had seen, because they had been instructed, "ye shall not talk with any man, but sit as dumb persons till the time come when the Lord will allow you to relate the mysteries of his divinity. The archangel Michael further commanded us to go beyond Jordan, to an excellent and fat country, where there are many who rose from the dead along with us for the proof of the resurrection of Christ. For we have only three days allowed us from the dead ..." (Nic. 21:3-5)
After they had finished writing, Charinus handed his paper to Annas, Caiaphas and Gamaliel and Lenthius handed his paper to Nicodemus and Joseph. "...
immediately they were changed into exceeding white forms and were seen no more." (Nic. 21:7-8)
When the two papers were compared they were "... found perfectly to agree, the one not containing one letter more or less than the other." (Nic.21:9)
Included in the record is a heated quarrel between Satan and Beelzebub (the prince of hell), regarding the expected arrival of Christ in hell:
Satan: "Prepare to receive Jesus of Nazareth himself, who boasted that he was the Son of God..." (Nic. 15:2)
Beelzebub: "Who is that Jesus of Nazareth ...perhaps it is the same who took away from me Lazarus, after he had been four days dead, and did both stink and was rotten, and of whom I had possession as a dead person, yet he brought him to life again by his power ... And I know now that he is Almighty God who could perform such things ... Bring not therefore this person hither, for he will set at liberty all those whom I hold in prison under disbelief, and bound with the fetters of their sins, and will conduct them to everlasting life." (Nic. 15:13-14, 19-20)
This argument was suddenly interrupted by great confusion when Jesus broke through the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron and burst in on them. He trampled on a being called Death, seized Beelzebub and deprived him of his power. (Nic.17:13) Addressing Adam and his seed, including the patriarchs and the prophets, Jesus commanded them to, "Come to me, all ye my saints, who were created in my image, who were condemned by the tree of the forbidden fruit, and by the devil and death ... the devil, the prince of this world, is overcome, and death is conquered." (Nic. 19:1-2) Jesus then delivers them all to Michael, the archangel, in the garden of heaven where they meet Enoch and Elijah who did not die but were translated by the Word of God. (Nic. 20: 1-3)
Meanwhile, back in hell, Beelzebub is continuing to censure Satan for acting "...against thine own interest and mine, as thou wilt presently perceive by those large torments and infinite punishments which thou art about to suffer. Why didst thou venture, without either reason or justice, to crucify him, and hath brought down to our regions a person innocent and righteous, and thereby has lost all the sinners, impious and unrighteous persons..." (Nic. 18:11, 13) Jesus appears again in hell and informs Beelzebub, the prince of hell, that, "...Satan, the prince shall be subject to thy dominion for ever, in the room of Adam and his righteous sons, who are mine." (Nic. 18:14)
A later assembly of the Jews were told about Charinus and Lenthius and they were greatly concerned. Joseph and Nicodemus went and informed Pilate,the Governor, and he made a record and placed all the accounts in the public records of his hall. He ordered Annas and Caiaphas to go with him to the temple and lock the gates, and then demanded that they look into the great book in the temple and tell him the truth about the things written in the book about Jesus.
Annas and Caiaphas admitted to Pilate that they had found in the " ...first seventy books, where Michael the archangel speaking to the third son of Adam the first man, an account that after five thousand five hundred years, Christ the most beloved God was come to earth. And we further considered, that perhaps he was the very God of Israel who spoke to Moses, thou shalt make the ark of the testimony; two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and the height thereof [Exodus 25:10]. By these five cubits and a half for the building of the ark of the Old Testament, we perceived and that in five thousand years and half (one thousand) years, Jesus Christ was to come in the ark or tabernacle of a body. And so our Scriptures testify that he is the son of and the Lord and King of Israel." (Nic. 14)
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