Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Destruction, Part 6: Four Passovers

It is the Lord’s Passover, for I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment; I am the Lord. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt.

—Exodus 8:2, RE

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

The annual celebration of Passover commemorates the deliverance of Israel from bondage and slavery in Egypt. The seven-day celebration begins with the Seder meal held after sunset on the first day of the festival. This meal includes many traditions and rich symbolism, including the drinking of four cups of wine throughout the meal. 

Tradition tells us the four cups commemorate the four-fold promise of deliverance found in Exodus 6:6-7 (Ex. 4:1 RE):

Wherefore, say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will remove you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments. And I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 

Each of the bolded statements is a promise given by God, and each is symbolized by a cup of wine, as follows:

Though Jewish tradition ascribes meaning to each of the statements and cups in the context of the Israelite liberation from Egypt and entry into the Promised Land, I choose to take a more expansive view of the meanings of the statements and the cups, beginning with the Israelite Exodus, and continuing through three more Passovers that constitute the four pivotal moments in Israel’s redemption.

All the passovers have elements they share in common; watch for these elements as we discuss the four Passovers.

  • Three days journey
  • Sacrifice
  • Blood
  • Death
  • Destruction and suffering
  • Negotiation for release
  • Miracles
  • A ceremonial meal
  • Wine
  • A nighttime escape
  • A final deliverance
  • Freedom under a new government

The First Passover

The first of the four Passovers is the Passover with which we are all familiar, associated with the Exodus from Egypt. It began with Moses and Aaron asking Pharaoh to allow the people to travel three days journey into the wilderness to sacrifice. Upon Pharaoh’s refusal, the Lord sent plagues of destruction and suffering, beginning with turning the waters to blood, and culminating with the death of all the firstborn in Egypt. The “Passover” refers to the angel of death passing over the Israelite homes marked with the blood of the sacrificed lamb, while the Israelites ate a ceremonial meal inside. They were instructed to eat the meal “in haste” with “your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand” to be ready to depart immediately on their journey. They departed by night and escaped the Egyptians, only to be followed by Pharaoh’s armies. Their final deliverance occurred when the Lord parted the Red Sea through which they escaped on dry ground, and then returned the sea and drowned Pharaoh’s armies. 

All the events I mentioned in the above bullet list occurred in this passover and  prefigure similar events in the subsequent Passovers. You may want to consult the bullet list and see if you can find them all. 

One other item to note—the first cup in the Seder, the Cup of Sanctification and Separation, linked to the statement, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” symbolizes this exodus.

The Second Passover

Having delivered the House of Israel from physical bondage through the initial Passover and exodus, the next item on the Lord’s agenda was their spiritual deliverance from the bondage of ignorance and false religion. Like the first Passover exodus, this second occurred at a time when Israel labored under burdens. The Northern kingdom had already turned apostate, been conquered and carried away captive by the Assyrians. The Southern kingdom had been preliminarily conquered by Babylon with Zedekiah sitting on the throne of David as Babylon’s puppet king. The reforms instituted by Josiah had gone to great lengths to destroy scripture and alter the Israelite religion, including erasure of the divine feminine, removal of the Messiah from scripture, elimination of entire books that were too Messianic, and centralization of all worship at the temple in Jerusalem. The people labored in great wickedness and prophets foretold their doom.

Into this desperate situation, the Lord sent Lehi who preached of both the coming destruction and the future Messiah. This proved too much for the religious authorities, who sought to have Lehi killed. 

At the Lord’s command, Lehi took his family and fled three days’ journey into the wilderness where they made camp and offered sacrifice. The Lord then instructed Lehi that his sons must return to Jerusalem to rescue the “record of the Jews” that was written on brass plates and safeguarded in a treasury. This record contained:

…the five books of Moses, which gave an account of the creation of the world and also of Adam and Eve, who were our first parents, and also a record of the Jews from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, and also the prophecies of the holy prophets from the beginning, even down to the commencement of the reign of Zedekiah, and also many prophecies which have been spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah. (1 Nephi 1:22 RE)

Even more important, this record, preserved on metal plates, had not been altered by revisionists. It was likely the last remaining unadulterated record of the original religion God gave to Adam, and the original words of all the prophets. It testified of the Messiah in full and rich detail, and as such was undoubtedly targeted for destruction by those bent on obliterating this sacred knowledge.

