God Cancelled Easter. So Should We.
By a Concerned NAPARC Minister
April 6th, 2020
The threat of the Coronavirus has closed countless churches. The Lord has done this, and we ought to respond with humility and godly fear (Amos 3:6-8). As we reflect on God’s judgments we also ought not miss his timing: the public health crisis in the United States began in the middle of the season known as Lent, and the orders to shut down public worship came just before the Sunday they call Easter.
What ought we to think of this? Consider these four thoughts from Scripture, moving from general principles to specific application.
1. God judges his church by removing public worship.
God through the prophet Hosea pleaded with Israel to put away her spiritual whoredom, under a solemn threat of removing her public worship: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease, her feast days, her new moons, and her sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts” (Hosea 2:10). She did not hear this plea, nor did her sister Judah, so God made good on his threat. Jeremiah laments under the Babylonian captivity, “He hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest” (Lamentations 2:6).
Though our church buildings have not yet been destroyed, we should not proudly claim that the temporary removal of our public worship is not a judgment from God. At the least it is clear, God did promise for his people’s sins to close their churches, he surely has done so in the past, and he will surely do so in the future (Rev. 2:5, 9).
2. God judges his church for superstitious worship.
God gives in Scripture many reasons for his judgments upon the church. A common one is superstition, that is, worship that man has invented, and that God himself has not required. God forbids all such superstitious worship in the second commandment: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4–5). He repeats this rejection of invented worship in the words of Christ against the Pharisees: “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Then again in the teaching of Paul against “ordinances…after the commandments and doctrines of men” (Colossians 2:21–22): Paul admits these “have indeed a shew of wisdom,” and yet they are “will worship” (2:23), which is to say, they originate from the will of man, and not the will of God.
Note also how the second commandment concludes with a serious threat: “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children…” (Exodus 20:5). History proves this threat is not idle. Israel by the hand of Aaron made the molten calf and proclaimed a feast to the LORD, celebrated with acts of worship and of revelry (Exodus 32:3–6). God for this unauthorized holy day threatened to destroy them all (v. 10), then ordered the execution of about three thousand (v. 28), and a plague upon the rest (v. 35). Not long after, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, were consumed for offering “strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not” (Leviticus 10:1–2). King Uzziah for his presumption to burn incense, though he was not priest, was struck with lifelong leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16–21). And most dreadfully, when God’s people burned their sons and daughters in the fire, his word of condemnation was not they had committed murder, but rather, superstition: “which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart” (Jeremiah 7:31). For this superstition the place of their invented sacrifice would become the valley of their own slaughter (v. 32).
Make no mistake, God hates superstition. He is angry with worship he has not commanded in his word, and he promises to judge his church for offering it.
We cannot speak infallibly concerning our present circumstances. God alone knows all the reasons for his providence. But we can see from these commands and examples that false, superstitious worship deserves a judgment such as we are under; indeed, one far worse. Therefore, insofar as the church today cherishes similar superstitions as the church of old, we must remember Christ’s warning, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).
3. Easter is not taught in Scripture, and is therefore superstitious.
Now we must be more specific, lest we miss God’s timing of the Coronavirus. We should not merely lament the judgment of church closings, or the sin of superstition, in general. God has closed our own specific churches, for the specific day called Easter. Why is this significant? Because Easter is itself a prime example of the superstitious worship that God has promised to judge.
The simple proof that Easter is superstitious, is that God has nowhere taught it in the Bible. This is not difficult to demonstrate, if the question is understood precisely: Has God anywhere in Scripture commanded the yearly observance, under the New Testament, of a special holy day devoted to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection? All honest readers of the Bible should say, no.
That God commanded the Passover is beyond doubt (Exodus 12), but after the sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God to which the yearly feast pointed, Passover is no longer to be practiced (Galatians 4:10–11). That Passover happens to be called “Easter” in Acts 12:4 (KJV) is no more a proof for the celebration of our Easter than for the continued yearly application of a lamb’s blood upon our doorposts.
