God instructed Moses in great detail regarding the construction of the tabernacle.  It seems to have been more than just instructions or blueprints because Moses was shown a “pattern” by which he should model the earthly sanctuary in which the Levitical priests would perform their intercessory ministry for the people. When God finished His instructions to Moses, He concluded His remarks in Exodus 25:40 by saying, “And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.” God actually showed Moses a model by which he would design the residence of God’s mercy seat on earth. The model that God showed Moses was the real deal! Moses’ reproduction on earth was just a shadow or a reflection of the real thing. Again quoting from the Old Testament the writer of Hebrews 8:5 says, speaking of the Levitical priests, “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.’”

Plato is famous for his allegory of the cave. People were chained facing a wall on which their shadows were reflected. The shadows were all they knew and believed the shadows to be reality. Since they spent their lives in the cave they knew and could not imagine anything else. Although there were others in the cave, the prisoners could only see their shadows moving around on the walls. Their reality was only a shadow of what actually existed. Justin Martyr, an early church father around 125AD, thought that Plato got his idea from Moses. He writes, “And Plato, too, when he says that form is the third original principle next to God and matter, has manifestly received this suggestion from no other source than from Moses, having learned, indeed, from the words of Moses the name of form.”[1] The author of Hebrews explains that the “shadow” of reality is the earthly tabernacle.  The “form”, the “pattern”, the real thing is the one where Jesus the High Priest ministers in heaven.

There is another reality! The heavenly reality is more real than the shadowy world in which we live. We now “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” But Jesus has conquered death and it is merely a means by which we leave this life of shadows and enter into real life with Jesus.  Jesus is for real! Everything on earth is simply a passing shadow. The prisoners thought that the shadows were reality but they were wrong. We see the things of this world and say they are reality. We too are wrong. We are seeing only the shadows, the temporary manifestations, rather than the real things laid up in heaven for us. When the prisoners are released and see the reality in the light of the sun, they stand amazed. They could never have imagined the beauty and the glory of reality. The liberated slaves of Plato’s analogy can’t help but go back into the cave to tell the others. Paul explains in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 that we “do not grieve like those who have no hope” at the loss of loved ones. We know they have just passed from the shadows into the glorious reality of the place that Jesus has prepared for them for all eternity.

[1] Justin Martyr, “Justin’s Hortatory Address to the Greeks,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. M. Dods, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 285.