Shadows and Substance
Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
Paul states in no uncertain terms that the Mosaic Law in this respect of keeping certain days, is a shadow of the things that were to come. In Hebrews we see that this word also refers to the offerings and ceremonials under the Mosaic law Heb.8;5; 10:1 But what does it mean that these were a shadow?
We are all aware from every day experience of what a shadow is. If we think of a tree on a bright sunny day. The tree blocks the sunlight and a dark outline of the tree is seen on the ground. What is not seen are the details of the tree. Only its outline is visible.
The Mosaic Law is only a shadow of the true that was to come. It was not the reality that God had for us. It outlined God’s plan and purpose yes, but not the very thing itself. By living in these things, the shadow of reality, we are blocking out the glorious light of God from our hearts. We would only see the outline; the details would be missing. We would not be living in and enjoying the reality that is in Christ.
D5.2 Made according to pattern
…. there are priests that offer gifts according to the law who serve unto the example (=similitude, or to show by tracing out) and shadow of heavenly things as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle for see saith He that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount
In Hebrews the writer presents to us the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant to that of the Old Covenant and its rituals. Here in this passage the writer reminds us that when God set about giving the instructions for the Tabernacle, God said to Moses to make it according to the pattern shown in the Mountain. Later on in Hebrews the writer says these were the patterns of the heavens, Heb.9:23.
We have therefore, the revelation that the Tabernacle was made according to the patterns of the heavens! In the previous quote the writer includes the offerings in the law as made according to pattern. That would include the sacrificial system and indeed the festivals. This is a big key in understanding the types in light of the New Covenant.
The writer makes the point that these were shadows or examples. The latter word meaning similitude or, to show by tracing out (Vine). Here then we have it laid out in the NT revelation that the OT law was an outline of the reality we have in Christ. It was not the reality itself. They all point in outline to Christ Himself.
D5.3 A God inspired commentary
The book of Hebrews is a wonderful revelation of truths we would not otherwise know. For example the Priesthood of Christ. Hebrews is the only book of Scripture that deals with it. Had Hebrews not been written we would not have known that Christ is our Great High Priest, no other book mentions the fact!
As an example of how Hebrews reveals that Christ is the fulfilment of the law. We consider the following from the ninth chapter. The writer is describing the Tabernacle and then the day of Atonement:
Now when these things were thus ordained the priests went into the first tabernacle [the Holy place] accomplishing the service of God. But into the second [the Holy of Holies] which he offered for himself and the errors of the people the Holy Ghost this signifying that the way into the Holiest was not yet made manifest whilst the first Tabernacle was standing, which was a figure (= parable) ……but Christ being come a High Priest of good things to come by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands ……neither by the blood of goats and calves but by His own blood He entered once [ + for all, i.e. never to be repeated] into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us.
A detailed consideration is not possible here. But we see plainly that the writer uses the OT Tabernacle and Day of Atonement ceremony as on outline what Christ did for us. The writer use the words signifying. This means to make plain. So the fact that the High Priest only could enter the Holist of all once a year is a plain statement that until Christ came the way to God was not open. The second word is figure, which means parable, or in type as we could say.
The point being, for our purposes, is that the OT rituals, law and ceremonies were all a shadow, an outline of the true. Since no one shadow could possibly give a thorough outline of the person and work of Christ, we have many such shadows. Even then they cannot possibly exhaust the wonders of Christ, His person and work.
D5.4 Christ the reality
For the Law having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect for then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because the that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins…. He [Jesus] taketh away the first that He may establish the second by the which we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
It is not the purpose of this article to give the exposition this passage deserves, but to point out the facts pertinent to our theme. In this verses we see that the OT sacrifices are still called shadows. We also note that these sacrifices were repeated time and again, meaning that they could not take away sins. If they could then those offering them would not have consciences of sins at all.
In verse 4 we have the statement: it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin. This is an absolute statement: animal sacrifices do not and can not take away sins. So by living under the shadow there is no provision for sins to be cleansed.
In contrast Jesus’ death did the very thing those animal sacrifices pointed to, but could not achieve. The purging of sin and our conscience before a thrice holy God. Furthermore, it was only needed to be done once. The phrase once for all is another absolute statement, meaning it will never be repeated. So, to refuse that sacrifice is to refuse the only hope of salvation. There is no more sacrifice for sin, the one and only once and for all sacrifice has been made by Jesus Christ.
One then sees the folly of living still in the shadows and be judged in respect to the OT law.
The Body is of Christ or as one version renders it: the body is Christ. In other words, the totality, the substance or reality of these shadows is fulfilled in Christ.
The OT law and ceremonies, sacrifices, feasts and so on were not the reality that God had for us. They were shadows, outlines of the true. The reality of all these shadows is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, in both His glorious person and His great Redeeming work at Calvary. All of the OT spoke of Christ and His work, see for example Lk. 24:44.
Anyone who wants to remain in these shadows will not be in the light of the Gospel, they will still be in darkness. No wonder Paul exhorts us not to let anyone judge us with regards to keeping these laws. In the NC the Law of God is written in our hearts, for it is Christ in you the hope of glory.