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The Cup of Wrath

A Message by R.C. Sproul

In a day and age when people view God's love as incompatible with divine justice, the events of Maundy Thursday remind us that Jesus saw His crucifixion as a manifestation of divine justice rooted in the love of God for His people. Jesus pleaded with the Father to have this cup of wrath taken from Him if there was another way to save His people, but in the end He resolved to drink it, for He knew that it was the Father's will (Matt. 26:36–46). Listen as Dr. R.C. Sproul explores God's justice from a biblical perspective and shows how Maundy Thursday reveals the purpose of Christ's atonement.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. blog-post

    The Prince's Poison Cup - An Interview with Dr. Sproul

  2. devotional

    The Bread and the Cup

  3. blog-post

    Did Jesus Suffer the Wrath of the Father for All Sinners, or Just the Elect?

The Prince's Poison Cup - An Interview with Dr. Sproul

Tim Challies

The Prince's Poison Cup

With The Prince's Poison Cup, Dr. R. C. Sproul continues his series of books designed to present deep biblical truths to children on their own level. In this work, he focuses on the atonement to show that Jesus had to endure the curse of sin in order to redeem His people from their spiritual death. He recently completed this interview:

What was the inspiration for The Prince's Poison Cup?
My children's stories are designed to teach significant biblical concepts using foundational biblical texts that ultimately end up as the framework of a story. The Prince's Poison Cup refers to the cup of God's wrath that Jesus had to drink. Through this story I am attempting to communicate the terrible price that Jesus had to pay for our redemption by being willing to drink that awful cup. This story is about Gethsemane and about the cross.

What is the youngest suitable age for this story?
3-7 year olds.

What inspires you to write children's stories?
Ultimately, my target audience in a children's story is the parents who are reading the stories to their children. To communicate difficult abstract concepts like imputation in The Priest with Dirty Clothes, that is, in a parable-like way, makes it easy for people to understand. The exchange of clothes as the climax in that story is a very effective image to communicate what imputation means.

How do you decide what you are going to write about?
I have a piece of a menu from eight or nine years ago in my wallet where I wrote down 10 or 12 possible themes for children's books. From time to time I pull it out and look at it, and when the time is right, I refer back to this list and begin to flesh out a story. I usually like to build the story on a real life situation. The Lightlings, for instance, talks about a child who is afraid of the dark and thus afraid to go to bed at night. For The Priest with Dirty Clothes, I used the example of children that come inside from playing outside in the mud and their clothes are all dirty. That becomes the springboard into the book. Children will relate to the story of The Prince's Poison Cup because they have all tasted yucky medicine and had to learn that the bad-tasting medicine will help them to be made whole. We jump from there into the concept of being ultimately made whole.

Is it easier or more difficult to write for children than adults?
It's easier. You can let your imagination roam completely free. Fairy tales and fantasy stories mesmerize children, like what C.S. Lewis did by telling simple stories to communicate complex truths. It's something I like to do.

Does being a grandfather give you a different perspective on childhood or children's literature?
Yes. For years prior to starting to write children's stories I used to ad lib stories for children. When I would be around them, they would want me to make up a story on the spot. I've been involved with this genre for a long time. I once made up a character for the kids at our Ligonier Study Center called Willie the Wolf. During story time when they least expected it, Willie would show up and scare them. They loved it.

Who is the character Ella Ruth in The Prince's Poison Cup?
She is based on my great-granddaughter. I try to include my grandchildren or great grandchildren in all of my stories because it has a particular significance to them.

What is the message that you would like to give to parents who purchase this book to read to their children?
In this day and age, the need for atonement is being ridiculed widely, not just in the liberal church but in certain sectors of the evangelical community as well. People are saying that satisfaction involves God in cosmic child abuse. They ask why we can't just rely on the love of God -- that there is no need to satisfy His justice and His wrath. Through this story I want people to understand that the wrath of God is real. It was necessary to satisfy God's righteousness in order for people to be healed. Instead of our receiving the cup of wrath, it was to be drunk by Jesus in His people's place. That is absolutely central to the gospel.

*****

Perhaps you would like to Hear samples of R.C. reading The Prince's Poison Cup, Download desktops based on the art of The Prince's Poison Cup (Set One, Set Two) or Learn More About the Book.

