There was an immense curtain placed in Solomon’s temple between the Holy of Holies and the outer court. What was its purpose? Why was no one allowed to pass through it except the High Priest? Is there a mystery in this veil that can point us to the work of Messiah?
Israel’s first temple was built by King Solomon around 900 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. It consisted of a magnificent limestone building lined inside with ornately carved wood paneling gilded with gold. It had an outer court that held the alter of sacrifice and led into the Holy Place where the alter of incense was located. Beyond the alter of incense was a room called the Most Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.
The Ark of the Covenant was the dwelling place of the Glory of God and was so holy that it was only to be approached one time a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Even then, only the High Priest could enter and present the sacrifice of the lamb for the sins of the people for one more year.
For anyone else to enter into God’s presence was to invite certain death. Why was that? Because God is Holy and we, the people, are not. We are tainted with sin which is an offense to God’s holiness. So, what prevented anyone else besides the High Priest from approaching the Ark and risking death?
Between the Holy Place and the Most Holy place which is also known as the Holy of Holies was a veil. Tradition describes this veil as being at least 4 inches thick, and it was made of fine linen. What is the significance of this veil? The ancient Hebrew letters are pictograms that are content driven. Can the information contained in these ancient Hebrew pictograms give us any insight?
There are several Hebrew words for veil, but the one used here is Poreketh and means, simply, a veil. This word is only used in scripture with reference to the veil that separates the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies. Poreketh is spelled Pey Reysh Kaf Tav.
Pey is the picture of the open mouth and means to speak.
Reysh is the picture of the head and means the master, the leader, or the prince.
Kaf is the picture of the palm and means to cover, to open, to allow or to atone.
Tav is the picture of crossed wooden sticks and means a sign, to seal, or to covenant.
Can you guess at the picture the pictograms are painting for us in Poreketh?
This is a Declaration that the Prince will atone at the cross.
What are we to make of this? Who is the Prince? What does He have to do with the veil?
Remember that the High Priest was only able to enter into the presence of God after making a blood sacrifice of a lamb for his sin. He literally approached God through the blood of the sacrifice. Without the blood of the lamb the High Priest would have died. The writer of Hebrews explains this to the early converts to Christianity from Judaism in Chapter 10 verses 21 and 22.
And having an 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.
Who is this high priest that can allow us to draw near to God with assurance and not fear?
The writer prefaces this with this description in verses 19 and 20:
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.
We wrongly think that the veil was keeping us away from God’s presence and limiting our freedom, when the truth of the matter is far different. God needed the veil to protect us from His holiness and keep us alive. The veil was there as a demonstration of His love for us. To come into His presence, we needed to pass through the veil. And in Hebrews, we see that the veil was a picture of One who was to come who would make this possible. We have permission to enter through the flesh of Messiah, Jesus Christ who died on the cross and offered His blood for us.
The blood of Messiah is the new and living way and the key to entrance into the Holy of Holies and God’s presence with full assurance. The numbers in each of the four letters complete our picture.
Pey is 80 and is new birth and eternal life
Reysh is 200 and refers to the insufficiency of man.
Kaf is 20 and is redemption and salvation.
Tav is 400 and is a divinely appointed period of time.
The flesh of Messiah was the means to gain entrance to God, providing a new birth and eternal life in spite of our insufficiencies. At the divinely appointed time His sacrifice provided redemption and salvation for those who otherwise could never safely approach the Heavenly Father.
There is one final thing to consider. In the Gospel of Mark, we find this account of the scene at the death of Messiah in Chapter 15 verses 37 through 39:
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.
At the death of Messiah, the veil which prevented direct access to God’s presence was torn from top to bottom, signifying that the barrier to God was now changed. No longer was the High Priest the only one who had access, and the blood of a lamb that had been needed each time was now replaced by one permanent sacrifice. Hebrews Chapter 7 verses 26 and 27 summarize for us:
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled,
separate from sinners and made higher than the heavens;
Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.