Which Cup Will You Drink From: Wrath or Salvation?
After Jesus and his disciples finished their passover meal (the Last Supper), they went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Matthew 26 verses 39 and 42 records Jesus’ prayer:
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”…. Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
What is “the cup” that Jesus must “drink” from?
The Cup of God’s Wrath
The Old Testament makes roughly a dozen references to the cup of God’s wrath. It is the righteous judgment that God stores up to be poured out on the wicked. We must remember that our God is a holy God. He does not stand for injustice and he does not tolerate sin. All wrongdoing will be met with his judgment, and his wrath on sinful man is being stored in a cup. This is the imagery of the Bible, as evidenced by these few examples:
Psalm 11:6 Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Psalm 75:8 For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup with foaming wine, well mixed, and he pours out from it, and all the wicked of the earth shall drain it down to the dregs.
Jeremiah 25:15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.
This imagery is carried over into the New Testament as well:
Revelation 14:9-10 And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
The cup that Jesus is speaking of in Gethsemane is the cup of God’s wrath. While certainly Jesus would have had some trepidation about facing the physical pain he would endure, this is not the cup that he desires to pass over him. The cup is the spiritual wrath that he would drink as the sacrificial Lamb. The will of the Father was to put forth his Son as a willing, innocent sacrifice for the redemption of sinners. Jesus purchased our forgiveness on the cross by bearing our sin and drinking fully the wrath of God for sin.
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation [satisfying sacrifice] for our sins.
Isaiah 53:10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him…
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
The Cup of Salvation
Because Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying for sin, all who trust in Christ are no longer under the wrath of God. Instead, we are adopted into his family and given eternal life. All believers are free from condemnation and inherit blessings from God. We are saved from God’s wrath because of Jesus’ death in our place. Therefore, we do not live under the cup of wrath but under the cup of salvation.
Psalm 116:13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD
The cup of salvation represents forgiveness, freedom, and fellowship with God. This picture is central to the Last Supper, where Jesus highlighted the importance of drinking the cup.
Matthew 26:27-28 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
The cup of salvation is the cup of the new covenant, purchased by the blood of Christ.
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Jesus’ shed blood purchased our salvation. It satisfied the wrath of God. When we take communion, we are symbolically showing that we have partaken of the cup of salvation.
Which Cup Will You Drink From?
Every single person is going to partake from one of these two cups: the cup of God’s wrath or the cup of God’s salvation. The cup of wrath is waiting for those who remain in their sin. The cup of salvation is available to anyone who places their faith in Jesus as Saviour. Anyone who has not drank from the free cup of God’s salvation is by default living under the first cup, which will be poured out in full on judgment day.
I encourage you to escape God’s wrath for your sin and experience forgiveness and new life in Christ. He alone is able to satisfy the wrath of God on your behalf. He alone is the spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He alone is able to appease God’s demand for holiness by his sinless life. Jesus is the only answer to man’s greatest problem, the problem of sin and impending judgment.
For those of us who have already trusted Christ and received forgiveness, may we partake of the Lord’s Table with new eyes. Every time we take the bread and drink the wine, be reminded that the cup of salvation is offered as a free gift. No one deserves it. God offers it because he loves us, because he is patient, because he is greater than we are. That ought to inspire us to worship.