Living Between the Cups…which Passover Cup Jesus used at the Last Supper and What that Means for Us

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When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper we are told that it was in the context of a Passover meal. Mark 14:12-18 says,

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

One detail of the meal that confirms this is found in Luke when the order of the meal found in Matthew and Mark is expanded in Luke to include another cup. Luke 22:17-23,

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. 21 But the hand of him who is going to betray me is with mine on the table. 22 The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!” 23 They began to question among themselves which of them it might be who would do this.”

What you find here is Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper in the middle of a traditional Passover meal. The Passover meal had four cups of wine (which I am sure some people would like to carry over into the Lord’s Supper today…just to follow the example, of course). So which two cups do we have represented in these verses? Let’s look at another verse for more information, 1 Corinthians 10:16,

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?” (NIV)

The NIV messes this one up a bit in calling it the “cup of thanksgiving.” The word there is “eulogia” where we get the term eulogy or blessing. This is literally the cup of blessing (see NASB, NRSV). The cup of blessing is the cup Paul tells us was the cup Jesus used to institute the Lord’s Supper. Where did the cup of blessing fit into the order of the 4 cups of the Jewish Passover? Here is their order:

  1. Kiddush – Cup of   holiness
  2. Maggid – Cup where the Passover story is told
  3. Birkat Hamazon – Cup of blessing
  4. Hallel – Cup of praise

The cup Jesus used for the Last Supper, to institute the Lord’s Supper, was the third cup. So what about the fourth cup? Where is it? Jesus references that at the Last Supper,

“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus is saying the fourth cup will not be partaken of until we all take it with him in the kingdom of God! We are truly living between the cups…between the cup of blessing that we partake of each week during the Supper and the Cup of praise that we will take with Christ in the kingdom!

20 Responses

  1. I’m curious if you think that’s the same kingdom of God that Jesus and John said was coming soon (Mark 1:15; 8:38-9:1) or if there are two kingdoms of God? As I see it, Daniel 7 posits its arrival at the judgment of the little horn of the fourth beast Rome, and Jesus later said that the apostles would see its arrival when they say Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20-32; cf kingdom parallels in Matt. 21-22). I see this fourth cup being drunk at the Parousia in the clouds during the Jerusalem siege of AD66-70 (Rev 19). Therefore I personally am not living between the cups, I’m drinking the fourth cup with Christ in celebration of his victory. If we’re still “living between the cups” then I can’t see how one can not say that we are still living between the (old and new) covenants.

    1. You seem to be acknowledging that the cup at the Last Supper was the 3rd cup of the Passover feast and that the 4th cup either wasn’t taken (in anticipation of taking it anew in the kingdom as Jesus said) or else it just wasn’t recorded and this whole point is messed up from the start. I conclude that based on you saying that you believe you are now taking the 4th cup today in celebration of Christ’s victory over the temple establishment in Jerusalem in 70 (what else would you say in addition to that, that he had victory over in 70? I really am asking because I think a lot hinges on the answer to that question). So I think you are at least acknowledging which cup it was and we are in agreement on that.

      The prophets looked forward to the time of Christ and they were certainly given many clues as to what was to come, some very specific. I certainly believe that some of what was prophesied in the prophets and by Jesus himself occurred in 70 but I don’t think that was the end of it. I don’t think that was the full out parousia at that time. I know you don’t believe in double fulfillment or in layers of fulfillment but that is what I think is going on in some of those verses…they are fulfilled in part but there is more to come. God is complex like that. IMO.

    2. Hi Matt. For some reason I didn’t see your comments until yesterday, when I saw that you posted a new blog. I guess I didn’t check to be notified for new comments. I wasn’t ignoring you but I have been especially busy lately.

      Ok, so I did some more research on the four cups after you asked if I agreed with it. I can’t remember where I learned about it, but some time past I had thought that the four cups was an accepted addition to the Passover by the time of Jesus. However after my research I’m not so sure. The absolute earliest I could find cups of any kind in the passover (especially since there’s no drink element or cups mentioned in the OT relative to the passover) is Mishnah Pesachim 10:1, and the Mishnah (which is the oldest rabbinic literature) only dates to around AD 217 at its earliest. Here’s some links I found if you care to look them up for yourself:

      I’m going to go ahead and try to give the simplest answer I can to your questions, even assuming for a moment that the cups were really there as I did earlier.

