Why did God instruct the building of the tabernacle? This article looks at the curtain in the tabernacle as it is explained in Exodus 26:31-33. It shows how Christ through his suffering opened the way to God.

Source: The Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth, 2008. 3 pages.

The Ripped Veil Exodus 26:31-33

Elnathan the priest entered the Holy Place with the oil to replenish the golden lampstand. As his eyes adjusted to the smoky, dimly lit room, he saw a shadowy male figure beside the thick veil which guarded the way into the Most Holy Place. The man was slightly bent over and seemed to be running his hand over the curtain material, as if examining it closely. He was muttering and sighing, maybe even praying. Elnathan coughed gently and who turned round but Ben-Levi, the High Priest! But why was he here, and why did he look so perplexed and puzzled?

“Shalom, Ben-Levi, are you well?” enquired Elnathan.

“Oh, Elnathan, you surprised me,” stuttered Ben-Levi. “Have you been standing there for long?”

“No, sir. I’ve just come to re-fill the lamp oil. But why are you here? Is there a problem with the veil? And ... you’re crying! Ben-Levi, what’s wrong?”

“I’m sorry, Elnathan, I’ve been here for hours — most of the night, in fact. Just after falling asleep, I had a most disturbing dream. I was in the Tabernacle’s Holy Place, and as I approached the heavy curtain guarding the way into the Most Holy Place, it ripped right down the middle, from top to bottom. Elnathan, it was so real, so vivid, that I ran down to the Tabernacle to check.”

“Ripped? But that’s impossible, Ben-Levi,” Elnathan assured him. “Only you can touch the veil, and you only do it once a year on the Day of Atonement, when you enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle the blood upon the Ark and the mercy-seat (Lev. 16:2-3). None of the priests would dare to even touch the veil, never mind rip it.”

“I know, I know. I was just so worried because God explicitly told us to make an especially thick and substantial veil so that the ark was always covered (Ex. 40:3). And it is my responsibility to ensure that no one ever sees within the veil. Look at the embroidered cherubim barring the way. Do they not warn anyone even thinking about looking or entering, ‘No entry! Stay out!’?”

“Of course they do, Ben-Levi. No Israelite would even think of touching that veil or looking inside. We have always taught our classes that God designed the veil to conceal from sight and prohibit entry. But you taught us also to tell our classes that the veil was tem­porary, that a time would come when the veil would be removed, that at that time the Messiah would open up a new way to God for everyone, not just once a year, and not just for the High Priest.”

“That’s why I was so perplexed, Elnathan. I wondered if that wonderful day had come. When I awoke from my dream, my heart was pounding. I thought, is God revealing to me that this is the day when the concealing and the barring will be over? I threw on my robes, ran through the camp, quickly washed in the brass laver, sacrificed a lamb from one of the pens, and entered the Holy Place. My eyes scanned the veil from top to bottom. No rip. I examined it all over with my hands. No rip. And since then, I have been here wondering, pondering, praying for understanding.”

Elnathan edged forward and embraced his dis­tressed mentor. “Ben-Levi, you are a good and godly man. I know that you yearn for all Israel to experi­ence the access to God which you enjoy on the Day of Atonement. And I know that you yourself wish you could enjoy that access every day and not just once a year. But that time is not yet. We must wait in faith and patience. Maybe we will live to see it, maybe not. But maybe your dream gives us a bit more light on how the veil will be removed.”

“What do you mean, Elnathan?”

“Well, in your dream the veil was ripped without human hand. I’m thinking that perhaps that indicates that whenever the veil is removed, it will be an act of God alone. It won’t be you or me, or anyone else, but God alone will open up the wider way to Himself.”

“Elnathan, that is a very beautiful thought. God has really blessed you with an ability to see the principles behind the pictures.”

“You are my teacher, Ben-Levi! Did you have any thoughts yourself?”

“Well, I’ll tell you what my mind was working on. What came to me was ‘mourning.’ You know how we rip our robes when we mourn the death of a loved one? I wondered if the ripping of the veil would be associated with the death of the beloved Messiah we look for and long for. What do you think, Elnathan? The sacrifices point towards His suffering and death. Maybe it will be His suffering and death which finally open up the way to God for all!”

Ben-Levi’s voice trembled as he spoke, and Elnathan sensed the sacred divine presence in their midst. These were holy moments.

“Oh Ben-Levi, what a day, what a day it will be when the veil is removed and I, and all, will be able to see the glory of God in an unprecedented way!”

“Yes, I know; instead of ‘Keep back!’ it will be ‘Come to Me!’ Instead of ‘Let us draw back!’ we will say ‘Let us draw near!’ Instead of one priest allowed, all sinners invited. Instead of once a year, 24/7/365!”

Ben-Levi’s words faded as tears began to run down his face. Elnathan could hold back his own emotions no longer, and they both sank to their knees, in the Most Holy Place, overwhelmed with messianic hope and anticipation. As one, they both instinctively prayed, “Maranatha! Come, Lord!”

Study Questions🔗

  1. What did the Holy Spirit intend to teach with the “second veil” (Heb. 9:3-8)?
  2. It was a veil, not a wall, made of material, not brick. What hope did that give to the Israelites?
  3. In the light of Matthew 27:50-51, what did the veil rep­resent? Especially, what did the ripped veil picture?
  4. Charles Spurgeon commented on the ripped Temple Curtain: “It is not fanciful to regard it as a solemn act of mourning on the part of the house of the Lord. In the East men express their sorrow by rending their garments; and the temple, when it beheld its Master die, seemed struck with horror, and rent its veil. Shocked at the sin of man, indignant at the murder of its Lord, in its sympathy with Him who is the true temple of God, the outward symbol tore its holy vestment from the top to the bottom.”
  1. How much do you mourn over the ripped human nature of Christ (Luke 23:48)?
  2. In addition to using the death of Christ, how else can we “rip” our own hearts (Joel 2:13)?
  1. What was God saying about the Tabernacle and Temple system when He ripped the veil upon the death of Christ? What kind of person could benefit from hearing that message?
  2. How did the ripping of Christ’s human nature, the separation of His body and soul at death, open the way to see into the glory of God in an unprecedented way?
  3. Unwarranted entry into the Most Holy Place resulted in death (Lev. 16:2). When the High Priest lifted the curtain and passed into the Most Holy Place once a year, the people stood outside with trepidation, waiting for his return. Jewish tradition says that latterly the Jews attached a rope to the foot of the High Priest so that if he perished inside they might remove the body with minimal risk to themselves.
  1. What emotions would have been experienced by the High Priest and the people when he entered the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement?
  2. What are the emotional consequences of the ripped veil (Heb. 10:19-20; Heb. 6:19)?

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20).

  1. What are the practical consequences of the ripped veil (Heb. 10:21-27)?
  1. Spurgeon said: “The rent is not in one corner, but in the midst, as Luke tells us. It is not a slight rent through which we may see a little; but it is rent 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 rent in the midst, and rent from top to bottom, so that the chief of sinners may find ample passage!”

Can you think of someone to encourage with this quotation?

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