Q. Please explain Hebrews 10: 1 – 6. What does the Hebrew writer mean by “shadow” here, is he talking about Law of Moses in comparison to the New Testament? I’m also confused about what is said here about sacrifices. Were those who lived in Old Testament times forgiven of their sins, or are they lost?
1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?
3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, “SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;
6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.
In this section the Hebrew writer is offering arguments to the first Century Jewish Christians as to why the New Testament is superior to the Old Law. The Law (the Old Testament) was ONLY a shadow of the New Covenant. In other words it was not the genuine object. A shadow is not the “very form” of the genuine object. The Law was never intended by God to form the basis of His relationship to man for all time. God intended to provide man with a “perfect law” based upon a “perfect sacrifice.” It might be helpful to think of the Law in terms of a “scale model.” The Law was a “scale model” of what God was planning to build for all men. The scale model is first built, not to be used as the permenant object, but to provide an “example” of what the finished product will look like. The sacrifices offered under the Law were intended by God to show us something about what God was going to build in the sacrifice of Jesus, but they were never intended to accomplish what God was going to accomplish in Jesus. They indeed brought forgiveness to those who were in the proper relationship to God, as the following passages demonstrate:
6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;
7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin;
20 ‘He shall also do with the bull just as he did with the bull of the sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and they will be forgiven.
God granted forgiveness to those who offered sacrifices to Him under the Law, not on the basis of the sacrifice itself, but on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus. You see, the blood of Jesus flows backward as well as forward. It reaches forward even to today and into the future.
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;
26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
God’s sacrifice of Jesus demonstrated in a public way his righteousness. In other words, it was proper for God to forgive the sins committed in Old Testament times on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus. God had planned a “satisfactory sacrifice” the Law of Moses was simply a “shadow” of that sacrifice. God was “righteous” to pass over (forgive) the sins committed in Old Testament times because He knew the “satisfactory sacrifice” would be offered.