The Bread and the Cup

Today we return to our study of the biblical themes outlined in the Heidelberg Catechism. We are in question and answer 75, where the catechism begins its in-depth look at the “Holy Supper of Jesus Christ,” that is, the Lord’s Supper. If baptism is the sacrament of initiation, then we can view the Lord’s Supper as the “sacrament of continuation.” Unlike baptism, which is to be received only once (Eph. 4:5), the Lord’s Supper is received continually throughout the Christian life. In this sacrament, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:26).

Of course, the Lord’s Supper was instituted on the night in which Jesus was betrayed (Luke 22:14–20). Christ gave the sacrament during the Passover meal, indicating that it would commemorate a new exodus, just as the old covenant Passover was eaten in memory of the exodus from Egypt. This new exodus is the rescue from sin and death that Jesus accomplished for His people in His atonement and resurrection (Isa. 53; Matt. 1:21; Rom. 3:21–26; Heb. 9:15).

Question 75 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks us how the Lord’s Supper reminds and assures us that we share in the benefits of our Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. In answering the question, the catechism stresses the connection we are to draw between our sensory experience of the sacrament and the theological point it conveys. The breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine, we read, should prompt us to recall that Christ was broken on the cross for us. As we see the bread torn, we are to remember that His flesh was torn by the nails in His hands and feet, and by the spear thrust into His side (John 19:31–37; 20:25). As we see the wine poured into the cup, we are to remember that Jesus’ blood poured forth from His wounds on the cross (Mark 14:24). The Lord’s Supper is a visible word to us that depicts what happened on Calvary.

When the elements are distributed to us, we are reminded that Jesus bled and was broken for us—for those who trust in Him alone. Our Savior gave His very life to redeem His sheep, yet we tend to get distracted and forget the wondrous reality of the atonement. In giving us this sacrament, which is to be received on a regular basis, God has condescended to our weakness that we might not forget what He has done in sending His Son, the One who offered Himself on the cross through the Spirit (Heb. 9:14).

Did Jesus Suffer the Wrath of the Father for All Sinners, or Just the Elect?

R.C. Sproul Jr.

Just for the elect. This truth is hard for some people for what seems like a good reason- It shows God treating people unequally. If Christ's atoning work covers only some people, doesn't this somehow make God unfair, treating one group of people one way, and another group of people another way? If people end up in different places, some in heaven and some in hell, then we can either attribute the difference to how God acts in our lives, or in how we act in ourselves. The latter choice has a great deal going for it. It absolves God of the charge of treating people differently. And no one in hell, of course, can complain about being there. They are there by their own doing.

The first choice, however, has three things going better for it. First, it means some people will actually go to heaven. Given the scope of our sinfulness, were God merely to make our salvation possible, (which is itself a limitation of the atonement) and then dependent upon our natural obedience to His call, none would come. Dead people do not respond to the call to repentance, unless they are first made alive.

The second advantage is that this is what the Bible teaches. Consider, for instance, Jesus' High Priestly prayer. If it is incumbent upon God to treat all men the same, would it not be incumbent on Jesus to pray for all men the same way? What, then, are we to make of this- "I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours" (John 17:9). Here Jesus explicitly denies praying for those who are not His, while affirming that He prays for those who are His. Now if Jesus is unwilling to pray for those who were not chosen, on what grounds can we claim that He suffered the wrath of the Father for the sins of those for whom He would not pray? Remember that God explicitly affirms His liberty to treat some people differently than others- "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion'" (Romans 9:15). What we try to free God from, the accusation that He treats some people one way and others another God proudly affirms.

There is a third serious problem with the notion that Jesus died for all sins of all people. Hell. If Jesus atoned for all sins, just for what are the sinners in hell suffering? Those who seek to "protect" God's integrity by arguing He must treat us all the same end up, accidentally, affirming that God punishes the same sins twice, once on Calvary and again in hell. Some might object in turn that the sinners in hell are being punished for their unbelief. But that too is a sin, and thus would have already been punished. If all sins have been atoned for, they can't be punished.

God owes man nothing save damnation. What He chooses to give, outside of damnation, is all of grace. Which means in turn that He treats His elect one way, and the reprobate another. All to the everlasting praise of His glory.

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