The Curtain Was Torn

“But Yeshua (Jesus), again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit. At that moment the parokhet (veil, curtain) in the temple was ripped in two from the top to the bottom… Mt 27:50-51 (JNT)

The parokhet, or curtain, in the temple is described in Exodus 26:31-35:

“Make a curtain of blue, purple and scarlet yarn and finely twisted linen, with cherubim woven into it by a skilled worker. Hang it with gold hooks on four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold and standing on four silver bases. Hang the curtain from the clasps and place the ark of the covenant law behind the curtain. The curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place.  Put the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law in the Most Holy Place. Place the table outside the curtain on the north side of the tabernacle and put the lampstand opposite it on the south side.” NIV

This curtain was put in place in the Tabernacle in the dessert and it separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. When the temple was built, a curtain was put in place there as well. Only the Chief Priest was allowed to pass through the curtain into the Holy of Holies. And this only happened once a year on Yom-Kippur, when he would make an atonement sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the people of the Hebrew people.

When Jesus died, the moment he died according to Matthew 27:51, this curtain was torn from top to bottom. And access into God’s presence was no longer reserved for the Chief Priest, but available to everyone. (Hebrews 9:3-9, 10:19-22)

The Talmud, the written version of the Jewish Oral Law and commentary, helps illustrate that the work of Jesus on the cross altered the system of atonement for the Hebrews. Traditionally on Yom-Kippur the Chief Priest would sacrifice a goat (Lev 16) , and place a piece of scarlet cloth between it’s two horns. If later it turned white, it signified that Israel’s sins had been forgiven in accordance to Isiah 1:18.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

In the Jewish New Testament Commentary David Stern quotes from the Yoma:

“Our Rabbis taught that throughout the forty years that Shim’on the Tzaddik served,… the scarlet cloth would become white. From then on it would sometimes become white and sometimes not…. Throughout the last forty years before the Temple was destroyed… the scarlet cloth never turned white.” (Yoma 39a-39b)

Thus, during the days of Shim’on the Tzaddik the sacrificial system as set up under Moses was effective. But afterwards, it was only effective sometimes, as Israel’s relationship with God began to decline. Finally, after Jesus’ death and the tearing of the curtain forty years before the destruction of the Temple, it was never effective again.

The system for atonement, for forgiving Israel’s sin was now the sacrificial death of Jesus the Messiah. And through Him our sins, though scarlet, shall be made white as snow.


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