This post is part of a 6-part series leading up to Easter service on April 16th. Click the inline Easter banner below for more details.
A key event in the narrative of the crucifixion of Jesus is the temple veil that was torn in two. Matthew records this even in chapter 27 and verse 51:
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.
I want to share a few thoughts concerning this event and what it means to Christians today. First off, what was the veil in the temple? The temple included several different spaces, one of which is the Holy of Holies. This temple space included the altar where the high priest would make sacrifice. He entered this place only once a year, the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).
The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the temple by a thick curtain, called a veil. The veil was woven with two Cherubim, which are angels. These Cherubim symbolized the guarding of the holy place, similar to the Cherubim that were put in the Garden of Eden to guard the Tree of Life after the fall of Adam and Eve. These prevented Adam and Eve (and mankind from that point forward) from having the life that they could’ve had.
Anybody other than the high priest that would enter into the Holy of Holies would die, immediately (Leviticus 10). As a result, atonement was made on behalf of God’s people by the temple priest. God’s people didn’t have direct access to God.
Jesus came to reconcile our relationship to God the Father. As He hung on the cross and gave His last breath the veil in the temple ripped in two. Matthew’s gospel tells us it tore from “top to bottom” symbolizing a tearing that started from Heaven. It was God that tore the veil opening the relationship between God’s people and God, directly. No longer was the high priest required to offer atonement, because Christ (the High Priest) offered atonement through His own blood. No longer was the priest required to go to God on the people’s behalf because they can now go to God on their own behalf. No longer were the Cherubim required to guard the Tree of Life, or in this case, the Holy place of God from God’s people.
In fact, the writer of Hebrews further emphasized this truth in chapter 10 verses 19-22:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
The implication in this scripture opens up the thought that the symbolism of the torn veil is a result of Jesus’ torn flesh. And because of His sacrifice on the cross Christ opened the Holy of Holies for all of God’s people to worship through. The writer of Hebrews emphasizes this truth earlier in chapter 4 verses 14-16:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
So this Easter season let us be reminded of the relationship that God offers to us. Our God is a personal God. He’s a God of intimacy and relationships and this was brought to us simply by the death of the ultimate blood atonement on the cross, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.