What is John 6 as a whole talking about?
And why did Mr Armstrong include John 6:53-54 in the Passover introduction?

"Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:53-54)


Almost as soon as Mr Armstrong died, two small verses found within the Passover service were used to undermine some of the most fundamental doctrines God placed in His Church and in so doing, laid the Church open to further apostasy.

In the instructions for the Passover service Mr Armstrong said the following: "Next read John 6:53-54, noticing this ordinance is commanded as necessary for all Christians." That was all he said.

But as soon as Mr Armstrong died, these two verses were then expanded in the ceremony to include much more from John 6. Mr Tkach (or the spirit behind him) then used the expanded section to attack and destroy the meaning within the very Passover emblems themselves. Mr Tkach and those with him claimed that because John 6:53 said unless you both eat and drink you have no life in you, the idea of the bread being for physical sin and healing in a separate way from the wine was wrong. Both emblems (they said) should be merged and had to apply to spiritual sin -- as only that would give us life. In this way they attempted to utterly destroy the understanding we had been given, of the bread being for our healing.

A fairly detailed examination of the progressive stages of Passover and how each properly fits within the subject matter of John 6 is given in the audio of the bible study: "Discerning The Stages of Passover" (10.2Mb) , given on 5th April 2003 in the UK.

However, let me also give the essence of the subject briefly below.

Off-Track in more than Healing:

To understand this subject properly, we must keep in mind that those who attempted to destroy the understanding we had previously of both John 6 and the Passover, were off-Track in many other areas as well:

1. They refused to acknowledge the specific grace (to place foundational teaching within God's Church) given uniquely to an apostle -- and instead attempted to take this privilege to themselves. Having rejected the Government of God of the spiritual heritage that was over them, they thus made themselves "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." (2Cor 11:13-15)

2. They failed to recognise the uniqueness of our calling -- thinking all "christians" in the world are also being dealt with by God at this time. Doing this caused them to misread much of John 6 that deals with the fact that "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44)

3. They eventually rejected the Holy Days -- treating the Passover in isolation much as the world approaches "holy communion" -- and so failed to see the Passover's proper position as the very start of God's plan. They therefore attached to the Passover emblems aspects that can only come after the sacrifice of Christ has first reconciled us to God the Father.

4. They eventually even rejected the need to keep the Commandments of God -- thereby failing to grasp the true enormity of sin in God's eyes, and utterly missed the main point, that the Passover emblems were given to us by God specifically for the forgiveness of sin -- of all kinds; both physical and spiritual.

What is the Main Topic of John 6?

In the first year bible class at AC Bricket Wood in 1967, the Passover was not presented as the main topic of John 6 at all. The main personal note against the passage I have in the bible I used at the time was simply, "If we partake of Christ - feeding our minds with the words he left by reading, we become spiritually like him. We are what we eat -- and what we read. That is why many of our minds are shallow". I have no idea if Mr Armstrong was teaching the class when I made that note, though he could have been. However, it was more likely to have been Mr Hunting or Mr Mc Nair. But whoever was teaching, they clearly identified the living bread as being God's Words to us - not one of the emblems of the Passover.

This teaching lies at the heart and core of John 6, and is certainly the primary meaning of the bread found there. Christ was answering a specific question from John 6:31 regarding manna, and manna was given to daily sustain ancient Israel. It was also given by the God of the Old Testament (who was Christ Himself before His birth) to show that we "do not live by bread alone, but by every WORD that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Deut 8:3). This reference to manna is returned to a number of times through the passage in verses 49 and 58.

John begins his entire gospel talking about Christ as "The Word". In fact Christ explains exactly what He is talking about within John 6 regarding His flesh giving life when He says to his disciples in John 6:63, "the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life." This verse shows clearly that the bread primarily talked of in John 6 is not the physical Passover bread, nor is it the literal flesh of Christ's person, it is the living Word of God. The Word of God, living within us through the indwelling of The Holy Spirit. As it says in James, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18)" The bread of John 6 is the very sperm of God's Understanding via His Spirit -- when His Word lives and grows within us -- that begets us as the very Sons of God.

