The Four Suppers
by W.T.P. Wolston
You will find four suppers spoken of in the New Testament—all entirely different in character.
God invites us to be present at three, but not at the fourth. It is because men will pay no heed to the invitation to the first supper that they will be present at the last. Whoever is present at the first supper, and a partaker of it, has the privilege of being at the second supper, will certainly be present at the third, and will not be at the fourth. On the other hand, whoever rejects the first, even though he takes the second, will certainly not be present at the third, and is in very great danger of being present at the fourth.
1. THE SUPPER OF SALVATION
The first is given from the lips of our blessed Lord in the fourteenth chapter of Luke, which I would ask my reader to carefully peruse. There we see the Lord going into the Pharisee’s house; He heals the man with dropsy; He bids them choose the lower place, and then in verse 13 He says, “When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” Here we get instruction from the lips of the Lord about the resurrection of the just as contrasted with the resurrection of the unjust, and from other parts of Scripture we learn that the former takes place at least a thousand years before the latter.
“And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
I suppose there is no person but would echo this and say, What a blessed thing to eat bread in the kingdom of God! to be in the resurrection of the just—a time of full and thorough blessing under the hand of God in a future day—what a blessed thing to be with the Lord! a blessed thing to be saved! Yes, but let me ask you, Do YOU know it? Are you saved? Are you blessed? Have you eaten this bread? You say, “I cannot tell.” Then you do not really believe it is blessed. This man was a mere religionist, who wished to pay the Lord a compliment, like those in the present day who are content with a mere form of religion, who have never been broken down before God, and have never eaten this bread, have never entered into what Jesus is. If I really believe it is blessed to eat bread in the kingdom of God, I shall leave no stone unturned until I am sure I have eaten it.
The Lord at once detects what the state of the man is. Everyone says, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God”—but when you bring the Gospel down to man, alas! man does not care for it. Man is so deeply degraded, so full of himself, so proud too, that he does not care to go down amongst the poor, the halt, the maimed, and the blind—he has got a great many things between himself and God to hinder this.
Have not you, dear reader, paid attention to everything within your reach, and the only thing you have really neglected is your soul? Your body you have cared for well—you have fed it, clothed it, eared for it, protected it, pampered it, indulged it; but as for your soul, you have cared nothing for it. The salvation of the soul with men was always a secondary thing, and is always displaced by pleasure and endeavouring to get on in this world; and is it not the same with you? Yes, unless you have been broken down by the grace of God, smashed to pieces as it were before Jesus, and been made glad to take salvation.
The Lord then says, as it were, to this man, “I will test you. You say, ‘Blessed is he that shall eat bread,’ &c. I will see whether you are really in earnest. “A certain man made a great supper and bade many.” The “certain man” is God. Mark the word great: it is not merely a supper, but “a great supper”—great because of the elements included in the supper, great because of the One who spreads it, great because Of the wondrous grace that spread it for those who alas! would only slight and despise it.
Why is it a supper? No doubt the Lord meant here the blessed Gospel, that love of God which is travelling out now to sinners, and pressing on them that which He gives—eternal life through the Saviour’s precious name. There is something peculiarly interesting in its being supper—not breakfast, nor dinner, but supper. Which meal is that? The last meal in the day. I understand therefore that this is the last dealing of God in grace towards man; the Gospel now preached is the very last dealing of God in grace with man: the next dealing will be the midnight of judgment.
When Israel was in Egypt, in Exodus 12 we read, “At midnight there was a cry heard.” God is abroad in the land at midnight: there is nothing but destruction, and ruin, and judgment for those who had no part in the supper inside, where the blood of the lamb was upon the doorpost. What a lesson is therein taught us!
There was a morning of innocence, where everything was beautiful and bright, and all shone fair; but the woman was deceived by the devil, Adam followed his wife into ruin and sin, and man was cast out. Then came the noonday—the trying and testing of man under law, and man became a lawbreaker. Then the Lord Jesus comes Himself in the evening of the ways of God, in fullness of grace, gentleness, kindness, and goodness. What then? They spit in His face, and say “Away with Him.” The last thing is, the Holy Ghost comes down and tells the news “It is finished”—that God has spread a feast for man, and that all that man has to do is to eat of the feast God in blessed love has provided.
