Future “Good Things”
It is important to note that the law did not simply represent, “good things,” but it represented good things to come in the future. In other words, the law did not represent things which existed, during the time of the Old Testament, or the time of the law. While God’s people were still worshiping under the system of the law the good things had not yet come. This is one of the most important points which need to be understood when it comes to understanding the two covenants.
There are many people who believe that the benefits and privileges which Christ brought to his people were always available in every age of this world’s history, even during the time of the old covenant and in fact from the time that Adam and Eve first sinned. These people will refer to the verse in Revelation 13:8, where it says that Jesus was “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” However, this verse is misunderstood and its meaning is misrepresented because the translators of the King James version got the sequence of the words wrong. In the King James version it reads as follows:
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Rev 13:8)
Compare this with the same verse from the new American Standard Bible:
All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Rev 13:8)
Notice that in the new American Standard Bible, what happened at the foundation of the world was not that the lamb was slain, but that names were written in the book of life. The point of the verse is entirely changed. Someone might ask, “but how do we know that the new American Standard Bible is correct? What makes us believe that the King James interpretation is wrong?” We know, because there is another verse in Revelation which says basically the same thing and in this other verse the meaning is very clear, even in the King James version. This verse is Revelation 17:8.
…. and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Rev 17:8)
What happened at the foundation of the world was that names were written in the book of life. Jesus was not slain from the foundation of the world and if he was, then he was slain twice for it is clear that he died 2000 years ago. It is true that there was a promise made from the very beginning, from the moment that Adam and Eve sinned, but that promise was a guarantee of a future benefit, not a statement of things which had already been obtained by the human race. The book of Hebrews teaches very clearly that until Jesus came and fulfilled the promise, the benefits of the new covenant were not yet available to God’s people. What they possessed were promises, shadows, illustrations, but not the real things, not the fulfillment of the promise. If these benefits had been available before Jesus came, lived, and died, then obviously the death of Jesus would have been unnecessary!
It is important that we should understand that God did not just speak salvation into existence, he did not create our salvation out of thin air. The plan of salvation involved the son of God becoming a man and in that identity as a human being to provide, to create, to work out the conditions of salvation. What this Future “Good Things” means is that he had to overcome sin, to conquer the world, the flesh and the devil; to create a life in which all the elements of salvation existed. This is the saving life of Christ, and this is where salvation exists! This is the life that we are given when we are born again! Before Jesus came and created this life in himself this life did not exist, it was not possible for anyone to obtain it because Jesus had not yet provided it!
People who understand salvation only from a legal point of view find it hard to appreciate and accept this very clear biblical truth. This is because they see salvation as only a legal state something that happens in heavenly record books. When a person decides to become a Christian he makes a decision and God declares him a Christian and that is what makes him one. It is something that happens in the record books and in the mind of God. But the truth is that salvation is far more than this! Salvation is the obtaining of life, real, actual life. We do not simply receive a paper salvation, Jesus Christ is our father in the sense that he is the last Adam, he is the progenitor, the originator of the new creation, the new human race! All who are born again receive life from Christ just as all who were born into this planet were born from the life of the first Adam. Our identity is centered around the receiving of life, it is not centered around the balancing of records in legal books, but about an experience in which our very identity changes because we receive life and are born into a new race – the new creation. This is why Jesus stated very clearly,
…. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)
He came to give us life, to impart what we did not possess. This is what he says very clearly.
So Paul says that the law contained the shadows of good things to come, there were things not yet available which would appear in the future. In other words, the law was not a carbon copy of the gospel, it did not offer the same things which the gospel offers. It was like a photograph of a person versus the person himself. The real thing is far far greater than the photograph even though the photograph is in some ways, in some limited ways similar to the real thing.
(Source: Restoration Ministry)