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Soon up to 2 billion people will celebrate one of the world’s most popular religious holidays—Easter. But curiously, the Bible nowhere promotes such an observance. Where did this day come from? How did it become so popular? And is it even Christian?
I’m reminded of counterfeit money. Did you know that you could be carrying a worthless bill and not even know it? Counterfeiters are often successful because they make their fakes look like the real thing. Forgery is one of the oldest crimes in history, but it doesn’t just affect money.
Today a much greater counterfeit is so successful that most people don’t even realize they’re deceived. What counterfeit? The religion known as Christianity, as surprising as that may be! Jesus Himself warned about religious counterfeits, saying, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew:24:24).
Deceptive religion and its wrong traditions have been foisted on the world by the greatest forger in the universe, Satan the devil (1 John:5:19; Revelation:12:9). Could religious celebrations like Easter be part of that? Let’s examine three ways to answer the question posed by the title of this article: How Christian is Easter?
A lesson in Satan’s deceptive techniquesTo begin to understand how Satan uses religion to confuse and deceive, we need to go back to the beginning—back to the Garden of Eden. And here’s where we find our first point: Satan leads people to decide good and evil for themselves and fools them by making evil look good.
The Bible is clear that God wanted to guide Adam and Eve. But Satan was in the business of deception right from the very beginning. He knew exactly how to make his counterfeit sense of good and evil pass for the real thing.
So how did he do it? He lied. He told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the forbidden fruit, “You will not surely die” (Genesis:3:4). In fact, he contradicted God. But it wasn’t all lies. He also said, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis:3:5).
Did you catch the deception? Part of it was true—the knowledge of good and evil part, but it was only in the sense of acting as God in deciding what is right and wrong. God had placed two trees in the garden—the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God wanted to lead Adam and Eve, and for them to choose life. But when they chose the wrong tree, they chose to decide for themselves what was good and bad, rejecting the real truth as to what is good and bad as determined by God.
So right at the very start, our ancestors began rejecting God’s guidance—and that tendency has continued down to this day.
This tells us a lot about the state of our world—it’s filled with error that seems to be truth, fable that seems to be fact, bad that seems to be good. At times it’s hard to tell the difference between the real thing and an evil counterpart. Why? Because of relying on faulty human judgment—especially as perpetuated over many generations. As Proverbs states, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death (Proverbs:14:12; Proverbs:16:25).
Some things seem good and right, but the devil cleverly makes them appear as though they were not evil. Sometimes he does this by mixing in some elements that truly are good as determined by God—though corrupted in context.
And he is so devious in his deception that it will hurt you. He kept Adam and Eve from God, and he wants to keep you from having a great relationship with God, too. He’s also affected Christianity and its customs and practices and wants to deceive everyone so they won’t understand God’s truth.
Sadly, most can’t discern the real from the replica. God’s true days of worship found in the Bible are priceless, but the devil has crafted multiple forgeries—fraudulent, cheap copies of what God gave us that is valuable and good.
It’s true with money. It’s true in religion as well. Satan uses his advanced counterfeiting techniques. He’s constantly working to get you to trust your own sense of right and wrong, following what looks good to you (as influenced by him), rather than listen to and trust what God has to say. Instead you must “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs:3:5).
As with Adam and Eve, God wants to lead you. He wants to guide you in truth and in love. He wants you to honor Him in the way that He directs. And that includes observing the days and the ways that truly honor Him as revealed in the Bible. That’s where God’s Holy Days come into the picture—as opposed to humanly devised holidays and religious traditions.
That’s why it’s important for us to answer the question, “How Christian is Easter?”We first have to recognize the disguising of error as truth, often by the inclusion of some actual truth out of proper context.
Once you understand Satan’s tactic in this, it’s time to take the next step of recognizing Easter for what it is—a counterfeit.
Easter’s ancient, pre-Christian originsDo you know where Easter celebrations originated? It may seem hard to believe, but they began hundreds of years before Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection!
Genesis 10 tells how, several thousand years ago, people gathered into cities and opposed God. Remember the story? They began to build a massive skyscraper called the Tower of Babel.
