"Why, as preterist, do we still observe the Lord's Supper? Didn't Jesus say we were only to, "do this till I come?" Since Jesus has already come, why do we still observe the Lord's Supper?" (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
Most Christians believe that one day the Lord's Supper is going to come to an end. I think this is a faulty conception based upon some faulty presuppositions. Those who hold to a futurist eschatology believe that the Lord's Supper will end at the Second Coming of Christ. Notice what this verse doesn't say: It doesn't say, "Observe the Lord's Supper until Jesus comes back." It doesn't say that! It says that through the observance of the Lord's Supper, the Corinthians were proclaiming the Lord's death until his coming.
Now, the problem arises over the word "till." If this word "till" meant that something stopped at that point, what would stop would be the proclamation of the Lord's death through the Lord's Supper, and not the Lord's Supper itself. Was the only purpose of the Lord's Supper to proclaim His death? No! The Lord very clearly said, "This do in remembrance of me." He did not say, "This do to proclaim my death." Now, in doing it, we show the Lord's death, but that is not why we are commanded to do it. The word "till" does not mean that something stops at that point, but if it did, it still wouldn't mean that the observance of the Lord's Supper stopped.
What does the word "till" mean? The Greek phrase used here is achris (word #891) and means, "even unto a point." It is used of things that actually occurred and up to the beginning of which something continued." It is a point of reference and not a point of cessation.
For example: Galatians 3:19, "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come". Did the Law of Moses end when Christ was born? No! Galatians 4:4, "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law," Christ was under the Old Testament law when he was born.
1 Corinthians 15:25, "For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Does Christ ever give up His reign? Will there ever be a time when Jesus Christ will not reign? No! Never! Read Luke 1:31-33. He reigns even unto the point that all his enemies are put under His feet. It is a point of reference. His reign will never end (Daniel 7:13-14, Micah 4:7, Hebrews 1:8). The Greek phrase achris is used as a reference point and not a point of cessation. For example, "You children behave until I get home" does not imply that they should misbehave once he has returned.
Some people claim that the reign of Jesus will end "...when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (1 Corinthians 15:24), because Jesus would then be subject to the Father. The problem with this is that Jesus was always subject to the Father. Was Jesus not subject to the father while in the Flesh? Did not Jesus say he was going to sit on the right hand of the power of God (Luke 22:69), meaning he'd be subject to God? Was not Jesus subject to the Father right after his ascension (Revelation 3:21)?Yes. Do you believe Jesus cannot reign just because the Father reigns above him? After all, Mayors don't stop their reign just because the governor rules over them. Governors don't give up their reign just because the President has power over them. Why would Jesus give up his reign just because the father has power over Him?
Let's look at another use of achris. Acts 7:17-18, "But when the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt, Till another king arose, which knew not Joseph." Does this mean that, when the King took the throne, the people didn't multiply any more? No, of course not (Exodus 1:6-7). When the new king took over, the people "multiplied and grew" Exodus 1:8,12. So if "till"-- achris used by Stephen in Acts, means cessation or termination, then the children of Israel would no longer increase or multiply. The new King did in fact try to stop their growth, but notice what happened in Exodus 1:12. The king commanded the midwives to kill the male Israelites at birth but they would not and so the children of Israel continued to multiply (Exodus 1:20). This is after the new king, who didn't know Joseph, did every thing in his power to stop them from growing. The people multiplied and grew very mighty! So, I hope you can clearly see that the Greek phrase achris does not mean cessation or termination but is a point of reference.
If "till" means "until a point of termination", then nobody has eaten, drunk, or married since the flood hit Noah (Mat.24:38, Luke 17:27). The apostle Paul "lived in all good conscience" only up until his trial before the Sanhedrin, and did not have a good conscience during the remainder of his life (Acts 23:1). And Paul stopped witnessing to people soon after Christ died (Acts 26:22).
It is easy to see why some thought the observance should have ceased at AD 70 if Christ returned then, based on 1 Cor. 11:26, but, a quick glance at the Gospel parallels which record the institution of the Lord's Supper should be enough to dispel that notion. (see Matt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25; and Lk. 22:16-18) Note carefully that Jesus promised to eat this supper with the disciples again after the kingdom had arrived, and to observe it in His memory in the mean time.
The observance of the supper now is not a solemn remembrance of Him in anxious longing for His return, but a victory celebration with Him at His table in His kingdom. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Whether still alive or physically dead we live together with Him, reign with Him, eat and drink with Him, and commune with Him. He is present with us. He will never leave us, so He will never need to come back again. He is here. The Lord's festive meal has so much more joy and meaning now, since it has been "fulfilled in the kingdom."
