As the Passover season draws nearer, it is vital that we focus on the real meaning of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Savior. Many times, because the world emphasizes the idea of loving a “little Lord Jesus” in a wrong way, even we in God’s Church may tend to deemphasize that aspect of the Gospel that concerns Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. However, as Mr. Armstrong proclaimed a number of times in sermons and in writing, we must not do that!
For Christ is the Savior by whom we enter the Kingdom of God. He is the coming King of that very Kingdom. And He must live His life within us through the Holy Spirit, or we will not be in that Kingdom!
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:1–4). Paul clearly emphasized the pivotal role of “Jesus Christ our Lord” in the “Gospel of God.” We must not let any false teachers ever turn us away from the very foundation of our message—which cannot be separated from Jesus Christ, His death, His resurrection, His functioning now as our High Priest, and His future as King over the coming Kingdom or Government of God.
As we approach the Passover, let us meditate on the fact that the One who existed with God the Father from eternity was willing to make Himself “of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (Philippians 2:7). He “made Himself of no reputation,” coming into the human flesh to be horribly beaten with whips, and was then taken out and crucified to pay for our sins. We must constantly recognize that He was resurrected, did ascend to heaven and now sits in glory as our High Priest and coming King. Through Him, we come boldly to God in prayer. Through the Holy Spirit, He must now live His life within us (Galatians 2:20).
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he stated, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1–2).
Christ Was Scourged for Our Healing!
Especially at Passover time, we should remember—and focus on—the fact that Christ had to be scourged just before He was crucified! The purpose of this scourging, as we understand from Scripture—was to pay the penalty for our physical transgressions of the laws of health and laws of nature. In that way, Christ became our Healer. The Apostle Peter wrote of Christ “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).When the Apostle Paul explained to the Corinthians the meaning of the Passover, he reminded them, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me’” (1 Corinthians 11:23–24). As we have explained many times at the Passover service, the broken bread is taken before the wine. For that bread clearly symbolizes Christ’s body broken in payment for our physical transgressions and carelessness in the way we treat our bodies, the temple of God’s Holy Spirit. Next, the red wine is taken—symbolizing Jesus’ blood, which was poured out as payment for our spiritual sins.
Later in the above passage, Paul declares, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep” (vv. 28–30). It should be clear, then, that we must exercise genuine faith in Christ’s broken body for our healing if we expect God to heal us! At Passover time, we must “discern” the full meaning of the broken bread and the red wine that are taken as symbols of Christ’s sacrifice.
However, because certain leaders crept into the modern Church of God and began to “water down” the entire approach to the Gospel, the knowledge and understanding of Christ’s sacrifice was gradually blotted out in the minds of many! Instead of looking to God as Healer, many brethren began to forsake totally the practice of looking to God first for healing. Rather, they automatically took various pills and potions, or went to doctors for drugs and operations instead of being anointed first, when possible, and asking God in any case to go above and beyond what man can or should do!
The entire focus of faith in regard to healing was gradually obliterated in the minds of thousands of brethren! We all need to realize this and do everything we can to return to the faith “once for all delivered”—even in regard to divine healing! So please remember, brethren, as you approach the Passover, that Christ paid a terrible penalty so that you could be healed. If you come to the Passover without this understanding and this faith, many of you—like the Corinthians—may become weak or sick and may “sleep”! For Paul continued in the above passage, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world” (vv. 31–32).
Please go back and study those prophetic verses in Isaiah 53:4–5 which clearly indicate what Christ’s “scourging” was all about! In verse 4, it states, “He has borne our griefs” or, as the Hebrew is often translated, “sicknesses”! In verse 5 it shows that He was bruised for our iniquities and “by His stripes we are healed.” Clearly, this has directly to do with the scourging Jesus suffered just before He was crucified, and with the meaning of the bread we take at the Passover—just before we take the wine symbolizing Christ’s death for our spiritual sins.
Remember, the Gospel of Matthew clearly points out that when Jesus came and “healed all who were sick,” it was done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’” (Matthew 8:16–17).
