"Cups" in the Bible

CG Lindeman

Our Lord used a lot of the common things to explain things to us in the New Testament and, you know, God has always done that even back in the Old Testament. He used many examples of everyday things that we would all understand, nothing complicated about it, and one of those things is "the cup", or "cups".

The "drinking cup" is often used in scripture to represent something. There seemed to be an importance attached to one's own personal cup. I have my own favorite coffee cup. In Genesis, Pharaoh had his own cup, he even had his own cup bearer, and it was that man's duty to bring him his coffee, or whatever he drank. Joseph had a silver cup, and he had his servant slip it in the grain sack of Benjamin, his younger brother, when they came to Egypt to buy grain. That caused quite a furor. So, obviously, your own personal cup was an important item.

The "cup" is symbolic of many things, particularly in the Old Testament. It's also mentioned many times in the New Testament. When Nebuchardnezzar of Babylon took the people of Judah captive, Jerusalem is spoken of as having "drunken of the dregs of the cup of trembling." Jeremiah pictured God's wrath as the "pouring out of a cup." There is also the "cup of consolation" and the "cup of overflowing joy". In the New Testament, Jesus compared His Own suffering at the cross to "a cup". The judgment of man's sins is "the cup" He came into the world to drink.

[1.] The "cup of Judgment". Click to John 18. This is concerning the night our Lord was arrested and was falsely accused and falsely tried and falsely punished. Nevertheless, He accepted it, He knew this was what He came for. In the process of His arrest, Peter is trying to defend Him with a sword. They are across the Kidron valley from Jerusalem in the Garden of Gethsemene. The soldiers came by dark and they had to have torches to tell who was who, and in the process, Peter took out his sword and cut off Malcius' ear.

JOHN 18:11. Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?" [NIV] This is "the cup" that would be the judgment of the world's sins. It was "the cup" that the Lord was to drink. It was given Him by the Father, and it was a dreadful thing. The sins of all time of all mankind were laid on Him, the only innocent One. The original sin of Adam and Eve was in "this cup". The sins you did today and I did today were in "that cup". The Lord must have thought how terrible can it be. He was completely innocent. We, as sinners wouldn't have had too much to complain about because we know we are sinners, but He was sinless. If you knew you weren't a sinner, and were the only person of all time who ever was sinless, wouldn't it be terrible to be blamed for the bombing and shootings in the school in Denver?

About 200 BC, Anticious Ephippines, a descendant of one of Alexander the Great's generals who took over his kingdom when he died, cut out the tongues of seven Jewish brothers in front of their mother and fried these men alive on a big iron griddle because they wouldn't cease to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem. All those sins were there in that cup and our innocent Lord Jesus took the blame.

MATTHEW 26:36-39 & 42 & 44. "Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." [37] He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. [38] Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me." 26:39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." 26:42 He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." [44] So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. [NIV]

When Jesus said "If it be possible, may this cup be taken from Me," "that cup" was the "cup of judgment" that He bore there on the cross for me. Now, everyone who turns their back on Jesus will drink "that cup of judgment" for themselves. Jesus drank it and although it was very repulsive to Him, He drank it. He was sinless, He was perfect humanity, and yet He drank that awful cup for our sins. He did that to pay the debt of our sins to God that we couldn't pay ourselves. We were unable to do that so He took our place. That's "the cup of judgment of the world".

Remember back in John 18, the Lord said, "Shall I not drink it?" There was simply no doubt that He would drink it. In Hebrews it speaks of it as a joy for Him to endure the cross. Our resulting salvation is that joy. He wanted to save us. Isn't it wonderful, that the cup He accepted on our behalf leads to our salvation if we only repent and trust in Him to forgive our sins? Because we believed Him, our salvation is that joy.

There's another cup of judgment to come on the world that still hasn't come. It's described in Revelations and we'll touch on that a little later.

[2.] Then we see the "cup of Salvation". That just pictures trust in the Lord. Lets go to the Old Testament for that. Psalm 116:13. "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD." [NIV] To take the "cup" or "lift up the cup of salvation", just means to express thanksgiving to the Lord for saving us. Calling on the Name of the Lord means to make a sincere act of devotion in recognition of the greatness of His salvation. Psalm16:5 "LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure." [NIV] This pictures Christ's life, and His chosen portion which was what God had given Him. In the Old Testament we do well to remember that the name "Lord" is usually used in reference to God the Father.