Moreover, that God raised Christ from the dead on a Sunday after Passover is beyond doubt (Luke 24:46), as is the fact that the weekly Sabbath is now changed to that day of resurrection (John 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Revelation 1:10). And what Christian could deny that he ought to celebrate Christ’s resurrection as a central fact of history, and of the faith (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)? Yet none of these obvious biblical teachings begin to approach what Easter worshipers would need: a word from God that Christ’s resurrection ought to be religiously remembered by the specific celebration of its anniversary.
It is clear then that no such thing as Easter is found in the Bible. And if that is so, practicing it is superstitious, and sinful, and in itself a sufficient cause for God’s severe judgment.
Add to this the manifold superstitions that through the ages have attached themselves to Easter: other “holy days,” Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. Then the high-church trappings, the vestments, colors, flowers, processions, choirs. Then the scrupulous avoidance in the pulpit of all other profitable topics, except for the resurrection. Then all the unspiritual additions which have, for fun and profit’s sake, borrowed the halo of the day: Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, Easter candy. As if it displeased God for children simply to have fun, and we must somehow turn their recreation into religion—yet that again, with no command from God.
Make no mistake, Easter is wrong without these extra inventions. Yet the natural relationship of Easter with them all should be a clear reminder, that the day itself, like all that comes with it, is superstitious worship, and therefore hateful to the God who alone reserves the right to institute religion.
4. Because God cancelled Easter, we ought to do the same.
So we return to the fact that God has cancelled Easter. Do you see that this is not only a judgment, but also a mercy? He is keeping us, despite ourselves, from displeasing him more than we would without these new restraints. And he is gracious also to warn us, by bringing one faint breeze of the hurricane of judgment we deserve, to flee that judgment, by fleeing in all its forms its ultimate cause, which is our sin.
In humbly repenting of all sin, we ought not to forget the sin of superstitious worship. God does not forget it. However, he does graciously forgive it, and has done so throughout history (Exodus 32:14; 2 Kings 18:4, 7; 2 Chronicles 34:3–7, 27–28). But it is mere presumption to think that such forgiveness will come without repentance. Until our graven images are destroyed, and true religion restored in purity, it will not be long before God removes our public worship altogether.
I beg the church therefore, in fear of God, to cancel Easter. Cancel it this Sunday, and forever. Cancel the robes, the choirs, the colors. Cancel the sermon on the resurrection—make it serve another Sunday, safe from superstition, and preach this Sunday something else, perhaps the second commandment.  Cancel everything to do with Easter, everything that bears its name. Cancel the Easter bunnies, Easter candy, Easter egg hunts. I know well that most will scoff at this counsel. But it remains the duty of us all, as best each of us can, to blot out the very memory of this superstitious day from under heaven. Just as Moses put a sudden stop to Aaron’s superstitious feast, then took the molten calf and “burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder” (Exodus 32:19–20), so in us may the promise of the prophet be fulfilled,
Ye shall defile also the covering of thy graven images of silver, And the ornament of thy molten images of gold: thou shalt cast them away as a menstruous cloth; thou shalt say unto it, Get thee hence. Then shall he give the rain of thy seed, that thou shalt sow the ground withal; and bread of the increase of the earth, and it shall be fat and plenteous: in that day shall thy cattle feed in large pastures. (Isaiah 30:22–23)
The call for Easter’s total cancellation may seem extreme, but it is nothing short of simple obedience to the second commandment. The Westminster Larger Catechism, in Q. 108, rightly tells us that our duty under that commandment includes “the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one’s place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry.”
May God give us grace to see, that he himself has cancelled Easter for our good, and we ought to go, and do likewise.
