The Lord's Supper
The New Covenant View
The Lord's Supper has, interestingly (and perhaps ironically too), been one of the major sources of disunity and contention in Christendom, since this is one of the most important ordinances of our faith. All Christians are at least agreed that the Lord's Supper is a memorial ordinance by which we remember what our Lord Yahshua (Jesus) was, said, and did. Few would disagree also that by partaking of this ordinance that there is a deepening of the fellowship and communion of believers. It somehow, when entered into with the right spirit, has the effect of binding Christians more closely together. Moreover, all Christians recognise that the breaking of the bread and the pouring out of the wine are the central symbols of the death of the Messiah on the cross. So no matter what your Christian beliefs are, all would probably agree that the Lord's Supper is highly symbolic. Where the differences occur is whether this sacred meal is more than symbolism.
The Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants and New Covenant Christians all basically agree that, as Augustine put it, the sacraments (of which the
Lord's Supper was understood to be one of seven) are a "visible word", communicating the same gospel that comes through written and spoken forms of revelation. Most Christian traditions teach that Christ is present in the Lord's Supper (often called the "Eucharist") in some special way - where they disagree is in the mode, the locus, and the time of that presence.
A. The Roman Catholic Tradition
According to the eucharistic doctrine of the Roman Catholics, the elements of the bread and wine are "transubstantiated" into the body and blood of Christ; that is, their whole substance is converted into the whole substance of the body and blood, although the outward appearances of the elements, their "accidents", remain. This eucharistic doctrine gives support to certain eucharistic practices and is supported by them in turn. For example, the adoration and reservation of the Host (bread/wafer) follow from the belief that the whole Christ is truly present in His body and blood under ther forms of bread and wine. Similarly, they argue, the presence of the whole Christ is either of the consecrated species justifies the practice of distributing only the Host, not the chalice (wine), to the laity. From the affirmation of the real presence comes substantiation for the sacrifice of the Mass: Christ sacrificed Himself on Calvary once, but the Mass re-presents that sacrifice. By both asserting the doctrine of transubstantiation and redefining the meaning of the eucharistic sacrifice, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) continued the theological work of Thomas Aquinas and laid down the lines for further theological development. During the 19th and 20th centuries the Roman Catholic liturgical movement put new emphasis on the frequency of communion, the participation of the entire congregation in the priestly service, and the real presence of Christ in the church as the fundamental presupposition for the real presence of the Eucharist.
Needless to say all of this goes far beyond what the New Testament and the sub-apostolic churches believed and practiced though as might be expected in any tradition stemming from an original core belief, there are elements of truth to be found in the Catholic proposition. The Roman Catholic concept that Christ is resacrificed again and again in the Mass is utterly unbiblical and blasphemous, the Word clearly saying that our Lord was sacrificed once and for all men. The Catholic practice is therefore highly occultic in its concept and practice and for this reason alone is rejected by us. Further, we reject the clergy-laity divide, the New Testament clearly teaching that all Christians who are truly born-again are a part of the Royal Priesthood of Yahweh, though in different degrees. Finally, it cannot be disputed that at the Last Supper the disciples partook of both the bread and the wine, thus invalidating the Catholic practice of only administering the bread (Host) to their laity. To this must be added that the Catholic adoration of the Host is pure idolatry, for we are to worship God only "in spirit and truth" and not in any supposed physical
manifestation. When Yashua (Jesus) taught His disciples to "do this (partake of the Lord's Supper) in remembrance of Me" He most certainly did not mean them to worship the elements but, as they partook of those elements, to hold Him (and in particular His death) in remembrace until His second coming.