So God is His portion, His inheritance, and the One who guarded and planned His life in every detail for our Lord Jesus Christ when He was here on earth. When you think how wisely God planned every detail of Christ's life, isn't it wonderful to think that if we become His children and maintain our daily fellowship with Him, He'll do the same for us. When we complain, we show a lack of confidence in God's love and His wisdom and His power. If we knew the end from the beginning, as God does, we'd do the same things that God does in our lives.

Sometimes we wonder "why did this happen to me?" "Why was I chosen for this?" If you want an explanation of some of it, or a good share of it, read 2 Corinthians 1:4. When you do, you'll find out why many things come to us. It's not because He's punishing us, in fact, he's actually blessing us.

Sometimes in my life, I've had a hard time thinking some things were a blessing, but when I look at it from the other end and understand it all, just like the hymn says, "We'll understand it all, bye and bye." If it comes up in heaven, God will explain it to us. I think that the things of this earth will be all passed away and we won't even think about them, when we get to Heaven. But if we do, God will explain it to us. Nevertheless, it takes a brave person to give thanks to God for all things.

[3.] Next is the "cup of joy". Now in Psalms let's look at Psalm 23. This will tell us the believer's lot. What a wonderful position we're in. PSALM 23:5. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." [NIV] There again this is a symbolic "cup". Faith, in God's promise of heaven and also to care for us here on earth, that's how our cup is filled. God is a gracious host. He provides all that we need. He prepares a table of safety and blessings right here among our enemy which is Satan. The world at present belongs to Satan and is controlled by Satan. God sets us apart as honored guests and anoints our heads symbolically with oil. That was the way they distinguished who was the guest of honor in Bible times, their head was anointed by the host. Think about it. That is what God is doing for us today. Pointing us out to the angels. "Look, that one's Mine. I've anointed him."

When we think what Christ did for us, can any believer say that his or her cup doesn't run over? Certainly mine does. Sometimes I get to wondering about that, but then when I really think about it, the Lord has supplied more than enough. Turn to Ephesians 3. None of us avail ourselves of all that is available from God. We don't take all that God has offered us. EPHESIANS 3:20-21. " Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." [NIV] King James says this: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21: Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

In verse 20, leave out the word "exceeding". "Now unto Him that is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think." It's so much we can't comprehend it. It says abundantly, more than you can handle, and then it is exceeding, or exceeds abundance. Imagine what He's got for us. And then what did He say? "Above all that we ask or think." There are things up there that I haven't asked for yet. Now, that doesn't mean necessarily material things but certainly the spiritual blessings are the ones I fall short on. Don't you sometimes come across a passage in the Bible that maybe you've read time and again and then all at once it has a real precious meaning that you didn't see before? Don't you sometimes hear a scripture and before long it will come up again a couple more times? None of us exhaust God's possibilities. The Lord certainly gives us those we ask for. I'm talking things like peace of mind and direction for our lives. He does, however, supply all our needs in a physical way, from our breath to our bread to our bank account to our bed. Sometimes we even pray yo-yo fashion. That's when we pray for the Lord to take care of our troubles and then we just go on worrying about them. When you go to bed at night, turn your troubles over to God. He's going to be awake all night anyway!

[4.] The next cup is the "cup of Consolation". In Jeremiah 16:7 Jeremiah was told to continue preaching to the Jews that they would be under terrible persecution by the Gentiles by God's permission if you didn't obey God. Jeremiah would be a living example used by God to show the nation their disobedience, even though Jeremiah had done no wrong. He was forbidden to marry and he was forbidden to enter into any burial ceremony whatsoever. JEREMIAH 16:7. "No one will offer food to comfort those who mourn for the dead--not even for a father or a mother--nor will anyone give them a drink to console them." [NIV] The King James says this: "Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or for their mother."

