In a recent discussion in our iConnect Bible Study group at our church, we were reflecting on how blessed we are to be living during this time in history. Because Jesus came to earth as Immanuel, God with us, lived a perfect life, died in our place to pay the penalty for our sin, and was resurrected and returned to the right hand of the Father in heaven, life is entirely different for those who have placed their faith in Him as Savior and Lord.
Last week, our Thankful Thursday post was on one blessing that is ours because of the era in which we live, the indwelling Holy Spirit who empowers, teaches, and guides us – and so much more. This week, I wanted to focus on another blessing we have thanks to the finished work of Jesus on the Cross and our salvation by grace through faith in our Redeemer.
This often forgotten blessing is spoken of in Matthew 2:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45, as well as referred to in Hebrews 9 and 10. And it marks the end of life under the old covenant and beginning of the new covenant of grace.
“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Mark 15:38 ESV
The curtain of the temple, also called the veil, was a curtain believed to be around 60 feet long and four inches thick (according to early Jewish tradition) and made of blue, purple, and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen (see Exodus 26:31). It’s purpose was to separate the part of the temple called the Most Holy Place, which held the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat – the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence – from the rest of the temple where men entered. This veil signified that man was separated by God because of sin. It marked the boundary between God’s pure holiness and the wickedness of mankind.
Only the High Priest was permitted to enter the Most Holy Place, going through this curtain, and even he could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement. Before entering, the High Priest was to bathe and put on special garments, then sacrifice a bull for a sin offering for himself and his family. The blood of the bull was to be sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. Then the High Priest was to bring two goats for the sins of the people, one of which was to be sacrifices for their sins and its blood sprinkled on the Ark. The other goat was used as a scapegoat, which symbolically carried on itself all the sins of the people and was sent out and released into the wilderness.
If anyone else entered the Most Holy Place, or even if the High Priest entered on any day other than the Day of Atonement, that person would immediately die. It yearly sprinkling of the innocent sacrifice’s blood on the bowl on gold lid of the Ark provided atonement for the sin of mankind for another year.
The size and thickness of the veil and the fact that it was torn in two from top to bottom make it clear that no human being could have accomplished this. It reminds us that in Jesus the final and full sacrifice for sin has been paid. And it also signifies the end of the Old Covenant of the Law and the beginning of the New Covenant of Grace.
Hebrews tells us that this curtain or vail was symbolic of Christ Himself, that the veil was representative of His broken flesh on the Cross.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:19-22 ESV
On this Thankful Thursday, I’m eternally grateful that there is no longer a heavy curtain separating me from the presence of my Heavenly Father. I’m grateful that Jesus, through His substitutionary death on the Cross, removed the barrier separating us from God. I’m especially thankful for His invitation to draw near to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace in my time of need.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV