Tag Archives: access

Beyond the Veil

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During the school year, I enjoy being part of a wonderful church family near my college.  I choose to go there not only because of their solid Biblical teaching but also because of their commitment to and open practice of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including prophecy, healing, and words of knowledge – something I am passionate about.  Now, I share all that to preface a brief story: someone shared a word of encouragement during a church service a few weeks ago.  This person shared several things about God’s love, yet it was the final thing that was said that caught my full attention: “Jesus is ready and waiting to go through the veil for us.”  (Don’t quote me on the precise wording, but that was the gist of it).  Essentially, this person said that Jesus is going to go beyond the veil for us, in our place.  Please understand that I am not criticizing, and I am not saying that this was not a word from the Lord.  The wording of it, however, caused me to think.  There is a concept in this that must be scrutinized, for even as this word was shared, my mind shouted, “But the veil was torn when Jesus died on the cross!”

“And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.  Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” – Mark 15:37-38 (also Matt. 27:50-51 and Lk. 23:45)

The truth is that Jesus already went beyond the veil for us: “the forerunner has entered for us” (Heb. 6:19).  Great – Jesus went beyond the veil for us.  That’s dandy, but what does it mean for us now?  What is this veil-thing about anyway?  To answer those questions, we need a little bit of background knowledge, so indulge me for a few moments as I get a little nerdy with Biblical history….

Here’s the (very brief) version of what “the veil” is and represents in Scripture: in the Old Testament, the Lord instituted the Law for His people to follow.  He commanded that a dwelling place be built for Him and that a heavy veil be hung in the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) to separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (the Holy of Holies).

I know you were longing for a diagram...

I know you were longing for a diagram…

It was in the Most Holy Place that the presence of the Lord dwelt between the carved cherubim that topped the Ark of the Covenant.  Only the high priest of Israel could pass beyond the veil into the Most Holy Place – and that could be done only once a year and with the blood of a sacrifice for the sins of the Israelites (this was known as the Day of Atonement).  This particular veil was in place to restrict access to the fullness of the Lord’s presence – His holy glory – because, since the days of Adam and Eve, sin has separated us from full relationship with God.  (It would be fascinating to discuss all the uses of veils, including those to cover women, in Scripture, but I digress.)

The veil was torn.

The veil was torn.

Fast forward many hundreds of years: Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, took on flesh and became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:17), dying a horrific death on a cross and rising again in victory to release us from the power of sin (Rom. 8:2) and reconcile us to God the Father (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:10-11) by fulfilling the whole Law (Matt. 5:17).  As He died, the veil – the one that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place – was torn in half from top to bottom.  God the Father reconciled us to Himself through the death of His Son Jesus because it pleased Him to do so; no longer are we enemies but rather are now holy, blameless children of the King of Kings.  Our peace was bought in Blood that we might have relationship with Him (Col. 1:19-22).  That’s what the tearing of the veil was about on the day Jesus died: access to the Holy of Holies, the living Presence of God, through relationship with Him.

God made a shocking and powerful statement in tearing the veil in the Temple, but what does that truly mean for us?  What place does the veil hold in our lives?

We know that Jesus has already gone beyond the veil for us, but He didn’t stop in merely “going beyond.”  In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul asserts that “the veil is taken away in Christ….when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (v. 14, 16).  This imagery of the veil being removed indicates the inauguration of the New Covenant, bought with Christ’s blood, which demolishes the Law of the old covenant and its fading glory.  Interestingly, even before the days of the Tabernacle, God’s first dwelling place among the Israelites, Moses spoke face to face with God on a mountain top.  When Moses came back down to the Israelite camp, he veiled his face to hide the radiance of God’s glory that clung to him – and that was merely a fading glory from being in the presence of God Most High.  But now, we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18, emphasis mine; check out all of chapter 3 to really dig into this subject).  This is how the veil relates to our daily lives.

We are reflect God's glory.

We all reflect God’s glory.

Jesus didn’t die so we could remain on the far side of the veil, restricted from the presence of the Father; we are called to a life beyond the veil.

We are invited to “boldly approach the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16) because Jesus has become our High Priest, our Mediator before God the Father, and the Atonement for our sin.  In this same vein, Ephesians 3:12 tells us that we have “boldness and access with confidence through faith in [Jesus]” (emphasis mine) to all the mysteries of fellowship with the Father (check out Unveiled for a more in-depth look at this Ephesians passage).

