The Four Cups

Last night, my family celebrated our annual Passover Seder. This is probably my favorite holiday ever because of the rich symbolism and powerful liturgy surrounding it.

Jews have been celebrating the Passover Seder for millenia, commemorating God’s delivering them from slavery in Egypt.

The Haggadah (Order of Service for the Seder) contains four cups of wine. They are named based the acts of God promised in Exodus 6:6-7 and are consumed in sequence throughout the liturgy.

“Therefore, say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.'”
Exodus 6:6-7

The first cup is the cup of sanctification. “I will bring you out…” God promised that He would bring Israel out, set them apart. To sanctify, to set apart. So too, we who are in Christ have been sanctified, set apart, brought out from the burden of the law.

The second cup is the cup of deliverance. “I will rescue you…” God promised that He would rescue Israel from bondage to Egypt. To deliver, to rescue. So too, we who are in Christ have been delivered, rescued from bondage to sin.

The third cup is the cup of redemption. “I will redeem you…” God promised that He would redeem Israel (purchase their ransom) with great signs. In Jesus’ Last Passover, “He took the [third] cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.'” (Luke 22:20) Jesus raised the third cup and endued the cup of redemption with even more symbolism. This cup is not just commemorating the purchase of Israel from Egypt with great signs. It commemorates, too, the ransom Christ Jesus paid with His own blood to redeem His own from their sins.

The fourth cup is the cup of rejoicing. “I will take you…” God promised that He would take Israel to Himself, that they would be His people and He would be their God. And Israel rejoices in this promise. Jesus did not drink this cup in His last supper. After He had distributed the third cup, He told His disciples, “I will not drink of the 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) This cup had not yet been fulfilled, would not be fulfilled for years to come. But Jesus anticipates the day when He shall take His people to Himself, when they shall be His people and He shall be their God. Revelation 21 tells of the fulfillment of this promise: “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain…” (Rev 21:3-4) It is in that Day that we shall join with Christ in the New Jerusalem and drink with Him the fourth cup, the cup of rejoicing.

And every year, after we have drunk of the fourth cup, anticipating the joy that awaits us in Christ’s kingdom fulfilled, we conclude our Passover Seder with the traditional shout: “Next year in Jerusalem!”

My heart beats fast and my spirit cries out: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

This Seder is a beautiful one. It is every year. But my heart longs for the final Seder, the wedding feast of the Lamb. My heart longs for the consummation of that promise “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.” I long for His kingdom to come, that in the New Jerusalem we may drink with Him the cup He has held off drinking for millenia–the cup of rejoicing in the fulfillment of His promise.

And the echo of the shout continues to resound within me: “Next year, next year in the New Jerusalem!”