I’m continuing to make my way through Volume 3 of Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. Chapter 5, on the Covenant of Grace, I’ve found to be especially interesting. One of the things he discusses is the differences between the Old Testament and New Testament administrations of the Covenant of Grace. I found this section particularly insightful:
All spiritual and eternal benefits are therefore clothed, in Israel, in sensory forms. The forgiveness of sins is bound to animal sacrifices. God’s dwelling in Israel is symbolized in the temple built on Zion. Israel’s sonship is primarily a theocratic one, and the expression “people of God” has not only a religious but also a national meaning. Sanctification in an ethical sense is symbolized in Levitical ceremonial purity. Eternal life, to the Israelite consciousness, is concealed in the form of a long life on earth. It would be foolish to think that the benefits of forgiveness and sanctification, of regeneration and eternal life, were therefore objectively nonexistent in the days of the Old Testament. They were definitely granted then as well by Christ, who is eternally the same. But the consciousness and enjoyment of those benefits were far from being as rich in the Old Testament as in the time of the New Testament. The reason why the covenant of grace in Israel assumed such a unique symbolic form is that this consciousness of the pious might gradually over the centuries open up to the riches of God’s benefits.Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics (Vol.3), p.221
The Belgic Confession puts it differently. It says in article 25 that the OT was a time of shadows. Instead, Bavinck describes it here as a time of symbols or sensory forms. Either way, with the coming of Christ and the New Testament era, we have something far brighter and as concrete as it gets.