The Bread of Life Showdown-Eternal Bread Fed To Us On Earth As It Is In Heaven
"Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." Job19,26
'It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural [physical] body there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being', the last Adam, a life giving Spirit ...47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven." 1Corinthians15,44-46
"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh [heaven and earth has flesh, 1Corinthians15,44 and Job19,26, and all flesh has "blood" still in it] of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." John6,53
The American prophet William Branham's last sermon in 1965, "Communion", was about the last supper: "And this is really the showdown. Then if you don't do it, you have no life. If you do do it unworthily, you are guilty of the body of the Lord." ("paragragh 57, "Communion" branham.org/messageadio n. 65-1212)
It's a big old showdown with our risen Lord Jesus- He's fighting to feed his new bride- yet a surprising percentage of Christians avoid His supper altogether (40%?) and sort of explain it away, leaning on our own understanding, rather than applying faith and seeking revelation about this biblical subject.
We don't judge those who are now avoiding it altogether, given the disputes of history. But for any of us Christians in this day and age of vast bible and historical knowledge, all at out fingertips, to not have a concrete biblically based Lord's Supper is sort of like a U.S. presidential candidate not having a foreign policy.
"Well it's too difficult a topic, or divisive, or not an overly winsome topic." This is church practice by default, and what are we ashamed of the gospel?
Or, on the other hand, many churches have a settled on the Lord's supper merely through the ongoing motions and politics of their traditions.
But the Lord's Spirit always takes the truly faithful back to the supper, to its focus on the cross, to this required covenant ratification, and to getting fed directly and exclusively by the risen Jesus. And so today, again He's taking me back, after some months gaining more conviction about its revival, to these Lord's table meditations of which He has already revealed 38. www.zionpentecostmission.com/the-lords-supper/
I come back to them only at the prompting of the Lord, not expecting much agreement with the well waxed policy manuals and catechisms of the denominations, or the outright dismissals of others.
But agreement isn't the primary goal of God's word, spreading the gospel is! And perhaps, praise His name, gospel persuasion about the supper would bring some folks back who have wandered away from it entirely, or wandered from it's biblical basis. Oh that we would all come back to the table and the word, as His one body, all redeemed at a great price.
Delving into the biblical basis of the Lord's supper is like delving into the book of Revelation. Agreement or disagreement is not the primary criterion. Instead, the very discipline of pressing into the word and Spirit affords the opportunity to live a more biblically based fellowship and more authentic practices of the Lord's ordinances.
About five years ago I was perfectly content to go on evangelizing on the "The Preaching Hour," or wherever, without any mention of the supper. But after about seventy five episodes the Lord said "I want you to do it every episode and teach it too."
Again and again as individuals and churches we hear Jesus' ringing command "Do this!"
What "this" is?
But what do we mean by "this?" We mean a spiritual sacrifice (1Peter2,5), an act of faithful obedience that we celebrate not just as a memory of Calvary, but as a memorial (a sacrificial and biblical word) of His death and his victorious resurrection. We also realize that the supper is once and again a ratification of our new covenant purchased by the blood and now administered by the Spirit, a ratification of that covenant at which the Lord's Spirit, if its done with faith, just might come down (though He is in no way obligated) like at Genesis15 where His Spirit sealed and raitified the covenant with Abraham by passing through the middle of the two sides of the sacrifice.
Do the showdown- experience the gut check- and the fullness of His life in our temples as individuals, and among His body, folks who seperately and as one hunger and thirst for His righteousness.
These Meditations Not Done In A Vacuum Or On A Non Biblical Rabbit Trail
I present these meditations hopeful of finding biblical common ground and fellowship with the entire body of Christ. It strikes me that the Lord's Supper, with its one table, One Lord, and One Spirit is a good antidote to the distracted and divided church, not to mention the violent and distracted world we now live in.
I see the Lord's table and its provisions as good news, as a table open to all the repentant, an invitation to all the world to have faith in Jesus, and trust in his saving mercy.
