“And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.”Matthew 27:51
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to accompany our Pastor, Dr. Jeffress, to the White House to meet with Vice President Mike Pence. As we passed through each level of security and into the West Wing, Dr. Jeffress paved the way for me by introducing me as his associate. Together, we walked down a small hallway to a closed door where we were greeted and granted access to the Office of the Vice President of the United States. There, the Pastor introduced me to the Vice President and we talked together for several minutes. It was quite surreal!
As memorable as that experience was, it pales in comparison to the access we have been granted through the death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through His atoning sacrifice on the cross, He ushered us into the very presence of the Almighty God!
Matthew’s Gospel tells us that there were a number of remarkable signs that accompanied the death of our Lord. There was a period of darkness during daylight hours (Matt. 27:45). There was an earthquake (Matt. 27:51). Tombs opened up and dead saints began walking around, alive again (Matt. 27:52-53). These events made it impossible for onlookers to miss the cosmic significance of what was happening on the cross, as Jesus spoke His last words and breathed His last breath.
But perhaps no event held more meaning than what Matthew records about the temple: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51). The temple’s curtain wasn’t merely decorative. It served a vital purpose—to keep people from invading God’s sacred presence. This was God’s mercy. If any sinful person were to enter into the Holy of Holies, it resulted in a guaranteed and sudden death.
So what could it mean for this protective veil to be ripped open at the very moment of Christ’s death? It meant that God had made a way for us to enter into His presence. The writer of Hebrews calls this “a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf” (Hebrews 6:19-20). The theologian Augustine said that in Christ’s death He was “deliberately making himself the pavement under our feet along which we could return home” to Him. Christ is both the path and the destination.
Notice the way the veil was torn—“from top to bottom.” We didn’t go to find God. God came down to us. Salvation is His work for our good. In the death of Christ, God has made a way to bring us into His presence so that we can enjoy Him now and forever.
What an amazing privilege to enter into the presence of God!