Lehi’s sons tried negotiating with Laban for the record’s release, making multiple attempts to convince Laban to relinquish it. They sacrificed all their worldly wealth in an attempt to purchase the record. But ultimately, it was Nephi who secured the record when he found Laban inebriated in the street, killed him, stole his armor, and impersonated his way into the treasury to retrieve the record. 

This all likely happened at Passover. Indeed, evidence suggests Laban’s death took place on the last day of Passover, just after the final festival celebrating the death of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. Laban’s drunkenness was the natural result of the final celebration, and Nephi’s ability to creep through the city by night undetected, kill Laban, impersonate him, and retrieve the record were all likely facilitated by the fact that most of the city was passed out drunk that night. 

Like the first Passover, this one contained all the same representative elements. But rather than concluding with the physical deliverance of Israel, this Passover exodus brought about the eventual spiritual salvation of the covenant people. The Brass Plates were the direct precursor to the Book of Mormon. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say the Book of Mormon was a direct continuation of the Brass Plates record. Without the retrieval of the Brass Plates, the Book of Mormon likely would never have existed, and therefore its ultimate purpose and destiny in the Marvelous Work that will gather and spiritually restore Israel in these last days would not be possible. This was truly a pivotal Passover.

It is symbolized by the second cup of wine in the Seder, the Cup of Deliverance and Judgment, associated with the Lord’s statement, “I will remove you out of their bondage.” All Israel was delivered from the spiritual bondage of false religion through this Passover and exodus, while Judgment rained down in the form of Babylon’s final conquest of Jerusalem.

For more information on the Passover exodus of Lehi, I recommend this blog post over at Stick of Joseph.

The Third Passover

Jesus Christ’s suffering, sacrificial death and resurrection all occurred at Passover. He embodied the Paschal lamb without blemish that would be inspected, judged, sacrificed, and eaten in the Seder meal. Prior to Christ’s death, Pilate negotiated with the crowd to determine who would be released. Our Lord escaped his suffering as evening fell, and took his three day journey in the spirit world. Then final deliverance came at the resurrection when he broke the bands of death and returned to life. Every Passover element and symbol was fulfilled in these events, and this Passover delivered Israel from sin and death. 

For interesting information about the timing of this Passover, check out this post at Stick of Joseph.

This Passover is symbolized by the third cup in the Seder meal, the Cup of Redemption, reflecting the Lord’s statement, “I will redeem you with a stretched out arm and with great judgments.” Christ’s arms were stretched out on the cross, as great judgments fell on the world. On the American continent, fierce and unprecedented destructions took place by storm, fire, earthquake, tsunami, electrical storm and volcano. The wicked were destroyed as entire cities were erased. This was the greatest Passover yet, and it resulted in the redemption of all creation. 

The Fourth Passover

The fourth and final Passover has not yet taken place, but it is prophesied and expected. This Passover is the topic of Malachi’s prophecy:

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard. And a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels. And I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

But unto you that fear my name shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings. And ye shall go forth and grow up as calves in the stall; and ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of Hosts. (3 Nephi 11:4-5 RE) 

As I’m sure you’re aware, this prophecy makes appearance in every volume of our scripture, and was the first scripture quoted by Nephi when he appeared to Joseph Smith in September 1823. It is one of the major themes of the restoration and the ultimate conclusion of this era, including its promise of protection for the righteous, who will be “passed over” in the day of burning.