Yet my experience tells me that when it comes to the particularly challenging and even controversial areas of scripture and church practice, the tendency is to circle the wagons around our customs whether they stand biblical scrutiny or not, and hearken back to hoary tracts of old as if the last words on the Lord's Supper were long ago said and written. No, this is to default on the word, which is living and active and it comes alive in every age of the church, in such measure as we have the faith capacity and inspiration, and plain willingness to receive it.
This is to say that these meditations are open to the input of the whole body of Christ, and the whole of scripture, and according to the just and exact level of importance that the Lord's word gives it.
As Usual The Apostle Paul Adds Something at 1Corinthians10,16
If anybody or any church utterred the last word on the Lord's Supper it would arguably be the Apostle Paul in that he took the Lord's words and inspiration, and adds to them at 1Corinthians10-12.
This is one of Paul's greatest gift as Apostle and biblical correspondent- to add worthwhile revelations to Jesus' teachings, to bring his teachings into practical church teachings, such as he did agianst mandatory celibacy according to 1Corinthians7 and elsewhere, such as he did regarding "the day of the Lord" in 1and2Thessalonians. These very topics, including the Lord's Supper, were topics the Lord surely Himself addressed, but which left questions for the initial church.
For now, as our gateway and focus scripture, we turn to 1Corinthians10,16 where he refers to "the cup of blessing which we bless." The NIV merely states "the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks." Thanksgiving includes the act of blessing, and a biblical blessing in the context of a Spritual sacrifice done by the Lord's new priesthood implies an offering of the bread and the cup, and its contents.
This focus on this blessing reveals Paul's added insight here. If it was just the Passover cup, aka 'the cup of Blessing" at the yearly seder, Paul might have said "the cup of blessing is our communion" but instead Paul defines the cup not just in the symbolic terms of the Egyptian Passover and the saving lamb's blood on lintels of the Israelite houses, but "the cup of blessing which we bless." This blessing, a priestly act, and we are all priests (1Peter2,5 and 9), opens the door of faith to an actual and real communion with the risen Jesus right then and there.
If the Lord's Supper is just a symbol of the memory of Calvary, there is no need for a blessing of any physical object and its contents. And there's no need to do the Lord's Supper at all, as many have concluded we can remember his death and resurrection in other ways. Jews ordinarily don't bless physical objects, but we know that the physical objects of the Temple cult, administered by the Hebrew priesthood, were consecrated (Leviticus8,10, ie all the untesils and the laver), that is, actually blessed, made holy, consecrated.
We Christians are physical objects too, and we get blessed, ie consecrated with Holy Ghost baptism (Acts2,36-38), and thus we are reborn, and dedicated to the Lord's service, and become temples of the Holy Ghost (1Corinthians6,19), thereby enrolled and ordained into his holy and royal priesthood (1Peter2,5 and 9).
But here in pagan Corinth there were still "sacrifices of pagans... offered to demons" (1Corinthians10,20). These sacrifices competed for the attention and devotion of Christians who attended the spiritual sacrifice of the Lord's Supper. There was partcipating at a false altar (cf v..18), at a "table of demons" (v.21). Paul goes out of his way to state to the church at Corinth, and thus to us, that the blessing cup of the table of the Lord is itself blessed (v.16). This blessing comes after the clearly implied offering of that same cup God (cf v. 20) just as the demon cup was offered on the table of demons (v.21) and then partaken unto communion with the one to whom the offering was made.
This communion, which is an actual faith experience, is not with the pre-Calvary Jesus, or the dying on the cross Jesus, but with the only Jesus that exists right now, the risen man-God Jesus.
He's not a symbol in heaven, never was a symbol, and He has never fed his people with symbols.
If it's just about symbols, why do it?
We can remember the facts of Calvary without the Lord's supper, but we cannot partake of spiritual sacrifice unless he freely chooses, based on our actual personal faith, to come down and bless the bread and cup and commune with us.
Again, we can surely remember Calvary without eating symbolic soda crackers and drinking grape juice from mini plastic cups.
