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Fruit of the Vine
and the Passover Cup
Each year as Passover approaches, the question is debated: does wine or grape juice symbolize the blood of the New Covenant?
Many papers contending for one or the other substance appear each year and a few even argue that the cup contained water. (Yahshua specifically called the contents of the cup “fruit of the vine.” How can water be considered fruit of the vine?)
Some congregations use grape juice because of a fear of alcohol rather than because they have Scriptural proof for grape juice.
Perfect love casts out fear, John 4:18.
Therefore, if Scriptures indicate wine is the right choice, why fear the alcohol it contains? Technically, both are fruit of the vine. Surely, though, Scriptures verify one or the other and even though Yahshua’s reference to “fruit of the vine” is ambiguous, a Bible student should be able to determine which is the right choice.
Nave’s Topical Bible refers to Matthew 26:27-29 as proof that wine symbolizes Yahshua’ s blood. These Scriptures read:
Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them saying, “Drink from it all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
This doesn’t prove that the cup contained wine. It just proves the content of cup was fruit of the vine which could either be wine or grape juice. The belief that Matthew 26:27- 29 proves that the cup contained wine is a traditional belief. The unreliability of tradition as a basis of belief is illustrated by the following anecdote:
A man’s wife always cuts off the ends of a steak before cooking it, so one day he asked, “Why do you always cut the ends off a steak before you cook it?”
She replied, “I learned to cook from my mother and she always cut the ends off a steak before cooking it. She must have had a reason, so I do it, too.”
The man went to his mother-in-law and asked her why she always cut the ends off a steak before she cooked it.
“I learned to cook from my mother and she always cut the ends off a steak before she cooked it. She didn’t tell me the reason, and I didn’t ask her. I just do it because I believe she had a good reason.”
Because his wife’s grandmother was still living, he went to her with the same question.
The elderly lady told him that when she was cooking for the family she seldom could buy a steak that fit the small pan she had, so she cut it down to fit the pan.
Wine: Yahweh’s Wrath
Red wine has been considered a symbol of blood since ancient times. It is a traditional belief that originated in Babylon and was passed down from generation to generation as unthinkingly as the woman who blindly repeated the culinary routine of her mother.
No doubt many people use wine at Passover because that is what their fathers traditionally used. Let’s not stand on tradition. We must base our belief and practice on what we can verify in Yahweh’s Word.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:21,
You cannot drink the cup of Yahweh, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of Yahweh’s table, and the table of devils.
Paul refers to the cup that Yahshua gave to His disciples as the cup of blessing. Psalm 23:5 says,
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Overflows with what? The cup Yahweh gives to the righteous overflows with blessings, but to the wicked He gives the cup of wrath.
In Psalm 75:8 we read,
In the hand of Yahweh is a cup full of foaming wine [red wine, KJV] mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked drink it down to the very dregs.
Jeremiah 25:15-16 says,
The Mighty One of Israel said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send them.”
Wine is the symbol of Yahweh’s wrath! Would Yahshua be contradicting His Heavenly Father if He used wine in the cup of blessing as the symbol of the blood of the covenant? Job 19:29 tells us wrath brings punishment by the sword. The sword is a symbol of war! The sword makes blood flow and Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:6 that it will be the blood of the disobedient (wicked) that will flow when Yahweh pours out His wrath.
Isaiah the prophet describes the end-time fury of a returning Savior:
I have trodden the winepress alone; from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and stained all my clothing. For the day of my vengeance was in my heart, and the year of my redemption has come. I looked but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drink and poured their blood on the ground, Isaiah 63:3-6.
‘Wine’press and Grapes
“Winepress” is merely a figure of speech in these verses. The blood that spattered His garments flowed from the people upon whom His wrath fell, not from the winepress.
This indicates that the juice of the trampled grapes symbolizes the blood of the sin-tainted people, not Yahshua’s sinless blood. The winepress (more properly, grape juice press) represents His fury and judgment, Revelation 19:11-16. His vesture is dipped in blood, verse 13, the juice of the grape.
He makes grass grow for cattle, and plants for man to cultivate bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart, Psalm 104:14-15.
