I want to talk about shadows. Hebrews 10:1 says, "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." We look at the good news of the whole chapter--and even the book--and are thankful that we do not have to sacrifice animals to appease God's wrath. We do not have to destroy these creatures; Jesus has effectively taken the place of those sacrifices. He is also the real sacrifice: we no longer have to obey the old system, because the new system--Jesus--has taken the place of the old system. We personally and selfishly think of this as, "whew! I don't have to sacrifice animals: that's really good! Jesus did all the work for me! I can sit at home and play with my Xbox."
But that's not all this passage is saying. We have to look deeper, and I want to look at this word "Shadow." The sacrificial system is a shadow of the reality of Jesus's death on the cross. Jesus' sacrifice is the reality. The animal sacrificial system was a shadow. Do you understand what this means? This means that the old system NEVER worked; it NEVER appeased the wrath of God, not even temporarily. It was a false system, which did not work.
Likewise, the law doesn't work, either. In verse one, the writer of Hebrews is talking about the law itself. The law itself is a shadow of the reality of Christ. The law itself is a mere shadow, and we think we understand what this means when we read Paul in Romans or Galatians. We say to ourselves, "oh! I don't have to obey the law anymore; all is now replaced by the system of faith in Christ! I have faith in Christ! I do not need to keep the law anymore! Bye-bye!" But in the back of our minds--I know we don't consciously think this--but if we don't understand that the law is a shadow of the reality, then logically, if someone were able to perfectly keep the law, then that would be a second way to God. We know we can't keep the law; we've read Paul; we understand what faith in Jesus means. The only person able to keep the law is Jesus Christ, the righteous. No one else can keep the law, and we can understand this, and we say, "yes, I cannot keep the law. I need Jesus to keep it for me, and then he imputes his righteousness to me, and I impute my sin to him, and I am safe, by Jesus fulfilling the law. I understand, but hypothetically, if someone WERE able to keep the law--someone other than Jesus--if I, for example, were able to keep the law perfectly to the letter, would not that be a second way to God? Would not the law be a second way to go?"
Hebrews 10:1 emphatically says NO! Even if you were able to keep the law, the law is a mere shadow of the reality: you would succeed only in becoming the shadow of a Christian. You wouldn't be a real Christian. You wouldn't be really saved. You wouldn't really have the relationship of God, even if you were able to keep the law perfectly. You would fail. It is impossible, because Hebrews 10:1 says the law is a mere shadow.
Think of Heaven: Heaven is where we will not break the law. We will always obey the law, not because Jesus gives us the power to fulfill the law in Heaven but because the law is automatically the way of life in Heaven. We won't break the law, because we we won't even be thinking of HOW to break the law. The law will be an alien concept to us. The law doesn't exist in Heaven. There aren't rooms with the 10 Commandments hanging on the walls, because the 10 Commandments would be in our blood. Our behavior reflects the 10 Commandments; the law IS Christian behavior, the behavior of someone whose residence is Heaven. We won't murder, not because we will remember not to murder, trying hard to make sure we don't murder and succeed, thanks to Jesus. We will succeed in not murdering anyone, we won't even think of murdering anyone, because it will be an alien concept to us. We won't hate, because it will be an alien concept. It won't make any sense. Hate won't exist. Lust won't exist. Sin won't exist!
It's not like we will still be able to sin and finally in Heaven succeed in not sinning. No, we won't sin because there's no such thing as sin. The law, given to us as earthly beings, is to remind us that we fail here on Earth. It is to remind us of our sin. The law's sole purpose is to bring sin to the forefront. One of the biggest challenges to Christianity is the massive hurdle of convincing people that they sin. People do not believe that they are sinners. They think the whole system of sin is an archaic, stupid thing. I heard one person tell me that the bad things that happen in the world--it's just life. Things just happen; life just happens. Sorry, that is wrong. Sin is an aberration. Sin was not part of God's original plan. Sin was not supposed to enter into it. Sin is a poison in the world; the world has been dying--IS dying--because of sin. The law is there to put in sharp relief sin's existence, so that we know we will need a Savior. The law serves no other purpose because to live for the law for the law's sake is to live for a shadow, and ineffectual shadow.
Hebrews 10 also gives us the solution to this problem:
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds," he also adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:16-25)
I don't know if I can elaborate on that, it is so clear. Suffice to say that living a life as a future resident of Heaven involves doing two things: holding fast to the confession of hope and meeting together often so that we can encourage each other. That is what we do here each week, and some of us even more often. These two things seem easy on the surface, but they are difficult to do on our own. Many do not want to assemble together. They just want to have their own private devotional to God. Fellowship is a principal part of the Christian life. Holding fast to the confession of hope is difficult, too, because the culture's tide is running in the opposite direction, and if we don't spend our time in the scriptures, we actually forget, because our minds want to lock on other things.
Jesus is the reality, not the shadow. He draws us to the Father, through himself, and he enables us to confess Jesus as Lord and to assemble together often, so that we can encourage each other in our Christian walks. We need community and Christ, and only Jesus, through his sacrifice on the cross, keeps us tethered to this reality.