In the narrative of Exodus, the final plague is set off by a formal introduction: “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you out of here” (Exod 11:1). The introduction to the tenth plague fulfills the word of the Lord to Abraham in Gen 15:3-4, that Abraham’s descendants would be oppressed in a foreign land for 400 years and then the Lord would bring them out with great prosperity. The bulk of Exodus 11-15 contains God’s instruction for ceremonies that Israel was to faithfully observe so that the tenth plague of Egypt would be remembered from generation to generation (Exod 12:24-27).
God was not interested in simply freeing an oppressed people. The exodus was a significant event in nation building. While midway through Exodus 12 the text abruptly shifts from ceremonial instruction to the description of the tenth plague (“Now at midnight the LORD struck every firstborn male in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the prisoner who was in the dungeon, and every firstborn of the livestock” [Exod 12:29]), the end of the chapter returns again to the ceremonial description (“This same night is in honor of the LORD, a night vigil for all the Israelites throughout their generations” [Exod 12:42]). The final paragraph of Exodus 12 and most of the following chapter contain ceremonial instructions for how Israelites were to remember the Passover.
In Exodus 14, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart to pursue Israel. This naturally led to fright amongst the Hebrews (Exod 14:10-12), and further displays of God’s glory. There was a ‘secondary deliverance’ through the parting of the waters (Exod 14:13-22; see Ps 77:19-20) followed by the destruction of Pharaoh and his army (Exod 14:23-30). The vision of the perishing Egyptians was no doubt a comfort for Israel—Pharaoh could never harm them again. It is no wonder that in Exodus 15 Moses records a song of praise for all that God had done.
The Passover ceremony instituted in Exodus is formative for the storyline of Scripture.
(1) In the context of celebrating the Passover, Jesus instituted the Lord’s supper as the commemorative meal of the new covenant (Matt 26:26-29//Mark 14:22-25//Luke 22:15-20). Luke wrote that on the night Jesus was betrayed, “When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him. Then He said to them, ‘I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 22:14-16). There are points of continuity between the Passover of Israel and the Lord’s Supper. But the discontinuity between the two is no small matter. Believers under the new covenant can appreciate God’s sovereignty in being redeemed from the dominion of Satan, sin, death, and law (see Rom 5:12-21; Col 1:13-22; Heb 2:14-18). Believers recall the broken body of Christ, His shed blood, and His resurrection.
(2) In 1 Cor 5:7, Paul wrote that Christ was the Passover sacrifice for the church, compelling believers to live purely unto God. Paul confronted the Corinthians because they flaunted their freedom in letting a man sleep with his step-mother. Paul urged the church to have a Passover-like celebration and cleanse out the old leaven and their old lifestyle of pagan immorality, since Christ had already been sacrificed for them. In Paul’s mindset, what God had done in Christ should have full sway in the ethics of the church.
(3) In 1 Cor 11:17-34, Paul wrote that when believers partake of the Lord’s Supper and remember His sacrifice they are also to remember the needs of the church body. Perhaps the most striking difference between Israel’s Passover and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is that the latter includes an additional aspect of devotion that was not mandated in the Passover instructions. Nowhere in Exodus 11-15 were the children of Israel commanded to remember one another for community edification—the very matter that became the point of emphasis for Paul when he applied the Lord’s Supper to the community of the church. To the Corinthians—a church steeped in selfishness—Paul wrote that when the church gathers to partake of the Lord’s Supper, they should recall Jesus’ cross and anyone needy among them, seeking to build up the body of the church (1 Cor 11:27-29).
(4) In Revelation, John’s references to the Lamb of God echoed the slaughtered lamb of the Passover celebration. In John’s vision of the heavenly throne room, John saw one like a slaughtered lamb approach the throne and take the scroll from God’s hand (Rev 5:6). There John heard a heavenly throng sing to the Lamb saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; because You were slaughtered and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). John saw an international multitude in heaven and the angel told him that the multitude had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). When the Devil was thrown out of heaven, John heard a voice proclaim that the multitude in heaven had conquered the Devil by the blood of the Lamb (Rev 12:11).