A foretaste of the feast (LD 29)


At the Lord’s Supper we eat the broken body of our Lord and drink his poured-out blood. In this way we take part in his death and his resurrection. We die to sin; and we share in his new life, becoming more and more like him.

But the Lord’s Supper has another aspect. It is a meal. A meal is much more than just eating and drinking. It is a time of fellowship and celebration. At a meal, strangers become guests and guests become friends. That is certainly the case here. The Lord’s Supper is a meal for the church, with Jesus as the host. It is a time to enjoy and celebrate the relationship we have with him and with each other. And the Bible places this holy supper in the perspective of God’s great future, which it often describes as a meal, a banquet, even a wedding feast.

A foretaste of the feast

1. Final banquet
2. Ultimate wedding
3. Paradisal food

Final banquet

In the Old Testament, God’s people worshipped by bringing sacrifices of animals. Sometimes the animal was completely burned, as a sacrament for the atonement of sin. But the Israelites were also encouraged to come to the Tabernacle or Temple and have a feast there, to celebrate the goodness and love of God. Every year after the harvest, the Lord wanted his people to celebrate a week-long feast, dedicated to him, full of joy and abundance. In these fellowship offerings and festivals, God’s people feasted with the Lord, expressed sacramentally in food offerings for God and meals for the people.

All these special meals for centuries celebrated the covenant God had made with his people. In a way, they echoed that one special meal that was celebrated on Mt. Sinai, shortly after Moses had received the law. In Exodus 24:9-11 we read:

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

At that time the representatives of God’s people were invited, as it were, into heaven itself, and literally had supper with the Lord, their God. Note how similar this Old Testament meal is to the New Testament meal Jesus had with his twelve disciples, the new representatives of God’s people. There is a direct line from this Old Covenant meal of Ex. 24 to the New Covenant communion meal. Both in the meal of Ex. 24 and during Jesus’ Last Supper, the whole church sat at the table with the Lord, represented by its elders or apostles. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, the community of believers regularly held similar meals as covenant celebration.

The imagery and sacrament of a meal show the nature of our relationship with God. Invited into the intimacy of a household. Sharing at his table like honoured guests, or even loved children. But the sacrament is also wistful, characterized by longing, because we do not yet have perfect, direct fellowship with the Lord. We look forward to the full revelation of God’s Kingdom. And when the Bible describes what that will be like, it once again uses the language of … a meal.

In the Old Testament this happens explicitly in Isaiah 25:6:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
  a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, …

This will happen, prophesied Isaiah, when God’s salvation has completely come, when even death is removed from the earth, when the Lord will wipe the tears from all faces. Salvation for people from all nations, revealed in full. It will be glorious beyond imagination, but when the Bible talks about it, it is in terms of an abundant feast.

You hear the same at the end of Psalm 23.

You prepare a table before me
  in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
  my cup overflows.

When God’s Kingdom appears in all its glory, it will have the abundance and enjoyment, the cheerfulness and comfort of a great feast with the Lord himself and all his people. We may look forward to that. And we do that especially in the symbolic meal that Jesus instituted for his church. A meal looking backward, in remembrance of his death and resurrection; but also a meal looking forward, in anticipation of his return.

Ultimate wedding

Already in the Old Testament, the endpoint of God’s salvation was described as a great feast. But in the New Testament the language becomes richer yet. That feast will actually be a wedding. A good meal with friends is already personal, cozy, and joyful; but a wedding feast is all the more festive and intimate.

When Jesus taught how we should be ready for his final coming, he told several parables featuring a wedding banquet. In Matthew 22, it is about the invited guests. In Matthew 25, it is about readiness to welcome the groom. While a parable is only a parable, it is noteworthy that the Kingdom is compared to a wedding banquet, with God as the host. And how can the bridegroom be anyone but Jesus himself, who will receive his faithful believers as his dear friends to celebrate with him? Jesus made this explicitly when, in another comparison, he explained that his disciples would only fast when “the bridegroom” would be no longer with him.

We find this idea of a future wedding banquet also in Rev. 19:7ff.

Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come—

the Lamb is of course Jesus, as the one who sacrificed himself; and now it is also clear who his bride is:

  —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.

