Matthew 27:50–51 states, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” What is the significance of the veil of the Jewish temple being ripped in half from top to bottom?
The “veil” in this passage refers to the curtain separating the Holy of Holies—the most holy place—from the rest of the temple. The Holy of Holies was off-limits for everyone except for the high priest on the annual Day of Atonement.
A full account of this is given in Leviticus 16. The Holy of Holies contained the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. Josephus reported that this veil was four inches thick, it was changed every year, and that horses tied to each side could not pull it apart.
With the ripping of the veil, the way of access to God was opened and made available to all who put their faith in Jesus Christ. Every believer in Jesus can come directly to God through His shed blood. We do not need any priest or intermediary, or go-between. The way has been opened for every believer.
Hebrews 9:6–8 explains, “Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle. … But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood … the Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest. …”
We don’t have to pass through the veil. It is gone. The blood of Jesus is the way of entry. Hebrew 10:19–20 reveals this truth, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. …”
Matthew 27:51 says that the veil was ripped from top to bottom, not from bottom to top. Is there any significance in this?
Yes, there is. The ripping of this veil or curtain from top to bottom suggests that this is something that God has done. Had the veil been ripped from the bottom—within the reach of men—to the top, that would suggest that this ripping and tearing was something that man had done.
God was, and still is, fully satisfied with the propitiatory sacrifice that Jesus Christ has offered. God has accepted the death of Christ, and consequently, God, by His grace and mercy, has removed that veil. This is also suggested by the fact that the veil could only be ripped in two with great effort, because of its thickness and because of the way it was constructed, i.e., with several layers of matted veils. But that it was ripped without difficulty suggests that this was indeed God’s work.