The Lord’s Supper – until Jesus returns
When General MacArthur was forced to leave the Philippines before Japanese forces conquered them in 1942 during World War 2, he said “I shall return”. On Oct. 20th, 1944 he fulfilled his plans and stepped ashore and said, “People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil—soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people.”
Likewise, one day Jesus will return to the earth.
The best description of the Lord’s Supper is in 1 Corinthians 11. It gives two reasons for celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The first reason was to remember what Jesus has done for us – it was to be done “in remembrance of me”, as Jesus said. The second reason is to “proclaim the Lord’s death”. As we partake of the bread and wine, we are declaring the importance of the Lord’s death. That Christ’s death on our behalf provides forgiveness of our sin.
Next there is a limit to the time of this remembrance and proclamation.
For how long?
The early Christians were commanded to “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (v.26). It is to be celebrated until Jesus comes again or returns. As Jesus hasn’t returned to earth yet, it is clear that the instruction to keep the Lord’s Supper wasn’t just for the early church but for us as well.
At the last Passover Jesus looked ahead to the kingdom of God (Lk. 22:18). He said that He would not partake in a Passover again until His millennial reign (Lk. 22:15-18). The victory that began with the first Passover in Egypt and was remembered whenever the Jewish Passover festival was celebrated will be ultimately finalized when Christ’s millennial kingdom is established on earth. The rescue mission that began with the Passover, which was a foretaste of Christ’s death, will be completed and evident to the universe at the second advent of Christ and in His subsequent kingdom. Likewise, Christians can also look ahead, Paul said, “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). So, we look forward to the rapture when there will be no need for the Lord’s Supper because all Christians will be with the Lord. And Christ’s victory over Satan will not be complete until Satan’s forces are defeated at the triumphant second advent (Rev. 19:11-21).
“Until Jesus returns” is also a promise that one day Christ will return. Unlike Burke and Wills, Jesus will return. The Lord’s Supper started at the beginning of the time of salvation and ends at the end of the time of salvation. Which coming does it refer to? The rapture for believers or the appearing for judgment of unbelievers? Obviously for believers in the church age it means the rapture, because they don’t live on earth after this time. For them the Lord’s Supper will culminate in the wedding supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9).
But for believers in the tribulation Christ’s return means the appearing when there is judgment and the millennial kingdom is established.
We live in the great “until” – between the first and second comings of Christ. Until the Lord returns, we look forward to being released from the struggle against sin, and long to be in His presence.
We are to proclaim the Lord’s death in this way “until He comes” again. We don’t do it for ever, but only until He returns. It will not be necessary when we are face to face with the Lord. Then we don‘t need the emblems to remind us of Him, for all shall see Him as He is.
So the Christ who died and rose again, will come again. The risen Christ is returning. We eat the bread and drink the cup in confident expectation of the Lord’s return.
Father, we thank you for sending Jesus as a man and a Savior so He could die for the sins of the world. Today we share the emblems together in remembrance of His death and resurrection. Declaring that it provides forgiveness of our sin. We take the emblems in confident expectation of the Lord’s return. So, we offer thanks and praise for all that you have done through Jesus as we share the bread and cup together.
Written, April 2022
Also see: The original context of the Lord’s Supper
Synonyms of the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper is a memorial, not a transubstaniation
The command to keep the Lord’s Supper
The Lord’s Supper – a visible sermon