It bothers me to no end that Christians commonly refer to the day on which Christ rose from the dead as “Easter.” But this is an unbiblical and syncretistic tradition that replaces the Lord’s day (the actual name of the day in Revelation 1:10) with the name of a fertility goddess. The name “Easter” comes from the name of the false god Eostre (pronounced “O-stre”) which is most likely the same figure known as Ostara from Germanic mythology. The church historian Bede in his work The Reckoning of Time explains the origin of the term:
“Eosturmanath has a name which is now translated ‘Paschal month,’ and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”
The eggs and bunnies of Easter trace back to the mythology of Eostre. That is why even those who are skeptical about the pagan background of Easter traditions are hesitant to use the term after they seriously study the issue.
Every time you say “Easter,” you are taking the name of a false god on your lips. We are forbidden by God to even mention the names of false gods. Exodus 23:13 says, “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.” Joshua 23:7 repeats this command: “That you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them.” David refused to speak the names of false gods as well: “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips” (Ps 16:4).
Put yourself in the shoes of Jesus for a moment. How would you like it if people referred to the day on which you rose from the dead after a false god? What would happen if we replaced “Easter” with the name of a better known pagan goddess? Would it bother you if we referred to Easter as Asherah or Artemis instead? Satan wants to replace the celebration of the resurrection of Christ with a pagan fertility festival and the church is often complicit in this religious syncretism. Easter has become a replacement for the celebration of the resurrection in the same way the commercialization of Christmas replaces the celebration of the birth of Christ.
I feel sorry for Christians who only celebrate the resurrection of Christ once a year. The logic of our low view of the Lord’s supper that the supper is more memorable if we celebrate it infrequently has translated over to our celebration of the resurrection of Christ. How much more memorable will the resurrection of Christ be if we only celebrate it once a year! The church has created an Easter culture in which it is acceptable to only attend church once or twice a year. Because churches only celebrate the resurrection once a year, people figure that they only have to go to church once a year. What if churches tried as hard to reach the lost on this week as every week of the year? It is not wrong to place an additional emphasis on the resurrection of Christ during this time of the year or focus on the incarnation during Christmas. But at least Christmas has Christ in its name.
I suggest we use the term “Resurrection Sunday” instead of a term that traces its origins back to paganism. Unbiblical traditions are hard to break, but we need to start somewhere. The truth might be painful to hear, but it is better than using the name of a goddess to refer to the resurrection of Christ.
“Many deaths are preceded by a long season of sickness, and then I think we might picture them by the departure of a ship from its moorings. There lies the ship in its haven. There is a friend of yours about to journey away to some distant clime. You will never see his face again in the flesh. He is going to emigrate; he will find a home in another and he hopes a happier land. You stand upon the shore; you have given him the last embrace. The mother has given to her son the last kiss, the friend has shaken him by the hand for the last time, and now the signal is given; the anchor is taken up; the rope which held the ship to the shore is loosed, and lo, the ship is moving and she floats outward towards the sea. You look, you still wave your hand as you see the ship departing. Your friend stands on some prominent spot on the deck, and there he waves his handkerchief to the last. But the most sharpsighted of friends in such scenes must lose sight of one another. The ship floats on; you just now catch a sight of the sails, but with the strongest telescope you cannot discover your friend. He is gone: it is his departure. Weep as you may, you cannot bring him back again. Your sorrowful tears may mingle with the flood that has carried him away, but they cannot entice a single wave to restore him to you. Now even so is the death of many a believer. His ship is quietly moored in its haven. He is calmly lying upon his bed. You visit him in his chamber. Without perturbation of spirit be bids you farewell. His grip is just as hearty as he shakes your hand, as ever it was in the best hour of his health. His voice is still firm, and his eye is still bright. He tells you he is going to another and a better land.”
Genesis 6:1-4 has perplexed readers for centuries: “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” Who are these sons of God? Who are the Nephilim?
