The Veil Is Torn!
By John Carson
There is an important event that occurred when Jesus died on the cross. The veil of the temple was torn in two. This was not coincidental. The tearing of the Temple Veil was an act of God.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) teaches:
“When the veil of the temple was torn in two at the death of Jesus Christ, it was a dramatic symbol that Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest, had passed through the veil of death and would shortly enter into the presence of God the Father.” (From: ‘New Testament Student Manual (2014) Chapter 10: Matthew 27–28’)
[For more information on what Mormons believe about the Atonement, go to: LDS Atonement]
There are two major concerns I have with the above quote. First, the tearing of the veil was not symbolic of what was going to happen (His future presence with the Father, according to Mormonism), but was a direct act of God because of what had just been accomplished (payment for sins).
[Note: From the above link, they added... “Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote that in addition to the Savior entering the presence of the Father, “the Holy of Holies is now open to all....”” Mormons are speaking of a time AFTER Jesus ascended, NOT that moment when He gave up His spirit. To Mormons, His enterance into the Holy of Holies (the Father’s presence) was not at the time of His death. They believe while His body was in the tomb, He went to a place they call “Spirit Prison/Paradise” (which is not where the Father dwells in Mormon theology. See: Paradise).]
Second, I have no qualms with people wanting to see symbolisms within certain realities. However, I cannot see how God the Father would tear the veil of the temple for the purpose of providing a symbol of a future event; especially right after His precious Son had just died. Why would God provide such a symbol while His Son hung lifeless on a torturous Roman cross? Rather than providing a symbolic image of something no one at the time would have understood, God had an actual purpose for tearing the veil, and the timing of it cannot be ignored.
Notice that the Temple Veil was rent in two right after Jesus died on the cross (Read: Matthew 27:50-51). To understand the significance of this, it would be helpful to first understand a bit about what occurred each year on the Day of Atonement (also called, Yom Kippur).
There was a sacred area of the tabernacle of Moses, and afterward the temple of Jerusalem, called the Holy of Holies. The temple veil separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple (see Hebrews 9:1-9). Once a year, on Yom Kippur, the High Priest alone was permitted to enter beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies to burn incense and sprinkle blood from a sacrificed animal on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. This was done to make atonement for the people.
Understanding the meaning of atonement will help show how Jesus’ death on the cross alone, and the tearing of the Temple Veil, were directly connected.
Atonement means, God’s provision whereby He makes a way for humankind to come back into a harmonious relationship with Himself. To atone is to make or become united or reconciled. Allow me to briefly go back to where the problem all started, then I’ll jump back ahead to God’s provision of reconciliation.
Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, humanity became separated from God. This act of disobedience was the introduction of sin into the world, which all humanity (except Jesus) inherited from Adam, called Original Sin (See The Fall (Part 1), and The Fall (Part 2) for more information.) Sin caused a separation from God known as spiritual death (see Isaiah 59:1-2, Genesis 2:17 and Colossians 2:13a). The Bible teaches that no one does good, and that all have sinned (see Psalm 14:3 and Romans 3:23). God is holy, and since His “eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13), He cannot tolerate sin. But God, in His great mercy, provided the way back for us enjoy a relationship with Himself.
Now I’ll jump ahead to the veil.
The veil separated that Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies) where the Mercy Seat was, from the rest of the temple (or tabernacle), because sin is a barrier between God and humanity. The sprinkling of blood by the High Priest (known as the Old Blood Covenant, specifically the Mosaic Covenant) inside the Holy of Holies, was a foreshadow of the precious blood that would be poured out on Calvary alone (now the New Blood Covenant).
At the Last Supper when Jesus passed the wine to His disciples, He said, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28). This was the blood that was poured out on the cross, and is described in 1 Peter 1:19 as, “the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” Have you ever read where Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)? It also means, “Paid in full!” There was no more need for those animal sacrifices, because Jesus paid the full penalty for sins on the cross with His own blood.
What did the tearing of the Temple Veil do? It immediately stopped the High Priest in his tracks, since without the veil, he could no longer bring the blood of animals into the Holy of Holies. The tearing of the Temple Veil was God’s intervening to put an end to that Old Blood Covenant ritual. The Temple ceremonies were no longer to be performed. The Old Blood Covenant has been replaced by “a better covenant” (See Hebrews 7:22). This covenant is an everlasting covenant paid by the precious blood of the Lamb on the cross at Calvary. Those who accept the Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the cross as full payment for their sins, are reconciled to God.
Notice also that God did not command any of the religious leaders to destroy the veil. He did it Himself! This, I thoroughly believe, was to show the work of reconciliation is by God alone. He sent His Son to die for you, and reconciliation is through the precious blood of Christ! Nothing else will do!
The veil was torn by God. Why try to find reconciliation with the Father through another veil He did not provide? Since the ritualistic ceremonies behind that temporary veil are no longer required, to replace that veil with another, would be to impose ceremonial works upon people God did not command. Run away from empty rituals and into the arms of the Saviour!
Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:9-10)
Jesus paid it all!