There are three, distinct
states mentioned in the Holy Bible, according also to the Epistle to Hebrews,
the law, having a shadow of the good things to come,
the very image of the
things, can never - with these same sacrifices, which they offer
continually year by year - make those who approach perfect."
The one state was that of the Old
Testament, which was "the shadow" of celestial things.
The second state is the state of the New
Testament, which is "the image" of celestial things. This can be seen in
the above verse, where it says: "not
the very image of the
things" - which signifies that the "image" pertains to the New
Testament, where Paul was involved.
The third state is the state of the
celestial things themselves - "the very image of the good
things to come".
The "shadow of things",
describes things quite vaguely.
It contains many distortions of the "things". That is why in
the Old Testament we observe that God appears to be a "cruel
Master". That is how almost all of the faithful of the Old
Testament period used to perceive Him (Abraham belongs to the
exceptions), and that is how they described Him in the Old
Testament. As Master. We need to keep this in mind when
reading descriptions of Him in the Old Testament. The "shadow" is
not an incorrect description; it is however a very deficient
The "image of things"
in the present New Testament is certainly far more faithful than the
"shadow", however, it too is missing a dimension of reality.
In spite of its faithful description, there is still a deficiency in
the "image": it lacks the 3rd dimension. Well, in the New Testament,
God is presented no longer as "Master", but as... "Father" !
"Thus you should pray: Our Father, Who are in
"I have revealed Your name to
mankind, and I want to reveal...."
What was the name that Christ
revealed? The Jews were already familiar with the names "Lord" and
"God" and "Yahve". The name that Christ revealed was "Father".
He showed us that God is not "a cruel Master", but a "caring
Father". However, He had made this revelation to people of the
Old Testament, who had a "servant-Master" relationship with God.
It was not easy for Him, to get them to embrace this new perception
- the fuller and clearer image of the New Testament. So He would
speak to them with shadowy parables, of the kind that they could
perceive. He spoke to them of "punishment"; of a "Master who
would return, like a thief in the night to check his servants"; of a
"darkness outside the Kingdom"; of an "eternal fire and undying
worms"... He spoke to them in the manner that they could
understand. But He did not lie to them. He "scared" those
"servants", in a manner that befits servants!
In other points however, the New
Testament speaks much clearer. It says: "For you did not
receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the
Spirit of Adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' "
(Rom.8:15) (something like the affectionate address: "Daddy"!!!)
In fact, in another point in his
Epistle to Galatians (4:1-7) Paul provides an even more profound
clarification. He says that:
"Now I say that the heir, as
long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though
he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the
time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children,
were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the
fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law,
that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are
sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts,
crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but
a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
Thus, while the heir is still
an infant - i.e., while he has not yet reached "the
stature of the age of Christ" by having overcome sin but is
still a slave of sin and of the law - his Father treats him
as he would a servant, and not as a son. He may be the
Father's heir, but he is not yet in a position to manage the Holy
Spirit that is being offered. So, not only does he
undergo "scolding" like a young spiritual child that he is, but is
also under guardianship. In other words, even though he is the
future heir of the Father's fortune, he is still monitored by
guardians and stewards that the Father has appointed, without this
meaning that he ceases to be a son, and in fact the heir to whatever
the Father has. However, when he comes of age and the Father
can entrust him with the Holy Spirit, that Spirit will begin to
speak in tongues within his heart, and utter: "Daddy"!
In other words, those who have not
perceived God as Father will regard Him as a "cruel Master", Who
will come and demand accountability from them, and Who may possibly
punish them. A little child - albeit a son - will tremble at
its Father's anger; but when it grows up, when it realizes the love
that its Father has for it, WILL NO LONGER BE AFRAID OF HIM.
He will trust Him, and no longer perceive Him as a cruel Master.
It is therefore possible for even a
Christian - who is still an "infant" - to see God in the manner of a
servant, and God treating him like a Master in order to edify him.
This is why in Orthodoxy, we (at least those who have perceived God
as Father) do not regard non-Christians as worthy of damnation
(hell). We simply regard them as "servants" - that is, as
people who have an "Old Testament" type of relationship with God.
We do not claim that they have no relationship with God. We
maintain that they don't have a "filial" relationship with God, but
a relationship of a "servant". And that is the basic reason
that Protestants and Papists - and most Orthodox - do not perceive
that God is LOVE.
The third state - that of "the Good
things to come" - is a state that is of the future, in the minds of
many. Even of Christians. And yet, because it is a state that
transcends Time, certain Christians have already experienced it,
even in the Present! That is why the Bible speaks of those who have
savored the powers of the "age to come". How did they savor
them, if the age is "of the future"? This is because the
"future age" is, in actual fact, a state that is already present for
those who have become something more than just "children" of God.
They have also become His "friends".
I explained this to my son, in the
long has it been since you last got a severe scolding?» I asked him.
A very long time ago!» he replied.
about your brother?» I asked him.
day!» he replied.
is that?» I asked him.
I'm older now, and I don't do as many stupid things as my kid
brother!» he said.
it's the same with God. For as long as the heir is an infant, he is
no different to a servant. That is why, although you are equal to
your brother in my eyes, he is the one who is treated more harshly
because of his pranks. When he becomes older, I will treat him also
as an heir. In fact, now that you have matured, I no longer treat
you only as my son; we are also friends. I even tell you my secrets
- which I would never divulge, if I regarded you only as my son».
This is what I wanted to say: That God likewise divulges even
His secrets to His friends. Everything. We read this, in
"No longer do I call you
servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but
I have called you
friends, for, all things that I heard from My Father I have made
known to you."
They who have seen "the age to come" are
the saints of the Church, who have attained deification (Theosis).
However, because "the age to come" is far superior to our own age,
IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR THEM TO EXPRESS WITH THE HUMAN TONGUE
EVERYTHING THAT THEY SEE. That is why Paul said that he had
heard "ineffable" words, when he was swept up to the Heavens;
he revealed to us only the things that we could grasp. As did
Christ, Who said: "If I have told you earthly things and you
do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"
Translation by K.N.