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One significant fact that should be noted is that only Mathew records this detail in the gospels. Why? Bible scholars have suggested that it was because Mathew wrote primarily for the Jews whose entire worship system revolved around the temple to convince them that Jesus was the Messiah. Without the temple it would be impossible to conduct the sacrificial system that was the cornerstone of the religion. Jesus had been preaching that heaven can only be accessed through him since the outset of His ministry. Now that His work had been accomplished He proclaimed “It is finished” John 19:30 and the veil tore from top to bottom Mat 27:51. The significance to any Jew couldn’t be missed, without the temple’s two divisions the annual Day of Atonement couldn’t be conducted. The Day of Atonement was the highlight of the year, when the sins of the nation for the past 12 months were collected and cast away permanently Lev 16. The temple was most probably full and busy with worshippers and several priests in attendance. With the tearing of the veil during the high Sabbath when services were in progress the incident couldn’t be hidden John 19:31-42. The other fact to note is that the incident couldn’t attributed to vandalism by humans. The curtain was unlike curtains of today it was more like a thick carpet made of goats’ hair, hung from a height of about 20-30 meters. Mathew doesn’t leave room for speculation, he records that it was torn from top to bottom. Any human doing that had to have a very tall ladder and have some kind of motorized machinery to tear it from top to bottom. Since there was no ladder and there was no machine with simple people and priests around, authorities in the temple were very clear that this was a supernatural act. The message was very clear: “It’s over and you have just nailed the Messiah to the cross”. Any doubts were removed. This incident coupled with the earthquake, the darkness and the opening of the graves gave a very clear message. Anyone refusing to accept that clear and loud message was making a determined stand in defiance of the facts presented. That was the significance of the incident. In Hebrews Paul makes it very clear that the ancient temple was a shadow, representation or picture of the salvation that happens in heaven and the death of the Messiah. Therefore the death of Jesus was a real life fulfillment of what those services represented, hence they stopped at the cross. However this brings a more relevant question – Did the temple really contain the presence of God? Can a building made by human hands confine God to a section of that room? Somewhat I doubt that the maker of the universe could be kept hidden behind curtains. Why would God who planned to come and die for us since creation of the earth (Rev 13:8 & 1 Pet 1:20) want to be hidden from us anyway? A God who when Adam sinned and consigned the whole of earth to misery, decided to come calling for him still wanting to be with Adam, who actually runs away from God. I think that if God had to have His way from the beginning, He would have had personal and individual worship. Remember in Exod 25:8 God wanted to dwell among them? The reality is He would rather have had dwelt IN them not AMONG them. So what does the tearing of the veil have to do with all this? My point is that God was making a loud statement that the time of hiding behind a corporate name for salvation is over. God desires a personal and individual relationship with one of us. He longs to communicate with me and you individually as if you were the only one in the universe. We need to stop relying on pastors, prophets and bishops and read the word for ourselves. The Holy Spirit isn’t confined to certain people. The torn veil gives each one of us direct access to God.
It is because of sin that we have become lost and were separated from God's pesence. No one who has ever walked on earth except Jesus Christ alone who did not incurred sin to himself. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" - Rom 3:23. Now the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life tbrough Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6:23). But God commended his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us - Rom 5:8. Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty of sin - Death, in our stead. He did it once for all. The life he gave on the cross is much more precious than the sum total of the lives of every creature. Why? Because that life is the life of the maker of us all! "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" - Rom 5:9-10. The temple veil serves as a partition between man and God. The veil actually symbolizes sin. The death of Jesus Christ somehow reconciled us back to God. The door was opened, we now have access to our Heavenly Father. Through repentance, faith in Jesus and baptism, we are forgiven of our sins, we are now justified. We received pardon. That is 'grace' - undeserved pardon. The ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ also ended the ceremonial customs of the Law, that is, the sacrificial burnt offerings, the shedding of animal blood, the grain and drink offerings, but that does not include the Sabbaths. The Sabbaths are symbolic of God's master plan of salvation. It cannot be annulled. Only the ritualistic customs of the Law that is associated with the Sabbath observance have ended on the cross - Dan 9:27 and Col 2:14. But someone may quote Col 2:16-17 which seem to say that the Sabbaths are no longer to be observed now that Jesus Christ have come and finished his mission. Contrary to what others are saying, Paul is actually admonishing Christians to adhere in their observance of the Sabbaths. We now have access to our God. We can call to our Father now that the temple veil has been torn. Now that we have been justified, that is, forgiven of our sins. Does that mean we can continue on sin, that is, keep on breaking God's Laws? Of course not! Notice Rom 6:16 - "Don't you know that to whom you present yourselves as servants to obedience, his servants you are whom you obey: whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?" There it is! We must not return to sin any more. Now that we are no longer under the Law but under the grace of God because Jesus had satisfied the claims of the Law - Death. If you return to sin, you are placing the veil back which separates us from God, that is, you are placing yourself back under the Law again. And the Law will claim your life. That is why Paul warns us Christians in Heb 6:4-6 not to fall away, that is to return to law breaking and crucify the son of God all over again. "For sin is the transgression of the Law" - 1 John 3:4, and "the wages of sin is death..." - Rom 6:23.
The tearing of veil of the temple was one of the remarkable and significant events happening when Jesus died, Matthew 27:50-54, Mark 15:3-39, Luke 23:44-47. The fact that the centurion and others with him witnessed the tearing of the veil, means the crucifixion took place east of the temple. Somewhere east of the Valley of Kidron, along the Mount of Olives and Mount of Offense ridge, the Lord was crucified. It was a practice for Roman officials to execute criminals near where they were apprehended and on a high hill and along crowded roads so all could see it. As Jesus had been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when He was arrested, this would be the place He was led to, outside the city, Hebrews 13:12, but yet near the temple. The literal wording of John 19:20, “near the Place of the City,” was a well-known designation for the temple, John 4:20, Acts 6:13, 21:28. But the veil that was torn could not have been the inner veil, the one that separated the Holy Place from the Holiest Place, as many have thought it to be. This veil was not visible to anyone except the priests serving inside the temple. In fact, Hebrews 9:3 calls it the second veil which means there was a first veil, another veil at the entrance of the temple that priests had to go through first. This was the one visible to anyone outside the temple, especially the centurion. The historian Josephus said this outer veil was 80 feet high and very thick like a carpet. He described it as a “Babylonian tapestry, with embroidery of blue and fine linen, of scarlet also and purple, wrought with marvelous skill.” He wrote it had the motif of the night sky woven into it. If it were this veil, then it does not symbolize access into the presence of God. Besides, not anyone could enter the Holiest or Holy of Holies. That privilege was only reserved for the high priest and then only once a year, Hebrews 9:25, until Christ our high priest, with His blood, entered into the Holiest once for all. Because of that, believers as priests can symbolically enter the Holy Place, past the rent veil representing the body of Christ, Hebrews 10:19-22. In Hebrews 10:19, the Greek can be either the “Holy Place” or the “Holiest,” the context determining which one. Because the first veil was torn, this had to be the Holy Place. Believers can symbolically enter freely into the Holy Place, Hebrews 9:2, without the aid of priests. Paul speaks in Roman 5:1-2 of freedom of access before God. Believers, now designated as a kingdom of priests, I Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10, can approach the throne of grace to intercede, as at the altar of incense, Hebrews 4:16. They can also directly worship and commune with their Lord, who is the bread of life and the light of the world, typified by the table of bread and the lampstand.
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