In the Lord’s Supper, we look back upon Christ’s sufferings. We know that communion is a memorial meal that we do, as Jesus instructed, “in remembrance of me.” We understand that the broken bread and poured wine represent the body and blood of Jesus, who died on the cross for his people. So we look back in remembrance in the Lord's Supper.
Yet we must also look ahead. For the Lord's Supper is an eschatological meal. Eschatology is the study of the last things. By using this word to describe the Lord's Supper, we mean that when participating in it we are to be looking ahead to the end of earth’s history, the day of the Final Judgment, and the eternity of heaven. How do we know this? In the words of institution in the Lord’s Supper that Paul gives us, he tells the church that “as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death**_ until He comes”_ **(I Cor. 11:26). Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we should be remembering he is coming again. We are saying in its observance, “He is coming! Jesus is coming back again!”
The book of Revelation helps us to understand this truth further. In Revelation 19, John reveals to us a scene of heaven that describes the marriage supper of the Lamb.
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, 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."
In great measure, this heavenly wedding feast is what we are preparing ourselves for when we observe the Lord's Supper. For think of the connections between the Lord’s Supper and the Lamb’s Supper:
- Jesus is the host of this meal for the church on earth, for it is the Lord’s Supper; and as the Lamb Christ will be the host of the heavenly wedding banquet.
- The communion meal is about remembering and rejoicing that Jesus gave his broken body and shed blood for us. In the marriage supper of the Lamb, we will remember eternally with ongoing Hallelujahs that sound like thunder peals echoing across all of heaven the sacrifice he made as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.
- The Lord’s Supper is offered around the world where congregations of true believers in Christ are gathered. John says that at the wedding supper in heaven a great multitude, described elsewhere in Revelation as consisting of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, will participate.
Thus, the simple meal of the Lord's Supper is to be a reminder of this great, eternal meal we will enjoy one day. As such, each time you participate in it you should consider it as readying yourself in preparation for heaven.
Interestingly, in the denomination in which I serve, historically the church has held what are called “preparatory services” during communion seasons. In the week prior to observing communion, the church would have special preaching services to get people ready to partake of the sacrament. Recently I was in a congregation in Michigan to administer communion there, and they had me preach in an evening service on Saturday night for this very reason, to prepare people for the Lord’s Supper the next day. I think this is a wonderful tradition. Yet one thing we must not fail to see. The Lord’s Supper itself is preparatory in nature for the marriage supper of the Lamb, for it helps us to fulfill those words “His bride has made herself ready.”
So what can we do to get ready? By practicing here what we will be doing there. When John saw the scene of the marriage supper of the Lamb, he was so overwhelmed by it all that he fell at the feet of the angel who revealed it to him and started worshiping him. But the angel quickly halted this, told John he was a servant just like him, and then gave him a brief, corrective command: “Worship God!” We get ready for heavenly worship by worshiping faithfully here.
Here then is one final thought toward getting ready by worshiping. It is common to give thanks for our salvation when we observe the Lord's Supper, and we should. Indeed, another name the church has given this meal is "the Eucharist," which means the giving of thanks. A.W. Tozer, in his book The Art of True Worship, agrees that worship has to do with gratitude. The Lord has provided salvation for us, and it is appropriate that we should respond with thanksgiving. But then Tozer states this:
As long as the worshiper is engrossed with himself and his good fortune, he is a babe. We begin to grow up when our worship passes from thanksgiving to admiration...How different and how wonderful are the emotions aroused by a true and Spirit-incited love for Christ."
Think about it, friend. A true bride is not just thankful she is getting married, but she loves the groom. Similarly, when you observe the Lord's Supper, you should not only be thankful Jesus broke his body and shed his blood for you. You should also see in that action that "greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). You should see Jesus declaring his love for you, and you should do likewise. If participating in the Lord's Supper helps you grow in your love for Jesus like a bride loving her groom, then you are making yourself ready for that greater feast that yet awaits you.