Who has He bidden? He has bidden you. Have you believed it? Have you accepted it? God prepares a supper, and sends servants to say “Come, for all things are now ready.” There is the Gospel note! Do you want salvation? “Come, for all things are now ready.” Do you want pardon, forgiveness, eternal life? “Come.” Do not stop away and think you have something to do—“all things are now ready.” How sweet is that word “Come.” Whoever you are, Come! and find all ready. I want righteousness, you tell me. God has provided righteousness in Christ—life, cleansing, justification, all things are ready in Christ.
But now of the bidden ones, what did they do? “They all with one consent began to make excuse”—every one of them. Have not you made excuse? One said, “I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it.” The man puts his bit of land in between his soul and God. Another says, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused.” There is no open rebellion,yea, there is external politeness—“I pray thee have me excused.” The moment God wants to have you and Himself in close quarters, you say No. Man cannot have it. “I pray thee have me excused.” How solemn!
If God spreads a supper, it is not merely that you are to be blessed, though that is included—the grand and great thought in God’s heart is that He wants you and me near to Himself.
If I go to a supper I go because of the person who bids me and makes me welcome. God says, “I want to have you in My presence, to feed you with what I have provided.” Man says, “I pray Thee have me excused.” Oh! what a heart man has got! And what a heart has God got, longing to bless!
You say, What a desperately bad man that must have been. Stop, have you eaten the bread? Have you accepted? Not yet. Then you are the man, because you have put something in between—it may not be a piece of land, it may not be five yoke of oxen, but it is something that keeps God and you asunder.
Another says, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” Was that a good excuse for refusing God’s supper? Had he been a right-minded man, had he had a sense of the grace of him who invited him, he would have gone himself, and taken his wife with him; but he makes her the excuse. How easily the Lord reads thus the secrets of our hearts! How easily the devil finds an excuse in the things of life to hinder us!
If you are in earnest, if you have got a deep sense that you are on the verge of eternal damnation, you will not care for wife, husband, father, mother, brother, sister, master, or servant, you will fling all aside in determined unquenchable desire to have salvation.
If you do not know your need, if you are not thoroughly broken down, you are always glad to make an excuse, and you think it a good one. Do you think it will be a good excuse when the Lord says, “Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” You will be speechless then, and He will say “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness.” If, my friend, you are an excuse-maker (what an awful occupation! yet the devil has crowds of apprentices young and old), give that trade up on the spot, for you are forging the chains, soldering the rings that must hold you through an eternity in the depths of hell.
Excuses have ruined and damned thousands of souls. Have you one solitary excuse that will bear the light of that day? Not one! You say “I am too bad, too old, too young.” No, the Lord says, “Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life.” Oh! that the Lord may show you the sin of these devilish (for so they are in truth) excuses why you should not come to God. The true reason is you do not like Jesus, you like anything and anybody but God, close dealings with any one under the sun but God. But you must have to do with Him, you must be brought face to face with God; better far be brought face to face with Him now in the day of grace, than in the day of judgment—now when He calls you in love and spreads before you a supper. Why not come? Why not accept Him? Do not hold back in the thought of anything you must do, anything you must bring or provide. Come as you are!
“So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.” These grand ones, these self-occupied ones, he says, shall not eat of my supper—bring in the poor.
The sinner without Christ is a very poor person. Though he may have the riches of the whole world in his coffers, he is poor without Christ—poor indeed. There are very few rich people converted—riches are often the ruin of the rich. The Lord says, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” When I get a person who is poor, broken down, outcast, with neither character nor fortune, I can tell him of one Friend—the Friend called Jesus. Tell me, have you a Friend called Jesus; do you know Him, trust Him, adore Him? Is He the object of your heart, the One you delight in? There is nothing so sweet to me as the company of my friends, and there is no company so sweet as the company of Jesus.
The “maimed” are those whom sin has wounded and crippled—and what maims a person as sin does?—all vitality, vigour, freshness, and power gone. “The halt,” that is, the lame, those who are unable to walk. Who can enter the pearly gates crippled by sin, unable to walk in? Furthermore, “the blind” are called. Who are “the blind”? You are, if still Christless. Do you see any beauty in the Lord Jesus? Well, I can’t say I do. Then you are blind. Jesus is the most lovely object in the universe of God—the “Chiefest among ten thousand.” If the Christian is asked what he thinks of Christ, he answers “He is altogether lovely.” Though I might paint the most lovely descriptions on canvas, and tell of it to a blind man, he cannot understand it, for he cannot see it. The real state of man is that he is “born blind.”