Here wine is listed among the good things Yahweh provides from the earth. Paul could not say, “Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine for the stomach” (1Tim. 5:23) if wine was considered bad in itself. But, he does warn us not to drink too much wine.
Excessive Wine Disrupts
Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery, Ephesians 5:18.
And He says a drunkard will never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.
The dangers of alcohol are many, even in Scriptures. We are told in Genesis 9:20-21 that Noah planted a vineyard after the flood and got drunk on the wine produced from it.
Proverbs 4:14-17 says,
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot sleep until they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
The Bread of Life is symbolized by unleavened bread. Is the opposite, bread of wickedness, symbolized by leavened bread? Aren’t wrath and violence the opposite of the peace of Yahweh?
In the Scriptures we have considered, wine is used as a symbol of the opposite of peace. Is it reasonable to assume Yahshua would use wine as a symbol of the blood of the covenant?
Noah was not a drunkard. He slipped up once after the flood and lost control of himself, but the fact that he was saved from Yahweh’s wrath and counted among the righteous in Hebrews 11 is proof that Noah did not walk in the way of evil men and eat the bread of wickedness.
Grapes are Firstfruits
Fermentation of grape juice is caused by the same enzyme in grapes that is in yeast that leavens bread. Yahshua is sinless and is symbolized by the first fruits of the spring grain harvest. He is represented by the wave sheaf of maturing, unleavened grain cut from the field before the harvest begins. His body is sinless. Therefore, it is symbolized by unleavened bread eaten at Passover- bread unchanged by the fermenting process.
Pure, unfermented, unchanged grape juice is the first product obtained from crushing the fruit of the vine. It is the “firstfruit” of the process.
Wine is a byproduct. It is used in Scripture in reference to wrath and violence that causes sinful human blood to flow. In light of these facts alone, the correct Scriptural symbol for Yahshua’s sinless blood of the covenant must be grape juice.
In Luke 12:1, Yahshua likens hypocrisy of the Pharisees to leaven and in 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul refers to the leaven of malice and wickedness. Both are references to the influence of beliefs and practices that cause a change in the spiritual nature of people.
The dictionary defines leaven as an agent that acts in or upon something to produce a gradual change in the thing acted upon. Leavening is referred to as the fermentation of a new batch of dough. That fermentation is caused by the same agent, yeast, that induces fermentation in liquids during the production of alcoholic beverages.
In other words, fermentation of grape juice is the same change from its original purity that occurs in the leavening of dough.
This last is a reference to a non scriptural authority that is given to show that the conclusion drawn from the Scriptures can be verified by observation of things in this world that were made by Yahweh. A congregation that uses wine as a symbol of Yahshua’s blood is not demonstrating understanding of the hidden wisdom in Yahweh’s use of symbols!
The Bible is full of warnings against overindulgence of wine or strong drink, but Yahweh does not advocate total abstinence from either. True, a person who has a problem with physical addiction or emotional dependence must exercise the self-control necessary to abstain from any use of alcoholic beverages at all times under all circumstances.
There are two occasions upon which normal people are to abstain from wine or strong drink and one occasion upon which we are not to drink even grape juice. The two Scriptures are Lev 10:8-10 and Numbers 6:1-4.
Then Yahweh said to Aaron, “You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You must distinguish between the holy and the unholy and between the unclean and the clean,” Lev 10:8-10.
Are we not told that everyone in the New Covenant is or will be a priest or king? Are we not in Yahweh’s presence when we gather with brethren to partake of Passover? Wouldn’t Yahshua have transgressed this commandment if He had given His disciples wine to drink at His last Passover with them?
Yahweh said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to Yahweh as a Nazarite, he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as he is a Nazarite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins,” Number 6:1-4.
A person partaking of Passover is in Yahweh’s presence, but he is not taking a Nazarite vow in the Old Covenant sense. Therefore, drinking grape juice at Passover would not be breaking this commandment. But drinking wine would break the commandment not to drink wine in His presence.
Symbolism in Worship
The New Testament mentions five things from which total abstinence is commanded and neither wine nor strong drinks are among them. Acts 15:29 gives three of them: food sacrificed to idols, blood, and sexual immorality.
