Heaven One Long Eucharist: Ian Macpherson on Eschatology and the Lord’s Supper

Ian Macpherson is well remembered as one of the greatest preachers of British Pentecostalism in general, and of the Apostolic Church in particular. He was also quite a prolific author, principal of our Bible College in Penygroes, and a hymn writer. And one of Pastor Macpherson’s great interests was the Breaking of Bread. He was so concerned that we have suitable songs to sing around the Lord’s Table that he compiled a new hymnbook – Hymns at the Holy Table – to be used as a supplement to the Redemption Hymnal for the Breaking of Bread service. In fact, he wrote several of the hymns for the new book himself (with several also being included in the New Redemption Hymnal), and through his hymns he teaches us quite a bit about the Lord’s Table.

But one particular line struck me recently. It’s the final line of Macpherson’s hymn ‘Here at our Holy Feast’ (No. 52 in Hymns at the Holy Table): ‘Heaven one long Eucharist.’ The last verse of the hymn speaks of how, in the resurrection, we shall eternally dine with Christ, ending with this description of heaven as one long eucharist.

The description is striking; yet it isn’t a one off in Macpherson’s hymns. Elsewhere he describes how we’ll feed on the Bread of God ‘throughout eternity’ (HHT No. 18, in a verse Macpherson wrote and added to Bonar’s hymn ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’). The Lord’s Supper, then, is an anticipation of the heavenly feast, not only in terms of feasting with Christ, but also in feeding on Christ, the true Bread of God. At the Table we look forward to Christ’s coming, not to bring an end to the Eucharist, but to usher it in in greater fullness. Where now at the Table we have a foretaste of the love and joy of communion with the Trinity:

Then at a higher feast
In that abode Divine,
Our love and joy increased,
We shall sit down to dine
With Father, Holy Spirit, Son,
While the eternal ages run.

(HHT No. 57, a verse by Macpherson added to Charles Wesley’s ‘Author of Life Divine’)
And for Macpherson, that higher feast is the very central reality of heaven. Rather than an image of the saints in heaven bowed before a throne of power, Macpherson invites us to see the saints – to see our future – seated at the Table, and so to recognise that the Table is Christ’s throne.
Then when in heaven we sit around Thy table,
Hunger and thirst for evermore unknown,
We shall adore Thee as we’re now unable
And find that table an eternal throne.

(HHT No. 46, ‘O Bread of Life, this hungry world requires Thee’)
Yet the heavenly Table-Throne is not different from the Table around which we gather on the Lord’s Day. There we will know it in fullness, but already we see in part. And so, as we gather around the Lord’s Table in our assemblies, in reality we are gathering with the heavenly hosts around the Lamb upon the Throne, and ‘we here inherit / all that heaven can bestow’ (HHT No. 6, ‘Saviour, seated at Thy table’). At the Table, as we enjoy communion with Christ in His body and blood, we have a foretaste of the heavenly glory, and share in all the blessings with which God has blessed us in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). That’s why we hear older Pentecostals speak of healing at the Table, or hear testimonies of those baptised with the Spirit in the Breaking of Bread, for at the Table of the Lord, the blessings of the Throne are poured out on His saints in a foretaste of the heavenly glory.

Now we have the foretaste. After Christ returns we shall have the fullness. Then we shall enjoy ‘heaven, one long eucharist’ as we know full communion with Jesus, and with His Father and the Spirit, one God in three persons, blessed Trinity.