“The poor, the maimed, the halt and the blind,” this is God’s company—not the good, but the bad. Whoever you are, I am bidden by my Master to make you welcome.
Now see how the urgency of the charity of God comes out here, and the universality of its expression: “And the lord said unto the servant, into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.” Yes, says God, I have still room for many wayward sinners—go, compel them to come in. I thank God for that word. May I not entreat, implore, invoke you to come? I am bid to compel you to come in. Perhaps you do not care to come, you are not interested or anxious: Go, says the Lord, “compel them to come.” Oh! sinner, do you want to be damned? “No,” you say. You certainly must be if you turn your back on Jesus. Oh! listen to His grace—“Go, compel them to come in.” You have nothing to do, His grace has provided all: the blood of atonement is shed, the claims of God have all been met on the cross by the Lord Jesus, and the sinner has now only to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be saved on the very spot. Oh! receive this word, let it sink down deeply into your heart; look back at the cross, see the shed blood of the Saviour, see the atonement finished, God’s claims all met, the whole question of sin settled for ever. Now that work being done, the cup of wrath drunk, the righteousness of God vindicated, His truth maintained, His character fully revealed, and man’s need fully met, what remains? Jesus has died, but God raises Him, puts Him at His own right hand in glory, sends down the Holy Ghost, and what then? God says “Come and eat.” You want to eat bread in the kingdom of God—come and be His guest. He would have you come. He invites you as you are to accept salvation. He invites you to His supper, to glory, to ever-lasting rest with Christ. He bids you come to have forgiveness, and says if you do not, you will offend Him. You must either receive or refuse. God brings before you Christ as a living, loving Saviour. Make your choice, but do not, oh! do not refuse, do not despise such grace; when He bids you, come—when he invites you, respond. At your peril make an excuse.
The Gospel feast then is the first feast, the supper of salvation. If you eat God’s supper you are a saved soul—if you look to Jesus you will be saved, and be washed whiter than snow. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” That is the supper of salvation.
2. THE SUPPER OF COMMUNION
The second supper is the Lord’s Supper, the supper of communion. Look at 1 Corinthians 10:16-21, 11:23-34, “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.” And who takes this supper? Do you who are not converted? you who are not washed in the blood? Oh! but you say, “It is a means of grace.” No! it is a means of judgment, because the very thing the Lord, will answer when you say, “We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence,” will be, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness.” The only one who has the privilege of the Lord’s Supper is the one who knows he has partaken of the Gospel supper—the real, true Christian.
The Lord’s Supper is, as it were, a photograph. A photograph is a faint and always feeble resemblance of an absent one. This supper then is a lovely, beautiful photograph of Jesus—not as He now is alive in glory, but as He once was, dead on the cross for our sins. Therefore the gathering round the Lord’s table to eat that supper is the memorial of the Lord’s death. There is nothing like it! it has the greatest and sweetest claim on our hearts. I remember a betrayed, denied, thong-bound, thorn-crowned, crucified Christ. If being unconverted, you partake of this supper, I would warn you, never do it again. You reply, “I have the minister’s communion token.” Have you had God’s communion token?
“When I see the blood, I will pass over you.”
“And THE BLOOD shall be to you for a TOKEN.” God’s communion token is the blood.
This briefly is the supper of communion. May the Lord give us to enjoy, understand, and appreciate it more. We are called to walk worthy of it, separate from all that is of the world. That cup tells me of the blood by which I am separated from my sins, from wrath, and from judgment; but it tells me also that I am separated from the world, and am to walk through it as a pilgrim and a stranger.
Let us look now at the two suppers given in Revelation 19.
3. THE SUPPER OF JOY
This is the marriage supper of the Lamb by-and-by (vv. 6-9). I do not wonder at the word, “Let us be glad and rejoice.” Heaven breaks out in melody, the hosts of heaven in thanksgiving—it is the bridal supper. It is the moment when the Lord has gathered His own people up in heaven with Him—all are caught up to meet the Lord, all are bright with His likeness—the day of the marriage comes, the day of the joy of His heart and ours. “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready.” In that day the Church, the bride of Christ, shall be “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white, for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” We have done here some little sweet acts of service, perhaps, for the Lord: He has marked all, every cup of cold water, every loving deed, and He will reward it by-and-by. In that day the practical righteousness, the godly conduct of the believer down here in the world, will find its counterpart and answer, As you have walked down here, so you will be known up there; our practical life and conduct will be remembered and manifested in the presence of the Lord. It is spoken of as a garment, because it will be seen—it is what is manifest, external. Nobody has seen your service down here, everybody will see up there what you have been and done for the Lord during your pilgrim sojourn on earth during His absence. How beautiful to go to the supper of salvation, the supper of communion, and now to the supper of the Lamb—the day of joy when with our blessed Lord, we see him face to face, and are like Him.