      First, I agree that God is complex, especially in the prophets, but I’m working from some different conclusions on the meaning of the prophets than you are. I don’t believe it is a logical connection to say that if one were to believe that everything the prophets predicted happened before or by the end of the Second Temple age (and by that I am allowing for the ongoing function of what the prophets predicted, such as Isa 65-66 and Ezek 47 being ongoing realities for us now living in the “age to come”), that it means that God is no longer complex. Man sometimes makes things tremendously more complex than they actually are, most times (consider pre/mid/post-trib dispensational premillennialism).

      Second, I would say that a whole lot more happened at the end of the age in AD70 than the fall of the temple and judgment on old covenant Israel (per the curses of Deut. 32 etc). I would say that this was the emptying of Hades and its dissolution as part of the postmortem economy of God, and is the heavenly judgment of all those in Hades since Adam. I could write several paragraphs on why or how I believe that, but I’ll wait for you to ask if you want to see that or not. Essentially though I connect passages like Daniel 12, Matt 13:36-43, Matt 23:32-36, Heb. 9:8-10,24-28; and Rev. 20:111-15 among others (the book I’m co-writing with Doug Wilkinson connects Daniel 7 with Rev. 20). Some have asked how a “local” judgment like AD66-70 (though it was throughout the whole Roman “world” actually) could have universal spiritual meaning? Well, there was a Roman cross on a hill in AD30 that was extremely local, and most if not all had no idea what was really taking place in the heavenly realm. This is what I see Revelation is all about. It is John’s picture of the heavenly perspective of the Olivet Discourse that he didn’t write about in his gospel.

      I’ll answer your third question below it, next.

    3. It is basically impossible to know if what the Mishnah said is what was going on in Jesus’ day for exactly the reasons you pointed out. Paul calling one of the cups, the “cup of blessing” leads me to believe this theory is quite plausible but certainly not absolute and the fact that Luke mentions 2 cups in his Passover/Last Supper account.

      I would be interested to know how you conclude 70 was the emptying of Hades as I am sure you have put a ton of time into that conclusion.

      The language of Revelation can be apocalyptic and local/immediate but I think there is more going on than that, personally. I don’t see how the 70 approach would do much with the new heavens and new earth coming together as the kingdom/dwelling of God is finally with all of his people…the consumation of creation and the bride of Christ finally marrying her groom. There are a lot of things I don’t understand and I am certainly willing to learn something new here…I just don’t see how 70 can account for all that is going on there or in many of the passages that talk about resurrection, our future state, etc.

    4. You asked two questions (how it is the emptying of Hades and how to accommodate for the heavens and earth language).

      The first question entails the subject of resurrection, which would require a lot of time and study to discuss in any real detail. Just for simplicity I would say that I see judgment, kingdom and resurrection all tied to the parousia event (2 Tim. 4:1), and I see only one parousia event described in the NT not two (I see Matt. 24 unified not divided), and I see all the imminent time statements declaring how near this event was upon them, within that generation (Matt. 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:34, etc). Jesus says the Revelation is about “the things which are and are about to take place” (1:19) right after saying he holds the keys of death and Hades. Then after the parousia and the marriage scene (ch 19) we see the Great White Throne scene were death and Hades are cast into the fire and all the dead up to that point are judged. I posit that Revelation is a vision into heavenly things though there is an earthly manifestation of this judgment too. What I see happening is the dead in Hades are brought before the throne of God and are judged.

      Though I could start rattling off a list of passages I think are connected to this, the one text that really made me stand up and take notice is Daniel 12. The resurrection was tied to and happened at the time of the shattering of Daniel’s holy people (Judah) and the abomination of desolation. Jesus quotes from Dan. 12:3 and says it would happen at the end of the age they were then living in (Matt. 13:39-43). This age was said to end at the fall of the temple (Matt. 24:1-3), likewise the abomination of desolation (24:15).

      I see particularly that at the fall of the Temple it is the completion of the day of atonement. Hebrews 9 is very specific here. Atonement was not accomplished at the slaughter of the lamb, nor upon the high priest entering the most holy place and placing the blood, but upon his exit from the MHP when he declares to the congregation that atonement has been accepted and thereby is completed. If you pay particular attention to Heb 9 you see that the writer saw himself in the middle of the day of atonement waiting for the high priest to return out of heaven (vs. 24-28). In vs 8-10 we see that their present tabernacle (the Jewish Temple) was still operational and performing sacrifices, and that it wasn’t until this tabernacle wasn’t standing any longer that the true holy place (heaven, vs 23) would be “opened” (vs 8). I see this as the time when Hades was emptied.