Here again we find the devil at work. This time he inspired and used this kingdom of Babylon to help with his slick counterfeiting job. God finally confused the people’s language, and they were scattered over the earth (Genesis:11:9).
The ancient Greek historian Herodotus records what they took with them. What was it? Their religious beliefs and rituals. He wrote that Babylon was the prime source of evil from which all systems of idolatry and false worship flowed.
Did it affect Christianity? Here’s where the story gets very interesting!
The Babylonian fertility gods were Tammuz and Ishtar. Ancient tribes of Europe worshipped a variation of that goddess of spring named Eostre. Do you realize that the word Easter is a variation of this name?
The notable British historian Sir James Frazer writes:
“Under the names of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, and Attis, the peoples of Egypt and Western Asia represented the yearly decay and revival of life . . . which they personified as a god who annually died and rose again from the dead. In name and detail the rites varied from place to place: in substance they were the same” ( The Golden Bough, 1993, p. 325).Alan Watts, in his book Easter: Its Story and Meaning, further explains:
“It would be tedious to describe in detail all that has been handed down to us about the various rites of Tammuz, Adonis . . . and many others . . . But their universal theme—the drama of death and resurrection—makes them the forerunners of the Christian Easter, and thus the first ‘Easter services.’ As we go on to describe the Christian observance of Easter we shall see how many of its customs and ceremonies resemble these former rites” (1950, p. 58).Yes, history records that centuries before the death and resurrection of Christ, there were already ancient Easter celebrations—springtime fertility festivals honoring resurrection and worship of the rising sun long before Jesus’ birth! This is where we get such popular Easter symbols as rabbits and eggs, which were popular fertility symbols centuries prior to Christianity.
Long before Jesus Christ gave His life as an offering for our sins and was raised to life again, the world had already accepted Satan’s substitute—a counterfeit of how God intends us to worship!
But does it matter to God? Notice what He inspired the apostle Paul to write:
“What do right and wrong have in common? Can light and darkness be friends? How can Christ and Satan agree? . . . How can the temple of the true God and the statues of other gods agree? . . . ‘So come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord’” (2 Corinthians:6:14-17, New International Reader’s Version).You see, God wants us to understand the difference, because one thing counterfeiters rely on is ignorance. If you’re unfamiliar with what genuine currency should look like, it’s easier to be fooled. The U.S. Secret Service has 20 Web pages under the title “Know Your Money.” It tells us, “Those who fail to carefully examine the money they receive . . . are potential victims.”
It’s no different when it comes to counterfeit holidays and religion because they also thrive on people’s ignorance—ignorance of the Bible. And that leads us to the third way to answer the question: How Christian is Easter?
How does God want us to worship?As we have seen, the Easter holiday is unbiblical. It is a counterfeit. But a counterfeit of what? You see, God has other ways He directs us to worship.
Do you know for yourself what the Word of God actually says, or could you be fooled? Several years ago LifeWay Research surveyed American churchgoers and found that 90 percent of them “desire to please and honor Jesus” in all they do. That’s very good! But it also found that more than 80 percent don’t read their Bibles daily!
That’s an amazing disconnect. How can you honor God if you don’t know and haven’t read what actually pleases Him? You can’t honor God with the counterfeit because it’s worthless to Him. So if you’re unaware of what Jesus actually taught, you’re easy prey for an empty imitation!
By not really understanding the Bible, you could be easily distracted. That’s another tactic counterfeiters rely on— diversion. When people pass phony bills, they try to focus the cashiers on other things, hoping they don’t check the money until it’s way too late.
Most Christians aren’t on the lookout for a counterfeiter either. Most just want a church they like, so even a cheap imitation will do. Manmade holidays deflect attention and concentrate on less important issues. You see, if you feel good about what you’re doing, it doesn’t make that much difference what you’re taught. Some churches appeal to that. They appeal to your emotions by talking a lot about love and feelings.
