And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
(Matthew 27:51-56 ESV)
Yesterday we read about the death of Jesus. His suffering on the cross, including being abandoned by God, His Father, in His final hours, paid the penalty for our sins. Today we read the proof of that.
When the tabernacle (and later the temple) was built, God gave specific instructions on how it was to be constructed. This included creating a small inner room called the Holy of Holies – the most holy room in the Temple.
This room was where the high priest would go once a year, with the atoning blood of a sacrificed lamb, to meet with God. God would forgive Israel’s sins for the preceding year. But every year this same ritual had to be repeated.
The Holy of Holies was separated from the rest of the interior by a curtain [Exodus 26:31-33]. This curtain was a bold reminder to everyone who entered the Temple of the separation between God and man – a separation that came into existence in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned.
Sin separated God from man. Before Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, they spent their lives in God’s presence. They are the only people in the history of mankind to do so. But then they sinned and were dismissed from God’s presence [Genesis 3:23-24].
But God immediately promised to rectify the situation by sending a savior who would bridge the sin-created gap between God and man [Genesis 3:15]. That savior appeared thousands of years later and is known as Jesus.
To symbolically prove that Jesus had paid for mankind’s sins and that this gap no longer existed the curtain in the Temple was torn from top to bottom. Notice that the curtain, which was over 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, was completely torn in two from top to bottom. This was a miracle. It was God who tore the curtain. Man would have torn it from bottom to top.
By tearing the curtain God was saying that Jesus’ death fully paid for mankind’s sins and that He was now accessible to all of us. Jesus’ death opened the way for every human being to enter God’s presence because their sins no longer separate them from God.
But just like the high priest could only enter the Holy of Holies with the blood of the lamb, we can only enter God’s presence through the blood of Jesus. It was Jesus’ shed blood that atoned for our sins and makes God accessible to us.
All the lambs slain in the Temple over the centuries were merely symbolic of the true lamb to come who would in actuality atone for people’s sins. That lamb was Jesus.
There is no other way to enter God’s presence as Jesus Himself explained [John 14:6]. Anyone who tries to enter God’s presence through Allah or Buddha or via their own good behavior will fail.
Only those people who have believed upon Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins can enter God’s presence. And they can do so confidently, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that their sins are truly forgiven [Hebrews 10:19].
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