      When you think about it, you have to ask yourself why the Hadean system would still be operational in the new covenant and not dissolved when the old covenant fully ended? The only reason for the Hadean pause before heaven is because no one could enter heaven because of sin (that’s clearly what the Tabernacle/Temple system was meant to demonstrate). The veil was torn, but it was quickly sewn back up and sacrifices resumed. But the time clock was ticking… the final day of atonement had begun and soon it would be completed. (Predicting one question here–would atonement still be ongoing after the “day” is completed? I think that the “forever” nature of the high priest and of the new covenant demands its continuance; it wouldn’t be any different than the cross being a one-time event that is over but having eternal ongoing benefits.) To me, it doesn’t make sense to have a fully operational new covenant wherein true forgiveness exists, but have the same Hadean pause that existed for all those in exile in the old covenant because of sins not yet being forgiven. Ending the Hadean system for those who now live in the consummated new covenant magnifies the grace and love of God.

      Your second question about the heavens and earth I think we’ve discussed before a little or it may have been Doug W. who commented on it. First, that phrase was commonly understood as an idiom for the temple system. Josephus mentions that (reference needed, can find it upon request). Second, when you look at the context and details of Isa. 65-66, you see that it specifically is talking about the sword falling on Israel but His servants being called by a new name. Third, you see wolf and lamb imagery that was previously used to describe the Messiah’s kingdom (which in our tradition we’ve always seen as here today; several commentators see Isa 65-66 referring to the church). Fourth, you see people still dying in this new H&E. You see survivors going out to the nations afterwards (66:19). When you put all the evidence together, I think what we see here is a new arrangement between heaven and earth, a reconciliation (Eph. 1:7-10). Might be best to call it a new Temple arrangement. This is connected somewhat to Walton’s thesis on Genesis 1. Also as a side note, I’m not sure if you ever noticed it before, but in Rom. 10:18 where Paul quotes from Psa. 19, he applies the terms “heavens” to people who are evangelizing to Israel at that time. I’m not saying that it always means that, but I find it fascinating how the Jews could apply such cosmic terms to people. Paul does it again in Phil. 2:15 by applying “luminaries” (commonly, stars) to people also.

      You mentioned the bride motiff and the marriage. I’m not sure what would be so difficult to understand that God (Christ) has already married his bride and now dwells with her? Certainly we teach that we have something more real about the presence of God being with us now that they didn’t have in the old covenant. And, if what I say about Hades and the heavens and earth is true, then we truly do dwell with him after death. So it all works out IMO.

    5. I will get to more of your post in a bit but I was under the impression that the abomination that causes desolation (from Daniel), ceasing the sacrifices, etc all happened under Antiochus Epiphanes during the time of the Maccabees. See 1 Macc 1:41-45 for instance. Obviously, Jesus references as a future event in Matt 24. That may once again point to multiple fulfillment or layers of fulfillment.

    6. I wanted to add two quick things I forgot in my last reply.

      First, one thing that is interesting is to look at the function of the church today, creating “sons and daughters of God” in a relationship (marriage) that hasn’t been consummated yet.

      Second, I noticed that you never answered my first question about how you see two kingdoms of God predicted to arrive in the New Testament.

      Thanks brother for your time and consideration in all this 🙂

    7. I’m out of time right now so I can’t dig into my resources on it for quotes or detailed explanation, but I don’t agree with the Antiochus interpretation of the abomination in ch. 12 or ch. 9 of Daniel (if memory serves, James Jordon tackles this in his tome on Daniel). I’m aware of 1 Macc. but I don’t think that interpretation fits Dan. 12. Particularly the timeline of Dan 11 extends past that time (I think it’s at verse 36 that it shifts to Rome but it may be at vs. 40). Also Dan. 9 seems to be rather clear this abomination is the AD70 final end of the city, and the events of Antiochus no where near line up with this.

      I’m curious if it is Antiochus, what do you make of the “many rising from the dust” and Daniel rising to receive his inheritance? How did that happen during Antiochus? And how could Jesus apply Dan. 12:3 to the end of the age resurrection?

    8. I will do my best to get to your questions as I have time. These are some great questions. I don’t think any of them are insurmountable…I just have to make sure I keep my mind open enough to not force the texts to fit my conclusions but allow them to say what they say as best as I can tell it.