B. The Eastern Orthodox Tradition
The Eastern Orthodox Church has beliefs very similar to the Roman system of thought and practice though one of the main differences is that they use leavened rather than unleavened bread., a practice which arose as a result of a dispute as to whether the Last Supper took place on the last day of leavened bread orthe first day of unleavened bread in the Jewish calendar. Eastern Orthodoxy also practices intinction, the dipping of the consecrated bread in the wine. Also, whereas the Roman Catholics maintain that the recitation of the words of institution constitutes the Eucharist as a sacrament, the Eastern Church teaches that the invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the elements (Gk. epiklêsis) is the essential form of the Eucharist. In the area of eucharistic doctrine, Eastern Orthodoxy has not achieved the elaboration and precision of Western doctrine. There is a Greek term corresponding to transubstantiation, metousiôsis, but is is evident that the term was adopted by Eastern Orthodoxy in the course of theological discussions with the Western Church. The principle differences between Eastern and Western ideas on the Eucharist are in the areas of piety and liturgy rather than in doctrine and therefore we would reject the Eastern Orthodox model on the same bases as we do the Western Catholic.
C. The Protestant Traditions
Of the various theological tendencies in non-Roman Catholic Western Christendom, the two that adhere most closely to the traditions of Catholic eucharistic doctrine and practice, eastern and western, are the Anglican and Lutheran. Easrly Anglican theology vigorously opposed Roman Catholic teaching on the sacraments, sometimes even identifying the Anglican with Reformed theology. But for the beginning, and especially since Newman and the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, Anglican liturgical practice and eucharistic doctrine have kept, or recovered, more of the Catholic tradition than have Reformed practice and doctrine. The theology of Lutheranism in the 16th century unequivocally affirmed the real presence of the body and blood of Christ "in, with, and under" the bread and wine in the Eucharist. The term "consubstantiation", although not officially approved by Lutheran theologians, did summarize the Lutheran alternative to the idea of transubstantiation. In their liturgies, both Anglicanism and Lutheranism worked within the framework of the Western liturgy of the Mass, adopting certain elements and rejecting others; the liturgical movements in both communions during the 19th and 20th centuries restored the eucharistic
prayer and other elements of the tradition, even though the theological interpretation of the Lord's Supper continued to display great variety.
More radical in its rejection of traditional interpretations of the euchatistic presence and in its suspicion of traditional liturgical practices, Reformed Christianity replaced the altar with the communion table and subordinated the sacraments to the rpeached and written word. In the theory and practice of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) the memorial aspect of the eucharistic celebration received new emphasis, overshadowing if not excluding other aspects. But the more characteristically Reformed doctrine was that of John Calvin (1509-1564), who taught a "real but spiritual presence" of the living Christ in the sacramental action rather than in the elements as such. The liturgical observance introduced by Calvin were intended to eliminate from the Lord's Supper what Calvin regarded as the superstitious practices of the Mass and to restore the simnplicity of the Gospels. The doctrine of the Lord's Supper became the occasion for the most serious of the confessional debates between Reformed and Lutheran churches.
Other Free Church traditions have drawn upon Reformed thought and practice but have been even more thoroughgoing in their attempts to reform eucharistic doctrine and practice. The sacraments have become "ordinances", not channels of grace but expressions of the faith and obedience of the Christian community. Among Baptists and practice of "close communion" has restricted the ordinance to those who are baptized as adults upon a personal profession of faith. And the Society of Friends (Quakers) dropped the use of the Eucharist altogether, as well as the practice of baptism, in its reaction against formalism.
D. Other "Non-Conformist" Traditions
Most of the other extant traditions fall within the categories above. The Latter Day Saints (both Mormon and RLDS), though not espousing either the transubstantiation or the consubstantiation of the Catholics and Lutherans, respectively, nevertheless view the Lord's Supper as a sacrament (by which name they also call it, viz. "The Sacrament") which only their preisthoods, of all other traditions, have the authority to administer. In this respect they are not unlike the Catholics. In more recent times, the RLDS have adopted a more liberal "open communion" in their attempts to be accepted within the wider ecumenical movement.
E. The New Covenant Christian Doctrine and Practice
Of all the systems described above the New Covenant Church of God has always most closely identified with the Baptist position. We have, however,
gone much further that the Baptist model, having evolved our theology as more revelation on the subject has been received.
