The Law, a Shadow of Things to Come

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. (Heb. 10:1)

Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Col. 2:17)

The Law, A Shadow of Things to Come

It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is Old Testament revealed. However, many preachers do not understand the relationship between the types and shadows of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the New Testament (Col. 2:17).

When interpreting and applying Old Testament scriptures many have ignored a very important hermeneutic principle of interpretation. That is:

When interpreting the relationship between the types and shadows of the Old Testament and their fulfillment in the New Testament, we must progress in revelation and knowledge from a revealed truth (the New Testament covenant of Grace) in order to understand a concealed truth (the Old Testament covenant of The Law).

Think of the Law as the shadow of an object which is cast backward through time. The shadow (in this instance) is the Old Testament typology of the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Lk. 24:44). The object which cast the shadow backward through time is the cross of Jesus Christ, His finished work, and the New Testament of Grace.

In other words, as New Testament believers, we must interpret the types and shadows of the Law from the standpoint of Grace rather than interpret Grace from the standpoint of the Law.

Just because we are first introduced to The Law (the shadow) does not mean that we are to use the Law to interpret Grace (the body casting the shadow) (Col.2:17). Why is this so?

A shadow cannot interpret or give meaning to the object that cast the shadow. However, the object that casts the shadow interprets and gives meaning to the shadow. In this case, the shadow (the Law) is a vague and ambiguous representation of something else (Grace).

No shadow can provide enough detail to reveal all there is to know about the object it represents. All we can expect are hints and clues.

For example, the shadow of a person might not be clear enough to tell if it were a man or a woman, much less whom it is. The shadow of a plane or bird flying would not reveal its type. Even the shadow of a hand and two fingers cast upon the ground may appear to be a rabbit, a dog, or some other creature.

The truth is, until the object that cast the shadow is fully known or revealed, questions will remain. What color, how tall, deep, or wide an object is will remain a mystery until the object itself is in plain view.

A shadow is only a temporary representation and exists because there is a true object that cast the shadow. Likewise:

We can only interpret the Law as we fully know Christ as revealed in the New Covenant of Grace

Similarly, as the Old Testament believers had only the Law, we are unable to fully interpret what we find there because it is only a shadow of good things to come. Nevertheless, if we track the shadow it will lead us to its source, the cross.

In other words, the Law is intended to “bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).

The unknown or concealed truth in this instance consists of the types and shadows of the Law itself. That is why we refer to them as types and shadows, because they represent something else-something yet to come. The revealed or known truth in this instance is that:

Jesus Christ, His finished work of atonement, and the New Covenant of Grace is the true object that cast the shadow (backward) into the Old Testament.

If we can understand this, our understanding of Grace theology is much clearer. The Law with its types and shadows does not interpret Grace, but rather, Grace interprets the Law. Grace, therefore is the true object known only by revelation, and the Law is merely the shadow of Grace not yet revealed or made known.

You see, the Bible tells us very plainly that the Law is our schoolmaster (a guardian who teaches) to bring us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). However:

The legalist preaches Christ to bring believers under the yoke of the Law. Therefore, legalism makes Christ the shadow and the Law the fulfillment or object of truth (Acts 15:10). The result is:

Legalism removes the believer from Calvary and the liberty of the cross of Christ, and takes him back to Sinai to the yoke of bondage. The legalist might begin his message at Calvary, but eventually he will end up at Sinai. However:

On the other hand, the Grace believer preaches the Law to bring men to Christ. An understanding of Grace makes the Law the shadow and Christ the fulfillment or object of truth. The result is:

Grace removes men from Sinai and the bondage of the Law, takes them to Calvary, and plants them in the grace and liberty of God. Remember, track the shadow (the Law) to its source (Christ) (Gal. 3:24).

The Grace preacher may begin his message at Sinai or from the Old Testament, but he will always end up at Calvary. For example:

When preaching Christ from the Old Testament – Philip, Paul, and Aquila used the Law to bring others to Christ. They did not preach Christ for the Law’s sake; they preached the Law for Christ’s sake. They made use of the Law to show that Jesus was the Christ because he was the only person in history who could truly fulfill all the types, shadows, and prophecies given in the Old Testament concerning the Messiah(Gal. 3:24-25; Acts 8:32-35, 17:2-3, 18:28).

When preaching to the Ethiopian Eunuch, Philip the evangelist understood that the lamb brought to the slaughter and the sheep shorn in Isaiah 53 was none other than Jesus Christ (Isa. 53:7; Acts 8:32-35)! Likewise, as Grace believers we must use the Law to preach Christ and not use Christ to preach the Law!

We Have Found Him!

Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. (Jn. 1:45)

Paul says when we discover the source of the shadow we have found the true object itself, and have no further need for a schoolmaster (the Law). Therefore:

The Law is no longer in force today, to those who are in Christ

Why? The Law has served its intended purpose; it has brought us to Christ. Paul says, the Law is abolished, decayeth, waxeth old and is ready to vanish away (2 Cor. 3:13; Heb. 8:13).

In spite of what the legalist may say, we are no longer under the Law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 3:24-25). In Grace we find Christ, full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14).

No wonder the apostle Philip could say, We have found him, of whom Moses in the Law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Philip identified Jesus as the Christ, because the Old Testament scriptures testified of Him (Jn. 5:39).

In conclusion, when we preach from the Old Testament, we must preach the mysteries of Christ and the grace and truth that are in Him, and not the legalism of the Law. The sad reality is-many preachers today do not preach Christ except to bring people into the bondage of legalism. This, of course is wrong.

The Judaizers and Pharisees of Paul’s day made this same mistake in regards to circumcision and the keeping of the Sabbath day (Acts 15:1; Mk. 2:23-24). They were zealous for the Law of God, yet they lacked spiritual understanding. They focused their ministry on the shadow rather than the object that cast the shadow.

Today the legalist is making the same error in regard to the new birth, water baptism, the Sabbath, rules regarding apparel, the wearing of makeup and jewelry, length of hair, food and drink, television, movies, and a host of other things they believe essential for salvation and righteous standing with God.

However, the Grace believer understands that God intended that the Law should serve Christ, and not that Christ should serve the Law.

For it is written “..the elder [the Law] shall serve the younger [Grace]” (Rom. 9:12). Jesus understood this principle when he corrected the Pharisees by saying, “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27).