The Levitical laws were types of Jesus or types of works He completed on the cross. Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18), NKJV).
The writer of the book of Hebrews makes it very clear that the tabernacle, priesthood, and animal sacrifices were prophetic shadows or types that were later fulfilled in the life and death of Christ. Likewise, scripture indicates that the national feasts were prophetic, and at least four have already been fulfilled: Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, and Pentecost. These details are essential to understanding the work of Jesus as we see the unfolding eternal plan of God.
Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the first three Jewish feasts with His crucifixion and resurrection. The death of Christ fulfilled the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread.
The apostle Paul said: “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7-8, NKJV).
Christ fulfilled the Feast of First Fruits with his resurrection. The apostle Paul also said: “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:23, NKJV).
The tabernacle, priesthood, and sacrifices were a portrait of Christ. They were a typical picture of Christ who would come to redeem man from his depravity.
Moses was given every minute detail of the plan for the tabernacle, even colors, threads, designs, and related trimmings. After the specifications were provided, God filled craftsmen with the Holy Spirit (Ex. 31:3-5), so they could be guided in all workmanship. Why were all these details regarding perfection in workmanship necessary? Why did God demand perfection in the construction of this wilderness tabernacle? The answer lies in verse nine of chapter twenty-five of Exodus. God told Moses how to build the tabernacle. “According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle” (Ex. 25:9, NKJV).
The wilderness tabernacle was to be patterned after another tabernacle – the tabernacle in heaven that was Christ. In Hebrews chapters 8-10, the writer makes it clear that the wilderness tabernacle was patterned after the Lamb of God, who was in heaven. Let us not forget that Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain in the mind of God before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20). Therefore, it is fitting that the wilderness tabernacle was patterned after Christ and that it foreshadowed Christ and the work that He was to complete on the cross.
The writer of Hebrews makes this statement concerning Jesus: “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’” (Heb. 8:5, NLKV).
The materials and colors of the tabernacle spoke as types of the person and work completed by Jesus on the cross. The significance of the materials: gold symbolizes His deity, linen His righteousness, silver His redemption, and brass His judgment. The significance of the colors: blue reminds us of heaven, scarlet depicts shed blood, and purple indicates the presence of royalty.
Simultaneously, with the work on the tabernacle, detailed instructions are given for other aspects of the religious ordinances. The instructions for the priesthood are closely related to the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and its vessels.
Before the giving of the Mosaic Law, the head of each family offered sacrifices to God (Gen.8:20). From what we have observed, Moses had the responsibility of teaching this. Now this and other duties relating to the tabernacle ministry were given to the new office of the priesthood. The high priest served as the head of the group, with the other priests assisting him. The priests represented the people before their God. Later, we shall see that the prophets represented God before His people.
The entire priesthood organization or order, like the tabernacle, was an example and shadow of heavenly things. The writer of the book of Hebrews goes into great detail in chapters seven through ten, showing that the order of the priesthood, which was established under Aaron, was a prophetic shadow of what was to come. We must also note that the order of Aaron came to an end and was replaced by a new order at the death of Christ – the order of Melchizedek.
Aaron was a type of Christ, as was Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18-20, Ps. 110:4, Heb. 7:17). Whereas Aaron and his service were a picture of the atoning work of Christ through His death; Melchizedek was a type of Christ in His resurrection – the role of King-Priest.
Since Aaron’s priesthood was patterned after the model in heaven, it is symbolic of the holiness of God. Much of the symbolism was reflected in the garments worn by the priests,
“And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty… And these are the garments which they shall make: a breastplate, an ephod, a robe, a skillfully woven tunic, a turban, and a sash. So they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister to Me as priest” (Ex. 28:2, 4, NKJV).
Note that the clothing was made of the same material and colors as those used in the construction of the tabernacle.
“They shall take the gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and the fine linen, and they shall make the ephod of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, artistically worked” (EX. 28:5-6, NKJV).
Read Exodus chapter twenty-eight for a complete and very detailed description of these garments. They serve as types for Jesus as the second person of the Godhead and the work completed upon the cross.
In the book of Hebrews, we read these words about the sacrifices: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? The worshipers, once purified, would have no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices, there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:1-4, NKJV).
“And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:11-14, NKJV).
We also see the prophetic symbolism in the sabbaths, which were part of the Levitical law. The Sabbath is observed throughout the year on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. According to tradition, it commemorates the seventh day, on which God rested after completing the creation. When used in the Bible, the number seven represents the number of completion or perfection. We also see the multiples of seven in the sabbatical year, where the Jews were required to refrain from planting their crops every seventh year – the land was to remain fallow. After every seventh sabbatical year, an extra year was added for leaving the land fallow – this was known as the Year of Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee came every 50 years and was a year for releasing people from their debts, releasing all slaves, and returning property to original owners. The entire system operated on sevens or multiples of seven.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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