For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. (Hebrews 10:1)
Imagine you are returning from a long trip. It’s been two weeks since you have seen your spouse. As the plane taxis down the runway, you feel the anticipation beginning to build. You exit the plane and coming down the ramp, you see a shadow from the terminal—you would recognize that shadow anywhere—it is the shape of your mate—and your heart races at the prospect of holding them in your arms again. Now, I ask you, would you fall down and kiss the shadow? Would you try to hug the shadow? It holds the promise of something real, but of itself it cannot satisfy the longing of your heart. Yet, there were Hebrews who were trying to embrace the shadow and exclude the Savior.
When the writer of Hebrews spoke of the law in 10:1-4, he echoed Paul’s words in Colossians 2:17, where he spoke of the Mosaic rituals and regulations as, “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
God is utterly holy and unless we meet His perfect standard we cannot be accepted by Him. No matter how religious we are or how much ritual we observe, we cannot do enough—our sins are still with us, and those sins will condemn us. The blood of animals being sacrificed cannot blot out our sins! The Old Covenant pointed people to the Savior but could not provide their salvation. Then, how were the Old Testament saints saved? The same as you—by faith—but their faith had to look for a Savior to come, while ours looks back at One who has come.
Sin haunts the conscience—guilt being the ghost. Our conscience feels guilt in the same way our body feels pain—it is a warning system. The thousands and thousands of bloody sacrifices offered could never take away sin. In fact, they were a reminder of the sin and its penalty of death! It remained for Jesus to take away sin. Twice it is stressed in Hebrews 10:5-10 how Jesus came to do His Father’s will. The shadow has been forever replaced by its substance! The Old Testament offerings gave a promise of salvation, but couldn’t provide it. It made demands for holiness but couldn’t deliver it. In Jesus we are made sanctified—that’s how God views us now!
The cross is the symbol of our faith—it is central in our message. I read of a chapel where the arch was engraved with the words, “We Preach Christ Crucified.” Another generation was repulsed by this and focused on the example of His life—not the efficacy of His death. They allowed ivy to grow over a portion of the inscription and all you could read was, “We Preach Christ.” The next generation was even more liberal, the ivy covered more and it only read, “We Preach.” That is what the church has done today—even among evangelicals
There were many priests with much activity and they never sat down because they never were done. But, One Man—Jesus—offered one sacrifice, once and for all, and sat down—mission accomplished (Heb.10:11-14)! We have a New Covenant (v.15-18) that made us righteous positionally—in Christ; progressively—Christ in us; one day perfectly—with Christ and like Him forever!
Don’t trade the substance for the shadow!