Specifically for this final Passover, the Lord has made all the following promises to those who will receive and faithfully keep his Covenant:

And I, the Lord your God, will be with you and will never forsake you, and I will lead you in the path which will bring peace to you in the troubling season now fast approaching.

I will raise you up and protect you, abide with you, and gather you in due time, and this shall be a land of promise to you as your inheritance from me. 

The earth will yield its increase, and you will flourish upon the mountains and upon the hills, and the wicked will not come against you because the fear of the Lord will be with you.

I will visit my house, which the remnant of my people shall build, and I will dwell therein, to be among you, and no one will need to say, Know ye the Lord, for you all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

I will teach you things that have been hidden from the foundation of the world and your understanding will reach unto Heaven.

And you shall be called the children of the Most High God, and I will preserve you against the harvest.

And the angels sent to harvest the world will gather the wicked into bundles to be burned, but will pass over you as my peculiar treasure. (T&C 158:12-18)

These robust promises of separation, deliverance, protection, prosperity, knowledge, spiritual growth, and adoption reflect but also surpass all the promises of deliverance in the prior three Passovers. The final promise that the covenant people will be passed over refers to the final, triumphant return of the Lord when the wicked will be destroyed and the righteous will be blessed. 

This final Passover reflects the fourth cup of the Seder meal, the Cup of Acceptance, associated with the promise, “I will take you to me for a people and I will be to you a God.” In language of the Covenant, the Lord phrases it thus:

All you who have turned from your wicked ways and repented of your evil doings, of lying and deceiving, and of all whoredoms, and of secret abominations, idolatries, murders, priestcrafts, envying, and strife, and from all wickedness and abominations, and have come unto me, and been baptized in my name, and have received a remission of your sins, and received the holy ghost, are now numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel. (T&C 158:10)

And you shall be called the children of the Most High God, and I will preserve you against the harvest. (T&C 158:17)

In 1831, the Lord spoke through Joseph Smith about an initial attempt to establish Zion in Missouri. Regarding the ultimate triumph, he spoke the following:

Behold, verily I say unto you, for this cause I have sent you — that you might be obedient, and that your hearts might be prepared to bear testimony of the things which are to come, and also that you might be honored of laying the foundation and of bearing record of the land upon which the Zion of God shall stand. And also, that a feast of fat things might be prepared for the poor, yea, a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees well refined, that the earth may know that the mouths of the prophets shall not fail; yea, a supper of the House of the Lord, well prepared, unto which all nations shall be invited: firstly, the rich and the learned, the wise and the noble, and after that comes the day of my power. Then shall the poor, the lame, and the blind, and the deaf come in unto the marriage of the Lamb, and partake of the supper of the Lord prepared for the great day to come. Behold, I, the Lord, have spoken it. (T&C 45:2)

This “supper of the House of the Lord,” featuring “fat things” and “wine on the lees well refined” is the marriage supper of the Lamb, prefigured in the parable of the 10 Virgins, and also mentioned other places. “Wine on the lees” refers to wine that has been left to age on its “lees” or residue of the grape juice that has settled to the bottom of the barrel. Aging wine in this way produces a richer, creamier, more complex wine than would otherwise be achieved. Describing the wine in this way implies careful preparation and exceptional quality. 

Jewish tradition speaks of this wine in specific detail, calling it the Yayin HaMeshumar, or “wine of the keeping” including the tradition that this wine was actually prepared in the Garden of Eden, prior to the fall, and that it has been “kept in its grapes” (or aging on its lees) from the six days of creation, in preparation for this Passover feast. I expect wine from the grapes found in the Garden of Eden will be excellent beyond all other earthly wine. I also theorize that it will cause actual physical changes in the bodies of those who drink it.