One of the eraliest revelations to the Church, an open vision (1986), confirmed the Baptist position that the Lord's Supper was closed and only for adults born-again of the Holy Spirit. A very simple lituturgy was given almost identical to that found in the New Testament. The ceremony was non-public and required reconcilliation between estranged parties before participation was permitted. The regularity of communion services was left to the discretion of the local Pastor (Olive Branch, NC&C 6:12-38). As early as November 1988 a custom had begun to creep into the simple liturgy involving the laying on of hands on the element which was quickly corrected by a new revelation (Ibid. 47:18-19). In this revelation the Lord said: "This...is the fruit of a carnal mind which supposeth that the symbol is the substance" (v.19), thus correcting the Catholic/Eastern Orthodox/Lutheran notion of any kind of substantial presence in the eucharist. From this point onwards it became clear that the Lord's Supper was primarily symbolic.
A preliminary liturgy was compiled (NC&C 73) which was to be gradually changed as more revelation was received. In December 1988 women were authorized to administer the Lord's Supper in the absence of any male Elders. Further, a certain degree of spiritual purity was required of those administering the ordinance (NC&C 81). Shortly afterwards, further liturgical elements were introduced including the requirement for hygiene (NC&C 83). In March 1989 revelation was received describing the responsibility of the Deaconate (male and female) in distributing the elements to the communic- ants (NC&C 113:30-38).
In July 1989 further theological elaboration in an important revelation on the Lord's Supper, preparing the saints for important understandings that would not come until a decade later:
"Did I not tell you that it was necessary to eat my flesh and drink My blood in order that ye might be saved? The ignorant and unspiritual have never understood this saying, perceiving it through carnal eyes, supposing all manner of obscenity and inventing ridiculous doctrines" (Olive Branch, NC&C 163:25-26).
No further clarification was given, as is typical or many revelations where Yahweh expects His saints to search the scriptures out before giving further light and truth. But together with the hints in earlier revelations, it is now clear (with hindsight) that the Lord was preparing His people for a major change in thinking. But what could that be? The clue comes in the word "salvation".
Subsequent revelations mostly addresses administrative and liturgical needs - the rôle of Eldresses (NC&C 238:15-18), preparation of the elements, public confession, the communion room, the communion table, and the participants (NC&C 275), and the "Framstillingen" or challenge to purity (NC&C 275B), all of which were received in 1990. No further revelation was received for another ten years.
The emphasis throughout the 1988-1999 period was always on the memorial aspect of the Lord's Supper and the need for inner purity. It was administered at least once a month, and very often once a week.
This is the New Covenant Christian view of the Lord's Supper. However, there is one final dimension which concerns not so much the memorial aspect but the salvational one, and as far as our particular time is concerned, is undoubtedly the most important. Because it is this aspect that separates out the true born-again disciples from the purely symbolic and counterfeit Christians.
Yahshua (Jesus) in His parable likened true Christians to wheat and to false Christians to tares. The two, he taught, would grow up side by side in the Church until they had both come to maturity. Only then would the false Christians (tares) be gathered up, bundled and burned, leaving a spotless Church of God (Mt.13:24-30). This separation, He said, would be effected in the end-time, upon His return with the angels in the judgement of the nations, this time speaking of the sheep (true Christians) being separated from the goats (false ones) (Mt.25:31-33).
There are differences of opinion in the churches as to how this separation will take place. Some assume it will take place in heaven. Others that the wheat/sheep will be "raptured" to heaven leaving the tares/goats to be destroyed at the end of the Tribulation (though with those converted during the Tribulation - who are martyred - being gathered later). One of the issues is whether this parable related to the whole Church throughout the last two millennia or only those who survive the Second Coming, since obviously a separation takes place of the dead - the righteous going to heaven and the wicked to hell. The separation of the just from the unjust is taken for granted, the thorny question being how this will occur for those who remain on the earth. The separation is of the just from the unjust in the nations, and since there are no nations in heaven, this can only refer to those left on earth.
According to those who believe in pre-tribulation rapture, 99.99% of the just will be in heaven, which makes nonsense of the judgement by Christ upon His return (since they won't be on earth). Since the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is false on many other grounds (see Rapture When?), it
is clear the separation must somehow take place on the earth. (A variant argument is that the true saints will be separated and then raptured).
