What Does 'Shadow of Things to Come' Mean?

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What Does 'Shadow of Things to Come' Mean?

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Paul explains in Colossians 2:17 Colossians 2:17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
American King James Version×
that God’s weekly Sabbath day and sacred festivals are “a shadow of things to come” (verse 17). Many think he was saying this to demean them and show why they are unnecessary for Christians. The reality is just the opposite. Paul was acknowledging their abiding significance for us.

In the Greek language the word mello, translated “to come,” is a present active participle. It explicitly points to events yet future. According to The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament, mello means “to be about to do or suffer something, to be at the point of, to be impending” (Spiros Zodhiates, 1992, p. 956). Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains its meaning as “to be about (to do something), often implying the necessity and therefore the certainty of what is to take place” (1985, “Come, Came,” p. 109).

Paul is saying that the Sabbath and Holy Days, which the Colossians celebrated by feasting according to biblical instruction, had been given by God to foreshadow future events —things yet to come. The grammar of Paul’s statement requires this meaning.

When God first commanded that these “feasts of the Lord” be observed (Leviticus 23:2-4 Leviticus 23:2-4 2 Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; you shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which you shall proclaim in their seasons.
American King James Version×
), each event they foreshadowed was still in the future. Even today, most of the events foreshadowed by these festivals are yet to be fulfilled in God’s plan.

These sacred days have always foreshadowed God’s promises to intervene in human affairs through Jesus Christ. They signify the fulfillment of His master plan to offer salvation to all of humankind through Jesus Christ. Therefore, their themes and symbolism are unequivocally Christian.

Paul understood and taught this. For full details on the meaning and Christian significance of God’s festivals, request your free copy of our booklet God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind .