When building a house, a blueprint is very valuable. The various contractors and builders working on the house must consult the blueprint. They must follow its precepts, and adhere to its pattern. It becomes a kind of law that assures the proper construction of the house. Once the house is finished, however, the blueprint has served its purpose.
The family is not going to move into the blueprint!
The blueprint, as valuable as it was, cannot serve the same function as the house that it pointed to. This is a lesson yet to be learned by those who insist upon a literal fulfillment of Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) prophecy. They are still looking for a temporal return to the types and shadows of the law, rather than dwelling in the house of reality that these patterns have produced.
In addition to shadow and pattern, the law is said to be a figure. Hebrews 9 tells us of the first tabernacle:
It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience –
Concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation (Hebrews 9:9-11).
The word “symbolic” (“figure” in KJV) is not the same as “type,” but it is roughly the same as a metaphor or parable. It means “to place alongside,” which suggests a comparison, and it is used here in the sense of image or symbol – something that represents something else. The first tabernacle, with all of its temporal services, was a representation of the tabernacle to come under Christ, and stands in contrast to this spiritual tabernacle not made with hands. Since we are not normally capable of understanding spiritual things directly, the Bible uses physical things to represent the spiritual. This explains the difference between the first and second tabernacles. Hebrews 9 reads,
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).
Those who hold to the literal interpretation of prophecy want Christ to return in flesh and blood to enter into a literal tabernacle, but the only one ever intended for Christ to enter is the one made without hands, and he entered this tabernacle nearly 2,000 years ago. This tabernacle set forth the “good things to come” as foreshadowed by the law (Hebrew 10:1; Hebrews 9:11). The “good things” have come in this spiritual tabernacle.
Hebrews 8:5 tells us that the law system was an example, and in Hebrews 3:5 it is presented as a witness, or a testimony:
And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward.
The things that were to “be spoken afterward” are the same as “the good things” that were to come under the heavenly or spiritual paradigm. These things have come to us in truth. The things of which the law testified have been spoken, and the good things of which it was a (fore)shadow are now a reality. The house has been built, and we dwell in it.
Once we understand the law as a type or a foreshadowing, pointing to better things to come, we are in a better position to understand the truth spoken of in John 1:17. If Moses gave the law for the purposes just stated, then it follows that truth is the paradigm that was to come after the pattern or shadow of the law. If the law was a shadow, then truth is that which is affirmed by Paul with respect to Christ and the Sabbath,
So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).
If the first tabernacle was a pattern or figure, then one may expect to find a second tabernacle, which is said to be “of truth.” We might expect this tabernacle to be spiritual in nature. Hebrews 8 points to this:
Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, A minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man (Hebrews 8:1-2).
The true tabernacle refers to the one that was typified – blueprinted or foreshadowed – by the first tabernacle of the law; this true tabernacle is one that the Bible says is made without hands, spiritual. This is further explored in Hebrews 9:24:
For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.
Again, the word “true” is found in relationship to the tabernacle built by Christ, which helps one to see what is meant by the truth that was given by Christ in contrast to the law given by Moses.
To say that the true tabernacle arrived under Christ does not mean that the one given under Moses was false in design or faulty in construction. It was everything God wanted it to be, as a pattern or figure of the one to come. But it was not of the state or nature that God wanted as a permanent tabernacle. The true, permanent tabernacle is made of that which is beyond the local and material, drawing humanity together in a transcendent, inclusive way. This is the basic meaning of the term truth as given by Christ.
Truth is the spiritual nature of the New Testament paradigm in contrast to the temporal or fleshly nature of the Old Testament paradigm. The flesh had to be first that it might be followed by the spiritual. This is to be seen in the nature of the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael, who was first, was born after the “flesh,” but Isaac, who was to eventually receive the inheritance, was born after the Spirit (Galatians 4:21-31). In an upcoming post we’ll examine these two sons in greater detail.
The law was for the purpose of typifying the spiritual state under Christ. A literal application of Old Testament prophecy returns one to the temporal conditions of the law, and denies the truth or spiritual paradigm of the gospel as the culmination of God’s revelation. The literalistic approach to prophecy reduces the truth or spiritual paradigm of the New Testament to a temporary period of substitution, until the time comes when Christ shall return and restore humanity to the temporal, by means of a fleshly fulfillment of all Old Testament prophecy. It results in a turning away from the state of fulfillment to a pattern of foreshadowing, which feels foreign to the trajectory of Scripture. It is moving precisely backward.
When we look at last week’s delightfully anachronistic chart, we see the idea behind the Law and the Truth. It illustrates the shadow and the body; the pattern and the product; the figure or type, and the antitype. This basic picture is presented in the two sons of Abraham, the one being born after the flesh, and the other after the Spirit. In Galatians 4 we see that the mothers of these two sons represent the two covenants, and the two sons represent the two nations born of the covenants – namely fleshly and spiritual Israel. We have already seen in the book of Hebrews that the first covenant contained temporal ordinances as a type or shadow of “good things to come” under the second covenant, which, as typified by Isaac, is spiritual by nature. It is constituted of things “not made with hands,” but born of the Spirit of God.
Join us each Monday as we blog through The Spirit of Prophecy by Max King. (And if you get impatient, of course, you can always get the book inspiring these posts here.) Next week we’ll begin looking at ten things which existed under the law paradigm in a temporal (or literal) sense, and then their truth/spiritual fulfillment counterparts, witnessing the change made from the flesh to Spirit.