ESV - 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.
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God originally commanded the making of the veil (or curtain) for use in the tabernacle that the Israelites were to construct and use for worship following their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 26:31-33). The veil did not cover the entire tabernacle, but marked the separation of the Holy of Holies (the most sanctified space in the tabernacle, which contained the mercy seat and the ark with the stone tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments) from the rest of the tabernacle. As described in Leviticus 16, the only person ever allowed within the veil (and thus in the presence of God Himself) was the High Priest once each year on the Day of Atonement, dressed in the priestly garments that God had prescribed, to present blood sacrifices and a burnt offering in atonement for his own sins and for the sins of the nation. Because Jesus' death fully and finally paid the debt for sin owed to God not only by Israel, but by all of humanity, it did away with the separation between man and God represented by the veil. The tearing of the veil in the temple mentioned in the verse cited in the question symbolized the end of this separation.
There were actually two veils in the tabernacle in the wilderness. The first covered the entrance to the "Holy Place" where the menorah, the table of showbread, and the golden altar were located. The second veil covered the entrance to the "Holy of Holies" where the ark of the covenant was stored. The physical reason for these veils was to protect the interior of the tabernacle from inclement weather and also the impure air generated from the animal sacrifices occurring outside at the bronze altar. The golden altar of incense also aided in this regard. Also, the veils emphasized the distinction between the priests and the ordinary Israelites, since only the priests could enter the tabernacle each day, and only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies once a year. Spiritually speaking, the two veils represent the blindness happening to the Jews (Rom 11:25) in regard to identity of the Messiah. The first veil pertains to Christ's first coming, and the second veil Christ's second coming. Both times were and will be tragic, traumatic, and confusing periods for the Jews. The second is characterized by great war and battle on Jewish land, plus the major deception of the Antichrist who will sit in the temple and show himself as God (2 Thess 2:4). Since Christians are part of spiritual Israel, they will also be subject to the deception of the Antichrist to a certain degree, but the Jews, having no scripture or prophecy warning of the Antichrist, will face the greater challenge.
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