“John declares that God now “tabernacles” with his people in a way that far surpasses his dwelling with Israel in the days of their wilderness wandering (John 1:14), that the angels of God now ascend and descend on the Son of Man rather than on Jacob’s visionary ladder (John 1:51), that the lifting up of the Son of God supersedes the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14), and that the manna from heaven given by Moses has been transformed into “living bread” given by Christ (John 6:49-51).
Paul speaks of the religious festivals of the old covenant as “a shadow of the things that were to come” (Col.2:17), and the events of Israel’s redemptive history as “types” for believers during the new covenant age (1 Cor.10:6). All these authors of new covenant documents develop a significant aspect of their theology by contrasting old covenant shadows with new covenant realities.
It is particularly in the epistle to the Hebrews that this contrast between anticipation and realization, between shadow and reality, finds its fullest and most distinctive expression. According to the writer to the Hebrews, the administration of redemption under the law of the old Covenant was “only a shadow” of the good things that were
coming (Heb. 10:1). These shadowy images of redemptive reality did not originate merely in the context of old covenant experiences. Instead, these prophetic shadows originated in the abiding realities of heaven itself.
Because Melchizedek the priest-king was made “like” the Son of God in his eternal relationship to the Father, he could anticipate the priestly role of Jesus (Heb. 7:1,3). Similarly, only because the tabernacle in the wilderness was constructed precisely “according to the pattern” shown to Moses on the mount, could its pattern of worship provide insight into the realities of a proper approach to God under the provisions of the new covenant (Heb.8:5).”
-O. Palmer Robertson, The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow, 5.