"Tearing themselves" refers to breaking or tearing of bread for themselves for a meal to commemorate the death of a loved one. This is the "cup of consolation" for a dear departed one. I see in this a picture of the Lord's Supper. When He gave the disciples the Lord's Supper, He knew this custom, and that His death was near. We still observe this custom when we have a meal or lunch after a funeral. We have a gathering over a meal after a funeral and commemorate the one who has passed away. Knowing this custom, Jesus used it strictly as an outline for us in our remembrance of Him. He gave it new significance and new truth when he used it in connection with HIS death. The Lord's Supper is connected with the Passover and that was the time it was instituted. The reason it was established at that time was to mark the change from the great feasts of Israel to the new and different feast that we call the "Lord's Supper". All the feasts of the Old Testament have gone by the way. The Feast of Tabernacles will be renewed during the Millennial Reign, but the rest of those are all gone. Now we have the Lord's Supper, and there are some things said about it in 1 Corinthians. 10:16. "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? " [NIV] Here the cup is spoken of again and it's the one pictured in Jeremiah, the "cup of consolation". Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, [24] and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." [25] In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." [26] For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." [NIV] He gave these instructions to the disciples at the last supper between the third and fourth cups. There were four cups taken at the Passover meal, and symbols eaten or observed between each one. The cups of wine for the meal were diluted with water.

[5.] The "cup of Self Righteousness'. Matthew 23:25-26. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. [26] Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean." [NIV] The Lord is talking to the Pharisees. They were self righteous. This is a picture of what the world calls the church today. Many individual Christians are like this, too. They make the externally visible things look good and aren't too concerned about what is inside. Have the best of buildings for a church, talk like a Christian, but don't mention "sin" or "the blood of Jesus". The Pharisees substituted tradition and ritual for God's way. We want to remember that man looks on the outside, that is the cup of self righteousness. But God looks on the inside of us.

[6.] There also is a "cup of trembling and fury". Isaiah 51:17 & 22. "Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD the cup of his wrath, you who have drained it to it's dregs the goblet that makes men stagger." 22 This is what our Sovereign LORD says, our God, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again." [NIV]Verse 17 refers to the Babylonian captivity. In verse 22, He has promised them a time when they will be restored, but at present they are still in dire straights This also foretells the great tribulation period and is a warning to the Jews as well as the Gentiles, not only as nations but as individuals also. Here are some scriptures describing the coming Tribulation Period for this earth. Zechariah 12:2. "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a "cup of trembling" unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem." [NIV] This prophecies the tribulation period. God has some awful things stored up for His unfaithful people. Psalm 75:8. "For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture and He pours out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them." [NIV] Notice that is not a diluted cup here. It's full strength. Psalm 11:6. "Upon the wicked He shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup." [NIV] This will be the cup of the unsaved during the tribulation period.

[7.] Now there is the "Cup of His Anger". JEREMIAH 25:15. "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it." [NIV] JEREMIAH 51:7. "Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD's hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad." [NIV] These prophecies all had partial fulfillment in the Babylonian captivity but the total fulfillment is yet to come. If God punishes His chosen people the Jews, first, the Gentile nations can't escape His anger and fury in the tribulation period.

[8.] The "Cup of Judgment" to come is the final cup. Turn to the final book of the Bible. Revelation. Rev. 14:10 This is going to be full strength, the full mixture of God's wrath on the unsaved, those who do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their own personal Savior. Now, as to the diluted cup. When we take the cup in remembrance of our Lord's suffering for us, there is no way we can fully enter into the suffering He had, so the cup of communion that we take is diluted. The unsaved, when they reach the Great White Throne, will partake of the cup of full strength of God's wrath. The first four cups mentioned are for the Believer. The last four are for the unsaved. We had the "cup of judgment" given by the Father, for the sins of the world that Christ took. John 18:11. We have the "cup of salvation", that's the one we can avail ourselves of to express thanksgiving. Psalm 116:13. We have the "cup of joy", all the wonderful things He has given us and we can dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The things He promised us exceed abundance, above all we ask or think. Psalm 23 & Ephesians 3. Then we had the "cup of consolation" which I likened to our Lord's Supper. Jeremiah 16:7 & 1 Corinthians 10:16. And then we had the "cup of self righteousness", Matt. 23:25-26, the "cup of trembling and fury", Isaiah 51:17 & 22, the "cup of His anger", Jeremiah 25:15 & 51:7, and the "cup of judgment" to come, [Rev.14:10].

Which of these "cups" have you chosen for your portion, for your Eternity? In John 14:6, Jesus said,"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Today, He says to you, "Come!"