Figures “Until the Time of Reformation”
Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. (Hebrews 9:1-10 KJV 1900)
Historically, Christian writing and preaching has referred to Old Testament lessons that point to Jesus and the New Testament as “Types and shadows.” “A” in the Old Testament is said to be a “Type or shadow” of Jesus or something in the New Testament. The Greek word translated “figure” in Verse 9 of this passage was translated from the same Greek word as the word “Parable” in the gospels. The word identifies the literary tool of putting two things side by side and dealing with the similarities, allowing the similarity in the “Figure” to depict or in some way represent the reality the teacher intends to convey. A literary “Type” or “Shadow” is more subtle than a “Parable.” The point of the word in this lesson reminds us; what God intended in the Levitical priesthood and rituals was quite direct, not at all subtle. What did God design to teach His Old Testament people through the multitude of priests and rituals established primarily in Leviticus under that priesthood? This lesson and much of the first ten chapters in Hebrews takes us by the hand and gently teaches us these truths.
I fully understand that my view is something of a minority view, but I am not personally comfortable interpreting an Old Testament lesson as a “Type or shadow” unless I find some indication of that divine intent as I read the New Testament. I have often heard preachers or other Bible students read an Old Testament lesson, often one that never appears in a New Testament reference at all, and proclaim, “This is a type of Jesus.” While the writings of the old English Christian Benjamin Keach contain many worthwhile thoughts, I fear that his writings set an excessive example in this line of thinking, as if everything that appears in the Old Testament is a “Type” of something or someone in the New Testament. When I encounter this line of thinking, I am inclined to ask, “If this is the case, why didn’t at least one New Testament inspired writer make this point?” If not one New Testament writer ever suggested this specific typological interpretation of that Old Testament passage, on what authority can we claim this typological interpretation? The typical objection to my reserved hermeneutic on typology is “That is too restrictive. If your view is correct, what do we have in the Old Testament that we can apply to Jesus and New Testament truths?” And my answer would be, “Read Hebrews.” Hebrews captures a near endless array of Old Testament truths and gives us an inspired interpretation of their New Testament object. If we carefully examine the New Testament text and document every reference to an Old Testament passage, we will discover hundreds of such references, and each reference gives us the Holy Spirit’s intended interpretation of that Old Testament passage. We have no need to rely on our private interpretation based on our imagination.
Our study passage affirms that God intended His Old Testament law, specifically the whole priestly order and work, to be a temporary vehicle to teach His Old Testament people, to point their faith to the coming Jesus. Once Jesus came, that law fulfilled its divine purpose and was replaced by the glorious reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and His perfect finished work. The “Type,” “Shadow,” and “Parable” were replaced by the glorious reality of God manifest in flesh and received back into glory upon completing His Incarnational assignment.
The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing. So long as those priests did their periodic work with God’s approval, the Holy Spirit was teaching His people in that generation that the Messiah, God come in human flesh, had not yet come. It is not at all coincidental that, simultaneous with Jesus’ final announcement and death on the cross, an earthquake occurred that tore the temple curtain apart. At the very moment of Jesus’ death, the divine teaching purpose for the Old Testament priesthood and sacrificial system was completed, its divine purpose fulfilled and therefore ended, replaced by Jesus and His new and better way. God immediately declared that all the rich truths symbolically taught by those rituals were now a richer reality to be seen and understood in Jesus.
