One can think of three tenses associated with the Lord’s Supper: the past (the accomplishment of redemption), the present (the application of redemption), and the future (the consummation of redemption).
When we take the Supper, we do so in remembrance of Christ’s death. The Lord’s Supper calls us to look back because it is connected to the past work of Christ’s redemption (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:24). It has a distinct element of memorial to it, just like the Passover of the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 12; Leviticus 9; Deuteronomy 16). When we take the Lord’s Supper, we must never forget what we are remembering: the just One dying for unjust ones that He might bring us into the safe presence of God (cf. 1 Peter 3:18). The Lord’s Supper reminds us that redemption has been won for us by Christ, the captain of our salvation who brings many sons to glory (cf. Hebrews 2:10).
At the Supper, we enjoy present communion with Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16). As the church, we commune together in and share together the present benefits of His blood and His body given for us long ago. It’s a bond and pledge of present communion with Christ and the benefits He purchased for us and gives to us. Furthermore, the Supper is a covenant meal. Just as the Old Covenant had a covenantal meal connected to the covenantal blood in the special presence of God (cf. Exodus 24:1-11), so does the New Covenant. The “blood of the covenant” indicates entrance into covenantal relations with God. Thus, when we take the Lord’s Supper it is a covenantal renewal meal. It does not bring us into covenant with God; rather, it reminds us that we are in covenant with Him through Christ and it enhances that covenantal bond. When we take the Supper, we are reasserting allegiance to the exalted Christ together.
However, the Lord’s Supper is also connected to the future. Our Lord said He will drink with His people in the future in His Father’s kingdom. In Matthew 26:29, Jesus said,
But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.
In 1 Corinthians 11:26, Paul said,
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
When Paul exhorts his readers to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes, this is not intended as a mere chronological remark concerning the perpetual validity of the observance of the Supper in the church. Rather, it suggests the idea that when the Lord comes again, there will be no longer be a need to observe this sacrament. Thus, when we presently observe the Lord’s Supper, there is an anticipation of what the eschatological state has in store for all believers in Christ. Thus, the Lord’s Supper not only points to the past and minister grace in the present; it also points to the future, when the Son of God will drink of the fruit of the vine with us. There is a prospect held out for us, an eschatological feast in the New Heavens and the New Earth. There will be eating and feasting at the consummation. All of this is due to the blood of the Lamb, slain for sinners, in orders to bring us to God.
The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the past, blesses us in the present, and looks to future feasting with the Lamb in all His glory.