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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Jesus, Fully God

Digging Into Doctrine
The Wine for the Holy Communion (Conclusion)
G. Melnychuk
The Wine for the Holy Communion (Conclusion)
Passover — the feast of unleavened bread and wine

The word of God clearly says that the evening when Jesus and His disciples gathered in the upper room, was the beginning of the “Feast of the Unleavened Bread” (Mark 14:12; Luke 22:7). What is the “feast of unleavened bread?”

The feast of unleavened bread began at the same time as Passover, in the evening of the 14th toward the morning of the 15th of the month of Nisan (see Exodus ch. 12 and Leviticus ch. 23). In this study we’ll not discuss the meaning of this feast, rather will focus on some of its details related to out subject. One of the laws of this feast said: “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15).

“Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the Lord shall choose to place his name there. Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life. And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; . . .” (Deuteronomy 16:2–4).

The law forbade the use of leaven during the seven days of the feast. Thus, people were commanded not only to bake fresh bread without yeast (leaven), but even to clean their houses, that nothing fermented would be found in them. Why was such a command given to Israel and what was behind it? Like the Passover lamb, the removal of “leaven” has a biblical explanation. Paul explains the meaning of this symbol: “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6–8).

Jesus also referred to leaven (yeast) as symbolizing a substance that represents something evil: “Then Jesus said unto them, take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6, 12). “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1).

Now let us return to the topic of wine. Everyone knows that wine is produced by a process of fermentation. Just as yeast (leaven) ferments the dough—completely changing its substance—so does fermentation transform normal grape juice into an alcoholic drink (wine).

But here is where human wisdom steps in. According to the rabbis’ interpretation “Leavening agents, such as yeast or baking soda, are not themselves chametz (leaven). Rather, it’s the fermented grains. Thus yeast may be used in making wine.”1

In other words they do not forbid the leaven (yeast) which makes the dough grow—but the dough itself, if it is made from a certain type of grain.

Chametz refers not only to leavened bread, but to any product made from the five species of grain—wheat, burley, ray, oats, and spelt.”2

While Bible says that yeast (leaven) is the problem (see references above) and is to be removed: “Put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread . . . that soul shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15), Jewish rabbis teach that yeast is ok, but the grains and water are the problem.

According to the interpretation of rabbis, if fresh bread or flour were to be in contact with water for more than 18 minutes, it was already considered “leavened” and thus forbidden. If flour or fresh bread is exposed to moisture for an extended period, it starts to ferment, due to the action of the yeast bacteria which are present everywhere. This is why even matzo is covered with a cloth right after preparation—to prevent the risk of exposure to moisture.

We do not find any similar instructions in the Bible. Instead, the Bible clearly says that “whosoever eateth leavened bread . . . that soul shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15). God’s law in no way points us to consider what kind of grain, whether wheat, barley or oats, the bread was made of. But the law forbade the use of yeast, which makes unleavened bread to be leavened. Israelites received no instructions to protect the bread from moisture, but simply to eliminate all articles with any visible presence of yeast.

To follow the rabbis’ logic, as carefully as they try to protect bread from being exposed to fermentation, the very same way they should be dealing with grape juice. But instead of protecting the grape juice to avoid the possibility of fermentation, people devise all kinds of “kosher” conditions for fermentation, and the process of fermentation ends up occurring.

Here we come to a great paradox: Products such as “Bread, cereal, cake, cookies, pizza, pasta, and beer are blatant examples of chametz (leaven),”3 while fermented wine, produced by yeast, is actually recommended for use at the Seder (passover Supper).