It is our belief that the separation of the wheat from the tares will take place by participation in a special once-only end-time Lord's Supper. All Yahweh's true sons and daughters will come forward to partake of specially consecrated bread and wine. Partaking of this special ordinance - which is far more than a symbolic memorial - will confer upon the participant a supernatural condition: by eating the consecrated bread his (or her) flesh will be made pure, and by drinking the consecrated wine his (or her) blood will likewise be made pure. The result of this will have dramatic conseqences for the one thus partaking - they will never get ill again. That is not to say that they are immortal, translated, or resurrected or anything that would make them super-human - rather, they would no longer become victims to any kind of disease caused by bacteria or viruses. The blood flowing in their veins becomes the same pure blood of Yahshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) which would purify their flesh destroying any sickness in them - cancer, AIDS, malaria, multiple sclerosis - all diseases would become history to them. Their immune system would take care of any invading organism. By this means they will survive the terrible disease and pestilence which will soon strike the whole world.
Partakers of this special Lord's Supper will continue to age normnally and indeed be vunerable to injury such as broken bones, cuts and bruises, for such is a consequent risk of mortality. But the sign accompanying this consecrated Lord's Supper will be complete purity of the flesh. This sacrament is not, however, an elixir - it is not a magical substance which will benefit anyone. It's effect will only be upon those who are truly sons and daughters of Yahweh. Those who partake who are not thus born-again children of the Father may well forfeit their lives as once Annanias and Saphira did (though for different reasons) and such will certainly bring a cursing upon their souls. Though many of the unrighteous will certainly attempt to partake, the consequences for them will be fatal. This will be a true judgement with signs in the flesh for all to see - signs which none will be able to deny. Finally, this healing will not take place now and then, as is the case today when souls are healed by faith as Yahweh wills it, but the healing will take place in every situation where there is a disease in a true Believer.
It is written that only those who are worthy may partake of the Lord's Supper, and that those who are not, eat and drink damnation to their souls (1 Cor.11:29). The apostle Paul further says that "whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in any unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord" (v.27, NIV). Accordingly a person should seriously examine himself before partaking of this holy ordinance (v.28). Notice also that a consequence of unworthy participation in the Lord's Supper leads to some being "weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died)" (v.30, NIV). These are physical side-effects of participating unworthily in the true Lord's Supper - physical weakness, sickness, and death!
It is not too difficult to understand where the Catholic Church got its ideas about transubstantiation from. And in a way they are right, for when the Lord's Supper is administered with true authority, spectacular, supernatural effects result. In the same way as those who observe the Lord's commandments generally are blessed (such as observing the true 7th day Sabbath), so those who partake worthily of the true, authorized Lord's Supper will be blessed with excellent health...and those who do not, will suffer illness and death. Since such consistent supernatural effects of the true Lord's Supper are not to be found in the churches anywhere (even in those such as the Catholics and Mormons who claim to have exclusive authority to administer this ordinance), it is plain that this authority has been long absent. And with a reason: because it was only present with the true apostolic Church which disappeared from the earth some 18 centuries ago.
Accordingly Yahweh has ordained that this New Testament apostolic authority to bless the bread and the cup will not be restored until the end-time apostolic Church has been restored.
Important a sign though the health benefits of partaking of the Lord's Supper is, this is not its primary purpose but a side-effect. Much more importantly, partaking of this authoritative Last Supper makes of the partaker a true son or daughter of Yahweh-God in both the spirit and the flesh, thus marking him or her out from the symbolic or counterfeit Christians doomed to destruction.
Yahshua (Jesus) said to His disciples:
"I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (Jn.6:53, NIV). He continues: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (v.54). Mark this well - partaking of this flesh and blood is the only qualification for eternal life as a resurrected personage! Those who do not partake of this ordinance have a life which ends at death and can inherit no resurrection. And in case there are any doubters amongst us, who cannot quite believe the literalness of all this, He adds: "For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink" (v.55). And: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in Me, and I in him" (v.56). Our union with Christ is therefore dependent on this ordinance. But more than that: "Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (v.57).