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The cup

Query for the Month


July 2005

Next up-date: August 1st 2005 (God willing).

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Some perpetual questions ....

Is there really an immortal soul?

Do you know the difference between the "love" that is of Christianity
and the "love" that is of the world?
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Matthew 20:22-23

Jesus answered and said, “You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They say to Him, “We are able.” And He says to them, “You shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.”

 What does the Spirit mean by “the cup”?



In the Bible the way of God is often defined as a “cup”, something that can be used to pour out blessings and curses.  In the well-known psalm we read, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Psalm 23:5-6. Here we have the “cup” of goodness and mercy.

I think it comes from the fact that anointing the head with oil was a good thing.  It was used in place of a hair cream originally, then it became the symbol of God’s anointing. “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his [Saul’s] head, and kissed him, and said, ‘Is it not because the LORD has anointed you to be captain [king] over His inheritance [that I have done this]?’” 1 Samuel 10:1.

This “cup” applies both ways of course, to God’s enemies as well as His friends, for He has no favourites.  And the “cup” is not always a nice one for His people.  It is written of the troubles of Jerusalem and Judah during the Assyrian invasions, “Thus says your LORD the LORD, and your God that pleads the cause of His people, ‘Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no more drink it again: but I will put it into the hand of them that afflict you; which have said to your soul, “Bow down, that we may go over [walk over you]”: and you have laid your body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over’.” Isaiah 51:22-23.

But its normal application is as follows:


Psalm 75:8

In the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine [in it] is red [not a good sign, Proverbs 23:31-32]; [yet] it is full of mixture [of justice and mercy]; and He pours out of the same [to all who will drink it]: but the dregs thereof [justice only], all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them [that’s their choice]


Psalm 116:13

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. 


The “cup” symbol is often used with the mention of the false Christian churches because the effect of drinking from their “cup” was to bring on intoxication. In the spiritual sense it produced a lessening of common sense and listening to the Spirit, and made those who used it confused (drunk). (See Ezekiel 23:33.)

For example:


Revelation 17:

3 So he [an angel] carried me [John] away in the Spirit [in vision] into the wilderness: and I saw a woman [Satan’s church] sit upon a scarlet coloured beast [Satan’s nations], full of names of blasphemy, [the beast] having seven heads [governments] and ten horns [other religious groups]. 4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication [with the leaders of the world]: 5 and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS [other churches] AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Jeremiah 51:

6 [Thus says the LORD] Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; He will render to her a recompense. 7 Babylon has been a golden cup in the LORD's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.


So when John and James came with their mother to ask a special favour, they should have been aware of the conditions on which position depends in God’s kingdom.

But Jesus told them, “You shall drink indeed of My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with”; before Him a cross instead of a throne, two criminals His companions at His right hand and His left. John and James were to share with their Master in suffering; James, first of the disciples to perish with the sword (Acts 12:2); the other, longest of all to endure toil, and reproach, and persecution.

“But to sit on My right hand, and on My left,” Jesus continued, “is not Mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father.”

He said this because in the kingdom of God, position is not gained through favouritism. It is not earned, nor is it received through an arbitrary bestowal. It is the RESULT of character.

The crown and the throne are the tokens of a condition attained, not given; they are the tokens of self-conquest through our LORD Jesus Christ.

After that experience Christ called the twelve about Him, and with greater definiteness than ever before, He opened to them His betrayal and sufferings, His “cup.”

“’Behold,’ He said, ‘we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.’ And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” Luke 18:31-34.

Why were they hidden and not understood?

Had they not just before proclaimed everywhere, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”?  Matthew 10:7. Had not Christ Himself promised that many should sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of God?  Matthew 8:11. Had He not promised to all who had left anything for His sake a hundredfold in this life, and a part in His kingdom? Matthew 19:29. And had He not given to the twelve the special promise of positions of high honour in His kingdom, – to sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel?  Verse 28. Even now He had said that all things written in the prophets concerning Him should be fulfilled. And had not the prophets foretold the glory of the Messiah's reign? In the light of these thoughts, His words in regard to betrayal, persecution, and death seemed vague and shadowy. Whatever difficulties might intervene, they believed that the kingdom was soon to be established. 

Long afterward, when the disciple John had been brought into sympathy with Christ through the fellowship of His sufferings, the LORD revealed to him again what is the condition of nearness in His kingdom. “To him that overcomes [himself],” Christ said, “will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.” Revelation 3:21.

Therefore the one who stands nearest to Christ will be he who on earth has drunk most deeply from the cup of the spirit of His self-sacrificing love, – love that “vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, . . . seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5), – love that moves the disciple, as it moved our LORD, to give all, to live and labour and sacrifice, even to death, for the saving of humanity.

This spirit was made manifest in the life of Paul. He said, “For to me to live is Christ;” for his life revealed Christ to men; “and to die is gain,” – gain to Christ; death itself would make manifest the power of His grace, and gather souls to Him. “Christ shall be magnified in my body,” Paul said, “whether it be by life or by death.” Philippians 1:21, 20.


The "cup" is a symbol of the experiences of life.  It can be a good one (the liquid); "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" Psalm 23, or a bad one (the dregs); “Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which has drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of His fury; you have drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.”  Isaiah  51:17.


Who wants to add (or subtract!) from these thoughts? I won't argue as I have stated, but I will publish your Scriptures so that we may review all the words of God on the subject.
Some of the comments on this page are adapted from books in my library.  No recognition is given because they are not intended as authorities, but are used because they express my understanding clearly.
Next query. To be discussed from August 1st 2005.


 John 10:

1 “Verily, verily, I say to you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter opens; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out. 4 And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” 

 6 This parable spoke Jesus to them: but they understood not what things they were which He spoke to them.

How does this parable apply to us today?

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