The Four Cups of Passover in the New Testament

There are four promises in Exodus 6:6-7, which are related to the Passover. These four promises are thoroughly expressed through the four cups of Passover found in the New Testament. Before I discuss in greater detail about these four cups and their actual meanings, I want to talk about communion. Have you ever thought about where communion comes from? The church has practiced communion for many ages. The Lord has instituted what the church has done many centuries before, which is partaking of the bread and wine in remembrance of what our Lord Jesus has done on the cross.

If you look closer into the passages of Luke 22:17, Luke 22:42-44, and Matthew 26:28-29, there is a connection between communion and Passover. Though churches call Passover communion, in proper term it should be called Passover, since the Passover cup is a crucial cup for Jewish Passover. In Luke 22:17-19, “Then taking a cup of wine, he made the b’rakhah (Blessing(s) and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.’ Also, taking a piece of matzah (unleavened bread), he made the b’rakhah; (Blessing(s) broke it, gave it to them and said, ‘This is my body, which is being given for you; do this in memory of me.” Hence, when we are celebrating the Passover or communion we are in unity “remembering” Jesus the Messiah.

The four promises in relation to the four Passover cups is quite relevant even in communion, but let us remember these promises which God instituted in both the Old Testament and the New Testament are the promises He has already fulfilled to the Jewish people. Here they are in order: Exodus 6:6-7

A. I am the Lord; I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.
B. Rescue you from their oppression.
C. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm with great judgments.
D. I will take you as my people and I will be your God.

Therefore, we now have an outline to work with in explaining these four cups of the New Testament Passover from Exodus. The first cup Jesus Christ explains to us is the cup of Sanctification or in Hebrew called the Kiddush (sanctify) cup. In Luke 22:17, “Then, taking a cup of wine, He made the B’rakhah (Blessing) and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves.” This particular form of prayer is possibly close to the original prayer which Jesus the Messiah prayed. In Hebrew, the prayer reads: Baruch atah Adonai, Elohenu Melach ha-olam, borae pree hagafen. Now, I will break the sentence structure down for my audience so it can be easily pronounced. Ba-rukh A-tak A-do-nai E-lo-hey-nu Me-lekh ha-‘olam bo-rey pri ha-ga-fen. In English, it says; Blessed are you, O Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who created the fruit of the vine.

1. The Kiddush cup means “sanctification.” This word should have a sobering effect on us believers for it is a reminder to us that Jesus Christ shed His blood for humanity. There is a unique, but parallel pattern you will begin to see unfold throughout the four Passover cups. When the Messiah prays for each of the Passover cups, take note that these are not random prayers. Each of those prayers has a special meaning and a connection to each of the four cups. You may now be asking yourself how Exodus 6:6-7 correlates to the text of Luke 22:17.

In this story, God says, “I am the Adonai; I will free you from the forced labor of the Egyptians.” Here therein lies a special word in the contextual story. The key word in this story is “free.” We have read that the God of the Hebrew people freed them of their burdens and bondages. Even in our generation, sometimes we as humans can be wrapped up in our own burdens of life and bondages this world has. In fact, these same burdens and bondages the Hebrew people had under Pharaoh is a resemblance of our own sins. Before we even existed, our sinful state was presented at the Cross, through the “sanctification” of His blood. He atoned for our sins so that we can experience the forgiveness of our unrighteousness through His death on the cross. This was at the very heart of Jesus Christ’s first coming.

2. The second Passover cup is called Plagues. Another name for it is “the cup of wrath,” which finds its origin in Exodus 6:6-7. God is deeply moved by His people that are bound in Egypt, so God speaks to Moses and says, “I will rescue you from their oppression.” Elohim speaks fondly and lovingly about His servants as He speaks collectively for the nation of Israel. During the celebration of Passover with Jesus and the disciples, Exodus 12:12-13 makes mention of the curses of the second cup. “For that night, I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both men and animals; and I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt; I am Adonai. The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are when I see the blood, I will pass over you when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.”

This cup reveals God’s direct involvement in delivering His people from Pharaoh. During the Passover, the cup of wrath (plagues) is not to be drunk at all, but rather the contents are poured onto the table while the ten plagues are recited during the Passover meal. Whenever you recite the ten plagues of Egypt, it helps you to remember how God protected His people. This was also evident when God instructed them to place the lamb’s blood on all three sides of the doorpost. Exodus 12:7, “They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame at the entrance of the house.” The blood protected and saved God’s people from the wrath of the death angel, which was to kill all firstborn of every humankind and animal.

