“THE RENT VEIL”
Sermon delivered by Mr. E. Roe at Fenstanton, October 30th, 1966
“And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God.'” Mark 15, 37-39.
What a scene this was at Calvary, as we have been reading out of Matthew and can read in Mark, Luke and John. The devil seemed to gather up all his malignant forces, whether it be represented by the Ecclesiastical rulers, the Jews, or the Political powers, the Romans, and levelled everything against the Christ of God, Why was it? Well, they had their envious feelings, their deadly malignant hatred against His teaching, but, beneath it all
lay the hidden decree of God. “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” (Acts 2, 23). There you have the Divine decree and man’s accountability going together. Their wicked hands did it, but God behind, in the shadow, was using those wicked hands to accomplish the work He had in His heart, and what a work that was, nothing less than the redemption of His chosen people.
It is said that the Holy Ghost will ‘glorify Christ’. That is His special sphere of operations to “glorify Christ”. May you and I never lose sight of that, “He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you”. (John 16, 14.) Dear friends, that is true religion, real religion, and everything that comes short of that is a hoax, and will deceive us if we are not brought out of it. There are so many things that look right and even feel nice and smooth and comforting but, if they are not of the Holy Ghost’s revealing, sealing Jesus Christ upon one’s heart, they will not do us any lasting good, certainly not save our soul.
I do hope that, if one is enabled to speak again this afternoon about Jesus Christ, you will not get tired of it.
May the Lord help us to look at this. First of all, “Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost”.
“A loud voice”. He did not die from exhaustion. He was “crucified through weakness” but He did not die from weakness. The weakness that Paul refers to, through which He was crucified, was the weakness of His sacred humanity. He lived in that; He suffered in that; He died in that. It was a sinless weakness. May I repeat that? It was a sinless weakness. Ours is sinful weakness; His was not. But in the weakness (sinless) of His human nature, He suffered and He died and was buried, but He did not die from weakness like you and I will sooner or later. His human nature did not become so exhausted by His sufferings and His pain, and, the wonder that it did not! What he had been through the day and the night before, the haling before this judge and the other, the infliction of thorns upon the head, mocking, spitting, buffeting and what not, one would really have thought this would have been sufficient to kill Him, but, no, it was not. And when you add to that, the dreadful cup that His Father gave Him to drink, the cup of the righteous vindication of holiness, that did not kill Him. “He cried with a loud voice”Â—no exhaustion here. This proves He was more than Man;
“Divinity’s indwelling rays
Sustained Him till nature was dead,” (Swain, Gadsby’s 159)
Here is the redemption spoken of by Paul in the Acts when he enjoins upon the elders of the church at Ephesus to “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He (God) hath purchased with His (God’s) Own blood”
(20, 28). Marvellous mysteryÂ—blessed mysteryÂ—God in the Man, supporting, strengthening, enabling the Man, so that He endured all that was needful for our redemption, painful, bitterly painful as it was, but did not die from exhaustion.
Might not the ‘loud voice’ also indicate His holy triumph? Christ did at His cross openly triumph over the enemies from which He had died to redeem His people. He “made a shew of them openly.” (Col. 2,15.) The allusion is to the Romans when they came back from their wars with a company of prisoners and had a triumphant march through Rome and the prisoners bound.
Well, Christ is returned, from His conflict and here are death, sin, hell, the world, the devil, all taken captive at His chariot wheels. Well might He with a loud voice of a triumphant Conqueror “cry” out at His death. No failureÂ—never will be any failure in the Person and work of Christ.
And should not this remind us of another period which may come at any moment, as far as we know, that when He shall come the second time it will be with the voice of a Conqueror? It will be so, according to the Thessalonian Epistle (1 Thess. 4, 16 and 17.) “And the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then” (I should say that would mean immediately after) “We which are alive” (for there will be some alive at the coming of our Lord) “and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”. What a wonderful shew of triumph that will be for Him and for those that are with Him! Gone then sin; gone then the devil; gone then our depravity; gone then all our sins, bondage, fears, doubts; gone for ever all that that is mournful, ushering in everything that is blissful. Ah! Blessed Redeemer, He did not spoil His workÂ—He finished it triumphantly.
“When He had cried with a loud voice He gave up the ghost”.
That does not just mean that He died, which is true, of course, but more than that. “He dismissed His spirit”. He yielded up His spirit. You and I will not. When we die, it is taken from us. When He died. He gave it up. It was His Own act and deed. They could not take it awayÂ—the crucifiersÂ—they did everything on the face of it, as if it surely must have been that they killed Him, but they did not, they did not kill Him, oh no!