The Secondary Theme of John 6:

But there is also a secondary theme that is woven within this latter section of John 6. This secondary theme is summed up within the verse that says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him" (John 6:44) This secondary theme was continually referred to by Mr Armstrong, who constantly quoted the above verse to show the uniqueness of our calling. The apostle John also goes back to this theme repeatedly within John 6 as he shows that the group of people Christ is talking about, who have access to the "living bread", are only those called by the Father.

John finally ends the section, showing this huge divide between those who are being called by the Father, and those who are not, when Christ says, "But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (John 6:64-66)

Immediately after the above, He asks the twelve apostles, "Will ye also go away?", and Simon Peter replies, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:67-68) This reply shows clearly that the Father was in the process of calling Peter -- putting him into this special group of the Church (lit: "called out ones"). To some degree Peter could see the meaning of "the bread of life" that Christ was talking about. It was Christ's "words of eternal life" that only the select group would eventually have living within them. This is what Peter -- having been called by God -- now wanted to hold on to.

Why Mr Armstrong included John 6:53-54:

Although Mr Armstrong recognised both the above themes within the latter part of John 6, he also included verses 53-54 within the introductory statements of the Passover. But he did this without changing the meaning of the bread whatsoever. It is very clear therefore, that these particular verses are different from the surrounding themes, and are uniquely Passover related. What we must notice, is that these verses (and even verses 55-56) are not dealing with the meaning of the Passover emblems at all. They are dealing with the act of eating and drinking. "Except ye eat the flesh ... and drink his blood....Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:53-54) It is the correct act of taking the Passover, that identifies this unique group of people being dealt with within the passage. Only those who correctly take the Passover are the "ecclesia" -- the Church -- or "called out ones". Just as the act of taking the Passover of old was essential to be part of Israel of old, it is just as essential today for those of us who wish to remain part of Spiritual Israel.

This is why Mr Armstrong makes no reference to the meaning of the emblems when he says, "Next read John 6:53-54, noticing this ordinance is commanded as necessary for all Christians." What is vital is the act of taking the Passover if we are indeed a Christian -- part of the very "called out ones". It is this group -- that correctly takes the Passover -- that are able to then go on to ingest the very body of Christ -- his flesh -- His Living Words -- on a daily basis, as the living manna that descends from God -- living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3). But this symbolism can only come after the emblems of the Passover are taken, as both emblems deal with the forgiveness of sin -- physical and spiritual -- and are not to be mixed with Christ in us, as was erroneously foisted on the Church in the past.

Christ explains this link between those who take the Passover and the primary themes of John 6 in verses 56-57. He explains that these people who correctly take the Passover will subsequently "dwell in me and I in them" (through the Holy Spirit given through contact with the Father) and "he that eats me, even he shall live by me" -- going back to the original topic of manna and God's Living Word again.

This "act of eating and drinking" that is referred to in John 6:53-54, highlights two other aspects of the Passover ceremony, that have nothing whatever to do with the meaning of the emblems. The emblems remain entirely for the forgiveness of sin -- physical and spiritual -- by the broken body and the shed blood. Passover remains a memorial of Christ's death -- not His life in us. Confusing this aspect remains the JWT heresy that undermined healing and faith. But the act of taking the bread does have a parallel in the Old Testament with the act of eating the body of the Passover lamb -- that placed someone within the body of Israel. This parallel is brought out by Paul in 1Cor 10:17 without in any way changing the meaning of the bread.

Likewise, the wine is described as the "new testament in my blood". Taking the Passover wine symbolically causes the terms of the new testament (or covenant) to apply. But again, it is not the meaning of the wine, merely an aspect that applies when we take it.

These two aspects -- that we are made part of Spiritual Israel, and partake of the new Covenant relationship with the Father -- are the aspects that John 6:56-57 is highlighting by saying unless we partake in this, we have no life in us. The process leading to the Living Word being active within us through the Spirit of God can not continue unless we are both part of the Church, and also have a relationship with the Father -- symbolised by the act of eating and drinking. This is undoubtedly why Mr Armstrong included John 6:53-54 within the introduction to the ceremony itself, without changing the meaning of the bread in any way. The bread of Passover remains solely as an emblem of the broken body of Christ - beaten for the forgiveness of physical sin - within God's True Church.

Jon Bowles (Pastor)