For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.
(1 Corinthians 5:7)
God promised to make a great nation of Abraham. Genesis records God's faithfulness in beginning to fulfill these promises through the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As Genesis ends we see that God has orchestrated events in order to bring the sons of Israel (Jacob) into Egypt.
When they entered into Egypt there were about 70 persons in all. Over the next four hundred and thirty years the people multiplied greatly. God brought them out of the land of Egypt with powerful plagues in order to make them a holy nation, set apart for His great name.
The series of plagues drew a distinction between the sons of Israel and the Egyptians. The final plague was the harshest and was a foreshadowing of the coming Christ. The Apostle Paul makes it plain that Christ is the fulfillment of the Passover.
Distinguishing The People of GodGod declared the purpose of the plagues from the beginning.
"But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the LORD, am in the midst of the land. I will put a division between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign will occur."' (Exodus 8:22-23)God intended to draw a distinction between His people and the people of Egypt. He intended to demonstrate that He was in the midst of the land. God wanted all to come to the same conclusion.
"For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." (Exodus 9:14-16, bold added)If you simply read through the account of the plagues in Exodus 7-11 you will see the repeated theme of the distinction between God's people and the Egyptians and how God's power and name are magnified in His judgments upon Egypt while simultaneously protecting His own people in the land of Goshen.
All of the plagues were intended to culminate in the final demonstration.
The Passover and Death of the Firstborn
God had a very specific purpose with the final plague. Moses had fled from Egypt to the land of Midian. Moses remained in Midian for forty years before God appeared to him in the burning bush. Before Moses returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh, God told Moses the ultimate purpose.
The LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, 'Let My son go that he may serve Me'; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn."'" (Exodus 4:21-23, bold added)The final plague of the death of the firstborn was to serve as a major sign of the coming Messiah. To maintain the distinction and deliver His people from the judgment upon the firstborn, God instructed His people to participate in the Passover.
'For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.' (Exodus 12:12-13)The blood of the lamb on their house would literally cause the judgment of God to pass over them and fall upon every house that was not covered with the blood of a lamb. Moses made it clear that God's instructions must be obeyed perfectly and that to remain safe the sons of Israel must remain inside their dwelling after applying the blood to their homes.
Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Go and take for yourselves lambs according to your families, and slay the Passover lamb. You shall take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and apply some of the blood that is in the basin to the lintel and the two doorposts; and none of you shall go outside the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you." (Exodus 12:21-23)After both of these instructions Moses made it clear that this major event was to be celebrated annually to remember God's deliverance of His people and the formation of the nation by bringing them out of Egypt with a mighty display of power. As they remembered the original Passover, they were also to redeem every firstborn of their own in every generation.
Fulfilled In ChristThe imagery of judgment passing over individuals and households is the essence of the gospel and salvation in Christ. When the sons of Israel heard of the coming judgment and the means of deliverance, all who heard and acted accordingly were saved. Likewise, the gospel declares that a Day of Judgment is coming and all who take refuge in Christ will be saved from judgment. The message of Christianity is essentially a declaration of what God has provided for judgment to pass over guilty sinners. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed. All who hope to be saved from the penalty for their own sin must have His blood deliver them from judgment.
The inclusion of the firstborn being killed in Egypt and the ongoing redemption of all the firstborn in the sons of Israel likewise pointed to the only begotten Son of God who would come and lay down His own life willingly as the Lamb of God.
Finally, the very specific aspect that the lamb to be slain on the first Passover was not to have any bone broken (Exod 12:46; Numb 9:12) was perfectly fulfilled in the suffering of Christ on the cross. Written 1400 years before the birth and crucifixion of Jesus, this prophecy was dramatically fulfilled when Jesus was the only man of the three crucified that day whose legs were not broken.
So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe. For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN." (John 19:32-36)
ConclusionGod's purpose in the judgments leading up to the Passover and exodus of the sons of Israel from Egypt were to point to the salvation that was to be perfectly achieved in and through Christ. These events were to be remembered and celebrated each year to continually point to the coming Messiah.
Now that Christ has come and has been sacrificed we must heed the call to repent and trust in Him alone. There is salvation found in no one else and no other means to escape the coming judgment.
While we should celebrate our salvation in Christ we should also heed the Apostle's instruction to those who have taken refuge in Christ:
Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)God used the original Passover to bring His people out of Egypt so they could be a holy people unto Himself. Likewise, Christians are called to be a holy people unto God in Christ. The language of cleaning out the old leaven is a reference to ridding ourselves of the old, sinful way of life from which we were redeemed. The blessing of salvation is not just an escaping of judgment but a call to a new life - a celebration of sincerity and truth.