The Holy of Holies, a small room 10 cubits x 10 cubits (15′ x 15′) separated from the Holy Place by the veil. It housed one piece of redemptive furniture, the ark of the Covenant, with its mercy seat. There was no created light like the sun and no artificial light but Gods own “Shekinah” glory that lit up the Holiest Place.
There was no seat for man but here Jehovah sat alone on the throne of glory and righteousness. As the high priest entered once a year, he entered with bowed head, unsandalled feet, and bells. No human voice was heard, only the voice of God.
Exod 26:31-34 “You shall make a veil woven of blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine woven linen. It shall be woven with an artistic design of cherubim.”
- The veil could never be touched except by the high priest, and then only once a year to sprinkle blood on the mercy seat on the day of atonement:
Lev 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses: “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.”
What Was the Significance of the Temple Veil being Torn in Two when Jesus Died?
During the lifetime time of Jesus, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was the center of Jewish religious life. Here was the place that animal sacrifices were carried out, and worship according to the Law of Moses was commanded, and followed faithfully.
Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us that in the Temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies where God dwelt from the rest of the Temple where men dwelt. This signified that man was separated from God by sin (Isaiah 59:1-2). Only the High Priest was permitted to pass beyond this veil once each year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7), enter into God’s presence for all of Israel, and make atonement for their sins (Leviticus 16).
Solomon’s Temple was 30 cubits high (1 Kings 6:2) but Herod had increased the height to 40 cubits according to the writings of Josephus, a first century Jewish historian. There is uncertainty as to exactly what a cubit equaled in our feet and inches but it is safe to assume that this veil was somewhere near 60 feet high. Josephus also tells us that the veil was four inches thick, and that horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart. And the account in the Book of Exodus teaches that this thick veil was fashioned from blue, purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen.
The size and thickness of the veil makes so much more momentous the events described as occurring at the exact moment of Jesus’ death upon a cross nearly 2000 years ago. “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom…” (Matthew 27:50-51a)
So what do we make of this? What significance does this rent-torn veil have for us today? Above all, the tearing of the veil at the moment of Jesus’ death dramatically symbolized that His sacrifice, the shedding of His own blood, was a sufficient atonement for sins forever. It now signified that the way into the Holy of Holies was open for all people, for all time, both Jew and gentile.
When Jesus died, the veil was torn, and God moved out of that place never again to dwell in a Temple made with hands (Acts 17:24). God was through with that Temple and its religious system and worship forever, and the Temple and Jerusalem was left “desolate” (destroyed by the Romans) in 70 A.D. just as Jesus prophesied it would in Luke 13:35. As long as the Temple stood, it signified the continuation of the Old Covenant. Hebrews 9:8-9 indicates that the way to the sanctuary was not yet open “as long as the outer tent” still stood, being symbolic of “the present age.” The “present age” refers to the age that was passing away even as the New Covenant was being established (Hebrews 8:13).
In a sense, the veil was symbolic of Christ, Himself. Christ is the only way to the Father. (John 14:6) This is symbolized in the fact that the High Priest had to enter the Holy of Holies through the veil. Now Christ is our more superior High Priest, and as believers in the finished work of Jesus we partake of His better priesthood. We can now enter the Holy of Holies by Him. Hebrews 10:19-20 says that the faithful enter into the sanctuary by the “blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the veil, that is, through his flesh.”
The veil being rent from top to bottom is a fact of history. The profound significance of this event is explained in glorious detail in the Letter to the Hebrews. These things were shadows of things to come, and they all ultimately point us to Jesus Christ. He was the veil to the Holy of Holies, and through His death, the faithful now have free access to God.
The veil in the Temple was a constant reminder that sin renders humanity unfit for the presence of God. The fact that the sin offering was offered annually and countless other sacrifices repeated daily was meant to show graphically that sin could not truly and permanently be atoned for or erased by mere animal sacrifices. Jesus Christ, through His death, has removed the barriers between God and man, and now we may approach Him with confidence and boldness (Hebrews 4:14-16).