Although the Law of Moses was intended as a structure for civilised life and worship of God as a nation, it was also intended to convey messages relating to the overall purpose of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. This is amply illustrated throughout the New Testament.
Jesus, when asked which was the great or most important law, summarised the whole law:-
Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The festivals are illustrative of God’s plan of salvation. The paschal lamb is said to prefigure Christ’s sacrifice 1 Corinthians 5:7 Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. Passover and Pentecost when the firstfruits were offered is likened to Christ’s resurrection and gift of immortal life and a future resurrection of the faithful, 1 Corinthians 15:23 Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. The Sabbath as a day of rest is said to be illustrative of the faithful’s reward:- Hebrews 4:9-11 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. The Day of Atonement in Hebrews 10 is said to represent Christ’s sacrifice for sin.
It is stated in Hebrews that the sacrifices themselves were not efficacious, but were intended to point forward to the sacrifice of Christ and his blood that can bring redemption and forgiveness of sins:-
Hebrews 9:11-14 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 10:1-10 For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
The tabernacle structure and furniture and the priesthood service is also presented as illustrative of the work of Christ as a High Priest. Hebrews 1-7 argues the supremacy of the New Testament over the Old Testament and presents Christ as greater than Moses, with Christ having eternal life as a priest for evermore. Hebrews 8:1-6 states: Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.
Hebrews 9 states that the work of the High Priest in the Most Holy Place prefigured Christ’s work in heaven as an High Priest. Hebrews 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:
The veil is shown as representing Christ’s flesh:- Hebrews 10:20 the veil, that is to say, his flesh.
The apostles also argue that much of the law was intended to teach more than mere observance of its strictures. For example, 1 Corinthians 9:9-10 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.