    9. I forgot to mention…I see no problem with saying Christ took the 3rd cup to initiate the new covenant. Can you help me understand what the problem would be with that? I don’t see how that would put us living between the Old and New Covenants. Maybe I am missing something here…happens quite often 😉

    10. I forgot to answer this question after getting distracted to do something else 🙂 Ok so I guess the only thing I was saying, which I don’t think now was a very good point, is that as I understand it the fourth cup celebrated the arrival of the Messiah and the conclusion/fulfillment of the festal system. *If* the 4 cups were part of the Passover Jesus partook, and if they had the meaning the Mishna ascribes to it, (there’s even the part in the Seder about waiting for Elijah whom Jesus said had already come in the form of John the baptizer), and if part of the old covenant celebrations are still yet to be completed and fulfilled, then we are living in the overlap between the two covenants. This is exactly what I see happening in the 40 years between the cross and the parousia in AD70. Hebrews makes it clear in several places that the OC system was still in place and was near unto fading away, around AD66.

      One of the most fascinating studies I did a while back is looking into the 7 festal holidays and how they are fulfilled in Christ. Spring Feasts: Passover, Feast of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, (all Christians recognize these as past fulfilled in the death, burial, resurrection, and Pentecost events of AD30), then the Fall Feasts: Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles. Most Christians believe we are still waiting for those, however I see them as occurring in the events of AD70. So I was paralleling your comment about living between the cups, with living between the spring and fall feasts.

      Here’s a link that shows how the “living between” is understood from a futurist perspective:

      Here’s a link that shows the fall feasts fulfilled in AD70:

      Here they are in iTunes if you’d rather listen to the sermon than read the notes (they are #’s 94-101, though you start with 101 and go up not down):

      I’ve gotta go now, I’ll get to your more recent questions to me later today if I have time.

    11. Thank you for all this information and the links. It is pretty clear in Acts that the early Jewish Christians were still very much participating in their Jewish religious practices. You see that in Acts 3 with Peter and John going to the temple at the Jewish hour of prayer and you see that at the end of Paul’s ministry as he is attacked by people because they believe he has rejected Moses and the Law. There are several places where Paul says he hasn’t said anything against any of that. In Acts 21:21-24, 26 is particularly interesting,

      “They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law…The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.”

      The cost of the purification was the cost of the sacrifice. Paul participated in sacrifices here. I find that very interesting and jives with what you are saying.

    12. For some reason I couldn’t reply to this last comment below so I’ll reply here…yes it is interesting isn’t it? I find it to be a powerful testimony to the grace and patience of God. He gave that last “perverse and crooked generation” of Israel 40 years to repent before judgment came. This explains why Jesus directed the 12 (11 really since most of this refers to what happens from Pentecost onward) to not go anywhere but to the lost sheep of Israel.

      Mat 10:5-23 ESV These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, (6) but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (7) And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ … (14) And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. (15) Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. (16) Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (17) Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, (18) and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. (19) When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. (20) For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (21) Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, (22) and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (23) When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

      I think this 40 year transition period, besides being the second Exodus that NT Wright speaks of, also explains what Paul meant in Rom. 9-11, especially 11:2 “God has not rejected his people he foreknew.” The premillennialist uses that to say that Israel still holds God’s favor even yet today, and the amillennialist struggles to answer this because they have Israel cut off at the cross despite Paul still considering them not rejected (yet). Deut. 32 clearly shows that the generation of Israel that lives to see the good news go to the Gentiles wherein Israel would be provoked to jealousy (Deut. 32:20-11; Rom. 10:19) would be the last generation as a covenant people (Deut. 32:29ff). So to me, that all fits nicely with the second exodus motiff. Most would fall in the “wilderness” but a chosen remnant would make it into the “promised land.”

    13. There is a lot to work through here so let’s see what we can do. The kingdom of God is the sphere in which God reigns supreme. Jesus talked about the kingdom of God breaking into this world and even that we ought to pray things be on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom is the kingdom. It breaks in as God decides to do so. If God kicks the kingdom off but doesn’t fully demonstrate it until later that is not 2 kingdoms, but one.

      On Hades, I don’t think it follows that the only reason Hades existed was to wait until the New Covenant, that no one could enter heaven until the Old covenant was gone and that there was no forgiveness of sins under the Old Covenant. Before I go further, am I understanding you right on those 3 things? That is what I think you are saying but I don’t want to give a more lengthy response until I am sure I heard you right there.

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