Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Holy Bible

Related articles: The "image" is... the "substance" (!!!)

Shadow, Image, Servants and Children 

In the Holy Bible there is an obvious difference in the description of God - between the way He is revealed in the Old Testament and how He is revealed in the New Testament. Indeed, a difference such as this has given rise to many disagreements and heresies, both in the past and in the present.  In this study, we shall see what this difference is attributed to, according to the Holy Bible itself.



There are three, distinct states mentioned in the Holy Bible, according also to the Epistle to Hebrews, 10:1:

"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, 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."

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 description.

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 Heaven....." and:  

"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 following manner:

«How long has it been since you last got a severe scolding?» I asked him.
«Ohhhhhh! A very long time ago!» he replied.
«What about your brother?» I asked him.
«Every day!» he replied.
«Why is that?» I asked him.
«Because I'm older now, and I don't do as many stupid things as my kid brother!» he said.
«Well, 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 John 15:15: 

"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?"  (John 3:12)



Translation by K.N.

Text: Í.Ì.

Greek text

Article published in English on: 9-2-2012.

Last update: 9-2-2012.