We are literally to abstain from food sacrificed to idols and figuratively not to feed our minds on false doctrines of paganism.
We must literally abstain from eating or drinking blood of animals. What about symbolically drinking the blood of human “animals”?
Yes, literal sexual immorality. And Yahweh calls any worship not directed to Him adultery. In a spiritual sense, then, any worship borrowed from paganism is not directed to Him and is not pleasing to Him. It would be spiritual immorality and Yahweh emphatically tells us in Deuteronomy 12:30-31 not to worship Him in ways the pagans worshiped their idols.
Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou inquire not after their idols, saying, How did these nations serve their idols? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto Yahweh thy Elohim: for every abomination to Yahweh, which he hateth, have they done unto their idols; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their idols.
The fourth thing from which we are to abstain is mentioned in 1Peter 2:11 and that is sinful desires. The King James calls sinful desires lust of the flesh, meaning inordinate and perverse sexual desire, literally, and figuratively meaning the lusts of a carnal mind for worldly pleasures, treasures, and creature comforts.
We are told the fifth thing from which we are to abstain in 1Thessalonians 5:22. This verse says to avoid every kind of evil. The King James says to “abstain from all appearance of evil.”
Obeying this commandment can put a person in a real bind to decide what is really evil and what only appears to be evil. When people are confronted with this decision, the action they choose is generally determined, whether they realize it or not, by whose eyes they wish to appear good in - Yahweh’s or man’s. They decide on the basis of what they believe appears good to Yahweh and evil to man and what appears evil to Yahweh and good to man.
Yahweh says: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,” Isaiah 5:20.
Isaiah 29:1-8 is a veiled prophecy of Armageddon and what will happen to Jerusalem, poetically called Ariel. “Ariel” is a Hebrew word that means “altar of EI” and is translated “altar hearth” in verse 2 of the NlV translation. Continuing from verse 9 to verse 12 we read:
Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer. Yahweh has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); He has covered your heads (the seers). For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I don’t know how to read.”
This is not talking about literal drunkenness resulting from drinking too much wine or strong drink. It refers to a spiritual stupor that results from drinking (figuratively speaking) from the cup in the hand of Babylon the Great.
Most people who have a Bible can read, but John tells us the words of the book are shut and sealed until the time of the end.
The seal is broken and the mind is opened to understanding for only those to whom Yahweh has given His Holy Spirit because they believe His Son, Yahshua, is the Messiah and are willing to abide by every truth the Spirit reveals to them.
A second angel followed and said, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great. Which has made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”… With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries. I saw the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore the testimony of Yahshua, Revelation 14:8; 17: 2-6.
Would wine or grape juice best symbolize the contents of the cup in the hand of Babylon the Great, the corrupted system?
What would be the best symbol for the blood of the saints (none of whom were without sin) - wine or grape juice?
Can there be any question on the basis of what Scriptures tell us about wine that the answer to both questions must be wine?
Some may use wine at Passover because the Jews do. Yahweh’s Word was committed to Israel and wine has been used at Passover for centuries before Yahshua was born. Since the Jews use wine at Passover is wine what we should use also?
Drinking wine at Passover is a Jewish tradition that traces back through rabbinical teachings to long before Yahshua’ s birth. Red wine is used in most Jewish Passover services because of its quality. Jews are required to drink four full goblets during the ceremony at the risk even of intoxication. The wine is drunk at four prescribed points during the service in commemoration of the four expressions of redemption found in the Book of Exodus.
The symbol of the paschal lamb in the Jewish Seder plate is a roasted shankbone. The Hebrew word for shankbone literally means “forearm” and the bone commemorates the fact that Yahweh said He brought Israel out of Egypt with an outstretched arm. Nothing in the Jewish Passover relates to Yahshua’s sacrifice for sin and the change in the Covenant that occurred on the Passover day He died. They ignore the Savior’s first coming, and so it is useless to look to the Jews for clues in choosing the Scriptural symbol for the blood of the New Covenant.
How can anyone who has given any thought to symbolism in Yahweh’s Word use wine as a symbol of Yahshua’ s sinless blood of the covenant at Passover?
-Elder Ralph Henrie, deceased
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