“The life they could not take away
How willing was Jesus to give” (Swain, Gadsby 159).
“I lay down My life” (John 10). It was not forced, was not wrested out of Him; it was “His Own voluntary act and deed”. And that was the essence of the spirit in which all the Old Testament offerings were to be brought. God said in Leviticus 1, 3. “He shall offer it of his own voluntary will”.
Well, Christ was the supreme High Priest and He did that. He did bring His own voluntary will into this matter and He laid
down His life, dismissed His spirit, and then what happened?
“The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom”.
You will remember, of course, that this was the second Temple. This was not Solomon’s Temple; that had perished in the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar when he took the people into captivity and burned their city etc. and the temple went with it. No, this is the Temple rebuilt by Herod, and it is supposed that the veil of this Temple was larger than that one in the Tabernacle. “The veil was rent in twain from the top to the bottom”.
Here is a remarkable thing that perhaps you have not noticed. Just at that moment, what would be happening in that Temple? You will remember, of course, that the Jewish sacrifices were being continued right up to the death of Christ, and indeed, for 40 years after, but, here they were, going about their lawful avocation in the TempleÂ—the priests and the LevitesÂ—preparing and offering sacrifices on this day that Christ died, just the same as any other day. From 12 to 3 p.m. Christ is hanging upon the cross. Now, exactly at 3 p.m. on that remarkable day Christ yielded up the ghost. But, in the Temple, there would be the high priest offering up the lamb, the daily sacrifice, at precisely the same hour. He would not know what was going on outside, at Calvary, where the true Lamb of God was really being offered as a sacrifice for sin. But, picture the priest in the temple that afternoon, offering up his sacrifice, and then all at once, right in front of his very eyes, there was the ripping of the veil from top to bottom. I wonder what he thought. He must have thought that something tremendous had happened. Indeed it had. Whether he knew the spiritual significance of it one does not know. Do we? Do I? Well, that is the point, do I?
Now, first of all we may look at this veil as being illustrative of that, whatever it may be, that prevents the sinner from going to God.
This side the veil is the Holy PlaceÂ—that side is the Holiest of All into which none but the High Priest went once a year and then not without blood. Well now, here I am; I am barred, I am prevented. I cannot get to God. Now that is true; the law of the ten commandments and, I may add, the law of the ceremonial commandments too, they stand there in front of me as I would peer into the Holy of Holies and they say, “No, you can see nothing here that points to that. There is no access through here to get there”. This is a preventative, sure and certain, and well might it be, for “By the law shall no man be justified in God’s sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin”, and that is all the law can do with you and me. It can communicate the knowledge of sin and condemn us for doing it, but, as for opening a door into heaven, no! If you and I were able to fulfil it in every particular from now for the rest of our lives, it would not do. Why, what are you going
to do with the old score? What are you going to do with the years that are past and, besides all that, we are utterly hopeless and helpless to keep it even if we wanted to. Man does not want to, to begin with, and, if he did, he would not have the ability to do it.
As for the ceremonial law, and here you can think of all external religion put together in a heap, our own external religion. You can think of our own denomination and every other denomination under heaven, and all the folk who from time to time go through the ceremonies of their denominational religions; it will not put one of them an inch nearer the Holy of Holies. It is amazing how the spirit of works will creep into a child of God’s heart when he or she would not allow it for a moment, but it can creep in and it loves to sneak in and whisper something like thisÂ—”Well, look how many years you have belonged to so-and-so. Look where you have gone; look what you have done”. We can trot it out very religiously and sanctimoniously, and it pleases the vanity and pride and legalism of one’s heart, but no! Nothing will do.
“Could my tears for ever flow
All for sin could not atone.”
Nothing will do it. Could I walk in every precept of God’s Gospel from now in letter and spirit as I ought to do, and would do, if I could, it would not make a way into the Holy of Holies for me. It is this that the Holy Ghost has to teach us. Hence the darkness, the bondage, the doubts, the fears, the upsets, the shocks that a child of God gets again and again. He gets baffled, puzzled, confounded; he does not know where he is nor what he is doing, nor what he is thinking nor what even he is hoping for at times. He gets utterly lost in the wanderings of his own mind, what can I do? What must I do? Ah! the resting place, my friend, and you will come to that if God the Holy Ghost is leading you by that painful way, you will come to it and it is thisÂ—
“A guilty, weak and helpless worm.”
(Ah! it takes much teaching to bring us there really and truly.)