Observance of the Lord's Supper wasn't supposed to cease at the parousia. The original Passover was instituted as Israel was leaving Egypt. They only observed it one other time during the 40-year wilderness wandering (the first anniversary after the exodus). After Israel entered the promised land under Joshua 40 years later, they resumed its observance. But it had new meaning. It was no longer just a memorial of their deliverance from Egypt. It had become a celebration of their victory over the Canaanites and inheritance of the promised land. This was a change of meaning, but not a cessation of observance. Does Jesus ever hint that the Supper would continue beyond AD 70 with a new meaning like the Passover did? Paul states he is repeating Christ's direct revelation to him about the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:23). Had Jesus ever taught anything like this during His earthly ministry? What about Matt. 26:29 and its parallels (Mk. 14:25; Lk. 22:16,18)?
"But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." (Matt. 26:29)
"Truly I say to you, I shall never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." (Mark 14:25)
"...for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes." (Luke 22:16-18)
In view of these three verses, it is no wonder the early church longed for Christ's return so they could eat and drink with Him at His table in the kingdom. They observed the Lord's Supper in memory of Him while He was away, waiting "until He comes" to eat it in a new way with Him in the kingdom. This also implies a continued existence of life on earth in the physical realm after He returns to eat it with them in His ongoing kingdom. Jesus does not indicate the end of the world would occur then. We no longer observe communion in memory of Him in His absence. We observe it in His honor, at His table, in His kingdom! It has a new fulfilled meaning. Just as the Passover was still observed after the Israelites entered the promised land, so we still observe the Lord's Supper after we have entered into the real promised land (the spiritual eternal kingdom). In both cases the observance took on new meaning. Before AD 70 the Lord's Supper was a commemoration of His death and our deliverance from the bondage of sin. After AD 70 it became a glorious feast and celebration of our inheritance in the real promised land (the spiritual kingdom – the New Heaven and Earth – the New Creation – the New Jerusalem). The word "until" in 1 Cor. 11:26 does imply a change in the meaning of the observance, but not a cessation of observance.
The Apostle Paul was not saying that at Christ's return communion would cease to be observed. He was simply saying they were doing it in memory of Him as a proclamation of the significance of Christ's Passover sacrifice until He returned to proclaim that significance Himself. Christ's return in the clouds of judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70 was certainly a clear and unmistakable proclamation of what His death meant. He came as the executioner of covenant wrath (like the Death Angel in Egypt) and fulfilled the rest of the Passover imagery that was not already fulfilled by His first coming and death on the cross as our Passover sacrifice. The saints from AD 30-70 observed the communion as a liberation from slavery (proclaiming the death of the first-born). The saints after AD 70 now celebrate it as not only a reminder of our deliverance from Egyptian bondage, but as a celebration of taking possession of the promised land. The kingdom was taken away from the (Caananite) Jews at AD 70, and given to a nation producing the fruit of it (the church). The Lord's Supper has even more meaning and purpose now than it ever did. It is a feast in the kingdom at the table of the King, and the feast goes on continuously. Our observance of the Lord's Supper is a visible covenant symbol of the continual communion we have with Him in His kingdom.
The Lord's Supper was meant to continue beyond AD 70. The passages which discuss its institution by Christ state emphatically they were to eat it in memory of Him while He was away. Then, when He returned, He would eat it with them again with fulfilled meaning in the kingdom.
The feast of the passover was the first feast on the Jewish yearly calendar and was kept in commemoration of the national deliverance from Egypt in the Exodus under Moses. Passover takes its name from the Hebrew term related to the death angel passing over those who had applied the blood of a lamb to their homes (Exodus 12). During the last supper, "Jesus took bread" (Matthew 26:26). The head of the Jewish household was accustomed to doing this during the passover feast. Jesus gave a completely new significance to the action by saying "This is my body." During the Passover feast, the Jewish householder took bread in his hand and said, "This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt," meaning that the one represented the other. By His words, our Lord changed the whole significance and emphasis of the feast from looking back to the typical redemption from Egypt to faith in the redemption from sin accomplished by His death.
Jesus' final prediction about his death was made two days before passover (Matthew 26:1-2, Mark 14:1, Luke 22:1-2), which was eaten on the evening of Nisan 14. Thus the prediction was made on the twelfth of the month (April).
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