If, my beloved reader, you have not taken the first, though you may have taken the second, you will not be at this one—these three go together. The supper of salvation meets me as a sinner, the supper of communion as a saint, and by-and-by the bride will be with her Lord, and like Him.
4. THE SUPPER OF JUDGMENT
The last is not a supper of brightness, or gladness, or communion—it will be the dark, black supper of judgment, to which God will invite many guests, and they will all come. It is the Lord coming to deal with this earth in judgment (see vv. 11-21), coming down in solemn, fearful judgment on this scene where you and I now are. They refused Him on earth when He came in grace, but He will come back to make war. They crowned Him with thorns, God crowns Him with glory; they parted His raiment amongst them, and, cast lots upon His vesture—here on His vesture He has a name written, “King of kings and Lord of lords,” and they will see Him again clothed. The world will see Jesus come back again. When did the world see Jesus last? What was the last glimpse the world had of Him? They had stripped Him, crowned Him with thorns, nailed Him to a tree, His blood flowing down to stain the very earth they trod upon. When they see Him again He has still a crown, but not of thorns: “on His head were many crowns,” crowns of glory. His hand, once pierced and nailed to the tree, holds now a sceptre. He is clothed with a vesture dyed with blood. It is the Lord coming in swift, solemn judgment—a day that draws terribly near.
“He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” It is the wrath of God poured out on man, who has refused the supper of the blessed God. Now the dealings of God are reversed, it is not grace but judgment. The Lord Jesus comes as the administrator of the judicial power of God. He comes to tread the winepress. In the vintage time the luxuriant bunches are cut down one by one, and thrown into the winepress; presently down comes the weight, till every grape is crushed. So will the blood be crushed from His enemies. Do you know a figure more fearful? You have trifled with God once too often when that day comes. His patience then worn out, His wrath will come on the surface. He will come as “King of kings and Lord of lords”; you have never owned His Kingship, His Lordship yet. Christ and you are strangers; He loves you, but you do not love Him, and now comes the hour when you must know Him in His Kingship and His Lordship, and be crushed by His wrath.
Oh! careless soul, brave not, risk not that day. Then goes forth the word, “Come, and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.” It is another “Come”—no longer the “Come” of grace, of invitation to the Gospel feast. It is, “Come, ye fowls, be a witness of the righteous judgment of God, “eat the flesh of kings,” &c. Man in the end rises up in daring rebellion against the Lord; the once despised, refused Jesus comes as King of kings and Lord of lords, and swift destruction overtakes them all. In the 20th verse we see the beast and the false prophet cast into the lake of fire—two men cast alive into the lake of fire, as in the Old Testament we get two men taken up to heaven alive. Men may delude themselves with the thought of coming days of brightness—but one of these days like lightning everything will be altered: the saints will be taken up, and desolation will begin to cover the earth. Satan will have the reins of government in his hands, the name of God will be cast out of the earth. Then the Lord of glory appears, and this fourth supper is enacted.
Will you be there? it is possible, nay, probable—because if the Lord Jesus came this hour and took up His saints, not one Gospel-rejecter then left behind would be saved; for God says He will send you strong delusion. “In the twinkling of an eye” we shall be taken.
The world may miss us a day or two, but not one week or month will have rolled by before the mischief will appear, the power of Satan will be displayed. When the world is led astray by the devil, ruled over by antichrist, it will go on till at length God’s patience tires, and then this terrible judgment takes place. The Lord shall come from heaven in judgment. And all this precedes the Millennium, the thousand years of blessing, when the Lord will reign on the earth. I would not risk being at the fourth supper. I have made sure of the first, delight in the second, know I shall be at the third, and am sure I shall not be at the fourth. Friend, be thou of the same mind. May God give you to hear and believe His word in faith, and by-and-by, when Jesus comes, be found in hat bright company, with Him and like Him for ever!
The Gospel Messenger 1903, p. 253