“A guilty, weak and helpless worm,
On Thy kind arms I fall,
Be Thou my strength and righteousness
My Jesus, and my All” (Watts, Gadsby 764).
Some of God’s people today have not got that lesson home at heart yet. They are wandering about in the mazes of unbelief, doubts and fears. If I cannot get out of this I know the reason of it. It is just this. I am not emptied enough. Oh! that God would stamp self down, keep it down, and enable us to remember the veil is rent. He wants nothing of our doings at all with which to go into the Holy of Holies.
This veil being rent is a beautiful illustration of the fact that now we have clearness where once we had darkness.
There was a veil spread over the whole of the Old Testament Dispensation. ‘Tis trueÂ—let it be understoodÂ—God gave His Old Testament people sufficient knowledge of Christ. Oh yes, they knew Christ, and they believed in Christ, and they went to glory on the strength of what Christ would do. Just so, but they never had it revealed to them, “As it is now revealed unto us” (Eph. 3: 5). Here we have the very Person of whom they wrote and spoke.
Then one more thought here. The ceremonial law set forth the distinction between Jew and Gentile, circumcision and un-circumcision. It does not matter now whether I am a Jew naturally or not, nor whether I am a Gentile; race does not enter into the business whatever. ‘He is a Jew who is one inwardly’ of the spirit and not merely naturally, outwardly, as Paul argues in one of his Epistles. Oh! to be a spiritual Jew, or a spiritual Gentile, is to be an individual that is born of the Holy Ghost and brought to love the Lord Jesus, to depend upon the Lord Jesus, and to hope in Him for eternity. In that sense John must be interpreted when he said that ‘He is the Propitiation for our sins (Jews) and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world’, (Gentiles). Blessed be God, for we are Gentiles are we not? And yet, ‘We who were once afar off’, in this sense, ‘are now made nigh by the blood of Christ’.
But the great meaning of the rending of the veil is to set forth the perfect, open way of access the sinner has into the immediate presence of God. Let me read you a Scripture. It is that in the Epistle to the Hebrews (10, 19), “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus”. That word “boldness” does not mean anything impudent, insolent, ungodly boldness. “Having therefore, brethren, liberty”. Ah! but have I? Yes and no; both are true.
There is liberty in principle. Now I would say with reverence, as far as I know the Gospel, there is not a single inpediment in the way between God and the coming sinner. By the coming sinner I mean that sinner, whoever he or she may be, who is aware of his or her need and wants to come to Christ. Now there is not a single impediment in the way between that sinner and God. That is a big statement to make, but it can be made, why? Why, simply because the glory of the Gospel of Christ is that He made an atonement for sin, rent the veil and passed triumphantly through, and His people have liberty to go there, so that it is true to say that one has liberty from the point of view of principle. Yet, so often in the experimental sense of it, the answer is ‘No’. You feel you cannot get near to God. Your guilt chokes you. You kneel in prayer, or you may be at your work and you tryÂ—thoughts come into your mind, and you immediately pour them out before God, and then all at once you are stopped, dumbfounded. Why? The memory of certain things of years gone by fasten upon your mind with a dreadful horror, an Egyptian darkness, and shut your mouth, don’t they? Ah! they do, and so you
do not feel the liberty through blood to approach to God. But in principle it is there, and you and I feeling the bondage will not stop us from going there. Why, if heaven depended on what one felt, no-one would ever get there, because our feelings are changeable, more so than the wind.
The principle is true. Christ has rent the veil, taken everything out of the way, and there is a right of access and that is by ‘a new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say. His flesh’. Now, listen to this, friend, “Having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10, 21 and 22).
Now that “full assurance of faith” has often been misunderstood, and I am afraid is much misunderstood by people still. They take it to mean the full assurance of faith of their own interest in Christ. But Paul is not talking of that there. There is such a thing as a blessed experience of assurance. There are people who have been blessed with the inward satisfaction by the power of the Holy Ghost, they are certain that they will reach home. You and I must always interpret the Bible in its contextual setting. What is he talking about? Why, he is talking about the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who has made the new and the living way, that He has broken down everything that impeded us against entering in, “Let us draw near in full assurance of faith” that He, the Priest of God, Jesus Christ, has done this; that He did pass through the veil Himself, and He is in the Holy of Holies now and that He is there for His people, pleading for them. That is what Paul appears to be talking about here and, I venture to say, there is not a child of God but what has that full assurance in that interpretation of it. He or she has many a doubt or fear about themselves and their own interest in the redeeming work of Christ, but they have not the shadow of a doubt or fear that Christ did die and, through His death, opened a door into heaven, and that He has gone there as the Advocate for His people. That is the full assurance of faith, as I see it, that the Apostle is talking about there and with this result, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for He is faithful that promised”Â—certainly!
