Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wine/Alcohol in the Bible

It's quite unique to note the way that the biblical writers talk about wine/alcohol. There are primarily two ways that it is referred to.

First, it is seen negatively as that which, because of irresponsibility, should incur judgment and wrath. This negative view of alcohol can be symbolic or literal. Paul says to not be drunk with wine. This is irresponsible and cannot yield living life rightly. On the other hand, Isaiah and the Apostle John write of the the wine press of the wrath of God. See Prov 20.1, Is 51.17-23, Jer 25.15-29, Job 21.17-20, Rev 14.9-10, Eph 5.18, Is 5.11-12, and Rev 16.19.

Secondly, wine/alcohol in the Bible is seen as something celebratory, joyous, or satisfactory. The fact that God gives wine for man to enjoy is grounds for praise for the psalmist. Before you arrive at the end of chapter 12, some of the only snapshots of fulfillment in Ecclesiastes are when Solomon says that we should eat, drink, and be merry. Shockingly, this is not a reference to Welch's. Jesus even kept a wedding fiesta going by making 120 gallons of tasty wine. Conservatively, this is about 2,500 glasses. See Ps 104.14-15, Ecc 5.18, Ecc 9.7, Is 55.1, Mt 26.26-29, Mk 14.22-25, Lk 22.14-20, and Jn 2.1-11.

Maybe, just maybe, balance is the key to many things. Here's the point though: The emphasis on wine in the NT is that it serves as a two-fold eschatological metaphor.

In Revelation, John writes several times about the cup of wine of the fierce wrath of God. This is the negative.

Conversely, in each synoptic gospel, Jesus holds forth hope to His disciples by telling them that He will one day drink New Covenant wine with them in the Kingdom. This is the positive. And I'm looking forward to it.