GOD REACHING OUT, US REACHING IN
And in EPHESIANS 2:14 Paul alludes to something that happened immediately after Jesus Christ’s death on the cross that symbolized the removal of this wall between us and God … the tearing of the veil in the Temple in Jerusalem.
EPHESIANS 2:14 (NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)
14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,
We read in SECOND CHRONICLES that Solomon built the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem between 832-825 B.C. and that it was 30 cubits high. A cubit was the distance between the tip of your middle finger and the middle of the inside of your elbow, and could range from 17-22 inches. So the original Temple was somewhere between 42.5 feet and 55 feet high. But then, according to Josephus, the 1st-Century Jewish historian, during Jesus’ lifetime, King Herod increased the height of the Temple to 40 cubits … making it somewhere between 56 and 73 feet high.
The Temple veil was a massive curtain that separated the Holy Place, from the Holy of Holies inside the Temple. The Holy of Holies was the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence … and where the Ark of the Covenant resided. Only once a year was the High Priest allowed to pass to the other side of this veil, enter into God’s presence, and make sacrifices to God for the forgiveness for the sins of the Jews.
Here’s how what The Gospel of Matthew tell us about the tearing of the Temple veil immediately following Jesus’ death on the cross …
MATTHEW 27:50-51 (NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE)
50-51 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
EXODUS 26:31-34 tells us that this thick Temple veil was made out of blue, purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen. Josephus tells us that the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side couldn’t pull the veil apart.
What significance does the torn Temple veil have for us today? Above all, the tearing of the Temple veil at the moment of Jesus' death symbolizes that His sacrifice, the shedding of His blood, was a sufficient payment for the sins of the world … and it illustrates loud and clear to us that after Jesus’ death, the way into the Holy of Holies was opened up for all people, for all time, both Jew and Gentile. When Jesus died, the Temple veil was torn, and God moved out of the Temple.
In fact, ACTS 17:24 says that God will never again live in a Temple made with human hands, but that God will now live inside of His people through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit. The old covenant was fulfilled, and the new covenant started.
And gang, the Temple veil is also symbolic of the fact that Jesus Christ Himself is the only way to come into relationship and fellowship with God the Father (cf., JOHN 14:6). Because, remember, before the cross, the Jewish High Priest had to enter the Holy of Holies through the veil. But now, as we’re taught in HEBREWS 10:19-20, Jesus Christ is our superior High Priest, and as His followers, you and I can now enter the Holy of Holies through Him.
HEBREWS 10:19-20 (NEW CENTURY VERSION)
19-20 So, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death. We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us. It leads through the curtain — Jesus Christ’s very body.
I love what 19th-Century British pastor, teacher, professor and author, Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote about this beautiful and wonderful truth …
“It is not a slight tear through which we may just see a little; but it is torn from the top to the bottom. There is an entrance made for the greatest sinners. If there had only been a small hole cut through it, the lesser offenders might have crept through; but what an act of abounding mercy is this, that the veil is torn down the midst, and torn from top to bottom, so that the chief of sinners may find ample passage to God!” [Charles Haddon Spurgeon | 1834-1892]
Oh, praise the LORD for our access to God! Godspeed.