The phrase “sons of God” is only used in the Old Testament to refer to angels (Deut 32:8; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps 29:1). Jude 1:6-7 gives us an interpretive lens to help us better understand this passage: “And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day – just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.” The unnatural union of fallen angels with man in Genesis 6 is analogous to the unnatural sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah. The key phrase in Jude that alludes to Genesis 6:1-4 is “which likewise” that draws a comparison between the unnatural desires of these angels in the verse six with those of Sodom and Gomorrah. But the men of those cities did not know that the men they lusted after were angels in disguise. They were not desiring after sex with angels, but with other men.
But how could fallen angels have sexual relations with human woman? While angels are not flesh and blood, they can transform themselves to resemble fleshly creatures as Satan transformed himself into a serpent (Rom 16:20; 2 Cor 11:3; Rev 12:9). The word Nephilim literally means “giants” because the offspring of this union were unnatural. This is one of the reasons why God had to send a worldwide flood to destroy these creatures. Sexual immorality is demonic because the demons envy man’s ability to engage in sexual relations which are forbidden to them. Those who tried to engage in it were condemned to hell immediately while the other demons who did not were spared until the time of Revelation 20:10. For us to engage in sexual relationships which are forbidden to us is to imitate them. Hence, the demons try to destroy sex by perverting it because it is a picture of the union of Christ and his bride, a salvation which they do not participate in and are envious of.
“We will not throw away a little gold, because of a great deal of dross that cleaves to it, or a little wheat, because it is mixed with much chaff, and will God? Will God? We do not cast away our garments because of spots, or books because of some blots, or jewels because of some flaws. Will the Lord cast away his dearest ones, because of their spots, blots, and flaws? Surely no! God looks more upon the bright side of the cloud than the dark. God looks upon the pearl, and not the spot in it. Where God sees but a little grace, he does as it were hide his eyes from those circumstances that might seem to deface the gory of it. Ah! Weak Christians are more apt to look upon their infirmities than on their graces, and because their gold is mixed with a great deal of dross, they are ready to throw away all as dross. Well, remember this: the Lord Jesus has as great an interest in the weakest saints as the strongest. He has an interest as a friend, a father, a husband. Yea, though saints are weak, yea, very weak, he cannot but overlook their weaknesses, and keep a fixed eye upon their graces.”
What did Paul mean when he said, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” (1 Cor 15:29). This verse has perplexed Christians for ages and there is no shortage of interpretations that have been given. In order to properly interpret this verse, we need to answer several questions:
1. Who is being baptized?
2. Who are the dead?
3. What baptism is this?
4. How do the dead benefit from this baptism?
5. Does Paul approve of this practice?
I believe the baptism of this verse is Christian baptism for several reasons: there is no archaeological or literary evidence in favor of a pagan practice for being baptized on behalf of the dead, the practice of baptism is Jewish in origin, baptizō in Paul’s writings always refers to Christian baptism or baptism in the Holy Spirit, those who were baptized for the dead were professing Christians since Paul is using this baptism against their doubts that the dead will be raised while claiming to believe in the resurrection of Christ, and he does not rebuke them for this practice anywhere in his letters. If this was a practice Paul did not approve of, then it is unbelievable that he would never say anything against it. That means those who are baptized are professing Christians, those they are baptized for are Christians who have died, the baptism of this verse is Christian baptism, and Paul does approve of this practice.
But how is Christian baptism a baptism for the dead? It is for them in the sense that new Christians join the visible church through baptism taking the place of those who have died. The preposition “for” should then be understood as “in the place of” rather than “for the benefit of.” Paul’s argument would then be, “Why were you baptized into the church to take the place of those who have died if you do not believe those who have died are going to be raised from the dead? If they are not going to be raised, then you will not be raised either. Baptism is a picture of resurrection from the dead. Why would you participate in this act symbolizing resurrection if you do not believe in a future day of resurrection?”