A number of passages in the New Testament clearly indicate that spiritual forgiveness and physical healing are inexorably tied together! For when Jesus healed the paralytic, He told the doubting Pharisees, “‘For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house’” (Matthew 9:5–6).Whenever Jesus went out preaching, He not only taught the forgiveness of sins but He also healed the people of sickness and disease: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).
Power To Heal
When He sent out His twelve apostles—still unconverted, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given—He “gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matthew 10:1). He instructed, “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7–8). So the preaching of physical healing and the forgiveness of spiritual sins were tied together when Jesus and the apostles preached the Gospel! This was a vital part of the “Gospel message.” In Luke 10, we find that even the “seventy others” who were sent out by Jesus apart from the apostles were given the same power and the same commission to preach and to heal! For Jesus told them, “Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’” (Luke 10:8–9).
After His resurrection, Jesus sent out the apostles and told them: “And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17–18).
Many of us ministers have participated in healing the sick and in casting out demons. But these events are not experienced nearly as often as they should be!
Because, as Jesus asked, “when the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Brethren, many scriptures indicate that God’s people—at the end of this age—will be greatly lacking in faith. We need to realize that this has affected all of us! And God Almighty generally does not heal nearly as often unless there is an “atmosphere of faith”! Please remember that even Jesus Christ Himself—when He came back to His own hometown and relatives, “could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:5). It was obviously not because He lacked faith, but “He marveled because of their unbelief” (v. 6)!
So, we must do everything in our power to restore this aspect of apostolic Christianity. We must begin, collectively, to cry out to God to restore the depth of understanding and the depth of faith regarding healing and God’s divine intervention in other ways that the original apostles had. We must pray about this. We must fast about this. We must go on a “campaign,” dear brethren, so that God will begin to supernaturally heal more of our friends and loved ones in God’s Church at this time of the end! We know that terrible disease epidemics are coming. Because of this, it is even more imperative than ever that God’s people learn to have genuine faith that God can heal us if we turn to Him with all our hearts!
In His Way, In His Time
As an aside, let me remind you that the Church has always taught that God does not heal people in every case in this life—and that He does allow people to die at some point. God heals in His way and in His time. So, although we were very hurt to experience the deaths of Messrs. Dibar Apartian, David Burson, Glen Gilchrist, Fitzroy Greeman, Randy Gregory, Bob League, Carl McNair, John Ogwyn, Carl Ponder, Lynn Torrance, Keith Walden and others in recent years, we realize that these men had proven themselves as faithful servants of Jesus Christ. Some died well into their 60s or 70s, and several were older than I am today. In my case, brethren, I want all of you to know and understand that God does not “have” to heal me, although I certainly hope that He will. For God has already given me nearly 86 wonderful years of life, with a beautiful first wife and a beautiful second wife, six wonderful children, ten grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, trips around the world and many, many other blessings and opportunities. I have already lived about 15 years longer than King David of Israel did 3,000 years ago when God allowed him to die “old and full of days.” I will certainly deeply appreciate your prayers that God will grant me several more years to help finish the Work! This is my passion and my desire. But you must not be shocked, turned aside or in any way lose heart if God allows an 85-year-old man to die. Your faith must always be in God’s Word, and in what God says He will do. Unless there are special reasons, God does often heal us in this lifetime—and many of us have experienced that over and over again. But we do need to go all out in a genuine crusade—as a Church—to ask God for increased faith and zeal so that our Father in heaven will begin to grant us the gifts of the Holy Spirit and begin to pour out these gifts—including divine healing—much more than ever, as we cooperate with Christ in creating an “atmosphere of faith” within the Church of God.
In Jesus’ name, I ask all of you to join me in urgently crying out to our Father in heaven to restore this living faith into His Church! Please ask God to teach us every lesson, show us everything we need to change and move us, collectively, to draw closer to Him so that He will then be able to bless us, empower us and use us to finish the Work of God with the kind of zeal the original apostles had—and also be blessed with the “accompanying” signs!
Then, as we approach the Passover, we can more sincerely get down on our knees and ask God—with renewed understanding and zeal—to help us profoundly appreciate what Jesus Christ our Savior did when He not only shed His blood for our spiritual sins, but gave His body to be broken that we might be healed. We must not leave out or neglect this vital part of God’s purpose for our lives, and for the full meaning of the Passover service!