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The Fall of Eastre
by Kim Harrington 

   For I delivered to you as of first importance what also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.

I Corinthians 15:3,4

 

 

     Few people today understand the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many picture Him still hanging on the cross, a pathetic, rather than victorious Savior. Even believers whose doctrinal stands are correct seem to emphasize His death and sacrifice for our sins, but don’t always appreciate the full import of the resurrection.

     Of course, our observance of Christ’s resurrection today in America is so far removed from anything that would give glory to God that it’s little wonder if people are confused on the subject. Children and adults alike think more in terms of bunnies and colored eggs, than of a crucified and resurrected Lord. If the schools observe any holiday at all, they call it "Spring Break" in order to disassociate it as much as possible from anything to do with Jesus Christ. We’ve come a long way since that first resurrection Sunday nearly two thousand years ago.

     The Apostle Paul dealt with problems concerning the resurrection of Jesus in the First Century, too. There were those in the church at Corinth who said "there is no resurrection from the dead," (I Cor.15:12). They were apparently an early prototype of secular Christians who discredit the supernatural aspects of the Gospel, and emphasize a more socially-oriented message of helping out people in the here and now. They believed that Jesus was a good man, worthy of imitation, but that He wasn’t God, and He couldn’t guarantee anything like eternal life—there probably isn’t a spirit world, a heaven, or a hell... or so they reasoned. Paul addressed those issues in his first letter to the Corinthians, and gave us the finest teaching on the subject in the entire Bible.

     As the church grew in size and influence over the next few centuries, the issue of the resurrection, as well as many other Christian beliefs and values, met with another kind of foe. If secularism was the challenge in Corinth, paganism was the challenge of the early Middle Ages. The Roman church had a habit of incorporating the local religious practices of pagan lands and slowly Christianizing them—which was very successful in turning whole countries away from their old religions to the Catholic church, but which also had a tendency of introducing pagan beliefs and superstitions into the church.

     When the first missionaries came to the British Isles they found a particularly evil and dangerous religion. The Celtic people had been introduced to the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth long before the birth of Christ, probably by the Phoenicians. Yes, the worship of the same false gods that Israel wrestled with in the promised land was firmly entrenched in ancient Britain. Poles representing male and female genitals, temple prostitution, and child sacrifices characterized this religion. The Canaanites actually offered up their children as sacrifices before the "asherah," the giant stone phallic symbols, and then buried the little bodies in the foundations of their homes for a blessing on the rest of the family.

     The names of Baal and Ashtoreth were transliterated into the Gaelic tongue, and came out as Bel and Eastre.* The priests became known as Druids. And the religious rites were held in circular areas surrounded by phallic pillars, just as in Palestine (Stonehenge in England is believed by many to be one of the ancient "high places" of Druid worship). Various animal and human sacrifices were always part of Baal and Ashtoreth worship, wherever it was found in the ancient world.

     And it did get around, too. Artemis of the Greeks, and "Diana of the Ephesians," whose followers the Apostle Paul stirred up in Acts chapter nineteen, have been identified as the same goddess, Ashtoreth, or Astarte, as she was known in Syria. In Babylon she was known as Ishtar, and her male counterpart was Bel, as in Britain. She was originally associated with Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod the Great, who rebelled against God and set up a counter religion in ancient Babylon, building the tower of Babel. Today variations of this god and goddess are still worshipped in India, where Ishtar are guardian gods for ladies, and Ishwar is another name for Shiva, who incidentally is worshipped most often in the form of a large phallus. His female counterparts, such as Durga and Kali, closely resemble Ashtoreth of the Canaanites.

     The Druids called her Eastre. She was the goddess of the dawn, of spring, of reproduction, of death and rebirth. Her high holy day was the Spring Solstice, usually around March 20 or 21. So the church thought, let’s incorporate the pagan practices instead of eliminating them; let’s honor the resurrection of Christ on Eastre’s day.

