GUEST VIEW: The veil of the temple

By Van Yandell

Matthew 27:51-53 “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. The graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

For us to understand the concept of the veil, we must have a basic knowledge of The Jerusalem Temple and The Ark of the Covenant. The ark was/is a container/box (Exodus 25:10-22) designed by God to hold the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were originally etched by God.

The Jerusalem Temple, also known as The King Solomon’s Temple and The Temple of God, has been built and destroyed twice. First built around 1000 BCE (Before Current Era), it was believed finished around 987 BCE.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, burned the temple in 587 BCE. His kingdom ended about 540 BCE and Cyrus the Persian became the ruler of Babylon and it became the Persian Empire. Cyrus ordered the rebuilding of the temple in 538 BCE.

The Romans burned the second temple in 70 AD (Anno Domini-year of our Lord). Scripture indicates a third temple will be built before Jesus returns because of the following.

II Thessalonians 2:3-4 ESV “Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” If the antichrist speaks from the temple, it must be rebuilt.

Many believe the third temple is the church. Because we do not know the exact year Paul wrote II Thessalonians, it is difficult to exactly determine what he may have been referring to. Many believe (myself included) the third temple must be built on the exact place as the first two temples.

At this point in time, the Al Aqsa Mosque, (Dome of the Rock) sits in that place. The workmanship in that structure is beyond magnificent. (Search Al Aqsa Mosque and click on images).

1 Kings 6 describes God’s instructions for the building of the first temple. It was to be built sixty cubits in length, twenty cubits wide and 30 cubits high. A cubit is the length from the inside of a man’s elbow to his fingertips.

In English measurement a cubit is considered eighteen inches. The dimensions of the temple in feet would have been 90 feet by 30 feet wide and 45 feet high. Had the veil reached the top of the room it would have been around 40 to 45 feet in height.

Estimates of the thickness of the veil (curtain dividing The Holy of Holies from the Holy Place) tell us it was the width of a man’s hand which would be around 9 cm or 3 ½ inches. It being thirty feet wide and 40 plus feet high, its weight would have been hundreds of pounds. It was made of woven purple, blue and red linen with cherubim woven into the fabric. Estimates vary about the size of the veil.

Considering the Hebrews moved the largest stone in the Temple of Solomon (45’ x 10’ x 13’) and it weighs over 500 metric tons, I’m sure they managed to raise the veil.

Jewish legend tells us it took 300 priests to raise the veil into place. Considering its enormous size, many men would have been required to lift it.

The veil divided the Holy of Holies from the front two-thirds of the temple. The one-third in the end of the temple was where The Ark of the Covenant was kept. No one was allowed into that area except the Levite priests whose duty was to care for the Ark and burn incense at specific times.

The Holy of Holies section of the temple was also considered to be the home of God and could not be entered by anyone except a special Levite priest.

The lid (or top) of the Ark was called the “Mercy Seat.” Symbolically, God sat on that seat and offered mercy to the people. Of course, Judeo-Christians regard God as being omnipresent so this designation was simply a belief to anchor God to the place.

After the Romans burned the second temple in 70 AD, the Ark disappeared. Only speculation is available as to where it might be. Some claim it is in a church in Ethiopia. Others believe the Romans or the Philistines destroyed it to discredit the presence of God and the Hebrew claim of being His chosen people.

Others believe the Ark is in a cave under Mt. Moriah. Some believe when the Jews realized the Romans were going to destroy them and everything associated with them (70 AD), they hid the ark in one of the caves.

When archaeologists were about to enter the cavernous section under the Al Aqsa mosque, the Muslim authorities stopped the excavation. If the ark is ever found, it will be the greatest archaeological discovery of all time.

Symbolically, the veil separated God from the people. God had His position and the people were to not enter that special place. The front of the temple was where the Jews made animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin. The veil established the separation by sin of man and God.

Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross eliminated that separation. Man and God were forever joined by Christ Jesus’ Holy and perfect blood.

Mark 15:37-39 “And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.”

At that point in time when Jesus died, the Old Covenant barrier between God and mankind was forever severed. The veil being “rent in twain” symbolized that New Covenant and the eternal union of God and the confessed, repentant and believing man.

Of all the supernatural consequences on the day of the crucifixion, the splitting of the veil is among the most significant. By Jesus’ shed blood, we, by our faith based belief in Him, can experience eternal life. We will never again be separated from God by a veil or anything else.

Van Yandell is a retired Industrial Arts teacher, an ordained gospel evangelist and commissioned missionary.