The tradition of replacing fresh grape juice with fermented wine entered into the Jewish practice most likely during the Babylonian captivity. Since then, to this day the question as to whether to use fermented wine or fresh grape juice for the Passover is debated: “The question as to whether one who does not like wine may use grape juice for the Arba Kosot* is debated by twentieth century Halachic authorities. This question remains unresolved, as neither side seems to have brought conclusive proof to its position.”4

Another reference reveals how some rabbis consider even the use of grape juice to be unacceptable for Passover: “Rav Feinstein cites the Talmud Yerushalmi (Pesachim Chapter 10) as proof for his opinion. The Yerushalmi relates that Rav Yona drank the four cups at the Seder and had a headache until Shavuot. It is also recounted in this source that Rav Yehuda . . . drank the four cups of wine at the Seder and had a headache until Sukkot. Rav Feinstein infers from this passage that grape juice is unacceptable for the Arba Kosot.* Had grape juice been acceptable, these rabbis would have drunk grape juice in order to avoid experiencing a headache for such an inordinate amount of time.”4

Rabbis who hold the position of using of fermented wine explain that the alcohol portion of the wine is a symbol of the cup of bitterness the Hebrew people had drunk during captivity in Egypt. “It is best to use red wine, since this alludes to the blood spilled by Pharaoh, the blood as part of the Ten Plagues, and the blood the Jews put on their doorposts. Someone who has difficulty drinking wine may use grape juice, but should add a little wine so that the taste of alcohol is detectable.”5

Though such an interpretation is extremely illogical, because God clearly instructed the people to illustrate the bitterness of slavery through the bitter herbs, and not through alcohol; yet the majority of “Christians” today refer to the current Jewish practices of using the alcoholic wine for passover as a proof to use the alcoholic wine for the communion services.

The Talmud (See Nedarim 49b; Yerushalmi Shekalim 3:2. Mishnah Berurah 472:35.) recounts how certain sages suffered headaches for weeks after Pesach, but would not forgo the cherished tradition. It was not without reason that Jesus remarked: “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6–8).

Grape juice—a symbol of blood

When Christ took the cup, He said: “This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Grape juice or unfermented wine is selected as a symbol of the blood of Christ. Why grape juice? Here are certain factors that aid in the choice of such a product:

Color. In the Scripture it says: “and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape” (Deuteronomy 32:14). The juice made from fresh, dark grapes brings to mind the blood of Christ shed for us.

A unique plant. The grapevine is a very unique plant. Even without going into much detail about the biological and agricultural features of this plant, we can readily observe that Christ used a vine to describe people of Israel; as well as the fact that He repeatedly compared Himself to a vine: “I am the vine, ye are the branches” (John 15:1).

Two effects from one fruit. Grapes can have absolutely opposite effects. Pure grape juice is used for health purposes because it carries life and energy in itself and promotes clear thinking. On the other hand, if grape juice is fermented it blurs our reasoning, which leads to: trouble, sorrow, illnesses and eventually death. As mentioned, Christ is the true vine, so let us choose what we want. He offers the following to us: “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:13, 14). “For as often as . . . drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall . . . drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:26, 27). There are many Bible texts revealing that the same Jesus brings salvation for some and damnation for others. While many are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19), other are condemned “who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29).

How does grape juice become wine?

First, freshly squeezed juice is poured into a container. Since yeast or fungi are present everywhere, especially on the grape skin, it will naturally be present. The favorite food of yeast is sugar. Any fungus is a big lover of sweets. Because grape juice contains a large amount of sugar, it is the perfect environment for the reproduction of yeast. If more sugar is added, the process goes a lot faster. Then where does the waste go? Yes, whether people like to admit it or not, the faeces of the fungi consist of well known substances: ethyl alcohol (С2Н5ОН) and carbon dioxide (CO2).

In view of this, I do not think that fermented wine can be considered an appropriate symbol of the pure, holy blood of Christ.

Alcoholic wine—a symbol of false doctrine

If pure grape juice symbolizes the blood of Christ, then what does alcoholic wine mean? The answer is in the New Testament. Let us compare a few verses from Revelation chapter 17 and 18.

John the Revelator describes: “I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 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: And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth” (Revelation 17:3–5).

Let us understand some symbols presented here. First of all, John sees a “woman.” The “woman,” as we all know—is a symbol of a church (Please compare the following verses: Jeremiah 3:1, 20; 2 Corinthians 11:2; Isaiah 4:3, 4; Jeremiah 6:2). But what kind of “woman” or church does the prophet see? John sees a “woman” (church) with a cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication, and her name is Babylon. Seeing such things, the prophet wrote: “and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration [mgn., astonishment]” (Revelation 17:6). Why did John wonder with great astonishment when He saw the woman? The only church the prophet knew was the church of the apostles, founded by Christ. Moreover, earlier, the same prophet was given another vision regarding the church of God: “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1). Suddenly he sees the “woman” (church), sitting on a beast, arrayed in the attire of a harlot with the golden cup from which she drank abominations and filthiness of her fornication.