At the Passover seder of the Jews the bread and wine were symbols, of the body and blood of the Passover lamb. The Passover was celebrated in one's home, not in the temple, and not only by priests, but by everyone, by each neighborhood-clan-family. It was "the cup of blessing" that was raised, blessing God for his provision of wine and joy.
But we Christians, anointed ones, are all priests. We have the right and duty to actually bless the cup of blessing at the Lord's supper.
Paul goes out of his way to makes this clear, "the cup of blessing that we bless."
Interestingly Matthew26,26 has Jesus explicitly blessing the bread, not the cup (although again the idea of thanksgiving includes the idea of blessing both cup and bread).
Here in 1Corinthians10,16 the priestly and entire community explicitly blesses the cup and likely the bread in that the body of Jesus and the blood of Jesus go together.
We read scripture with scripture and so conclude that we are to bless both the cup (and contents) and the bread.
We know from the Liturgy of Addai and Mari (possibly from the 3rd century), one of the earliest liturgies still around, that the "epiclesis," this calling down from on high of the Spirit on the bread and wine was the focal point of the Lord's Supper (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/liturgy_of_Addai_and_Mari).
The Roman focal point from the 5th century and especially in the middle ages and at the Council of Trent in 1560 became "the words of institution," that is Jesus' last supper words. These words amidst the gathering of His Apostles are claimed to be the basis of Apostolic succession (yet perhaps it was just that the Apostles' families and clans ordinarily would have been at this old and new Seder meal, and yet were bcak in Gallilee in that it was dangerous to be associated with Jesus on the eve of his crucifiction).
Thus, this later Roman emphasis on the words of institution dovetailed with keeping people in the fold of the Church which was then morphing into the empire of Christendom whereas extending one's hands and blessing the bread and wine as a community threatened the eventual hierarchical order of the church that prevailed over the centuries by the use of creeds, councils, dogmas, and political power.
Apostolic succession and Romanism is all based on the idea that Apostolic attendance at the Lord's supper conferred some sort of exclusive and continuous priesthood. But how can this be biblical if Jesus never ordained anyone a priest?
How can this be in the face of the "we bless" of 1Corinthians10,16.
This community blessing takes place like you and I pray over folks that they would get baptized in the Holy Ghost, that our physical bodies would become temples of the Holy Ghost.
Oops By The Reformation Some Realized That Jesus Ordained Nobody A Priest
It wasn't until the 12th and 16th century that the Vatican presented its dogma of transubstantiation that argues that the physical bread and wine of the table are changed into His pre-Calvary body only by a Vatican sanctioned priests' repetition of the Jesus words of the last supper. This was in response to Reformational movements that destabilized the political and religious hierarchy of Rome. Transubstantiation via the repetition of Jesus' words, which only Vatican priests could do, was the Vatican's fullest attempt to deny the supernatural priesthood of the whole faithful, resident in the one body, and among the reborn within it.
But God's Spirit is relentless. At first, and then sporadically, and then slowly but surely throughout the church ages, and then with Wesley's 19th century sanctification and the Pentecostal movement's 20th century baptism in the Spirit, and now in the emerging weakening of denominational walls, Jesus' entire church has learned that it too has the power to bless, a power and duty open to all Christians baptized in the Holy Ghost, and the power to celebrate a biblically based Lord's supper.
It's All About The Blessing
Jesus' words at the last supper such as "this is my body..." and "this is the blood of the covenant..." are ultimately prophetic of his post resurrection body, his post resurrection "flesh." At the last supper He still had his physical flesh and blood body. Yes, He was firstly prophesying about his actual blood and actual body which was going to be offerred on Calvary.
But when we read his last supper prophecy with John 6,53-54 this point about eating his post resurrection flesh becomes clearer. We can say this because John 6,53-54, like his last supper prophecy, is also prophecy of eating his risen flesh, with His "blood" still in it. The word says we must do this if we are to have His supernatural resurrectional life within us.