But let me tell you why that’s dangerous: It can cause you to choose what you believe and what you practice based on how you feel rather than on God’s clear teaching in the Bible. As we’ve already seen, God warns us that a way can seem right to people but lead to death. His Word explicitly tells us not to try to honor Him with pagan religious customs (Deuteronomy:12:19-32). And it’s important that we follow exactly what He says.
That’s the issue! The devil wants you to have religion—but one that only resembles true worship so he can keep you in the dark. God, on the other hand, wants you to become an expert at identifying the counterfeits so you don’t fall for an imitation. Here’s how you can begin: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy:2:15, Revised Standard Version).
That means you should carefully examine what you believe and what you practice and make sure it agrees with the Bible. Just claiming something is Christian, or just saying it honors God, doesn’t make it acceptable to Him. Did you know that the Bible doesn’t mention the early Christians celebrating Easter? They had nothing to do with this holiday. Instead, they kept the Passover and the other festivals of the Bible (Luke:22:8, Luke:22:11, Luke:22:13, Luke:22:15; 1 Corinthians:5:7-8; Acts:18:20-21; Acts:20:16).
Passover, along with the other true biblical festivals—that’s the real thing. Easter is just a cheap imitation. Jesus Himself gave Passover even deeper meaning under the New Covenant.
And He expected His followers to continue observing the New Testament Passover. As Paul explained, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians:11:26). The Bible nowhere tells us to have a special celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection—much less with a recycled pre-Christian observance. But Jesus explicitly tells us to have a specific memorial of His true Passover sacrifice—His death for our sins (1 Corinthians:11:23-28).
The big switchSo, you may ask, with such clear instruction, how did Easter replace the Passover?
Notice carefully what noted historian Will Durant wrote: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it”( The Story of Civilization, Caesar and Christ, Part 3, 1944, p. 595, emphasis added throughout). That’s amazing! And yes, after the original apostles passed from the scene, Christianity underwent an astounding transformation.
Sir James Frazer, quoted earlier, noted that Easter followed the pattern of Christmas (another festival of pre-Christian origin) in being accepted and promoted as the Roman church—now the center of the religion—compromised with paganism:
“Motives of the same sort may have led the ecclesiastical authorities to assimilate the Easter festival of the death and resurrection of their Lord to the festival of the death and resurrection of another Asiatic god which fell at the same season. Now the Easter rites still observed in Greece, Sicily and southern Italy bear in some respects a striking resemblance to the rites of Adonis . . . The Church may have consciously adapted the new festival to its heathen predecessor for the sake of winning souls to Christ” (Frazer, p. 359).If you look into history, about 300 years after Christ the Roman Emperor Constantine became the greatest promoter of non-biblical Christianity. Expanding his empire and uniting the Roman church included the three things we’ve been talking about: disguising evil as good, accepting a substitute, and a true lack of biblical understanding.
Those early church leaders believed they could choose their own times and ways to worship. New converts from paganism didn’t need to throw away their religious traditions and rituals. Those counterfeit sacraments and artificial practices were absorbed right into this very different version of Christianity.
But God doesn’t mince words. The Bible tells us, “If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life” (Revelation:22:18).
Is Easter Christian?The bottom line is that Easter does not and cannot represent a resurrected Jesus. Like any counterfeit, it’s hollow. It’s empty because God didn’t design it. Instead, it perpetuates the ungodly practice of honoring false gods.
Notice what Paul writes about mixing idolatrous pagan practices with true Christianity:
“What I am saying is that these sacrifices which people make are made to demons and not to God. I don’t want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the Lord’s cup and the cup of demons. You cannot participate at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons”(1 Corinthians:10:20-21, God’s Word Translation).So remember: Easter is a product of people determining for themselves good and evil under Satan’s influence. Easter is a counterfeit of how God intends us to worship Him. And Easter is not biblical. God has other ways He directs us to worship.
So isn’t it time to take a more meaningful approach to religion than such holidays? God gives us a much more important alternative—the genuine article, which is authentic Christianity. And it’s not found in Easter or any manmade holiday, but instead by worshipping God in spirit and in truth—on the days He commands!
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