     Easter eggs are part of the ancient celebration of the goddess. Babylonian legend has it that a giant egg fell from heaven, was rolled ashore by a fish, and hatched by doves into Ishtar, or Ashtoreth. Eggs have always been associated with her, wherever Baal worship has appeared. The Easter Bunny is a more recent twist on an ancient theme, inspired by the same spirit—rabbits have long been associated with reproduction... and Ashtoreth, or Eastre.

     Of course, in modern America, the holiday is almost completely secular. No one offers their children before phallic poles, or worships the statue of a woman with many breasts on Easter day. But Christ is equally pushed out, and I can’t help but believe that His old enemy Satan is behind the whole affair. He simply kept introducing distractions—eggs, bunnies, Easter baskets—until the resurrection of Jesus became an afterthought, and finally not thought of at all, except by a very few. The true significance, the triumphal victory over death itself, is lost in the shuffle.

 

     But now has Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

I Corinthians 15:20

     Christ is risen from the dead, whether our world chooses to acknowledge it or not. Many religions honor the burial places of their spiritual leaders; only Christianity has an empty tomb. He died on a cruel cross before thousands of anxious spectators, they put Him in a burial cave, rolled a huge stone over the entrance, and even posted guards before it, so no one could steal the body. But He rose from the dead, He walked out of that cave, He appeared before His closest disciples, walked among them for another forty days, and finally was seen by over five hundred witnesses at one time. When Paul wrote the above verse to the Corinthian church, you still could have turned to most of those witnesses and received a first-hand account. This was not a plot hatched out by a few cronies, or a legend that grew over the centuries. The resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact, with far more corroboration than many other matters of history which we accept at face value. Even secular historians of the period, such as Josephus, attest to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

     Why is the resurrection important? Why would God insure the presence of so many witnesses? Why would the enemy take such pains to confuse the facts? Because it is simply the most important truth of the Christian faith! "If Christ has not been raised," the apostle writes, "then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain," (I Cor.15:14). The resurrection is the foundation upon which our whole faith in Christ rests.

     The resurrection of Jesus proves that He is who He says He is. There have been many prophets and holy men down through the ages, but none ever claimed to be God, as Jesus did. When He rose from the dead He established His deity, He proved He was no fraud, and that faith in Him would not be misplaced.

     The resurrection proves His power over death, the greatest and surest enemy of mankind. Nobody has defeated death before or since Jesus. Some have been revived and gone on to live a little longer, but death has eventually taken them, nonetheless. Jesus died, and rose again, and then physically, before five hundred witnesses, ascended into Heaven. He truly defeated death

     And if He is who He says, and if He has power over death, then He can keep His promises to us regarding eternal life, too. He can raise us from the dead... "He who believes in the Son has eternal life," He said (John 3:36); and "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life," (John 5:24). The resurrection proves our faith is not in vain, but is established on a foundation that cannot be shaken.

     "Do not marvel at this," Jesus went on to say, "for an hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, and those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment," (John 5:28,29).

     The good deeds are to believe on Jesus Christ—that He is who He said, and that He died for your sins and rose again—and then to walk in obedience to His Word. The evil deeds are to go on doing your own thing, to ignore Jesus Christ and His claims on you.

     Why not give your life to Christ today? He died for you and rose again, so that you could follow Him into eternal life. It doesn’t cost anything except your loyalty and commitment. Do it. Come to Jesus. Tell Him you’re sorry for your sins and selfishness, that you want to be His disciple from now on, instead of doing what everybody else thinks you should be doing. Tell Him that you want to be who and what God intended you to be. Tell Him you believe in Him and give your life to Him. Then read the Bible, especially the New Testament, and pray daily; and join a real Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church—get together with other disciples of Jesus.

     And by the way, maybe it’s a good idea to start some new customs around your house when it comes to Easter, too. Get rid of the eggs and bunnies and baskets, and direct your family’s attention to the resurrection of Jesus instead. And let’s start calling it Resurrection Day—why let old Eastre be glorified at all if we’re believers in the true God?

     May the Lord bless you richly as you walk with Him.

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*Throughout this article I have retained the English spelling Eastre when referring to the goddess, and used the American Easter when referring to our present holiday. The pronunciation is the same.

 

Copyright 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

 

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