The Passover Paradigm for Christ’s Death and God’s Wrath
The Passover event, connected to the exodus of the children of Israel out of Egypt, is one of the most well-known episodes in biblical history (Exod 12-14). It also serves as a model for helping us understand something of the death of Jesus Christ. The question we want to ask here is this:
How can understanding the connection between Christ’s death as the Lamb of God and the Passover event help us in understanding Christ’s death as it relates to God’s wrath?
First, the connection between Christ’s death and Passover is given: Paul, in discussing the problem of sin’s leavening influence, wrote, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7). When John the Immerser pointed to Jesus, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Both Paul and John are referencing the Passover as a background for what Jesus would accomplish. He is the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sins of the world.
Second, we cannot deny that God’s wrath is a reality that is present in the absence of repentance and forgiveness. This is seen several passages: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” (Rom 1:18). “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5). “…but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:8). “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Rom 5:9). Pointing out various sins, Paul wrote, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming” (Col 3:6).
There are more, but these should suffice to remind us that God’s wrath is real and will be felt by those who refuse to repent of their sins. We must admit, then, that in some way Christ’s death had to deal with God’s wrath. One way to think about it, among others, is to see this connection to Passover.
We often think of the Passover as God “passing over” the houses of the children of Israel who had slaughtered a lamb and put blood on the doorposts. It’s fairly passive in nature when thought of that way. Without going into detail, however, I am convinced that it is better to think about the idea here (pesach) as an active protection, a pushing back at the door if you will. In other words, as the Lord comes to kill the firstborn, the blood is a sign of protection and the Lord actively provides a push back to the death that would otherwise enter.* Compare Isaiah 31:5 where God said He would protect, deliver, “spare” (pesach) and rescue Jerusalem. Here he would not just “pass over” Jerusalem, but would actively keep it from the damage that would otherwise come without His protection. In the Passover, God actively protected His people who applied the blood to their house.
That picture of God’s protection is significant, for the blood of Christ serves us in that same way. By being washed in the blood of the Lamb, we have the protection, the barrier against the wrath that would otherwise come our way. God’s wrath is turned back by the blood of the covenant because it serves as active protection. It is more than forgiveness; it is the basis for the hope of salvation as a helmet and a breastplate of faith and love, as Paul indicates:
“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” (1 Thess 5:8-10)
The Passover paradigm for Christ’s death sees God’s wrath as being turned back so that the firstborn ones—those purchased by the blood of Christ—in the house of God are actively guarded by the Lord Himself. This is why Christ died for us. We are justified and saved from the wrath of God because He protects and provides for us through the blood of the Son (Rom 5:9).
Like the Thessalonians so long ago, we can turn from idols to serve the true and living God and “wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:9-10).
Just be warned if we refuse repentance. The Lamb of God, who died for the sins of the world and was raised again, makes God’s deliverance possible for us now. His blood applied to us actively turns back wrath. Praise God for what He does!
*Brother Tom Hamilton gave a lecture that explains this well. You can listen to that here.