People of God, through the death of Jesus Christ, the way has been opened into the presence of God. Hebrews 10:22, we may “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” draw near to God through the blood shed.
To a sinner whose heart has been awakened, there is one question to which we simply must have an answer, the only question which really matters. That question is this: “How shall I come and appear before God?” If that question does not occupy the center of your heart and if you are unconcerned or if you have never asked that question, you are living far from the reality of God and of yourself as a sinner.
What is reality? Reality is your sin … and a holy God. The question is, How can I come and appear before God? The most fundamental question is not, How can I face another day? How can I get what I want? How can I gain approval of others? How can I get out of this mess? No, the most important question is, “How can I stand before God?” If I can appear before God, all is well. My sins may accuse me, sorrow and trial may be my earthly way, burdens and loneliness may cling to my heart; but if I may enter into that holy place and stand before God as my God, then even though disease may cover my body and anguish fill my heart, all is well!
Do you want to appear before God? Does your heart crave His fellowship? Does your sin bother you? Do you know what it is to stand guilty before God? Have you asked the question, How can I?
This is the answer of the gospel: Through Christ. Ephesians 3:12, “In whom,” that is in Christ, “we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Not your own works. They are not the basis. Not yourself. You cannot come to God because of who you are. God has provided the way, through the blood and through the death of His Son. Then, by faith in Christ, we may come boldly and confidently. And He will in no wise cast us out. Do you know these things?
The Word of God that I bring this afternoon is found in the gospel according to Matthew, chapter 27, verse 51. I am going to speak to you about the rending of the veil, one of the signs that was given by God at the moment that His Son had willingly died upon the cross in the place of God’s elect.
There were a number of signs that God gave at that precise moment when Christ gave His life up to God, when He had died upon the cross. Two of them were prophetic, that is, they pointed ahead. We read that the moment that Christ died the earth did quake and the rocks rent, that is, the ground shook and great cracks appeared in the ground and solid granite boulders split apart. That represented a mighty triumph of God. The earth was moved at the presence of God. And it represented the truth that on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work God would create out of the earth a new earth, and a new heaven, a final, perfected, glorious new heaven and earth. He had said through the prophet Haggai, “Yet, once more, it is a little while and I will shake the heaven and the earth, the sea and the dry land; and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory.”
The second sign which pointed ahead was the fact that the graves of many of the saints were opened and the bodies of many saints which slept arose. That was a sign which represented the truth that through Jesus’ death and resurrection the people of God are going to be raised in newness of life and in resurrected bodies in which we shall live to all eternity.
Those signs were prophetic. They looked ahead. Christ, by His dying, had earned the everlasting kingdom of God in which we shall live in our resurrected bodies. But there was a sign before that. A most important, wonderful sign at the moment of the Lord’s death. It represents the single, most important blessing of the death of Christ. It represents to us the truth that through the death of Christ we are taken into the very presence of God. We read, “And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” When Christ had brought the payment for sin upon the cross, the veil of the temple was torn, representing the truth that the way is now open for us into the presence of God.
What was that veil? We read of the veil of the temple. That represented the veil that hung between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Within the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant. The veil that God had already told Moses to make for the tabernacle and which was subsequently also made by Solomon for the temple was the veil that separated the Holy Place into which the priests could come for their customary duties and the Most Holy Place, or Holy of Holies, into which the high priest could enter but once a year. It was some sixty feet long, thirty feet wide, woven up and across like a woven rug. It was embroidered with cherubim with flaming swords. And it represented the truth that the way to God’s presence (and God’s presence then was symbolized in the Most Holy Place) was not yet opened. The Holy of Holies where God dwelt, for the Scriptures proclaim that He dwelt between the cherubim upon the Ark of the Covenant which was in the Holy of Holies, was shut to man because of his filth, evil, corruption, and guilt.
So we read in the Old Testament that the high priest, once a year, could go behind that veil with the blood of the atonement as a sign of Christ who was to come. That veil represented to the people of God that God dwelt in holiness and that nothing that was corrupt could ever come before Him, that the presence of God was not cheap. Hebrews 9:3, 7, 8 speak to us and explain these things to us. That veil, then, represented that God is holy and we cannot come before Him of ourselves.
That veil was torn. It was torn at the moment that Christ willingly gave up His life, when all of His sufferings were completed. We read, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain.” Jesus, we read, cried again. The first time was at the end of the three hours of darkness when He cried: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Then He cried again with the words, “It is finished.” That was the victory cry that all the work that was necessary to remove our sin and to satisfy the justice of God against the sins of God’s people, all of that had been finished. And then immediately the Lord gave up the ghost, that is, willingly He laid down His life, He died as a deliberate act at that moment when the payment had been brought for the sins of His children, when the perfect sacrifice had been rendered unto God. When divine love had removed all of our sins from the presence of God, then the Son gives up His life and goes to the Father in His spirit.
At that moment, the hand of God reached down and tore open the veil of the temple. Christ had just entered into the presence of God. He appeared at that moment as the head and the representative of all those whom the Father had given to Him. He stood before God as the Lamb who had been slain and who had performed the work of full and complete redemption. Then God gave this sign. Behold, the veil of the temple was torn in twain from the top to the bottom, that is, not by human hands, not from the bottom to the top, but from the top to the bottom. It was rent, torn right in half, cut right down the middle. A clean, decisive, powerful cut, laying open the Holy of Holies. This represents that through the death of Jesus Christ the way has been opened for us into the very heart of God, into His fellowship.
