What Does Colossians 2:17 Mean?

things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:17(NASB)
Picture courtesy of Plusping

Verse of the Day

A shadow is an intangible image of something that is real. It is a dark area or hazy shape, produced when something or someone comes between rays of light and an object. A shadow of a tree is not the actual tree, but simply a flat, colourless representation of the real thing which has a textured trunk, inner sap, and exterior bark. A tree is so much more than its shadow. A tree has twiggy branches, deep roots, and colourful leaves - and it produces buds, blossom, fruit, and seeds, in multiple colours and various hues... often producing sweet-smelling perfumes, life-saving medicines, and a vast array of tastes and tints, all of which are formed in their due season.

In like manner, the many Jewish rites, rituals, feasts, and assignments, were simply shadows of the multidimensional reality that was to follow later - in Christ. The strict requirements of the Law, and the Sabbath day observances which were given to Israel, were given by God as shadows... pointing to the true reality that was to follow - in Christ.

Old Testament types, become New Testament realities - all bound up in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament types are shadows of the things to come. But the physical, tangible, and eternal reality belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ alone - Who is the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world.

Adam was a type of Christ, and the temporal, passing, Aaronic priesthood in the earthly temple of Solomon, shadowed the higher, permanent and eternal Melchizedek Priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ, which is carried out in the heavenly Temple of God. The daily sacrificial offerings, together with annual sacrifices of innocent lambs at Passover, and the annual Atonement sacrifices, where the blood was permitted to cover sin for one more year, were a dim and distant shadow of the one, perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God. And Jesus is the eternal Son Who is that final sacrifice. He was slain, once and for all, on the Cross of Calvary... to take away forever, the sin of the whole world. He was the stark reality of the mere shadows of Israel's past history.

The life-giving serpent that Moses lifted up on a pole in the wilderness... was simply a shadowy precursor of Christ being lifted up on the Cross for the forgiveness of sin... and His eternal, life-giving Resurrection. Similarly, the Sabbath day ritual, which was guarded so jealously by the religious leaders of Israel, was simply a pale shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ Who Himself, has become the "Sabbath rest for the people of God," and for all who trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.

The Old Testament has many other examples of shadows and types - all of which point to one or another aspect of Christ and His sacrificial death, glorious Resurrection, and eternal reign as God of gods, King of kings, Lord of lords - and Hope of all the ends of the earth.

The Law of Moses was, likewise, a shadow of things to come. It was an unattainable requirement written on stone, which identified and accused everyone of sin - and stamped all humanity with the eternal condemnation of God - GUILTY SINNER!

However, Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the Law on our behalf and by faith, returned us into sweet fellowship with the Father - JUSTIFIED SAINT! He nailed our sin to the Cross: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that kept us enslaved to the Law." He became our Kinsman-Redeemer, and He died in our place.

By faith in Christ, we are no longer enslaved to sin. No longer are we bound by legalistic rules where we are required to eat certain foods and participate in specific feasts, festivals, and Sabbath day rituals - all of which were given by God to point us to Christ. All these things were a mere shadow of things to come. All of them pointed to the One Who was to come. The reality and meaning behind them all is Christ Who is the substance of the shadow. Jesus is the solid fact of that which was foreshadowed.

All these things were a dim shadow of glorious things to come. And now as believers, the substance of what these shadowy things represented, has been discovered in Christ - and we have become a member of His Body and are identified with Him. We are identified with His death so that His death became our death, and our sin is forgiven. His Resurrection became our resurrection and His righteousness became our righteousness - and He gives us eternal life.

May we live in the reality of who we are in Christ and rejoice in the freedom that He has brought. May we not seek to return to the shadow of a former dispensation, but live our lives as ministers of reconciliation under the New Covenant of grace, cut at Calvary and fulfilled by Christ.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ is the substance and reality of our faith and that in Him, we have been freed from slavery to sin. Thank You that we have been released from the bondage of legalistic rules and regulations, which were a mere shadow of things to come. Thank You for the wonderful way that you designed the Law and the many Jewish rites, rituals, feasts, and assignments, to be shadows of things to come, in order to point us to Christ Who is the hope of our calling, and in Whose name I pray, AMEN.

Picture courtesy of Plusping

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