Or as John6,55 puts it "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink."
This is very similar to 1Corinthians10,3-4, the "spiritual food" and "spiritual drink" that all the Israelites ate in the desert, which also came down from heaven, a blessing from above of sorts, supernatural food and supernatural drink.
This is perfectly in accord with 1Corinthians15,44 where Paul teaches about His and our physical body on earth, and his and our Spiritual body in heaven. This eating his risen "flesh" (with "blood" still in it) accords with Job's prophecy at Job19,26 where Job in faith cries out that he believes he his own "flesh" will rise from the dead.
This risen flesh of Jesus, his risen body and risen "blood," Spiritually comes alive upon our faithful blessing at the table, within the bread and wine.
The so called repetition of Jesus' words, "the words of institution" in Roman parlance, rightly bring us back to the spiritually sacrificial, or memorial nature of the supper. They place us in the atmosphere and context of the communal supper blessing, but they do not consecrate anything, only the blessing does that.
Justin Martyr's (100-165AD) proto liturgy in the 2nd century (150 AD) section 65 speaks of thanksgiving prayers spoken by a Roman presbyter (note the tradition based clerical hierarchy quickly developed, but again Jesus ordained nobody a priest), but does not expressly refer to any explicit blessing of the bread and wine. Yet, the thanksgiving context of the ceremony clearly implies that there was a blessing by the presiding presbyter. But this likely assumption merely proves that the second century Roman practice contradicted the more empowered communal and egalitarian aspects of the communal blessing of 1Corinthians10,16.
In Justin's proto liturgy there is no repetition of Jesus words as consecration of the bread and wine. The closest description to a consecration is we "receive these things [likely the blessed bread and wine] at His [God's!] hands."
So God would rightly be the final blessor, not man. This is important in that it gives God the final say and full freedom to accept or reject our Spiritual sacrifice.
There is also no talk of eating Jesus' physical body and blood, but one does appreciate the lofty and important tone of the thanksgiving celebration. (user5286, 8.7.2013, christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/17972/what-is-the-earliest-written-surviving-liturgy.)
So where does this leave us?
Jesus The Eternal Bread of Life- Eternal Risen Flesh At The Supper
Our discourse brings us back to scripture, seeking the revelation of God.
We know that biblical revelation shows that Jews don't eat flesh with blood still in it. Leviticus3,17 and 17,10 and Genesis9,4 and Acts15,20. Leviticus17,10 takes pains to state that this prohibition applies to gentiles as well.
Acts15,19-20 is also helpful, an often a forgotten verse, in that it prohibits all Christians from eating or drinking blood. This verse is part of the decree of the "Jerusalem Council" which considered the question of whether Christian gentiles had to become Jews and get circumcized. The local Apostle James, the local pastor with the most to win, or lose, or suffer, from the decision ruled:
"My verdict is, then, that instead of making things difficult for gentiles who turn to God, 20 we should send them a letter telling them merely to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from illicit marriages, from the leat of strangles animals and from blood."
The confusion about drinking Jesus' physical blood at John 6,59-62 was just that, confusion, and Jesus let the confusion stand. The Jewish folks listening to the bread of life knew they couldn't drink physical blood, and Jesus knew it too. They were confused because they didn't get what Jesus told them hat as verse 63:
'it is the spirit that gives life, the [physical] flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."
Again Jesus is prophesying about the Lord's Supper. This is fitting because the Gospel of John only refers the the Last Supper vaguely at John13,2. John does not give any particulars of the last supper itself, but John6 is his teaching about it.
We got some help earlier from Br. Branham as to the supper being a "showdown" a gut check as to our salvation. Is faith or doubt going to win this showdown?
Now we'll at an insight from John MacArthur from John 6 which also helps. This bread of life, our risen Jesus, reminds MacArthur, is not only pre-existent but also "eternal bread" (12.13.13 "I am The Bread Of Life" John6,32-59, gty.org/resouces/sermons/i-am-the-bread-of-life).
