Eucharist: The Hope We Proclaim

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult 
           and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 
           and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
            with fine linen, bright and pure”—

            for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:6-9 ESV

As I said in the first part of our study on the Lord’s Supper, the scope of this series can be easily seen in 1 Corinthians 11:26: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” In that verse, we find that the Lord’s Supper is a present-day action (eating and drinking) that looks back to the death of Christ in anticipation for His return. Thus, our series is structured around the past, present, and future significance of this ordinance. Having observed what the Lord’s Supper calls us to remember, we now set our sights upon how the Lord’s Supper directs our hope toward the second coming of our Savior, but let us first make take an interesting trip to the final chapters of Revelation.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Revelation 17 and 21 offer to us two passages that are worth reading side-by-side.

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

Revelation 17:1–6

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

Revelation 21:9–14

In these two visions of the Apostle John, we find two cities: Babylon and Jerusalem. Within these two cities, we find many points of contrast. Babylon is located in the wilderness, while Jerusalem came down from heaven “to a great, high mountain.” Babylon is said to be a great prostitute, while Jerusalem is called “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” While both have names written upon them, Babylon is full of “blasphemous names” and is called the “mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations,” yet Jerusalem has the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles written upon its gates and foundations.

Interpretations of Revelation are, of course, numerous, as are the interpretations regarding these two cities. Many consider John’s vision of the new Jerusalem to be a literal one, a physical city in heaven that Christ is preparing now. Babylon is probably most often called a symbolic picture of Rome, although there are many who view it as prophesying a future city that maintains control over the globe as both Rome and Babylon once did.

I, however, take both to be, at least primarily, symbols.[1] Since Jerusalem is directly called “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” it seems natural that the vision of that heavenly city represents the coming glorification of Christ’s church, which is His bride (Ephesians 5:32). Indeed, this picture should not be strange to us since many have noted that John’s vision describes the New Jerusalem as essentially being one massive temple (the Most Holy Place of the temple, to be specific), and Paul said in Ephesians 2:21-22 that we, as Jesus’ church, are being built into “a holy temple in the Lord… into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Babylon is, likewise, rich with symbolism in Scripture. It was the literal city of Babylon that took the people of Judah into captivity and left Jerusalem and the temple that Solomon built nothing more than a smoldering pile of rubble. Although they were very likely different cities, the fact that Babylon and Babel are both the same word in Hebrew points to Babylon as carrying on the spirit of Babel and its tower of opposition to God. In the New Testament, Peter almost certainly uses Babylon symbolically when writing his first epistle (1 Peter 5:13).

Thus, while the heavenly city of Jerusalem represents those who belong to Christ, Babylon represents all who refuse Christ. Indeed, Jerusalem only belongs to “those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (22:27), while Babylon draws those “whose names have not been written in the book of life” (17:8). In much the same way that Proverbs presents Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly as life’s two possible paths, Jerusalem and Babylon present us with being in Christ or apart from Him. Indeed, this dichotomy of choice is present throughout all of Scripture: life or death, humility or pride, blessing or cursing, wisdom or folly, the hard way or the easy way, the narrow gate or the broad gate, and here it is Jerusalem or Babylon.

A MARRIAGE SUPPER OR A FEAST OF BLOOD

Interestingly, another point of contrast between Jerusalem and Babylon is the kinds of feast associated with each city. John’s vision of Babylon sees her as a prostitute who is riding upon a scarlet beast and is drunk and makes others drunk. While we are told that she makes others drunk with sexual immorality (17:2), she is “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (17:6). Being already drunk is an indication that her feast has already passed, that she has already taken her fill. Indeed, this is also shown in chapter 18, which pronounces the fall of Babylon and records the laments of all who feasted luxuriously off of her. 18:11-13 shows us exactly what kind of feast Babylon’s fall has brought to an end:

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

Notice how in such a long list of goods the cargo of slaves, of human souls, is tacked on to the end, almost like the merchants were trying to sneak it in amongst the rest of their items. But this is exactly the feast that Babylon always promises, a feast filled with spices, wine, oil, gold, silk, and all kinds of goods and pleasures, while its real cargo is always human souls. You see, the god of this world freely gives pleasures with the same generosity that a fisherman gives a worm to fish. As much as we have attempted to sterilize the modern world, this reality is no less true today. This is why, despite clamoring for children’s protection in school systems, many of our nation’s most powerful elites have taken at least one trip out to Epstein’s Island. Despite everything we hear about the past evils of slavery, almost nothing is ever said about the nearly 40 million people still in very literal slavery around the world today. Despite the passionate cries for women’s reproductive rights (aka abortions), few ever mention the ever-growing market of sex trafficking (many of whom are girls rather than women). Make no mistake, Babylon is alive and kicking. And its market is still human souls.