This is one of the deepest and dearest truths of our faith: that the relationship between Jesus and his faithful believers, between the Lord and his church, is best described as that of a couple ready to get married; and the final chapter in the history of this world will be a marriage, a wedding feast, celebrating a most glorious, intimate love.

This is your goal as a Christian believer. You no longer live for the world, but for the love of Jesus, a love as deep and all-encompassing as the love of a bride for her soon-to-be husband. The endpoint of history is being thoroughly one with your Lord Jesus. It will be the greatest feast of all, when heaven and earth will join in celebration.

The Lord’s Supper foreshadows this. When Jesus sat around the table with his disciples, the Bridegroom was sitting with his Bride. Not quite the wedding banquet itself, because much work had to be done first, and he has to be away for a while before the great day comes; but the Last Supper was based on that same love. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate that love, and look from the bread and wine of the present to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

The catechism doesn’t talk much about this aspect of the Lord’s Supper, but it is there. Q&a 76 sounds wedding bells when it says that we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones, quoting the very first wedding song Adam sang when God created a wife for him. 

Paradisal food

So we see that the Lord’s Supper not only looks backward, to the past sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but also forward, to the future revelation of the Kingdom of God, when there will be a wedding feast that joins heaven and earth.

When Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples, he made this explicit when he said, with some emphasis: “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” (Mat. 26:29) Like many other sayings of Jesus, there is a profound riddle here, which his disciples could not decipher at first. But we can see it now. The wine of the Lord’s Supper is not only a picture of Christ’s blood, but it is also an obvious symbol of joy and celebration. 

From that perspective, we also see a deeper meaning in Jesus’ first miracle in Cana, when he turned water into wine. Then already he showed his disciples the truth about the ultimate wedding, where he would provide the wine, that is, where he would be the source of all true cheer and celebration.

When he instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus did not speak explicitly of sharing food with his disciples in his Father’s Kingdom. But in Rev. 2:7, he said: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” This “tree of life” grew in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of history, a promise of eternal life to Adam and Eve. This “tree of life”, we are told in Rev. 22, will grow in the New Jerusalem, with fruit that gives eternal life and leaves that bring spiritual healing.

The ancient Church Fathers often connected this tree of life to the cross of Jesus. And that makes a beautiful point. Between the past, lost Paradise and the future, new Paradise, we sinful people have no access to the Paradisal tree of life. But our spiritual life is sustained by the forgiveness of sins and the putting to death of our sins, made possible by the cross of Jesus. You might say that the bread of the Lord’s Supper, which symbolizes the life-giving broken body of Jesus, is the temporary replacement for the fruit of the tree of life.


Does this talk about Paradisal food and drink whet your appetite? Are you looking forward to the great feast, the great wedding banquet of the Lamb? With images like this, the Bible wants to awaken in us longing and excitement, so that we keep running the race of faith, our eyes focused on Jesus, who will bring us there.

And on the way, the Lord’s Supper is a reminder, an anticipation, a foretaste of the heavenly meal. When we celebrate the sacrament, let’s do it with this forward-looking attitude. Let us rejoice and be glad and give God the glory, for the wedding of the Lamb is coming!


  1. What did the Lord invite his Old Testament people to do at the tabernacle or temple?
  2. What happened in Ex. 24:9-11? How is this similar to the Lord’s Supper?
  3. What is the “marriage of the Lamb”?
  4. The catechism says that the Lord’s Supper shows that “we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bones.” What does that mean?
  5. The communion wine symbolizes the blood of Jesus that was poured out for us. What else does it symbolize?
  6. Summarize how the Lord’s Supper is a meal that makes us look forward.

Suggested Bible reading schedule

MondayExodus 24. What is the importance of the elders eating and drinking with God (v. 11)?
TuesdayPsalm 23. What is the comfort of the “table” (v. 5)?
WednesdayIsaiah 25. What will be celebrated at the feast?
ThursdayMatthew 26:26-29. When will Jesus “drink wine” with his disciples again?
FridayRevelation 19. Which two suppers are contrasted in this chapter?
SaturdayRevelation 22. Explore the symbolism of food and marriage in this chapter.

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