Behold, this is wisdom in me; wherefore, marvel not, for the hour comes that I will drink of the fruit of the vine with you on the earth, and with all those whom my Father has given me out of the world. Wherefore, lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and be faithful until I come. Even so, Amen. (T&C 8:2)

Regarding this final Passover, I won’t pretend to know the details of how it will all take place, but given the well-established elements of the other three Passovers, I expect the events of this final Passover will, at a minimum, include the following:

  • Three days journey
  • Sacrifice
  • Blood
  • Death
  • Destruction and suffering
  • Negotiation for release
  • Miracles
  • A ceremonial meal
  • Wine
  • A nighttime initial escape
  • A final deliverance
  • Freedom under a new government

I hesitate to even assert inclusion of these elements, and I wouldn’t do it at all except for the undeniable pattern that tells us the Lord works in patterns. These elements are so pervasive in the first three Passovers that I would be very surprised if they are not all present in the fourth. 

Four Angels

In this post we’ve looked at the pattern concerning four promises given at the initial Exodus, featuring four distinct types of deliverance, as commemorated by four cups of wine in the Seder, and referring specifically to four specific Passover events featuring significantly in the deliverance of the House of Israel. 

These four Passovers are also associated with the Four Great Angels or Four Archangels associated with the four corners of the earth. As you know, each of these four angels is associated with a specific element, and these four elements play important roles in the Passovers. They are as follows:

  1. Gabriel, who is the angel over water. He is associated with the first Passover as Israel’s final deliverance came through the waters of the Red Sea:

    And the children of Israel went into the middle of the sea upon the dry ground, and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left…And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared, and the Egyptians fled against it, and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. (Ex. 9:4 RE)

  2. Michael, who is the angel over air. He is associated with the second Passover as Lehi’s family was driven by the wind to their final deliverance in the Land of Promise:

    And it came to pass, after we had all gone down into the ship, and had taken with us our provisions and things which had been commanded us, we did put forth into the sea and were driven forth before the wind towards the promised land. (1 Nephi 5:28 RE)

  3. Uriel, who is the angel over earth. Christ’s triumph over sin occurred when he spilled his blood on the earth, and his triumph over death occurred when he came forth alive, out of the earth:

    Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from you. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and there shall be no sign given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonah; for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matt 6:15 RE)

  4. Raphael, who is the angel over fire. Christ’s return is spoken of as the day that will burn as an oven, wherein the wicked will finally be vanquished and the righteous will live in peace:

    For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea and all that do wickedly, shall burn as stubble; for they that cometh shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (JSH 3:4 RE)

    Raphael, who is Enoch, will return at that day with his people and his city. They are “they that cometh.” 

In each case, the Angel and his associated element represent the final deliverance of Israel from their enemies. 

What Matters Now? 

As you know the general topic of this series is destruction. As we’ve taken a hard look at our precarious situation, and the destruction already upon us, I thought it would be worthwhile to also consider the patterns in scripture that teach us not only of destruction, but also of salvation from destruction. The Passovers teach us of deliverance, redemption, protection, acceptance, and triumph available in our day through the Lord’s Covenant. They are the Lord’s object lessons, given to teach us the way of peace.

By recognizing the patterns of what has happened in the past and what is now upon us, we see the Lord’s wisdom, power and foreknowledge manifest. It is all happening according to a divine plan—which plan puts before us a Covenant if we will receive it. And this is what matters now.

The Covenant is the blood on the doorposts; it is the uncorrupted scripture hidden in the treasury; it is the fulfillment of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection; it is how the Lord will make up his Jewels; it is the great secret of the Passover and the wine of the keeping at the feast of the House of the Lord.

Receiving and keeping the covenant is the only way to receive the Lord’s promise of protection from the destruction that is already upon us. The pattern is solid; the prophecies are sure, the evidence is overwhelming. The day soon cometh that shall burn as an oven.

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord. Awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Are you not it that has cut Rahab and wounded the dragon? Are you not it which has dried the sea, the waters of the great deep, that has made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy and holiness shall be upon their head. They shall obtain gladness and joy; sorrow and mourning shall flee away. I am he, yea, I am he that comforts you.

—Isaiah 18:3 RE