Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Unveiled Christ (from the archives)

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20

The Unveiled Christ
Words by Noah B. Herrell

Once our blessed Christ of beauty
Was veiled off from human view;
But through suffering, death and sorrow
He has rent the veil in two.

O behold the Man of Sorrows,
O behold Him in plain view;
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.
Lo! He is the mighty Conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.

Now He is with God the Father,
Interceding there for you;
For He is the mighty conqueror,
Since He rent the veil in two.

Holy angels bow before Him,
Men of earth give praises due;
For He is the well beloved
Since He rent the veil in two.

Throughout time and endless ages,
Heights and depths of love so true;
He alone can be the Giver
Since He rent the veil in two.

This is a song that we sang pretty often in our church growing up. I understood what it meant that Christ “rent the veil in two” because of the crucifixion story and the verses in the gospels that plainly state it.

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

And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:38

However, what I didn’t know was the meaning for us, as believers, that Christ rent the veil in two. Why was it important that the veil was torn in two? What did the veil do in the first place?

You shall hang up the veil under the clasps, and shall bring in the ark of the testimony there within the veil; and the veil shall serve for you as a partition between the holy place and the holy of holies. Exodus 26:33

The veil was a critical piece in the tabernacle that Moses erected in the desert. The veil separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. All the priests ministered every day in the Holy Place, but the Holy of Holies was different. In the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant, and in those days, God met with His people in a cloud above the ark. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only on one day each year – the day of Atonement. (See Leviticus 16.)

Entering the Holy of Holies was serious business – God commanded Moses that Aaron (the high priest) would have to wear special clothes, bring animals for offerings and bring a firepan of coals and incense otherwise HE WOULD DIE.

He shall take a firepan full of coals of fire from upon the altar before the LORD and two handfuls of finely ground sweet incense, and bring it inside the veil. He shall put the incense on the fire before the LORD, that the cloud of incense may cover the mercy seat that is on the ark of the testimony, otherwise he will die. Leviticus 16:12-13

This is where God was. Even the High Priest could only enter once a year. The Israelites could never go into the Holy of Holies. They had no direct access to God; they relied on the High Priest to make atonement for them.

Jump ahead to the time of Jesus and His life on earth – his death and resurrection bought our salvation and our eternal redemption. But what else? The Gospels tell us that at His death the veil was split from top to bottom – since the veil separated people from the Holy God, now, because of Jesus’ death, there is no separation! The veil is torn in two and now all believers have access to God through Jesus Christ! Stop for a moment and just think about this.

I think it must have been amazing, on so many levels, to be present at the crucifixion. But can you imagine what the Jews thought when they heard the sound of the veil ripping in two? Can you imagine what it must have been like to go to the Temple and see the veil in two pieces? To be able to see INSIDE THE VEIL?

In the Old Testament, the people had no access to God: a thick veil in the tabernacle separated them and only the High Priest could go within the veil. But Jesus has become our High Priest, has made atonement for us once and for all, and has rent the veil in two allowing us to go to God directly! Isn’t that GREAT NEWS???

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12

He is indeed our mighty conqueror, having conquered sin and death forever. And He is with God the Father, interceding for us.

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

I hope that you will take some time today and think about what it means for you, personally, that Christ rent the veil in two.

And I encourage you to draw near and hold fast as the author of Hebrews exhorts us.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25

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