e-Literature

The Torn Veil

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It was a Friday afternoon, and the priests were busy getting ready for the afternoon sacrifice. It wasn’t a normal Friday afternoon sacrifice; today was the Passover. The priests were preparing for the customary 3 o’clock sacrifice to make atonement for the people as they had done so many times before.
Because it was the Passover, the city was bustling with people, but that wasn’t the only reason for extra commotion that day. Outside the city, the Romans were crucifying three men. The crowd was angrily yelling at the man on the middle cross. His body was severely bruised, and he was barely recognizable to those that knew him. But there was something different about this man; instead of anger or fear on his face, there was a calmness atypical to people being crucified. At noon, the sun strangely disappeared, and the land was dark until 3 o’clock. Suddenly the man in the middle cried out with a loud voice, It is finished, and then died.
Back at the temple, the priests were perplexed by the unusual darkness at mid-day. It was difficult preparing for the 3 o’clock sacrifice without the ordinary light of day. As the 3 o’clock sacrifice neared, the priests heard a strange tearing sound in the temple. They ran to see what was happening and realized with horror that the massive veil in the temple that covered the Holy of Holies had torn from top to bottom. While they stood staring into the Holy of Holies, they were amazed that none of them died. Only the High Priest could see in there once a year; anyone else died if they saw into that holy place. What had happened!
The Bible gives us a little info about the temple veil. It was a curtain that consisted of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen, with cherubim skillfully worked into it as well (Ex 26:31-33). First Kings 6:2 says that Solomon’s temple was 45’ tall and 35’ wide, and Josephus records that Herod’s temple was 60’ tall. There isn’t any clear info on how thick this curtain was, but early Jewish tradition claims it was as thick as a man’s hand. Since the veil was so tall and wide and its purpose was to conceal the contents behind it, we can safely assume that it was a durable veil that very adequately accomplished what it was made for.
The temple veil was the “wall” that created the Holy of Holies where only the high priest would go once a year on the day of atonement. It was there he would come into the presence of God at the mercy seat to atone for himself and the people. Anyone else who tried to enter the Holy of Holies would immediately die. But even the High Priest didn’t just walk into the room. First, he needed to offer a sin offering for himself. Then he would take incense into the Holy of Holies and allow the incense to create a cloud over the mercy seat. So even while in there, he had to be hidden from God’s presence by the cloud of incense, or he would die (Lev 16:11-14).
It is very significant that the Bible records that the temple veil was torn in half from top to bottom right when Jesus died. God was making a powerful statement that man no longer needed to go through an earthly high priest to access God. Everyone could now personally come into the presence of God through Jesus, our High Priest. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the final and ultimate sacrifice that washed away man’s sin. The Old Testament sacrifices that just covered man’s sin were now over, and man could now come into God’s presence.
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb 4:14-16). What a blessing it is that we can boldly come to God! We don’t need to have a cloud to keep us separated from God. We have a High Priest who understands what we are facing and gives us grace to meet our needs. Let’s draw near to Him in full assurance of faith allowing His presence to change our lives and radiate out to those we meet from day today!