28 After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
A casual reading of the above can lead to wrong conclusions!
As I have pointed out before in “Good Friday – Easter Sunday: 3 Days and 3 Nights?”, there cannot be 3 days and 3 nights in the traditional Good Friday – Easter Sunday scenario. But, I have another issue for you to consider: Jesus was not resurrected on a Sunday morning!
Re-read Matthew 28 and ask yourself these questions:
1. When was the stone rolled away?
2. When did the women leave for the tomb? When did they arrive?
3. Why weren’t the women afraid enough to run away like the soldiers guarding the tomb did?
The answers might surprise you!
1. The stone was rolled away before the women arrived (Mk 16:1-4).
2. They arrived at dawn (ibid). Therefore, they left at dark (Jn 20:1).
3. The women had not yet arrived when it was rolled away (Lk 24:1-3).
So, it was the “first day of the week”, what we call Sunday. It was at dawn. However, the body was already gone! The stone was rolled away before dawn, i.e., while still dark!
The problem is that mainstream Christianity has absorbed more from pagan influences than from the Bible! “Have Christians as a whole left behind the teachings of Christ?” outlines just a few areas where mainstream Christianity has gone off track. In particular, God forbade ancient Israel from worshiping Him as the pagans did.
So, do you know where the “Easter sunrise service” comes from? From paganism! And what does God have to say about it?
15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.
16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.
17 Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.
18 Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them. (Ezekiel 8:15-18, King James Version)
Easter is not commanded in the Bible anywhere. Passover and the following Days (or Feast) of Unleavened Bread are. Why do people insist on doing what the Bible says not to do while ignoring what it says to do?
If it's wrong to have an "Easter sunrise" worship service, does that mean it's wrong for a Christian to worship God at any sunrise?
Should morning prayers be timed to occur before or after sunrise, lest they be considered pagan worship?
Should I suspend reading the Bible for several minutes around sunrise, for the same reason? Or even listening to Christian music or radio?
(This isn't all hypothetical. I've been taking this approach for several months.)
@Richard: Perhaps it would be best to put it this way: God gives us instruction and wisdom mostly in general principles. From those general principles, we are supposed to practice them and be able to discern enough to apply them to everyday living.
While some areas of Scripture are pretty cut and dried, there is still the need for discernment in all areas of life (see "Book Review on The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies"). In fact, the writer of Hebrews ties discernment to spiritual maturity (Heb 5:14).
So, what is the principle being addressed here? Using pagan customs and practices and incorporating them into worship of the One True God, right? So, what is being borrowed here and why?
Well, for starters, we know that the date has meaning. It is based upon a specific day in relation to the spring equinox. We know that this is not the date that God chose. We know that the date is related to the worship of Astarte/Easter/Ishtar/Oester.
We know that the practice of bowing down to the sun is a form of sun worship. We know the participants literally face east in order to worship their god. This is the exact custom that was borrowed, with only slight alterations. We know that the "sun" is supposed to represent the "Son" in "Christian" worship here. Essentially, you still wind up with divine attributes being given to the creation and not the Creator.
We know that even if it weren't pagan, it is still idolatry. The "sun" is supposed to be a stand-in for God, much like the golden calf was supposed to be the "God, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!”
Having said all of that, there are still 2 more tests to get through:
1. Could it be perceived as idolatry or acceptance of a pagan custom? If you are in a society that believes in sun worship, then it might be a good idea to avoid overt gestures of worship at sunrise, lest you give the impression that you find it acceptable.
2. Do you believe it is idolatry or could lead to idolatry? In that case, you don't want to sear your conscience. So, even if I tell you that you can do all those things, it does not matter if it still bothers your conscience. However, I would still caution that this does not lead to a form of self-righteousness as well.