Well now, what have we inside the veil whither Christ has gone? Well, He is the Forerunner. He has run His race and run it nobly. We are little after-runners, very poor runners indeed are we not? We sometimes think we are running back. We seem to be losing ground instead of gaining it. Yet I hope we are running after Him.
Well, He is within the veil and the anchor called hope is cast there.
Note how Paul writes. The anchor should go downward, but Paul throws it upward in 6th Hebrews, and he is quite right, because it is no good our anchoring on anything here. There is nothing here that can hold us, but the anchor, hope, is cast within the veil, whither Christ, the Fore-runner, is for us entered.
Blessed be God for an open way now, whether we feel it at times or not. In principle it remains open, and no-one will ever shut it, because God rent this veil.
It was rent from ‘top to bottom’, not from bottom to top. Some human hand might have done that, but from ‘top to bottom’. Why should God do this?
I will tell you in a few words, friends. It was because He was perfectly satisfied with what His dear Son had done at Calvary. He has accepted what His dear Son has finished there, as the equivalent for His honour and His justice in the redemption of His dear people and, that being so, “Tear the veil to ribbonsÂ—it shall no longer stop My people from coming to Me”. “Thou hast made His soul an offering for sin”; God did it. God laid on Him the iniquities of His people. “He made Him to be sin. Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”. He is justified now. He is pleased. He rests in all this, satisfied, honourably and justly so.
Oh! what a Gospel. If only one could but preach it, it would be worth preaching. If only we could believe it, it is worth believing. What else have we? If God is satisfied through the work of His dear Son, I think we may say with all humility, we are well satisfied.
“And when the centurion which stood over against Him saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said ‘Truly this Man was the Son of God’.”
The dying thief had hung on the cross and he long since passed within the veil. He is in the Holy of Holies. He was a Jew, and here is the centurion, he was a Gentile. Here he saw and felt the truth, and how? Why, he beheld the Divine handiwork, because Matthew says “Behold”. He prefixes that word to itÂ—study itÂ—look at itÂ—behold itÂ—consider itÂ—it is God rending the veil, to shew how pleased He is for His righteousness’ sake, and the centurion is struck with it. After all, “He was the Son of God”.
There are things easily tacked on in every denomination that ought to be cut outÂ—I mean things that are looked upon as being absolutely essential to salvation which have nothing to do with salvation. We can easily imbibe that kind of spirit. We can wrap ourselves up into the spirit of the Pharisees ‘I am, and you are not’. Well now, that will not do. The centurion said ‘Truly this was the Son of God’. It is a confession of his faith in Christ, and I look upon this centurion as being a believer like the dying thief was and, as the Jew went into heaven through Christ, the Gentile went there by the same way, for we read in the Epistle of John in
plain simple terms, “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5.1).
Now, friends, do not let us get adding other things on as being indispensable to eternal salvation. Nothing of truth should be treated lightlyÂ—I am talking now of that which is essential to salvationÂ—what is that? “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God”. What a lot of things you gather up around you, and you say, ‘If only I was like Mr. So-and-so, or Mrs. So-and-so. If only I had been brought like they have been brought’. What right have you to compare yourself with anybody else in this matter of eternal salvation? It is not right that you should do so. It is for you and me to be brought to this personal point more and more, “Do I believe in Christ? Is my whole heart centred in Him?” Conscience can answer. “I do believe; help Thou mine unbelief”. “I have still too much of that but I do believe with all my heart that Thou art the Son of God”. That was the first Creed of the Apostolic ChurchÂ—the confession of faith in the Person of the Son of God. It might have been a good thing if there had not been much else attached to Creeds but that one thingÂ—that is the grand criterion of all. “If thou believest” said Phillip to that man from Abyssinia “with all thine heart thou mayest”. ‘I believe’ he says ‘that Jesus is the Son of God’. Then he can be baptized.
What a wonderful thing it will be to get body and soul the other side of this dark period of life and get into the veil as Paul speaks of it. What a contrastÂ—the little bit we know here, dear me, compared with what will be knowable up there! But yet, on the other hand, perhaps we should not talk like that. It is a great mercy to know a little. Yes, the man that knows a little is alive and, if he is alive, he is born again of God. And the child that knows just a little will get to heaven, not because of his knowledge but because of Christ Who did everything, and I venture to say THAT GOSPEL CANNOT BE WRONG. I am sure it is not; may God bless it. Amen.