But in the given study, another question comes up: What exactly did she have in her cup? “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her . . .” (Revelation 18:2–3).

What is the “wine of her fornication”? In the Bible we find an answer. Whenever the people of God depart from the truth, it is referred to as spiritual fornication or adultery against their Lord. So, having compared verses from Revelation chapters 17 and 18, the following picture is seen:

• The woman from Revelation 17 is a symbol of the apostate church, whose name is “Babylon,” which means “confusion.”

• She holds in her hand the cup full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. Fornication as stated in Revelation means falling away from God, and the wine in the cup symbolizes abomination and filthiness of her fornication.

• The doctrine of the apostatized church spreads all over the world, or as the verse says: she made “all nations drunk of the wine.”

From this we draw the following: The wine, which is called “abominations and filthiness of her fornication” symbolizes, in a spiritual sense, apostasy against God, and she, the woman (apostate church), made all nations drink of that wine, or indulge in the false doctrines—and as a result, they apostatized against God and departed from the true church.

On the other hand, pure biblical doctrine, in contrast, is symbolized in Scripture as living water (see John 7:37, 38). While the true church offers pure and living water flowing from the Lifegiver, the fallen church gives a cup filled with wine of abominations. And it isn’t a surprise to anyone that the content of the cup is called “abomination;” after all, alcoholic wine is nothing else but fungal faeces permeating the grape juice after fermentation. But even in the apostate church, there are faithful souls, and a special invitation is given to them, as the Revelator declares: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her (Babylon), my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).


From this 3-part series of articles on wine as published in the Reformation Herald, we can conclude:

1. The Greek word “wine,” (as well as its analog in the English and Hebrew languages) has a double meaning and it refers to alcoholic wine as well as to pure grape juice. It can be either one.

2. Because the word “wine” has a dual meaning and may be easily misinterpreted, none of the four evangelists used the word “wine” in reference to the drink used in the upper room. Instead, describing the content of the cup they refer to it as “the fruit of the vine,” adding to it the word “new,” thus making clear that Jesus pronounced a blessing over the “new wine,” which was in reality fresh juice squeezed into the cup from a cluster of grapes.

3. Jesus, being a High Priest obeyed the law, “Do not drink wine nor strong drink” (Leviticus 10:9) and fulfilled the prophecy that the Lord’s Servant would eat and drink in such a way “that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good” (See Isaiah 7:14, 15).

4. In the upper room Jesus did not take a sip of fermented wine, but rather drank at least two cups of pure grape juice.

5. The original command of God forbade the use of anything fermented or that had been exposed to fermentation products. This would include a prohibition against the use of fermented wine for Passover.

6. The excrement of fungus (ethyl alcohol) which turns grape juice to an alcoholic beverage cannot represent the pure blood of Jesus. Only unfermented grape juice can appropriately symbolize the holy Lamb of God.

7. Fermented wine in the Bible represents the false doctrines and teachings of an apostatized church referred to as “Babylon.”

With confidence we realize and conclude that on the Passover night, Jesus used unfermented grape juice, with which He made a New Covenant, and therefore did not leave to His disciples an example of using fermented wine. Even common sense and logical reasoning tell us so. Therefore we cannot use alcoholic wine at the Holy Supper, because only pure and unfermented grape juice can symbolize the blood of Jesus shed for you and me, my dear friend.

2 Jewish Living, by Mark Washofsky, UAHC Press, Ney York, 2001, p. 101.
3 Make Your Home “Chametz-less,” by Rabbi Zvi Zuravin. Cited on
4 May We Use Grape Juice for the Arba Kosot?, Part Three, by Rabbi Chaim Jachter.
5 Why Four Cups? by Rabbi Shraga Simmons.