Hebrews 8:5

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

… who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” Hebrews 8:5

The previous verse acknowledged that the Levitical priesthood had priests who offered “gifts according to the law.” Because of this, Jesus couldn’t be a priest under that covenant – He is from the tribe of Judah, not Levi. It was the line of Aaron from the tribe of Levi which was set apart to minister and offer the appropriate sacrifices. But David said a priest would come according to the order of Melchizedek – one with an eternal priesthood and with none of the imperfections of the Levitical priests.

The term “foreshadowing” is one used of types and figures in the Old Testament. This is the case with both the tabernacle and its contents as is noted in this verse. The author says that these Levitical priests “serve the copy and a shadow of the heavenly things.” (Side note: there is no article in front of “copy” in the Greek. It thus more rightly says, “a copy and shadow.”)

The word “copy” signifies a model or an example. It is not identical to the original, but it is something patterned after it. The word “shadow” means exactly that. It is an outline without any substance in and of itself. There is nothing about it which conveys the reality of the original. Indeed, if the original did not exist, the shadow would not exist. With this understanding, the author continues with, “as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle.”

Moses was told this by the Lord in Exodus 25:9 and again in Exodus 25:40. The word translated as “divinely instructed” signifies to utter as an oracle. Thus God revealed to Moses what was to be accomplished, and how it was to be done. This divine instruction is then cited by the author from Exodus 25 with the words, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”

As Moses was shown the pattern, then that means what he is making is only a mere representation of that. That then is the true sanctuary and the true tabernacle mentioned in Hebrews 2:2. The earthly tabernacle was nothing more than a copy and shadow of the reality found in heaven. What Moses was shown on the mountain, meaning Mount Sinai, was to be copied and made into a place for the priests of the covenant to minister at.

The word the author uses for “pattern” is tupos. It is where we get our modern word “type” from. It is a model based on a reliable precedent which is then closely followed. That is what the earthly sanctuary is, a type based on an original. With this understanding, it should be noted that Paul describes the dietary restrictions, festivals, other days of observance, and Sabbath days of ancient Israel in the same way as the author describes this patterned sanctuary. They are mere shadows –

“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Colossians 2:16, 17

These things mentioned by Paul, and which are based on the law itself, were given until the time of Christ; their fulfillment is in Him. The sanctuary, the Tent of Meeting, the tabernacle, the ark with its mercy seat, all of the other contents within the tabernacle, and indeed all rites and observances associated with these things, are simply pictures of Christ. Each pictures Him, and each finds its fulfillment in Him. As this is so, then all are set aside in His work.

Life application: If you are in a denomination which mandates a Sabbath Day, the observance of a particular festival, or any part of the Law of Moses, please know that these were fulfilled by Him on your behalf. You have freedom in Christ – you are not tied to such facets of worship. They could never justify you before God. Put your faith and trust in Christ alone and God will be pleased to call you His precious child.

Lord God, you have taken away such heavy chains from our lives – chains of condemnation for sin, chains of the law and its strict mandates, and chains of insecurity about the future, including what happens after our death. With such weight removed from our souls, it’s a wonder we don’t just fly away! And indeed, some glorious day we will. Glory to You, O God, for our Lord Jesus! Amen.

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