This particular cup also represents the anguish Jesus Christ went through at the Garden of Gethsemane. In Luke 22:42-43, Jesus kneels and prays to the heavenly father and says, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, let not my will but yours be done.’ There appeared to him an angel from heaven giving Him strength, and in great anguish He prayed more intensely, so that his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.” As we see in this story, the Messiah asked for this cup of wrath to be taken away from Him. However, we know in order for the prophecies to be fulfilled, God could not take away the cup of wrath from His Son. This starting point in the Garden of Gethsemane lead up to a dramatic and heart- breaking event - the Crucifixion. Christ had such perseverance through a horrific tribulation of wrath. Our Messiah is our definite Savior, who’s blood protected us and saved us from spiritual death.

3. The cup believers partake of during Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is really called the cup of Redemption. This cup is identified in the text of Exodus 6:6-7, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” This context above can be found in the story of Exodus 12:13. The theme is about the blood being placed on the doorpost of each Hebrew house. In addition, the second theme is about Egypt being judged by God through the ten plagues. Exodus 12:13, “The blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over you when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.” The blood the Hebrew people placed on all three sides of the doorposts of their houses was a symbolization of Jesus Christ.

In the book of John, we find the character of John mentioning, “Look! God’s lamb! The one who is taking away the sin of the world!” Jesus is the Passover lamb. The cup that believers drink from is in the passages of Luke 22:20. “This cup is the New Covenant, ratified by my blood which is being poured out for you.” During the night of the Passover, the cup Jesus told His disciples to drink from was the cup of Redemption. Something very intriguing happened that night. Jesus Christ did not drink of this cup spoken of in the book of Matthew and in the book of Luke. The book of Matthew clearly states in chapter 26:29, “I tell you, I will not drink this ‘fruit of the vine again until the day I drink new wine with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Then the book of Luke reveals in chapter 22:15-16, “And He said to them, ‘I have really wanted so much to celebrate this Seder (Passover), with you before I die! For I tell you, it is certain that I will not celebrate it again until it is given its full meaning in the Kingdom of God.” Then the Lamb of God reiterates in Luke 22:18, “For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the ‘fruit of the vine’ until the Kingdom of God comes.”

As we approach our final Passover cup, let us keep in remembrance that which Christ our savior did on the cross for humankind. Our final Passover cup is known as “the cup of praise”; another important name for it is “the cup of the kingdom.” In the book of Matthew, we find in verse 30, chapter 26, “When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” This is practiced even today. After the Passover meal, a hymn is sung. In Hebrew, it is called “Hallel,” which is translated as praise. This hymn is not just a song they actually made up. It finds its origins in Psalms 136:

• Give thanks to Adonai, for he is good, for his grace continues forever.
• Give thanks to the God of gods, for his grace continues forever.
• Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his grace continues forever;
• To him who alone has done great wonders, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who skillfully made the heavens, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who spread out the earth on the water, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who made the great lights, for his grace continues forever;
• the sun to rule the day, for his grace continues forever;
• the moon and stars to rule the night, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who struck down Egypt’s firstborn, for his grace continues forever;
• and brought Isra’el out from among them, for his grace continues forever;
• with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who split apart the Sea of Suf, for his grace continues forever;
• and made Isra’el cross right through it, for his grace continues forever;
• but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Sea of Suf, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who led his people through the desert, for his grace continues forever;
• to him who struck down great kings, for his grace continues forever;
• yes, he slaughtered powerful kings, for his grace continues forever;
• Sichon king of the Emori, for his grace continues forever;
• And ‘Og king of Bashan, for his grace continues forever;
• Then he gave their land as a heritage, for his grace continues forever;
• To be possessed by Isra’el his servant, for his grace continues forever;
•Who remembers us whenever we are brought low, for his grace continues forever;
• And rescues us from our enemies, for his grace continues forever;
• Who provides food for every living creature, for his grace continues forever;
• Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his grace continues forever.

Jesus Christ and His disciples were singing this very song as they were walking to the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is known as the oil press, and there are some good reasons why it is called that. When the Lamb of God was praying to His father to take the cup of wrath away from Him, Jesus Christ started to sweat drops of blood. This was His first pressing. His second pressing would be when Judas Iscariot handed the Messiah to the Romans and they did all sorts of horrible things to Jesus before His crucifixion. Then, the actual crucifixion that took place was Jesus Christ’s last and final pressing. Matthew 26:50, “But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.” Isaiah chapter 53:5, “But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sin.” Yet, He lovingly and willfully gave up His life for all of us.

Written by Michael Jones