To get a sense of what this “Shadow” idea means, consider a simple illustration. You are standing in the warm sun on a spring day, talking with a friend. When you want to make a point with your friend, do you focus on your friend’s eyes, or do you focus on the shadow of his head on the ground? Do you place your hand on his shoulder, or do you move your hand so that the shadow of your hand appears by the shadow of your friend’s shoulder? When Christians become so bogged down by the rituals of Levitical orders that they spend more time with Levi than with Jesus, they practice the same illogical behavior. They are obsessing over the shadows of Jesus while all but ignoring the reality of Jesus before them. It was no accident that Paul, I believe the inspired writer of Hebrews, makes the point in Chapter 12, that we are to set aside weights (Could some of those weights for first century Jewish believers have been too much focus on Levi and too little on Jesus?) and besetting sins, and to faithfully and continually keep our faith’s vision “…Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2a) If we look too intently to Levi, we neglect looking to Jesus. Likewise, as we observed in an earlier study, if we focus too much attention on trivial details or conjecture regarding Melchisedec, we are liable to neglect looking to Jesus as fully and intently as we should. That lesson reminds us; Jesus is our one and only true Priest and King. And, in our present study, Jesus is our one and only true Priest who has completed every detail of sacrifice and intercession depicted in all the “Types,” “Shadows,” and “Parables” of the Levitical order. When we write or preach on these passages and the rituals they set forth, we are faith-bound to keep our focus on …Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, not on Melchisedec, or Levi, or the near endless rituals to be seen in Leviticus. The inference in the Greek word translated “Looking” in this verse implies that we need to “Look off and away” to Jesus. This implies a question. Off and away from what? And the answer faithfully affirmed in Hebrews is “Off and away” from all of the old orders, types, shadows, parables, and rituals to the glorious reality of the Lord Jesus Christ.
…in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. Both in this verse and in Hebrews 10:1-4, we learn that Moses’ Law and all the sacrifices offered under its priesthood could not put away the sins of God’s people. The idea occasionally surfaces that people were saved before Jesus came by keeping Moses’ Law. Both of these passages emphatically teach that putting away sins was impossible for all of those sacrifices, or by any other function of Moses’ Law. In fact, this lesson takes the point further. Nothing done under Moses’ Law or its sacrifices could resolve the convicted conscience of God’s people much less put away their sins before God. Whether for conscience or for a permanent removal of sins from their account before God, nothing in the Law could deal with the sin problem. Its purpose was to remind God’s people who worshipped under its provisions that God had provided a remedy for their sins yet to come at a future time.
Another comforting point from Scripture, Jesus’ sufferings and death covered the sins of His people in the Old Testament era just as He covers our sins today. (Romans 3:25; “…for the remission of sins that are past”) Jesus’ sufferings and death are not limited by time, past or future. Just as He died to put away your sins, He also died to put away Abel’s sins, Noah’s sins, and Abraham’s sins. They, no less than you and I, shall sing the same redemption song in glory. If we accept the logical point of Revelation 5:9, “Thou art worthy…thou has redeemed us to God…” all of these Old Testament children of grace were actually present in glory at the time John heard heaven’s melody in these words. They were singing praise to Jesus just as Stephen was singing His praise.
…imposed on them until the time of reformation. The “…time of reformation” refers to the new and better administration of God’s dealings with His people. Moses’ Law served God’s people from Moses to Jesus, beginning around 1500 BC. God ever intended this “Reformation” from old to new, from prophetic to fulfillment, from symbol to reality. All the gifts, sacrifices, and related rituals under the Levitical order were God-designed to remind the people at that time that a future God-intended reformation was to come. This new reformation perfectly matches the dominant theme of Hebrews; Jesus and His way is better. Consider every rule under Moses’ Law, every commandment that God gave to His people, was intended for that time, to be replaced by Jesus and His new and better way. Think in terms of all the specific personal behaviors imposed on the people during that era; diet, time and circumstance of worship, the rigid tithing form of giving for the support of the tribe of Levi, required attendance at national rituals around the tabernacle, or later in Jerusalem at Solomon’s temple. All of these things ended with Jesus, all replaced by Jesus and His new and better way. He is the priest who daily administers the tabernacle and its daily sacrifices. He is the high priest who offered the one Day of Atonement sacrificial goat, Himself. He is all of those daily sacrifices, including the Day of Atonement goat. He is all of the substance of all the Levitical order. And He does for His people what Levi and his successors could never do, truly and finally atone for their sins
Little Zion Primitive Baptist Church
Worship service each Sunday 10:30 A. M.
Joseph R. Holder Pastor