 “Whence ariseth another distinction of offences, viz. from the matter of a practice, or from the manner of the performing of it, or the circumstances in the doing of it. For, as it is not an act materially good that will edify, except it be done in the right manner, so will not an act materially good keep off offence, if it be not done tenderly, wisely, etc. And often we find circumstances have much influence on offence, as times, persons, places, manner, etc. For it is not offensive for one to pray or preach, but at some times, as before an idol, or on an Holy-day it may be offensive.” James Durham (1622-1658), A Treatise Concerning Scandal (Dallas: Naphtali Press, 1990), 4-5.
13 thoughts on “God Cancelled Easter: So Should We”
You see, this is the kind of thing that pushed me away from Presbyterianism. Easter has literally been celebrated since before the Apostles were all dead. It is part of our human nature to commemorate important events, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Celebrating Easter does not mean that we are not celebrating the Resurrection every week on the Lord’s Day. Condemning other Christians for choosing to remember Christ’s Resurrection on a certain Sunday every year makes you the weaker, not the stronger, brother.
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1. That is historically false. It is certainly an early festival, but there is no proof it originated with the Apostles.
“The aim of the apostles was not to appoint festival days, but to teach a righteous life and piety. And it seems to me that just as many other customs have been established in individual localities according to usage. So also the feast of Easter came to be observed in each place according to the individual peculiarities of the peoples inasmuch as none of the apostles legislated on the matter. And that the observance originated not by legislation, but as a custom the facts themselves indicate….The Quartodecimans affirm that the observance of the fourteenth day was delivered to them by the apostle John: while the Romans and those in the Western parts assure us that their usage originated with the apostles Peter and Paul. Neither of these parties however can produce any written testimony in confirmation of what they assert.” (Socrates (380-439), Church History, book 5, chapter 22).
Please read these articles on the relevance and authority of Early Church writings:
2. Customs are largely irrelevant. The church has no authority from Christ to create holy days. Everything of religious significance in worship must be prescribed in holy Scripture, either explicitly or by good and necessary consequence, such that “whatever is beside the Word of God is against the Word of God.”
3. The weaker brethren are those who observe Judaical ceremonies such as holy days. Easter being a Christianization of Passover is a perfect example of this. It is condemned in Galatians.
By your standers starting December 31, 2019 ish we should stop using references of Easter in and an Annual Passover?
Acts 12:3-5 Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) 4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
Acts 12:3-5 King James Version (KJV)
3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. 5 Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.
I would say that a good look though history would tell us how the word Easter and how it became attached to this feast. What is done in some buildings of man for the greatest feast defiantly need to be cased out.
We could also say that “God judges His Church for a systematic and habitual violation of the Sabbath”.
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Brother, the article does not say to forego commemoration of important events. It explains how that commemoration is to be regulated under the authority of God’s word. If we feel that strictly keeping to God’s rule on this to the exclusion of other ideas leaves us somehow lacking, we are the ones at fault.
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“It is our hope that this site will build up, as is stated in the preface to Jus Divinum Regiminis Ecclesiastici:”
“Things are handled rather by way of Positive Assertion than of Polemicall Dissertation, (which too commonly degenerates into verball strifes, 1 Tim. 6.3,4. 2 Tim. 2.23. and vain-jaingling, 1 Tim. 1.6.) and where any dissenting opinions or objections are refelled [refuted], we hope it is with that sobriety, meeknesse and moderation of spirit, that any unprejudiced judgement may perceive, we had rather gain than grieve those that dissent from us, we indeavor rather to heale up than to teare open the rent, and that we contend more for truth than victory.”
This article doesn’t come across to me as something that’s likely to mend (heal) any disagreements among Presbyterians about the propriety of celebrating Easter as a commemoration of the resurrection..
uh …..Easter isn’t cancelled…..(love to point out the obvious) moreover – to claim “God cancelled Easter” is wicked funny. The very title of this article belies a spirit of pride – presuming to make ridiculous claims on God’s behalf that is akin to the fridge charismatics that have some new absurd revelation almost every half hour. The reality is we celebrate Christ’s resurrection everyday – and to set aside one Sunday in a year to highlight this reality isn’t sin, FYI. God Bless
I have no problem with your assessment of Easter, but God didn’t cancel Easter just as He hasn’t closed the church. He doesn’t deal with the body of Christ like He dealt with Israel in the OT which is what most of the article’s scripture references pertains to.
