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Bible verses about Shadow of Things to Come
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Colossians 2:16-17

An alternate translation may help us to understand what Paul is getting at here: "These are a shadow of future things, but the reality [what is real or firm] belongs to Christ."

Old Testament activities or types point to spiritual realities under the New Covenant. He is not saying that Old Covenant activities no longer have to be observed, but rather that they need to be raised—elevated—to be understood and applied in their God-intended, spiritual sense.

Protestant scholars understand this fact, and they will even remark on it in their commentaries. Notice Conybeare and Howson's The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, page 346: "The festivals observed by the apostolic church were at the first the same with those of the Jews; and the observation of these was continued, especially by the Christians of Jewish birth, for a considerable time."

On page 574, they write: "Nay, more. He himself [Paul] observed the Jewish festivals." This clarifies that Colossians 2:16-17 is not telling us that the festivals—those so-called "Old Testament laws"—are done away. Rather, he is saying that they are to be raised, elevated, understood in a spiritual sense, rather than something that is merely material and physical.

Conybeare and Howson's conclusion is that, contrary to the common misunderstanding of these verses, the Bible and history show that the apostolic church kept God's holy days. Congregations dominated by Gentiles were the first to break away from them, as being too "Jewish," and begin to keep festivals like Christmas and Easter.

However, did keeping pagan festivals show forth the praises of God? The apostles clearly did not think so, or they would have kept them. It begins to become clear that Old Testament activities contain valuable instruction for the new covenant church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 1)


 

Hebrews 9:9

The sacrifices and offerings, though sincerely and fastidiously performed over centuries, could never accomplish what the offerers looked to them to do. They are symbols, shadows, of events and processes that have a far greater scope than most people ever realize. Though they are no longer necessary - because they were fulfilled primarily in the sacrifice of Christ "once for all" (Hebrews 9:11) - they can still teach us a great deal about this way to which we have committed our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering


 

Hebrews 10:1

Scripture clearly teaches that the Old Covenant ceremonies are symbolic of essential, New Covenant, spiritual truths. Further, the author reinforces this by saying they are "a shadow of good things to come." The verb "having" in Hebrews 10:1 is a present active participle, expressing continuous or repeated action. This means that the Old Covenant ordinances of divine service and the sanctuary are still valid and effective teaching vehicles.

Where there is a shadow, there must also be a reality. In this instance, the reality is the life of Christ—the reality we are to strive to emulate as closely as we can, "as dear children," as Paul puts it, to be "a sweet-smelling aroma" to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).

In Luke 24:27, Jesus buttresses this concept while instructing the two men on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection: "And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." Jesus draws teaching from the books of Moses to show parallels with His own life.

Be careful not to make the careless mistake of thinking of the offerings as childish, insignificant, primitive, or barbaric. Undoubtedly, they are different from what we are culturally familiar. However, these quoted scriptures make it clear that God intended all along to use them as teaching vehicles. To those under the Old Covenant, the offerings looked forward to what would occur. We look back on what occurred and accept the spiritual intent of the teaching as applicable to us under the New Covenant.

The sacrifices of Leviticus stood at the heart of the worship of God under the Old Covenant. The overall image we may retain from them may indeed be of an endless number of bulls, sheep, goats, and birds slaughtered and burned with profound solemnity on a smoking altar. However, there is absolutely no doubt that they prefigured the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in His death by crucifixion. Less understood is that they also foreshadowed the depth of His consecrated devotion to God and man in His life. Even less understood is how they demonstrate the life we also are to exemplify as living sacrifices.

Is not being living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, and not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of our minds into the image of Christ our Redeemer, to be at the center of our lives once we are redeemed (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:13)?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part One): Introduction


 

 




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