Substance of the Shadow
God promised Abraham that his descendents would be given land, wealth and power. When the time came to fulfil this promise God instructed Abraham’s descendents in a way of life that was to set them apart from other nations. That way of life and their rich blessings were a mere shadow of what He had in store for the rest of mankind.
God had a purpose in establishing Israel as His people. It is through them that He intended to reveal His plan of salvation to the world. Central to that plan was Jesus Christ whose role is to implement the plan. His role was foreshadowed by the High Priest in ancient Israel and He is our High Priest today. We need to understand what the role of our High Priest is and what he will accomplish.
Paul said, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17). Christ was the substance of the shadows because He was the ‘seed’ of Abraham through whom all families of the earth are to be blessed, “And in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) and, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16). And it is only through Christ that mankind can be saved, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
When Paul spoke about the gospel (good news) of salvation in I Corinthians 15, he defined Christ’s role. When Christ died for our sins and was resurrected to eternal life over two thousand years ago, He opened the way for the rest of the world to follow, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” (I Corinthians 15:21-23).
During His ministry Christ prepared disciples whose writings along with those of the prophets comprise the books of the Bible as a guide for those who were to follow, “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Ephesians 2:20). Through the foundation of these teachings those called by God since that time are being prepared to assist Christ in His role. Paul described the end result of the task that is to be achieved by Christ and those who will accompany Him, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
The role of those who will be with Christ at His coming, was foreshadowed by the priests in ancient Israel who served God under the direction of their High Priest in the temple. Christ being our High Priest today (Hebrews 9:11, I Peter 2:9 and James 2:8). They have not been prepared for this task because they are better, or superior than anyone else, quite the contrary, God has chosen the foolish and weak to confound the wise, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Corinthians 1:26-29).
When Christ returns Satan will be imprisoned for a thousand years, “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled:” (Revelation 20:1-3). During that one thousand years, often referred to as the Millennium, Christ and those who are with Him will rule the earth, “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:4-6).
This passage clearly indicates that those who are with Christ are no longer subject to death and will have been resurrected to eternal life. And the rest of the dead (i.e. the majority of mankind who have died unconverted throughout the ages) will not be resurrected until the thousand years is over.
After the thousand years is over, but prior to the resurrection of the rest of the dead Satan will be released for a short time in which he will gather his demons for a last ditch attempt at destroying those whom God has prepared to help accomplish His plan. But Satan will be defeated by God and destroyed in the lake of fire forever, “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Revelation 20:7-10).
The Lake of fire symbolizes permanent (eternal) death for the beast, false prophet and those who refuse God and choose not to be in His Kingdom. It also symbolizes an end to death itself and all the sorrow, hurt and torment that Satan has inflicted on mankind.
Great White Throne Judgment
Immediately after Satan’s demise comes the Great White Throne Judgment to which the rest of the dead are resurrected. Their resurrection will be to physical life. Because there are pre-requisites, which they have not yet met, they cannot be resurrected to eternal life. When their turn to be called to salvation comes they must
first accept Jesus Christ as their savior, repent and be baptized to receive God’s Spirit,which begins the process of conversion in preparation for eternal life, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38-39).
Millions upon millions who have lived and died on this earth have never been called to salvation. Many have never even heard of Jesus Christ. Some have experienced a form of religion but unless they have been called by God, repented, been baptized and received His Spirit they will not be saved. Once God has finally and forever dealt with Satan who is the perpetrator of all of man’s problems, they will be resurrected back to a physical existence in order to receive their opportunity for salvation.
It is a time depicted very graphically in Ezekiel 37:1-14, when the whole House of Israel is restored to a physical existence. That same promise of restoration was also given to other nations who are to be resurrected at the same time, "I will restore their fortunes, both the fortunes of Sodom and her daughters, and the fortunes of Samaria and her daughters, and I will restore your own fortunes in the midst of them,” (Ezekiel 16:53, see also Jeremiah 48:47 and 49:6, 39 RSV, also NKJV, Young's Literal translation and the Jewish Study Bible JPS Tanakh Translation).
This is a time called the Great White Throne Judgment, “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Revelation 20:11-13).
The books that are to be opened are the books of the Bible from which they will be taught God’s way of life. The word ‘judged’ can mean to be judged according to law, (i.e. a judgment is made), or it can mean literally to be ruled over. Many rulers in the Old Testament times were called Judges. In the time of the Great White Throne Judgment those resurrected to physical life will be ruled over by Christ according to the law of God and judged according to how they live.
During that time they will be given the opportunity to repent and to receive God’s Spirit, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19-20).
God’s Spirit will give them an understanding of the books of the Bible that they did not have before, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (I Corinthians 2:11-12).
They will be taught God’s way and judged according to how they respond. Those who respond positively be changed to spirit and be in God’s Kingdom. Those who refuse to accept the opportunity will have their lives permanently terminated in the lake of fire, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:14-15). This is the second death mentioned in Revelation 20:6. There is no place in God’s Kingdom for those who do not repent and submit to God.
In Revelation 20:12 the Book of life is mentioned. This is the record of all who God deems worthy to enter His Kingdom after they have been judged. Those who live during this period will have the opportunity to be recorded in this book.
At the end of the Great White Throne Judgment period after those who refuse God are destroyed and those who accept God’s way are given eternal life, death will no longer have any affect – death itself will be vanquished.
Paul described the time when death has been vanquished as ‘the end’, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).
The last action of the plan of salvation is for Christ to deliver up the result to God the Father. This was God’s plan since the beginning and has been the general theme of prophecy in the Bible since the world began, “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” (Acts 3:20-26).
Those who refuse God’s way will receive eternal death symbolized by the Lake of fire in revelation 20:15. But those who accept God's way are the recipients of the promises made to Abraham over four thousand years ago. This has been part of God’s plan since the world began.
The ancient nation of Israel that portrayed God's plan through their ceremonies and observances and received the physical blessings, foreshadowed a spiritual body of people from all nations who will receive the spiritual blessings. The blessings of physical, or material wealth represent the spiritual richness of eternal life in God's kingdom. The Israelites were God's people in ancient times, but God's people today are those from all nations (kindreds) who have been called to salvation.
Christ and His role in implementing the plan of salvation are the substance of what was portrayed by God when He incorporated the tabernacle with its priesthood, the law, holy days, sabbaths, rituals and ceremonies into the richly blessed and unique culture of Abraham’s descendents, Israel. These things foreshadowed what God has in store for all of mankind in His Kingdom.