Today, as I listened to the sermon that was given at my feast site, I was struck by several related matters. For one, it seemed as if the speaker was trying to give a sermon for the Eighth Day, and as he was not, he was trying to use as many verses as possible that will probably also be viewed in the sermons tomorrow. Besides this, though, I found it worthy of comment that the speaker, over and over again, appeared to denigrate the physical universe and our physical lives because they are temporary and incomplete. To be sure, that which is passing and evanescent and temporary is not the ultimate goal, but there are many aspects of life that are worthy of respect and joy and appreciation even if they are temporary. Despite my time constraints, I would like to discuss at least some of these matters as time allows, as it is a matter of particular relevance to the time that we are celebrating in the Feast of Tabernacles.
For one, the Sabbath itself is considered to be a shadow. Colossians 2:16-17, verses that are often misinterpreted, read as follows: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” Part of the larger biblical context of these verses is in Hebrews 4:8-10, which reads as follows: “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” Together, these verses indicate that the Sabbath is a shadow of the millennial rest that is to come, and are to be kept as an expectation of that bright future, even if it is difficult to conceive of the Sabbaths being kept when there is no sun or moon to serve as markers of time in the New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21 and 22). Yet the fact that there are shadows that point to a greater reality does not in any way make those shadows less worthwhile, even if they serve a greater purpose.
One of the most obvious cases where something is temporary and worthy of being treasured is the innocence of youth. The fact that childhood is temporary does not in any way make that state less worth of concern and protection. The fact that children will eventually grow up, and probably grow up in some ways sooner than we would wish, and less prepared than we would like does not in any way mean that we should push children into situations where they are going to face corruption and exploitation. Now, I do not believe the speaker was thinking about this sort of matter at all, nor do I believe that he would insult a caterpillar because it was meant to turn into a butterfly, or a tadpole because it will eventually become a croaking frog. Our physical lives are a necessary preparation for eternal life in the world to come, and the fact that they are an early state that will progress into something greater on does not in any way negate the earlier stages. Instead, those stages draw their worth because of what a being will become. The shadow draws its meaning and its value from the substance.
As believers we are in between two worlds. We are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, unborn children of our Heavenly Father awaiting the birth into eternal life, an existence that we do not fully understand. Yet we live in the physical world, are subject to the futility of death, to the suffering of aches and pains, and the usual drives of sleep and food and so on. Our bodies are temporary, and will decay and die, and yet our bodies are the temple of God, worthy of honor and respect because our Lord and Savior was willing to empty Himself of his glory and dignity to dwell in a physical body and live as we do, and sacrifice Himself on our behalf. The fact that we are meant to live in a world to come, and have a glorious destiny far beyond that which we can experience here and now does not in any way mean that we should not show appreciation for what we now enjoy, nor does it mean that we ought to insult the Creator by speaking evil of His creation. Not all that is worth appreciating is made to last forever–sometimes it is made to last long enough to accomplish its purpose and then transform into something else.