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A Torn Curtain

The Full Story

The New Testament Gospel writers refer to some unusual occurrences that took place at the time when Jesus died on the cross. One such incident was that the temple curtain was torn in two. Matthew tells us that, when Jesus hung on the cross, he "...cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split." Matthew 27:50–51 (ESV) Mark put it this way. "And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." Mark 15:37–38 (ESV) Luke wrote, "It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last." Luke 23:44–46 (ESV)

What is the significance of the temple curtain being torn in two? When God instructed Moses how to build the tabernacle (which also patterned the construction of the temple) he said “And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy.” (Exodus 26:33, ESV) The Jewish Temple was a Holy Place, but the area behind the curtain was the Most Holy Place. The area behind the curtain was the place where the glory of God dwelt above the mercy seat. The High Priest was allowed behind that curtain once a year to offer an atoning sacrifice for the people of Israel. The High Priest, and only the High Priest, one person out of the nation of Israel, was allowed to come into the presence of God, but only once each year, and yet, at the death of Jesus this dividing curtain was torn in two "from top to bottom."


In the past the High Priest, once a year, could come into the presence of God, but now everyone who puts their faith in Christ can come into the very presence of our Holy God. Sinners (you and I) can come before the Holy God because Jesus took upon himself our sin. Jesus Christ is our atoning sacrifice. He took upon himself or sins and endured the wrath of God so that we can be in the presence of God now, and for all eternity. We know this to be true because, at the death of Jesus, the temple curtain was torn in two "from top to bottom."

Ephesians 2:4–9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (ESV)

Hebrews 2:9

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (ESV)

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