I appreciate the boldness and biblical accuracy of this essay. I’m not entirely sure that we can pinpoint God’s providence this accurately but surely God is in control of this virus and idolatry in the church very possibly is the reason. We would all do well to keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21). Thanks to this dear brother and minister.
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The sentiments expressed here would carry more weight if the brother who authored them had the courage to sign his name. I have no time for people who hide behind anonymity, throwing stones from the cover of darkness. Ironically, I can’t even leave this comment anonymously — which is as it should be.
Galatians 4:10-11 reads “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” Quoting Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Galatians 4:11 “The Galatians desire for and attraction to the Mosaic law raised questions about the Galatians end-time salvation. Perhaps Paul’s work was in vain (3:4). If the Galatians strayed from the gospel of grace, their only hope was an eschatological curse (1:8-9), for those who trust in the law are cut off from Christ (5:2-4)”. The question is do we trust in our observance of certain days or celebrations/traditions for salvation. Paul’s concern for the Galatians was just that. That is the heart of the matter and his concern.
On one hand God instructs his new testament believer’s to “abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols” (Acts 15:29; 21:25) and on the other Romans 14:1-12. particularly verses 5-6. The difference between Paul’s instructions in Romans 14 and his concern in Galatians 4 is whether or not the Galatians were placing their trust in their act of observance. Therefore, the question regarding whether celebrating Christ’s resurrection on a particular day is sinful or not is a matter of faith (heart and mind).
Brothers, consider John Piper’s “Ask Pastor John” for today (Episode 1458, April 10, 2020) titled “Why Do We Celebrate Easter?”.
If I had time, I would like to address worship in the new testament with you and how drastically different God made it from the Old Testament.
Blessings to you.
I think the context of Galatians needs to be understood. The Biblical feasts and seasons and times they were recognizing, they were doing so out of obligation, because they were commanded to under Torah.
Jesus Himself said Torah was not done away with but fulfilled. He is the living Torah. Having said that, it’s important then to know why they were ever commanded in the first place to acknowledge these days. You see the author is right, they do point to Messiah. But they also point to the character of God. God actively works in the seasons HE created (not Winter Spring Summer or Fall) but rather the seasons in the Bible.
THIS PART IS IMPORTANT:
Jesus scorned the Pharisees when they asked for a sign saying they could read the skies and know what’s coming but they couldn’t see the season they were in. (Matthew 12:38-42). They couldn’t tell through their own Torah (the very thing that points to Jesus) what season they were in… a time of liberation. It’s important we know what season we are in. It’s important to understand His character and the way He does things, the best He will reveal to us anyway. We aren’t meant to glaze over what He set up. But instead of our hearts being set on some superstitious obligation, our hearts must be set on Him. David said in the Psalms that He meditates in the Word and studies His precepts (this includes Torah) and DELIGHTS in His will. This is the heart we should have, that if we seek Him and seek Him wholeheartedly, He would reverse what is… Jeremiah 29:12-13
This article misses one important scripture which bears upon the subject of Easter observance:
Col 2:16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.
The people in Jesus’ day did not have an “Easter.” The Jews observed Passover. “Easter” came largely to be what it is through pagan influences a few centuries later (note the name similarity to the goddess “Ishtar”). Bunnies and egg hunts have nothing to do with our Lord. Nevertheless. on Easter we Christians remember and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the day He rose from the tomb that we may rise with Him in new life. While we probably could stand to dispense with the more paganistic elements of the day, we do not sin when we choose to commemorate the most glorious and momentous event to affect our lives since the Creation itself. The ones who sin are those who judge us with respect to our holiday observance or our understanding of which day of the week (Sat. or Sun.) we should go to church.