“Every man should have a calling to follow, and follow his calling, which is an excellent preservative from evil thoughts. Idle people have no business but to sin, and they who follow their calling have no leisure to sin; their thoughts are too intent to be diverted. Time lies heavy on some men’s hands for want of employment, and therefore they become busybodies, gadding and wandering about as their fancy or the Devil, like the wind, drives them, or like a decoy draws and allures them (1 Timothy 5.13-15). . . . They know that their time is passing away and will pass away, but they do not know how to pass it away, so that whatever temptation comes, they seem to be ready. The wink of an eye or the holding up of a finger prevails with them. They follow the Devil’s whistle, and dance to his tune. They spend their days like vagrants, and their life is a mere diversion from that which is the business of it. They cannot endure to be with themselves, and therefore trifle away their precious time, and adventure the loss of their precious souls, by becoming sinners for company. Our thoughts are so active and restless that they will be doing something or other, and like unruly soldiers, if others do not employ them well, they will employ themselves ill. God has therefore in mercy appointed us callings to take up our thoughts, that they may be not only innocent but profitable to ourselves and others. Paradise had employment, and Heaven also will not be without it. Idleness is an hour of temptation; and we can have no excuse to stand idle in the market place when God himself offers to employ us. The best way to rid our ground of weeds is to till it, and the best way to free our hearts from evil thoughts is by good employment.”
Paul declared in 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” The Greek word translated as “implore” is deomai which can be translated as “to ask, implore, beg, pray, plead, or beseech” depending on the context. Since God is the one making the appeal through us and one of the ways the word can be translated is “to beg,” some have concluded Paul is teaching that God is a beggar. God is begging for people to believe in Jesus just as a beggar on the side of the road begs for money.
But this argument errs because it does not understand the concept of semantic domains. Most words can be used in more than one way by an author depending on how he defines it in the context. While deomai can be used in the sense of “to beg,” the context of 2 Corinthians 5:20 prevents us from understanding the verb this way. The context of the verse is not that of a beggar on the side of the road, but of a royal ambassador who implores foreign nations to repent or perish. The action of the verb flows from the dignity of the office of the one doing the imploring. An ambassador for a king does not need to sit on the side of the road begging for money, but comes with the authority and power of the one he represents. The picture Paul is painting is that of an ambassador for a powerful nation imploring the nations who are at war with it to come to terms of peace before they are destroyed. One day, the kingdom of Christ will conquer the kingdoms of this world and only those who have made peace with him will be spared God’s wrath. That is why modern translations do not translate deomai as “to beg” here because they take into consideration how the term ambassador influences the meaning of the verbs which follow it.
The argument also confuses one of the ways the verb can be translated with the noun beggar. God is not a poor man sitting on the side of the road asking for your pity because people are rejecting his gospel. He is the exalted God of the universe who is sovereign over all things. As creator of all, he owns all things. God has never been in need of mercy or ever will be. He is not helpless, poor, or weak. If Paul wanted to teach that God is a beggar, then there are other verbs besides deomai that he could have used. The act of a beggar begging is more properly spoken of using the verb prosaiteō as in John 9:8. Another verb for begging in Greek is epaiteō as in Luke 16:3 and 18:35. The noun for a beggar in Greek is prosaitēs which is related to the verb prosaiteō similar to how the English noun beggar is related to the verb “to beg.” In contrast, deomai has a broader semantic domain than prosaiteō or epaiteō.
While God is not a beggar, we are. Martin Luther’s last words were, “We are beggars, this is true.” We are beggars in comparison to God and are dependent on him for all things including the advance of the gospel. We do not need to have low thoughts of God in order to emphasize the necessity of sharing the good news of what Christ has done for sinners. Saying things that are untrue of God is not how we should argue against hyper-Calvinists. Doing so only gives them a legitimate ground for rejecting our arguments and secures them in their error. While we may be beggars, we are also royal ambassadors and more than conquerors. If God is a beggar, then he could not give us all things together with his Son (Rom 8:32; 1 Cor 3:21). Because God is not a beggar, we have become rich beyond all comparison in Christ (2 Cor 8:9; Eph 1:3).