For the church of Jesus Christ this is gospel joy. The door is open. Heaven lies open to our gaze. God Himself explains this. Hebrews 10:19-22, “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; and having an high priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” All of the Old Testament ceremonies and pictures were now fulfilled. The temple in Jerusalem was no longer needed. The veil is torn in half. Open is the way to the true sanctuary, the heavenly temple, the presence of God. No longer do we stand in the courtyard huddling and afraid, daring not to approach. But in Christ our Lord we may freely advance into the very sight of God.
So the Scripture does not weary in telling us of this great truth. Romans 5:1, 2, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom (notice – by Christ) also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We have access into this grace through Christ. The way, the only way by which sin, the vile, dirty sins which belong to us, are washed away and we are brought into the court of God’s presence is grace. That way is through the blood of Christ. We cannot earn that way. But Christ has freely and graciously opened it for us through His suffering in our place.
That means that Christ, by His suffering upon the cross, earned the place for His children to stand before the face of God. That was because His death was the putting away of our sins. His death was a sacrifice by which our sins were punished and now put away. Hebrews 9:26, “but now once in the end of the world hath he (Christ) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” It means that the wrath of God my sins merited has been appeased, has been poured out upon Christ and not on me. It means that while Christ hung upon the cross, God sent down a veil of darkness upon the earth and court was held in heaven. His Son appeared in the place of all those who were given to Him by His Father’s eternal love. And God placed on Christ the punishment their sins deserved. Christ endured that punishment so that the wrath of God against sin is appeased. Christ drank up that cup.
And that full payment for sin having now been given, we are brought near to God. Ephesians 1:7, “In whom (in Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin, according to the riches of his grace.” He put our sin away. He appeased the wrath of God. He secured our ransom. Therefore the way is open. It all adds up to this: We who were afar off have been made nigh by the blood of Christ ( Eph. 2). Or, as we sing in Psalter number 318, a musical number that is taken from the Psalms:
The glorious gates of righteousness
Throw open unto me,
And I will enter them with praise;
O Lord, my God, to Thee!
History tells us that the Jews repaired the veil. It is still hanging there for them. Can you imagine anything more dreadful?
Perhaps that night the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews, appointed a committee to investigate this strange event. Surely the high priest could not escape what was implied in the tearing of the veil. Perhaps a report was given. Perhaps they decided that the evidence was inconclusive. We don’t know what happened, they said, but we can repair it – we’ll buy a new one. They refused to enter into the arms of God through Christ. They said, We won’t go that way. We’ll go into God’s presence by the way of our works, we’ll earn it our own way, through the veil.
That is horrible. And that makes me tremble!
The veil, says the word of God, is yet upon their hearts. II Corinthians 3:14-16, “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, … the veil is upon their heart,” says the apostle. “Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.” This means that to reject Jesus Christ is to refuse the only way to God. What blindness. What folly. What pride. What arrogance. Oh the folly of looking to our own works as if they are going to be the basis upon which we can come to God. Or of looking to our ownselves as the basis of gaining God’s presence and favor. There is nothing but the work of Jesus Christ upon the cross that can rend the veil which separates you from God. That is the gospel. The way to God is open through, and only through, the blood of Christ. See that you do not refuse this Christ! If you do, there is only a fearful waiting for you of judgment. Do not brush this Christ off in arrogance and self-complacency. Repent and believe the gospel. Do not look to yourself. Do not look to your works as being your acceptance with God. It is by faith, the gift of God, that we know that God has opened the way through the cross of His Son.
Therefore the rending of the veil proclaims loudly and clearly to us that God sees the cross of Christ as being the perfect and complete payment for our sins. This is God’s sign. This is God’s action, an action that He took after He had made a judgment on what Christ had done. He accounts the work of Christ as the perfect and complete payment for our sins, for the sins of those He gave to His Son.
The cross, the suffering of the Son of God upon the accursed tree, that alone brings us to God’s heart. So perfect it is, that it stands to eternity. So complete that nothing remains to be done. Romans 8:34, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again.” Hebrews 9:12, “By his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Hebrews 10:14, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Is that what you need? By the work of the Holy Spirit you cannot ignore your sin, you cannot sweep it away? But the consciousness of your sin burns within you? By the grace of God you are not what you would be of yourself. Of yourself you would be in darkness. Of yourself you would always point to someone else as a greater sinner. You would be grieved over what they did, over what they said, over what they did to you, and how they hurt you. But now, by the grace of God, you cannot look past your own self? Then hear this gospel: the veil has been torn by God Himself. The way into God’s presence is opened. The cross of our Lord has brought us behind the veil. And the cross of our Lord has earned for us all that will be found behind the veil, even the blessings at God’s right hand.
Christ’s death has secured all of those blessings for us. Christ died to obtain for us sanctification, that is, holiness, deliverance from the foul and besetting sins which would dominate us: our pride, our opinions, our lust, our greed. Christ died for our preservation, that is, that He might keep us by the power of God in all of our trials and keep us even unto eternal life. Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, … how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”
When we have been brought into the presence of God, then we are also showered with the blessings of the living God, not only the pardon of sin but holiness, love for God, peace of the soul, joy in God. Are these the things you want? The blessings which are found at God’s right hand? Not the treasures of earth. Have you found the treasures of earth vanishing and empty? Do you covet the things of eternal life: purity, obedience, and love for God? Then hear the gospel. The veil has been torn. We have been received into the presence of God. We have been laden with the treasures of eternal life. We have been guaranteed His faithfulness and His love. All the fruit of the cross is now given to us.
God says so. For God spoke. God spoke not with words but with actions. With His hands, the moment His Son had completed His work upon the cross, He took hold of the veil which separates us from Him and tore it in two. Now we may come. We may come to Him in Jesus Christ.
And we shall in no wise be cast out.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. Bless it now unto our hearts. Amen.