And so I must ask: is there anything – works, effort, rules, sin – that we are allowing to separate us from the Presence of God?  My dear friends, are we unintentionally reconstructing the veil of separation that Jesus’ sacrifice tore down?  Are we putting up barriers where our Savior already made a way?  Because the Father is not restricting access to Himself.  The old veil of separation is gone; Jesus has made a new way for us:

“We have, then, my friends, complete freedom to go into the Most Holy Place by means of the death of Jesus.  He opened for us a new way, a living way, through the curtain [veil] – that is, through his own body.  We have a great priest in charge of the house of God.  So let us come near to God with a sincere heart and a sure faith, with hearts that have been purified from a guilty conscience and with bodies washed with clean water.”
– Hebrews 10:19-22 GNT, emphasis mine

Father, forgive us our ignorant efforts to hide from Your Presence, to separate ourselves again from You.  Show us how to fully honor the Gift that Jesus gave us through His sacrifice.  We want to live the full story of grace!  May we learn to dwell freely in the Holy of Holies, basking in the radiant light of Your Presence.  Amen.

Will you accept the Father’s invitation to live beyond the veil?

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State Your Intentions

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like for life to be perfect?  And what exactly would make life perfect?  Adam and Eve knew.  Once upon a time, life was perfect in the Garden of Eden…

“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.  And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food…” – Gen. 2:8-9a

The chapter goes on to describe in greater detail this paradise God created and given to man.  Yet there is something that rivets me in these verses, more than the depiction of the idyllic location:

‘The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….And the Lord God commanded the man, saying “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”’ – Gen. 2:9b, 16

Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove by Todd Maurer

Rainbow Eucalyptus Grove by Todd Maurer

Often, when we sermonize about the Creation Story and the Garden of Eden, we zero in on the forbidden tree – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  We think about the perfect life Adam and Eve had, their sin in disobeying God’s command, and the consequences of the Fall.  But to think of that alone is to miss the heart of God in this passage.

What WERE God’s intentions in the Garden of Eden?

When we consider only the temptation represented by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our perspective of God’s intentions can quickly become muddled.  As we read above, every tree that the Lord caused to grow was pleasing and desirable.  Was He simply taunting Adam and Eve with something they were not allowed to have (knowledge of good and evil)?  God displayed His righteous and just nature by following through on the promised consequences for eating from this forbidden tree – but what about His goodness?  And this is where we must recall the fullness of the story: the two trees.  Though we often forget this crucial detail, glossing over it with eyes jaded by repeated exposure to the story, it is the key for understanding the intentions of God in the Garden of Eden:

“The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” – Genesis 2:9b

The two trees: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Two distinctly different trees, the first offering life and the second offering death.  This is fascinating in light of Genesis 2:16, which permitted Adam and Eve to eat from any tree’s fruit except that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Any other tree, including the tree of life – oh, can you see the implications of that?  Adam and Eve were given unrestricted access to the tree of life – this is the mysterious comingling of free choice and predestination within the framework of His love.  This is the sort of love that brings me to my knees.  Just as when I read in Ephesians about the grace of God (check out Intentional Grace), I am drawn again to the idea of God’s intentionality:

It has always been God’s intention to provide life.

The vastness of His plan, the eternal nature of His intentions, astounds me.  When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they could no longer have unrestricted access to the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24).  God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden and set angels to “guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24).  Now that humans know both good and evil, He has made a Way for us to choose Him: Jesus Christ.  The Lord is good – only good and the only Good – and we must choose Him to have access again to life.  In the first chapters of the first book of Scripture, He reveals His intent to oforange tree of lifefer the tree of life – and He does the same in the last book of Scripture.  Revelation 22 is describing heaven, and this is what will be there:

“In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month.  The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations….Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” – v. 2, 14

His intentions have never been secret, and all His mysteries are revealed to us through Jesus Christ (check out Ephesians 3:8-12).  Though too often we focus on that which brought death, His focus has always been on that which brings Life.  Before He rolled out the heavens and hung the planets, before He ever created mankind, He was prepared to provide deliberate grace, offering the sweet Life that comes only from Him. He is the Giver of all good things, and every good and perfect gift comes from Him (Jas. 1:17) – deliberately, intentionally, purposefully.  This is love from the very beginning.

 “And therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you, and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy upon you.” – Isaiah 30:18

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