Shadows become a reality in Christ

Nativity Scene, Adoration of the Magi , Saint Etienne du Mont Church, Paris.

A shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Colossians 2:17 (J.N.D.).

The Old Testament is a kind of picture book that is explained in the New Testament. It is a book full of “silhouettes” only recognizable by reference to the New Testament. The Israelites’ sacrifices, the feasts, the laws concerning clean and unclean food, the different rituals are all such “shadows”. A shadow is naturally not the object itself, but from the shadow the actual object can often be recognized.

Reading the Old Testament, one should certainly ask, “What does this represent spiritually?” Paul gives an answer in general terms: “The body is of Christ.” This means: Old Testament statements signify something referring to Christ.

One simple example of such a “silhouette”, which is like a thread of scarlet running through the entire Old Testament is the sacrificial lamb. The tunics of skin that God made for the first human couple after the fall through sin show that an animal had to die as a substitute for them. Abraham also had to offer a ram instead of his son. What is recorded of the Passover lamb is also significant in this respect (cf. Exodus 12:5-13).

In the New Testament we find the real substance. What did John the Baptist say about Jesus, when he saw Him? “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus Christ is thus the substitutionary sin offering for those who believe in Him. And in the last book of the Bible the “Lamb as it had been slain” appears, yet alive! Indeed, Christ rose again. He lives!