In the ancient temple, there was a veil (the פרכת) – which was actually a very large and thick cloth, that separated people from God… Only one person (the High Priest) could enter in to the most holy place of the temple, which was sealed-off by the veil; and he could only go in once per year (Hebrews 9:7).
The high priest would enter only after a very thorough cleansing ritual, and offerings of blood sacrifice to cover his own sins, and the sins of the people for which he was a representative.
This continued for years, until one major event, until Jesus Christ, the final eternal High Priest offered the final eternal sacrifice for all-time; not just covering sins for one year – but completely removing sins for all-time.
And right after Jesus declared “It is Finished!”, and surrendered His Spirit, that veil which separated the people from God was torn – and this is what I want to share with you today… the tearing of the veil, and what it means for us today in Christ.
So let’s begin today by reading the account of this event in scripture, from Matthew 27:50-51:
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.
And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent.”
Now we are going to stop right here for a moment, because this is the main focus of our study, and there is quite a bit to see here in these two verses.
The first thing we see is that after crying with a loud voice, Jesus yielded up His spirit. This is an interesting thing to note, because His Spirit was not taken from Him. His life was not extinguished by the hand of man, or by force; but that He willingly gave it His life.
Jesus stated in John 10:18, that no-one takes His life, but He willingly lays it down – and that He has the authority to lay it down and take it up again.
This testifies of His love for us, that He was not forcibly subjected to any of the torture or torment that He suffered, but He endured all of it – even to death – all because of His love and His desire to redeem us all. He took all of the punishment that was due us – even the ultimate punishment of absolute separation from the Father (the point at which I believe He truly suffered the most; crying out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”)
This, all of it, He endured in our place, so that we would not have to die, but be completely redeemed, restored and reunited with Him. And the evidence of this is in the very next verse…
We see in verse 51, that the veil of the temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom. Now this is very odd, and very telling. It was torn apart. It wasn’t sliced with a knife, or cut with scissors. It was torn. This is a violently passionate act. This veil has been standing in-between the Lover and His Beloved for far too long, and now it’s time to get it out of the way! The price has been fully paid; the Bride has been redeemed… and now intimate fellowship can be enjoyed by all! There is no covering anymore; no separation any longer.
Secondly, we can notice the direction that the veil was torn: from top to bottom. This tells us who actually tore the veil as if there was any doubt. It was God the Father who tore it. The very hands of God ripped the veil… and remembering how long and how thick the veil truly was, it is no wonder that He did to begin with.
Yet this also tells us something else… The veil being torn from top to bottom, also shows us where unity with God begins… with God. He tore the veil; and reuniting with Him begins with Him, and moves from the top down.
When God pronounced the curse on Adam after the fall in the Garden of Eden, He began with the ground, then moved upward with sorrow of heart and the sweat of his face (self-effort).
However here, we see that reunification with God starts with Him, as He tears the veil from the top down.
Because of Jesus Christ, each of us has become a New Creation – the old is passed away , all things are new. Although many struggle with this because when the look around and consider their lives and their circumstances, they still perceive the old; but in light of what we have just seen about the veil of the temple, let me ask you a simple question:
What makes us think that the veil of our humanity is torn differently than the veil of the temple?
You see, the veil which separated man from God, which sectioned us off from His glory and light was torn, by God from the top down.
The veil of our old nature and humanity is torn in the very same manner, from top to bottom; starting with our mind, and ending with our feet.
Where we have problems is that we have been trained by the world (and by worldly systems, and church legalism) that the opposite is true for us.
We try to tear the veil from the bottom, starting with our feet and move upwards. We try to tear the veil of our own humanity by our strength and self-effort. We try to tear it higher-and-higher by striving and struggling, but no-matter how hard we try, there eventually comes a point where we cannot reach. We still have not learned the lesson from the tower of Babel, that we can never reach God by our efforts.
And then when we reach a point of desperate frustration, we clench our fist tighter and declare confidently – next time I’ll do better, and begin the cycle of works all over again.
But we forget, that the veil is never really torn by man, or man’s strength… but it is torn by God alone.
Turn to 2nd Corinthians 3:13-16, and you will see something else about the veil of our heart:
“And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil not taken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.
But even to this day, when Moses is read, the veil is on their heart.
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.”
Verse 13 here, uncovers (pardon the pun!) the real reason why Moses veiled his face – so that the people would not “see to the end” that which was abolished. So that they wouldn’t see that the glory of the Law was fading away.
You see, the Law had glory (The Law of Moses in the Old Covenant, is not evil or bad) – in-fact it had a very real and good purpose. It protected the people from total destruction until the time of Christ (Galatians 3:24), and it also manifested the full evilness of sin so that Christ’s atonement would be completely glorified (Romans 7:13).
So the Law of Moses in the Old Covenant actually demonstrated the absolute grace of God. However the Law was never intended to save us… that was not its purpose.
The glory of the Law was fading away, Jesus fulfilled and finished it completely. He put an end to it, as we see plainly in the verse.
This is why rightly discerning the truth is so important… This is why translating everything through the lens of the finished work of Christ is so vital. We see right here, something very important which drives home our study topic today.
Verses 14 through 16 are talking about reading. Specifically reading the Old Covenant Law and text of the scriptures. Some people misinterpret these texts and conclude that the Torah texts (Old Covenant Law) should not be read at all today – and so they walk around with New Testament only Bibles.
However, the real point of verses 14 through 16 is this. There are two ways to read the scripture. One is dead, without the Spirit of Grace, without reading through the lens of the finished work of Christ; and believe me there are plenty of churches doing that today, and plenty of pastors preaching dead, grace-less sermons today, still stick in the Old Covenant mindset.
When you are in that mode, there is definitely a veil still on your heart, as the verse mentions here.
However we also see the solution here… the second way to read the scriptures: when it is turned to Christ, the veil is taken away.
My friend, the entirety of scripture is about Jesus, and it must be received with Him as the foundation. Only Christ truly takes away the veil. Dead reading, and focusing on the Old Covenant and Law, will only keep a person blinded and separated from God, unable to truly see His light and glory.
However when Jesus is the focus, when He is turned to, and His finished work is received, the veil is taken away, and unity with God is available… the way is open.