Part of my job as a counselor is to help people see the realities of their spiritual life in Christ. Of course, most people go to a counselor because they are struggling in their daily, earthly life and spiritual realities seem very abstract and distant. I think God ordains these earthly struggles to help us yearn for and gradually see spiritual realities. Romans 8:18-21 states: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
Obviously this creation that is waiting eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed is much deeper and complex than what I typically think of as the creation. There is a reality to this world that I cannot see. God is at work in ways that I cannot fathom. I know I am one of those “sons of God” and yet the creation is still waiting for me as well as all the other children of God to be revealed. Maybe the creation is also waiting for the veil to fall away from our eyes so that we will finally see Jesus clearly. “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Romans 8:24b-25
Here is the problem though; we stop waiting for what we do not see. We do not see it yet and so we forget about the heavenly reality. We get sidetracked and focused on this side of eternity. But everything on this side of eternity is a shadow of the heavenly reality. What we love about this side of eternity is here to whet our appetites for heavenly reality.
Consider the beauty of the sacrificial system in God’s holy law:
Hebrews 10:1 “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”
Verses 23-24: “Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”
Here the author of Hebrews reminds his readers that the beauty of the Old Testament law was a shadow of the good things to come. Its purpose was to point to something far superior. In its moment it served a very important purpose but it was also a signpost for something much better. Jesus entered into the true tabernacle and offered himself as atonement for our sins. He died on a cross but he was offering himself in the true tabernacle.
How about marriage? Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained by God and was established in the Garden of Eden. It is a very important physical and emotional reality and we are commanded to love our spouses and so honor God. Yet at the same time marriage is much more than a union between a husband and his wife. Paul addresses this dual reality below:
Ephesians 5:31-33 “‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. “
In each of these passages we learn that the earthly is a shadow of the heavenly. The law is a shadow of good things to come. Holy places made with hands are copies of true things that are presently unseen. A man marrying his wife is a picture of Christ and the church. And faith is an assurance and conviction of these real but unseen things.
These analogies challenge us to think of all those good tangible things God gives to humanity that while truly good are really hints or fragrances that call us to yearn for the permanent reality that is at present invisible. We live in a story that is embedded in a bigger story. Our story gives hints and echoes of glory. What we do here and now matters immensely but this is just the prologue. When the children of God are revealed and the Son of God receives His Bride the real story unveils.