The Cup of God's Wrath
Jeremiah 25:15-38 teaches that the cup of God's wrath awaits everyone who doesn't trust in Christ.
Many metaphors are used to describe God in the book of Jeremiah. He’s a shepherd, he’s a righteous branch, he’s a judge, and a king. But he’s also like the person in a restaurant serving your drinks. Jeremiah 25:15 says,
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take this cup of the wine of wrath from my hand and make all the nations to whom I am sending you drink from it.
And when God comes around to offer you a drink there’s no declining. This is a cup of judgment that God has prepared for every nation of the world and no nation will be allowed to say “I’m not thirsty.” Everyone will be forced to drink the cup of God’s wrath.
Not even Jerusalem will be exempt and God says in Jeremiah 25:29 they will be the first ones served: “For I am already bringing disaster on the city that bears my name, so how could you possibly go unpunished? You will not go unpunished...”
Jeremiah 25:27 describes their punishment graphically, “This is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says: Drink, get drunk, and vomit. Fall down and never get up again, as a result of the sword I am sending among you.”
We like to make fun of the drunk person stumbling around but it’s no laughing matter when he falls over and never gets up again. Drinking God’s cup of wrath is no laughing matter.
But, there are other kinds of cups in Scripture that we need to know about. There’s a cup for every sinner, a cup for Christ, and a new cup for Christians.
A Cup for Every Sinner
Every individual sinner who doesn’t repent, not just every nation, will be made to drink from the cup of God’s wrath. Every nation and every individual will be held accountable for every sin. Jeremiah 25:31 says,
The tumult reaches to the ends of the earth because the Lord brings a case against the nations. He enters into judgment with all humanity. As for the wicked, he hands them over to the sword— this is the Lord’s declaration.
God’s wrath reaches “to the ends of the earth.” John, in the book of Revelation, says in Revelation 14:10-11 “[every sinner] will drink the wine of God’s wrath, which is poured full strength into the cup of his anger. He will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever...”
Every sinner who refuses to repent must drink it because we will have no choice. We all reap what we sow. But there is a way for sinners to avoid the cup of God’s wrath and that way is to let Jesus drink it for you.
A Cup for Christ
In chapter 51 of Isaiah, the cup of God’s wrath is described in horrific terms. Those that must drink it are described as stumbling around, falling to the ground, and landing in their own vomit. But then God says something remarkable in verse 22…
This is what your Lord says— the Lord, even your God, who defends his people— “Look, I have removed from your hand the cup that causes staggering; that goblet, the cup of my fury. You will never drink it again.”
God is looking forward to a time when the cup of his fury will be taken away, removed completely. In that time the persecution of his people by Babylon and Assyria will be no more. The captivity will end and his people will be sent back to their homeland.
But verse 22 also describes a time even more amazing. It describes a time when the Messiah will redeem his people by taking the cup of wrath from the hands of sinners and drinking it himself so that his people never again have anything to fear. Jesus spoke about this fulfillment when he said to the disciples in Matthew 26:38-39…
“I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake with me.” Going a little farther, he fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
The bitter mixture in the cup of God’s wrath was so awful that even Jesus hesitated to drink it down. Matthew 26:42 says, “Again, a second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
And as God’s will had the last word, Jesus tilted his head back and drank every last drop. He didn’t just take a sip, he drank it all. He endured 100% of the wrath of God until he cried out in John 19:30 “It is finished.”
So if you know that you are a sinner, then you need to also know that you don’t need to drink the cup of God’s wrath yourself. You can pass the cup to Christ who will volunteer to drink it for you. For those who trust in Christ, there isn’t any bitter wine left to drink. What’s left is only sweet and delicious.
A New Cup for Christians
God’s promise in Isaiah 51:22 is that God’s people will never again drink of the cup of God’s wrath. Those who trust in Jesus as their Savior can rest assured that 100% of their sins have been atoned for and there is nothing left to do except keep trusting in Christ who accomplishes salvation for us.
Now, instead, of drinking the cup of God’s wrath, Jesus’ followers are instructed to drink a different drink. Matthew 26:27–29 says…
Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. But I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Each time we partake of the Lord’s supper we eat the bread and drink from the cup. This points back to what Jesus did on the cross but it also points forward to a great banquet, the marriage feast of the Lamb, when Jesus himself will serve what is sweet and delicious.
This new cup is the blood of the covenant. It’s not literal blood, but a drink that represents Jesus’ blood and salvation from sin. This cup used to be bitter but is now completely sweet for those who trust in Christ for the complete forgiveness of all their sins.