(NB I entertain no pretense that Br. MacArthur's coins this phrase "eternal bread" in the context of the Lord's Supper. As he explicitly says about John6,51 and 57 eating is simply metpahor for believing. We here at Zion Pentecost Mission however note that his insight of Jesus as "eternal bread" is apt for the Table of the Lord because we clearly see a Lord's Supper context to John 6, even if that context is John's post resurrectional interpretation of Jesus' prophecies in the flesh about the supper and the division it later caused in the church).
Similarly, this pre-existant eternally risen Jesus is described as the eternal 'Son of man.' Stay with me. This eternal Son of man in the mind of God always had "flesh" with which to feed his people, always was going to descend in the incarnation, and then ascend again. John3,13. Either in his incarnation he was going to feed the multitudes, or in his ascension at the table He was going to feed them something tangible that they could remember.
If we put the John6 idea of Jesus as "eternal bread" together with the idea of Jesus as eternal Son of man come down and risen to save us, we highlight the degree to which Jesus will go to both feed and save his people, incarnation or resurrection, whether on earth or in heaven, He will feed and save us.
Both feeding and saving tell us essential aspects about Jesus. He feeds-He saves, wherever he is.
Now I also like MacArthur's revelation that Jesus took pains to reveal himself as the "eternal bread" of life, because puts this whole John6 discourse in its rightful and eternal resurrection context, ie Jesus as the risen Lord who still feeds us on the only "flesh" he still and aways had. When this eternal bread and or resurrectional flesh idea of 1Corinthians15,44 is coupled with the 1Corinthians10,16 blessing of the cup (and bread) we are poised in faith to take a big step away from a symbolic-metaphoric-physicalistic understanding of the supper and toward the "real food" and "real drink" from on high of John6,55.
Real Food And Real Drink
Jesus really fed Adam and Eve in the garden.
They did need any physical "apples" any low hanging fruit.
Jesus really fed Abraham bread and wine, fed him an ongoing blessing from heaven so to speak, in the person of the first priest of God Melchizedek (Genesis14,18ff).
The Lord really fed His people in the desert manna and water from the rock, which followed them.
Or, they would have died.
He really feeds us at the table of the Lord, from on high.
Or, we have no life in us.
We might die just eating symbols!
Feeding His Bride Before He Comes Back For Her (1Thessalonians4,13-18)
Further, The Lord said he wouldn't leave us orphans (John14,18). Orphans really need food and protection. Scripture says at Revelation 21,9, John3,29 and Ephesians5,27 that the risen Jesus has a bride, that is the second wife he took, His church. In his death, and by his command that we partake of His supper, He made provisions to feed us in the meantime, from his heavenly altar.
Hebrews13,10; "We have an altar [the risen Jesus} whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle."
The Hebrew scripture precedent is Exodus 21,10. If an Israelite takes a second wife, as Jesus has taken us gentiles as His church, the husband must not diminish the food ("flesh"), clothing and the marital rights of his first wife (cf re. Israel Romans9-11).
The point for us here is that both the first bride and the second bride both have to be fed. We, as his called out ones, his church, are fed at our new covenant meal, at the Lord's table. Interestingly enough, the word for food at Exodus 21,10 is "flesh," the husband must supply her with food-flesh that sustains her.
We now know 1Corinthians15,44 refers to Jesus' and our physical flesh on earth, and our risen flesh in heaven. Jesus feeds His body, His supernatural bride from His table on earth, and from his altar of provision in heaven.
With His risen flesh.
He has obligated himself to do this by calling to Himself a gentile bride.
If we come to the table with a biblical faith, that is worthily, with repentance, He does feed us with the eternal bread of life, the eternal "flesh" and "blood" of his risen body, that is ours by our blessing meeting God's freely given blessing, by our mutual consecration.
At the table of the Lord God accepts our faithful obedience to his word. He accepts our acceptable Spiritual sacrifice, and then Jesus really feeds us on earth, as it is in heaven.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...