But, of course, while such blatant evils are ever lurking beneath the surface, they are never the exclusive trade of Babylon. In fact, most of Babylon’s slaves are ensnared with chains that they do not even notice. Lewis famously wrote through the lens of a fictional demon, saying, “Murder is no better than cards if cards do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”[2] Most of Babylon’s citizens are content to eat the free worm, not discovering the hook until it is too late.

Jerusalem, however, has within it the tree of life, which has leaves “for the healing of the nations” (22:2). Her fruit restores rather than corrupts, giving life rather than making drunk and bringing death. Also, unlike Babylon, her feast has not yet come. In 19:6-9, a heavenly messenger calls out for everyone to make themselves ready for the marriage supper of the Lamb with His bride:

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
            and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
            and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
            with fine linen, bright and pure”—

            for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Although Babylon’s feast is available now, it is corrupting, enslaving, and brings only death in the end. Although the feast of Jerusalem is yet to come, it will be a feast of love and a display of God’s making all things new through Christ. That Babylon’s feast is already passing away is a sign of her coming judgment. Her drunken lust for worldly comfort and ease will be brought down the infernal pit that was prepared for Satan and his angels. That Jerusalem’s feast is still to come is sign of her coming glorification. Though often in sorrow now and though many have (and still will) taste the bitter drink of martyrdom, she will be set upon the highest mountain for all to see her dazzling radiance.

UNTIL HE COMES

Two questions lay before us.

First, what does any of this have to do with the Lord’s Supper? In the accounts in Matthew, Mark, and Luke of Jesus’ last supper with His disciples, He told them that He would not again drink the fruit of the wine with until God’s kingdom comes. Our text in 1 Corinthians 11:26 helps to clarify that statement by telling us that we are to observe the Lord’s Supper until he comes. God’s kingdom will arrive in all of its fullness whenever Christ returns again for His bride.

Consider what this means. The Lord’s Supper, important as it is, is temporary. After all, it is a sign, and signs are only important so long as they lead to whatever they signify. The Lord’s Supper will only be practiced until Christ returns because upon that day, the fullness that the sacrament signifies will have finally arrived. In other words, the Lord’s Supper anticipates the coming Marriage Supper of the Lamb. For now, we eat a little bread and sip from the cup as weekly rations to sustain pilgrims on their journey, and for now, we eat together with our own local congregation of believers. But soon we will feast on the delicacies of heaven with our risen King, and we will do so as the gathered and unified people of Christ.

The table before us then calls us to consider a second question, to which city do we belong? All whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, who submit to Christ as Lord and Savior, belong to Jerusalem. They are the bride of Christ and will soon share a wedding feast with Him in the fullness of His kingdom. All whose names are not found in the book of life, who reject Christ’s calls to find salvation in Him, belong to Babylon. Sure, most do not get drunk with the blood of martyrs, but all buy the great prostitute’s merchandise, which is only rebranding of the serpent’s ancient lie, “eat… and you will be like God…” (Genesis 3:5). So, I ask again: to which city do you belong?

We would do well to remember that the Lamb’s book of life is not yet closed, nor are the gates of that heavenly Jerusalem shut. The citizens of Zion were all once citizens of Babylon. Most of us merely bought the serpent’s lie and sold eternal treasure in order to have fleeting pleasure and ease. Others, like Paul, truly did intoxicate themselves on the blood of the saints. But as that apostle said, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). Jesus died to deliver citizens of Babylon out of dark captivity and bring them into His marvelous light.

For those who are not followers of Christ, the Lord’s Supper is not a call to come and eat and drink. Instead, it is a call to first go to Christ, to fall at His feet in prayer, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13)! The voice from heaven in Revelation 18:4-5, 8 speaks to you, calling you to come to flee from the city of destruction today:

Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities… For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.

For those who do worship the Lamb, feeble as we may be, the Lord’s Supper is for us also rightly called the Eucharist, which is simply an English transliteration of the Greek word for thanksgiving. While we may not typically associate the Lord’s Supper with thanksgiving, it is worth noting that each of the four accounts of Jesus’ institution of the sacrament tell us that He gave thanks before distributing the bread and cup to His disciples. Indeed, just as Jesus was still able to give thanks to His Father while under the looming shadow of the cross, so too must we still give thanks to our Father in the midst of a world that seems to be tumbling ever faster into chaos. Although Babylon all around us seems to be victorious, we hold firm to the promise of Revelation 17:14: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” Until the day when we eat and drink with our King as His glorified bride, we take this waybread in thankful anticipation of the coming day when every evil will pass away, and every tear will be dried forevermore.

“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)!


[1] I view Babylon particularly in the same manner as the beasts and little horn from Daniel’s visions. While Rome was certainly an embodiment of the spirit of Babylon and of the antichrist and while there may still come an ultimate fulfillment, Babylon and the antichrist persist throughout each generation.

[2] C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, 61.

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