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What does behind the veil mean?


To go "behind the veil" is to enter the holiest of holy places in the Tabernacle/Temple.

A visitor writes,

"what does behind the viel mean"

 

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(All quotations from the New King James translation unless stated otherwise).

When Moses was given the Law at Sinai he was instructed to make a tabernacle for a meeting place where God might dwell with Israel.

Exodus 25:8 "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. 9 "According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

The tabernacle consisted of 2 compartments divided by a curtain called a veil. The inner compartment behind the veil was called the Most Holy and figuratively represented the dwelling place of God. In it was placed the Ark of the Covenant within which were the 2 tables of the Law. On top of the Ark was a Mercy-seat of Gold with Cherubim fashioned on each end. God caused his presence to dwell above the Mercy-seat between the cherubim. 

Exodus 25:22 "And there I will meet with you, and I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel.

Exodus 26:33 "And you shall hang the veil from the clasps. Then you shall bring the ark of the Testimony in there, behind the veil. The veil shall be a divider for you between the holy place and the Most Holy.

The High Priest alone was allowed entry behind the veil just once every year on the Day of Atonement.

Leviticus 16:2 and the LORD said to Moses: "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat.

Leviticus 16:12 "Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the LORD, with his hands full of sweet incense beaten fine, and bring it inside the veil. 13 "And 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 Testimony, lest he die. 14 "He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the mercy seat on the east side; and before the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. 15 "Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering, which is for the people, bring its blood inside the veil, do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and before the mercy seat. 16 "So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 "There shall be no man in the tabernacle of meeting when he goes in to make atonement in the Holy Place, until he comes out, that he may make atonement for himself, for his household, and for all the assembly of Israel.

When Solomon replaced the Tabernacle with the Temple the same pattern was followed. The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Most Holy which was separated by a veil from the rest of the Temple. When Herod rebuilt the Temple the same pattern was maintained. The writer to the Hebrews explains what the pattern represented. He says that the place behind the veil represented the presence of God into which Jesus ascended after his resurrection.

Hebrews 6:19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever...

He explains the pattern in more detail in Hebrews 9.

Hebrews 9:3 and behind the second veil (the first veil was the tabernacle door), the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience— 10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews 10:23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

The veil represents Christ’s flesh; that is to say that entry into the presence of God only became possible through the death of Christ.

Hebrews 10:20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,

This is reinforced by God in the miraculous rending of the Temple veil from top to bottom at the same instant that Christ died.

Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom...

Jesus is thus constituted our only High Priest and through him alone can we come into God’s presence.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Not that we go to heaven, for the kingdom of God will be on earth when Christ returns; rather that through him (by believing and obeying his gospel and being baptised) we have atonement for our sins and direct access to God in prayer.

Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

I hope this helps.
Glenn Smith
 
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