The Miracle of the Splitting of the Veil

At the cross we see five miracles. Each of the miracles has a distinctive message. The first miracle, three hours of darkness in broad daylight, symbolized that Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the whole world. The second miracle, the miraculous splitting of the veil, symbolizes that we are all welcome into the presence of God. This is how God always wanted to relate to us.

Each year millions of people go to the holy Indian city of Haridwar to bathe in the River Ganges. These multitudes come believing that this Hindu ritual will wash away their sins.  Such extreme measures may be uncommon, but people try all sorts of things to build a relationship with God. The splitting of the veil reminds us that the death of Christ upon the cross gives us a way to have a relationship with God.

Matthew reported that the tearing of the veil happened simultaneous to Jesus breathing his last breath. (Matthew 27:50-51) Scholars debate which veil is being referenced. The temple would have had two curtains or veils—one separating the outer court from the Gentiles and another separating the inner court from the Holy of Holies. Since none of the Gospels indicate which veil, we do not know exactly, but in either case the issue is one of separation. The veil reminded that there was a barrier between sinful humanity and Holy God.

Understanding the purpose of the veil helps us to see the significance of this miracle.  The tearing of the veil symbolizes several aspects of the nature of our salvation. 

First, we see that salvation involves the removal of a barrier. The veil in the temple was a barrier. The first veil kept non-Jews from entering the inner courts. The second veil kept all, except the most High Priest, and this only once a year, from going into the Holiest of Holy Places. Sin is our barrier, but at the tearing of Christ’s flesh on the cross, the temple veil miraculously tore apart, thus symbolizing the removal of the barrier.

Second, in the tearing of the veil, we are reminded that God initiates salvation. Salvation is God’s idea, not our idea. Some have remarked that the Gospel writers were sure to indicate that the veil was torn from top to bottom. Perhaps this imagery is symbolic of God from Heaven ripping down the curtain.

Third, in the tearing of the veil, we are encouraged that God invites all to be saved. The temple being torn dramatically announces that access to God is open to all.

Finally, the tearing of the veil insists that God is the only way of salvation. The simultaneous tearing of the veil with His death announces that we gain access to God only through the cross.

Yes, I think much more was happening than just a tearing of a veil. God was announcing through this miracle, as the writer of Hebrews declared, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12)  Hallelujah to the Lamb!

 

The Miracle of Darkness in the Day

Every Christian will agree that a great miracle occurred that Friday that Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. Actually, as Matthew related that scene, as recorded in Matthew 27:45-54, one can count as many as five miracles: the sun turning to darkness, the splitting of the temple veil, the shaking of the earth, the resurrection of dead people, and the response of the soldiers. In these miracles is the message of the cross. In the noonday darkness, we learn the first lesson of the cross. Though Paul did not refer to the darkness, his commentary on the cross in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is a good synopsis of the lesson from the darkness. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Reason for the Darkness

Have you ever stopped to ponder the reason for the darkness? Considering the imagery of darkness in other moments of Biblical history, perhaps God was saying something in the darkness of Crucifixion Day. God seemed to use darkness in the period of the Exodus to indicate a significant moment. The ninth plague was total darkness for three days. Right before the plague of death, which was the tenth plague, was the darkness. God was announcing through darkness, “I’m up to something.” The darkness at the Exodus and at the cross announced, “Look, this is a Divine moment! Don’t miss it!”

Does your way seem kind of dark right now? Don’t be in despair! God may be about to make an announcement about your life! Darkness often comes before Divine moments.

In addition to the darkness signaling a Divine moment, the darkness symbolized that the cross was a defining moment in human history. All throughout Scripture, evil and sin are referred to in terms of darkness. Good and righteousness are referred to in terms of light.  The darkness of verse 45 is linked to the declaration of verse 46. Christ took upon Himself the sin of the whole world. In that moment, all sin—past, present, and future—fell upon the Savior. No wonder the sky grew dark!

The Theological Relevance of the Darkness

Out of this darkness, we sense some theological truths. First, we are reminded that sin separates us from God. Second, the depth of God’s love is revealed. Stop and think about it. The Bible describes Hell as a place of darkness, a place of torment, and a place of separation from God. Jesus, in those hours of darkness, went through all three so we would not have to go through these ourselves. Sometimes, people get into great debates as to who put Jesus on the cross. Was it the Jews, the Romans, Pilate or Judas? Let’s be clear about the answer. First, all people put Jesus on cross. Second, Jesus placed Himself on the cross. He wanted to save people from sin.

What should be our response to such a display of love? We must join the centurion in saying, “Truly this {is} the Son of God.”

 

 

Behold the Open Door

Revelation 3:7-13

Revelation 2-3 contains 7 letters written to 7 historical churches of the first century world. More than just ancient letters, these letters are absolutely filled with practical themes for us to consider today. All but two of the letters follows a similar pattern (recipient, identification of author, commendation, condemnation, charge to correct, challenge to persevere, challenge to hear the message). The letter to Philadelphia breaks the pattern at one point—it has no word of condemnation.

Have you ever just needed to be encouraged? Sometimes we need to be rebuked and corrected. Other times we just simply need to be affirmed and encouraged. Blessed is the person who knows when we need that time of affirmation. I had a Seminary Professor who did that for me. God is like that. To the church at Philadelphia, He exhorts. To this church, on this occasion at least, He has no words of condemnation. Hear, or as the text reads, “Behold” these words of encouragement.

Behold the Opportunity of the Door Before Us

What is this door?  We are not going to get very far into this text until we are able to understand the identification of the door.  What are the possibilities?

  1. Our Salvation
  • Revelation 3:20—Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.
  1. Our Evangelism
  • Acts 14:27—After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:9—because a wide door for effective ministry has opened for me —yet many oppose me.
  •  2 Corinthians 2:12—When I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ, a door was opened to me by the Lord.
  • Colossians 4:3 3—At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah —for which I am in prison —

So, which is it? I am not 100% sure. The commentaries lean toward the first. They argue that in context, this speaks of salvation in terms of entry into the Messianic Kingdom. The argument has great merit. To be sure, our salvation is consistent with the words of verse 7. They also argue that in Revelation, the imagery of an open door does not speak towards evangelism.

However, I believe that from context, we could also make an argument toward the second option—evangelism. Remember, these are letters to churches, not individuals.

The 3 clauses of verse 8 tilt the evidence in favor of evangelism.

Again, we cannot get very far in this text if we do not make a choice. So, let’s consider it as the door open for churches.

Reasons God Opens Doors to Some Churches:

God opens doors to churches that . . .

  1. Depend on Him. Blessed are the churches that recognize that our power is in Him.
  2. Declare His Word. God always honors the preaching of His Word.
  3. Do not Deny His Name. Here is the heart of the Gospel.

What if a church says, “We cannot reach that kind of person,” or “We don’t have enough money,” or “It will cost too much money,”?  Why not believe that God opens the door and the door He opens, no one closes?