The ordinance of the Lord’s supper is a sacred institution. Like baptism, it contains deep truths regarding salvation and eschatology. The more we study, the more we begin to understand how the plan of Christ’s salvation is fulfilled. It is a mistaken notion that “all things” may be fulfilled in a very short period. The scheme of redemption was unfolded gradually, and it is just as gradually accomplished–not at once, but in stages and gradations, which correspond in reverse order to the progress of development.
Irenaeus writes: “For the New Covenant having been known and preached by the prophets, He who was to carry it out according to the good pleasure of the Father was also preached, having been revealed to men as God pleased; that they might always make progress through believing in Him, and by means of the successive covenants, should gradually attain to perfect salvation. For there is one salvation and one God; but the precepts which form the man are numerous, and the steps which lead from man to God are not a few.” (Against Heresies, IV. ix. 3).
The promise of salvation was first made to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3: 15). And it was further unfolded through a series of covenants: Noachian, Abrahamic, and Mosaic. As the promises made in these covenants are fulfilled, each in its own order, so we move closer toward the fulfillment of the original promise. This is a key point to bear in mind. For there be some who confound the Mosaic and Adamic covenants. This leads to the heresy that salvation was fully accomplished when the Jewish (Mosaic) temple was destroyed in A.D. 70. But that is not true! The Mosaic covenant was the last made and the first to be fulfilled. But its annulment does not affect the previous covenants.
In Galatians, Paul reveals that a later covenant has no power to abrogate an earlier one (Gal 3: 17). In the Book of Hebrews, he uses this argument to show that, because the priesthood of Melchizedec had priority, it superseded the Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 7). The Mosaic constitution only sub-served the preceding covenants. Take this constitution away, and the other covenants remain in force. In fact, the church is built upon the “faith of Abraham,” and receives the promises made to Abraham. What are these promises? They include inheritance in the land of Canaan & dominion with Christ over the entire earth (Romans 4: 13).
This is not an idle ‘pipe dream,’ as some would have it, but is contained in the clearest declarations of Holy Writ. After Abraham and Lot parted separate ways, God said to Abraham: “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever” (Gen. 13: 14). From this we infer that the land was promised to Abraham personally, and to his “seed,” which is Christ and His church (Romans 4: 16; Galatians 3: 16, 29).
The promise was later repeated to Abraham (Gen. 15: 7-8; 17: 8), and ratified by a solemn covenant (Gen. 15: 9 ff.). But Abraham never entered into personal possession of the land. As Stephen said: “And He gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet He promised that He would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child” (Acts 7: 5).
These facts tell us that the land-possession still holds good. The reason it hasn’t been fulfilled is because God is still gathering children unto Abraham. The faith of Abraham continues today. The Holy Spirit still circumcises sinners in heart, that they may be baptized into Christ & enter the inheritance promised to them. The promise will be fulfilled in the “First Resurrection.” As in A.D. 70 certain Mosaic promises were fulfilled, so in the Millennium the Abrahamic promises will be fulfilled.
Again, lest we should err concerning the purposes of God, note that the same promise was repeated to Jacob after he fled from Esau. “And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed” (Gen. 28: 12-13).
Christ alluded to this promise when he said to Nathanael: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1: 51). This is not a Mosaic promise, but a Millennial (Abrahamic) promise. During the Millennium, Ezekiel’s Temple shall be situate 17,500 reeds–perhaps twelve or fourteen miles–northward from the rebuilt city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48). This temple will be the house of God in which the Prince shall dwell (Ezek. 43: 7; cf. Gen. 28: 16-17). It will probably rest in the air above the site of Bethel. The saints shall serve God day & night in His temple (Rev. 7: 15).
Land possession, however, is only one part of the promise. Dominion over the earth is also included. This was revealed when Isaac blessed Jacob. He said: “Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. 27: 28-29).
This promise was never fulfilled in Jacob’s lifetime. Therefore, it remains future. Dominion over the earth is intimated in several passages of the Apocalypse, most notably where our Lord says: “And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Rev. 2: 26). Christ Himself promises He will give His faithful servants jurisdiction over the earth, & make them rulers together with Him (Matt. 24: 45-47; Luke 19: 17-19; Rev. 3: 21). “Do ye not know,” said Paul, “that the saints shall judge the world?” (1 Cor. 6: 2). Thus it is seen that in the “anastasei twn dikaiwn,” the saints, long persecuted and harassed, shall be exalted to glory.
But what has this to do with the Lord’s Supper? Well, it has quite a deal of relevance. For the Supper looks forward to both the land promises & restoration of the kingdom. JESUS CHRIST, the same night in which He was betrayed, instituted the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it, and brake it, and gave to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body: And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink hencefroth of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26: 26-29).
Note that the bread and wine symbolize the body and blood of the Lord. Christ said: “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise Him up at the last day” (John 6: 54). To eat and to drink the body & blood of the Lord means to have fellowship in the Cross. For eating and drinking denote fellowship. As the Lord is in heaven now, & we in the wilderness, our nourishment is of a heavenly and spiritual nature. Partaking of the true manna & keeping the Lord’s commandments will guarantee our placement in the “First Resurrection.”
But when the Lord returns we shall be made partakers of His glory (Colossians 3: 4; 1 John 3: 2). And then we shall fellowship with Him in person. Christ says: “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when He cometh shall find watching: verily, I say unto you, that He shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them” (Luke 12: 37). So, the Lord’s Supper looks forward to fellowship with Christ in His Millennial kingdom. Until then, we remain in the wilderness, looking forward to our entrance into Canaan (1 Cor. 10:1-11). And this will be accomplished in the resurrection of the just.
Perhaps the best way to confirm these truths is to find out whether there are any typical indications in the Old Testament that deal with the Lord’s supper. And there certainly are. For remember that after the “battle of the kings” (Genesis 14), Abraham, upon his passage through the Valley of Jehoshaphat, was met by Melchizedec, King of Salem, who “brought forth bread and wine” (Genesis 14: 18). Paul informs us that Melchizedec is Jesus Christ.
After the battle of Armageddon, when the “kings of the earth” that gather against the seed of Abraham (Rev. 19: 19) are defeated, Salem (i.e. peace) shall be established worldwide through the assumption & full display of Christ’s kingly prerogatives (Rev. 15: 4). The Lord’s supper shall be fulfilled in the kingdom of God, and the saints shall have personal fellowship with their Savior–in the very land which was promised to Abraham. This is what the “marriage supper of the Lamb” is all about (Rev. 19: 7, 9). It is the perfect antitype of the “battle of the kings” and its attendant events.
It is obvious, then, that a true fulfillment of the Lord’s Supper looks forward to the confirmation of the Abrahamic promises–and not to the abrogation of the Mosaic economy. Remember that Christ’s plan of salvation is accomplished in stages. As the Millennium ties up the Abrahamic economy, so the Gog and Magog rebellion will witness the reversal of the Noachian dispersion (see Gen. 10: 2); then the “new heavens and new earth” will comprise the perfect fulfillment of the Adamic promises. All things work according to an established order. And remember, prophecy ultimately looks forward to the Edenic restoration.
So, what is our conclusion? As long as the Millennial blessings remain future, we still have to look forward to the defeat of Satan and the extirpation of the curse. The abrogation of the Mosaic “law of bondage” in A.D. 70 had nothing to do with the fulfillment of Gen. 3: 15, & did not even fulfill the promises made to Abraham. So, before deciding which prophecies are truly realized, we need to take a closer look at their covenantal context. The Lord’s Supper is just one of many doctrines which help point the way to a clearer and more Scriptural view of eschatology.