Everything in the Old Testament Scriptures is fulfilled in Jesus. This is how the Apostle could say, “all the promises of God in Him are ‘Yes,’ and in Him ‘Amen,’ to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20). Jesus takes all of the shadows, ordinances and promises of the Old Testament, fulfills them in His death and resurrection and then gives the spiritual and eternal substance of them to His people who believe in Him.
When reading the Old Testament we come across such language as that of “an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:14, 17), “everlasting covenant” (Gen. 9:16; 17:7, 13, 19; 2 Samuel 23:5), “everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8; 48:4; ) and “everlasting priesthood” (Exodus 40:15). It is sometimes used of the covenant sign of circumcision, sometimes of the ceremonial festivals like the Passover (Exodus 12:14-17) and sometimes of the physical land of Israel. One of the most important biblical-theological matters with which we must wrestle is that of how we are to harmonize the Old Testament teaching about “everlasting” ordinances with the teaching of the apostles as to the abrogation of the command to circumcise (1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6, 11; and 6:15), the cessation of the Old Covenant festivals and ceremonies (Col. 2:16) and the notable absence of any mention to the land inheritance (of Israel) in the New Testament. In addition, we have to grapple with the New Testament teaching about the change of Priesthood from Levi to Judah, when, in fact, we are told in the Old Testament that the Levitical Priesthood was to be an “everlasting Prieshood” (Ex. 40:15). So, how are we to reconcile these seeming contradictions? Can we defend the inerrancy of Scripture when we fail to see continuation of these “everlasting” things mentioned in the Old Covenant period of revelation? What is the best way forward in pressing through the challenge of understanding these seeming contradictions?
Perhaps surprisingly, there is an exceedingly simple and straightforward solution to this conundrum. The eternal, Divine nature of the Son of God in the Person of Jesus Christ gives the typical elements of the Old Testament their eternal significance. Jesus, in His Person and work, fulfills and establishes the substance of the everlasting shadows and ordinances for His people. In short, the everlasting Christ–in the New Covenant–eternalizes and spiritualizes the everlasting ordinances of the Old Testament for Jews and Gentiles who believe on Him.
For instance, the eternal Son received the mark of circumcision on the eighth day and then was circumcised at Calvary in a bloody circumcision (see this post for a fuller development of this idea). On account of this, we can say that circumcision is an “everlasting covenant”–not to be physically continued for any religious purpose, but to be realized spiritually in the atoning death of the Son of God and in His work of regeneration in the hearts of His people.
Regarding the Passover, in 1 Cor. 5:7 the Apostle tells us that “Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us.” Jesus is our Passover Lamb. He is the greater Moses who brings His people out of the bondage of Satan, sin and death through His own death (as the death of the firstborn son) on the cross. When He died, John noted that “not one of His bones were broken.” This was part of the prescription of a right observance of the Passover in the Old Testament. We no longer celebrate the Passover as the Jews of old did. Now we celebrate the Passover when we “keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
When we come to consider the Promised Land, we find that when God promised Abraham that he would inherit the land He had something so much bigger than the physical land of Israel in view. The apostle Paul tells us that “the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.” The word הָ אָ רֶ ץ can be translated either land or earth. It is used in Gen. 12:1 where God promised Abraham that he would inherit the land. One can immediately see how Paul understands the development from the idea of the land of Israel (as being the typical inheritance) to the inheritance of the entire world.