The meaning of the Lord's Supper is set forth by the Apostle Paul in I Cor. 11:26:
"For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."
The Lord's Supper is an ordinance of the church designed to remind us of the death of Christ and is to be continually observed until he returns.
In order to understand how the eating of bread and the drinking of wine can in any manner show forth the death of Christ, it will be necessary for us to consider two aspects of his death that are not commonly recognized. The death and sufferings of Christ were obviously intended to be the substitute for the suffering and death that a believing sinner would have had to suffer for his sins had he not believed on Jesus. In other words, Jesus must have suffered all of the torments that are predicted to be in store for the wicked, in order to save those that would be compelled to suffer those torments without their belief in him.
For Scriptural examples which prove that Christ did indeed suffer the punishment which is predicted to be reserved for the wicked, compare the following:
Jer. 25:15-29 with John 18:11 Jer. 17:13 " Matt. 27:27-31 II Chron. 15:2 " Matt. 27:46 Psalm 37:2 " Isaiah 53:8 Psalm 37:20 " Isaiah 53:7 Psalm 2:1-4 " Psalm 22:7 Zeph. 1:17 " Psalm 22:14 Psalm 68:1-2 " Psalm 22:14 Job 18:5-16 " Psalm 22:15 Isaiah 26:5 " Psalm 22:15 Ezek. 22:21-22 " Psalm 22:16
(Note: The word translated furnace in Ezek. 22:21-22, is kur, which comes from a verb having the same spelling. The word translated pierced in Psalm 22:16, is a form of this verb. See the Hebrew/Chaldee Lexicon of Gesenius; Strong's Concordance is in error here.)
Isaiah 47:3 with Psalm 22:17-18 Ezek. 16:37-38 " Psalm 22:17-18 Psalm 73:20 " Isaiah 53:3 Psalm 32:10 " Isaiah 53:3 Deut. 28:61 " Isaiah 53:4 Isaiah 23:9; 66:16 " Isaiah 53:5 Psalm 72:4 " Isaiah 53:5 Isaiah 3:5 " Isaiah 53:7 Psalm 107:17 " Isaiah 53:7 Psalm 89:23 " Isaiah 53:4 Isaiah 11:4 " Isaiah 53:4 Deut. 32:32-33 " Matt. 27:34 Jer. 9:15 " Matt. 27:34
(Note: The references on the left are O.T. predictions of specific judgements that are to be visited upon the wicked. The O.T. references on the right are predictions that the same judgements were to fall upon the Messiah. The N.T. passages on the right specifically record that at least some of these punishments were literally suffered by Jesus. We may be sure that he actually suffered all of them.)
From these examples it may be seen that Christ, in a very special sense, suffered the punishment that is reserved for the wicked; or as Isaiah puts it:
"He was numbered with the transgressors." Isa. 53:12b.
There are, however, two aspects of the punishment of the wicked which are rather forcefully presented in both the Old and New Testaments; but which are largely ignored in connection with the sufferings and death of Christ. In addition to the torments set forth in the Scriptures we have cited, there are sufferings which are set forth under the figures of the threshing-floor and the winepress. In other words, both the Old and New Testaments foretell that the wicked are to be dealt with as the sheaves on the threshing-floor and as the grapes in the winepress. For the threshing-floor aspect of the judgement, see Jer. 51:33 and Matt. 3:11-12. See also Joel 3:2-16. In v. 14, the phrase "valley of decision" should be "valley of the threshing sledges" (charuts, translated threshing instruments in Isa. 28:27, and Amos 1:3). The winepress aspect of the judgement is delineated in Isaiah 63:1-6, Joel 3:13, and Rev. 14:18-20.
That Jesus suffered both these aspects of the judgement is clear from the following passages: As to the threshing-floor; Isaiah 21:10, which, properly translated, reads:
"0 my threshed one, the son of my threshing-floor (ben-gomi)"
As to the winepress, see Hebrews 10:29 and Isaiah 53:5, in which passage the word translated bruised actually means trampled, or trodden underfoot. (See Isaiah 3:34, where crush is the same Hebrew word.)
Once we realize that Christ did indeed suffer both the winepress and the threshing-floor aspects of the judgement, we are in a position to understand more clearly the full meaning of the use of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Bread is the end product of the threshing-floor. Its use in the Lord's Supper is therefore to remind us that our spiritual life is made possible and is sustained by the sufferings of our Lord on the threshing- floor of Calvary. By partaking of this bread we symbolize our identification with Christ in his threshing-floor sufferings. The deepest truth of salvation is not merely that Christ died for our sins, but that we judicially died with him, so that we are dead to sin, to the law and to the world, but alive to God. (In the Supper the truth of identification, rather than mere substitution, is emphasized.)
In like manner, wine is the end product of the winepress. As we partake of the wine, we are symbolically partaking of the blood of Christ, which fell like drops of sweat from his tormented body in the Garden of Gethsemane. See Luke 22:44. This participation in the blood of Christ (I Cor. 10:16) speaks of our identification with him in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the result that his sufferings were judged to be ours. The disciples, due to the weakness of the flesh, slept through the sufferings of Jesus; yet by virtue of their faith in him, they were judicially reckoned to have suffered everything that he suffered, both in Gethsemane and on Calvary. The same blessed truth applies to all who believe on him.
John H Mattox