Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a 40 day (46 minus the Sundays) period of reflection and self-denial that precedes Easter Sunday. Should a real Christian participate in such a celebration?
It’s a bit of an odd thing that Ash Wednesday is usually thought of as a Catholic holiday, yet there are some Protestant churches that have Ash Wednesday ceremonies. And yet, where do we find the observance of Ash Wednesday in the Bible? If Protestantism was truly founded on sola scriptura, you would think that there would be a clear command in the Bible to observe Lent and/or Ash Wednesday.
Apparently, even John MacArthur believes that Lent has no basis in Scripture. According to him, it is derived from the pagan celebration of Semiramis mourning for 40 days over the death of Tammuz. And yet, he stops short of condemning it altogether (for then, he would have to condemn Easter and Christmas as well).
Even the Lenten period of time wasn’t fixed until around 800 AD. Some observed it for a week, some observed it for 3 weeks, and so on. Obviously, we are looking at a tradition of men.
And, therein is the problem. Jesus told the Pharisees that their manmade traditions caused them to transgress God’s commandments (Mt 15:1-6; Mk 7:9).
Even if Ash Wednesday is not, strictly speaking, “pagan”, the ceremony of marking the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross is based in paganism. The cross itself is a pagan symbol, and an idolatrous one at that. When the Spaniards came to South America to “convert” the natives, they were amazed that they were already using crosses in their worship of pagan gods. Yet, it should not have been a surprise at all, seeing as the Egyptians and Babylonians also used types of crosses in their pagan rituals as well.
Putting a pagan symbol on ones forehead is chilling when you consider that the mark of the Beast can be placed on the forehead! Catholics like to compare it to the sealing of the saints by the Holy Spirit, but we need to remember that Satan has at least one counterfeit for everything that is true.
But, in the end, even if John MacArthur and Alexander Hislop were wrong about Lent, what is Lent without Easter? You cannot separate Ash Wednesday and Lent from the Easter celebration, for their very purpose is to prepare for it! And, Easter is well documented to be a pagan celebration.
How does God view using pagan rituals to “honor” Him? He does not feel honored at all!
29When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land;
30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise.
31Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.