This event takes place at Jesus’ death on the cross. There were really three separate events of which the tearing of the curtain was one of them.
The Tearing of the Curtain
Mark 15:38–41; Luke 23:45, 47–49
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Commentary: 27:51-53 (Mark 15:38; Luke 23:44-45). At the time of Jesus’ death, three momentous events occurred. First, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. This curtain separated the holy place from the holy of holies in the temple (Heb. 9:2-3). The fact that this occurred from top to bottom signified that God is the One who ripped the thick curtain. It was not torn from the bottom by men ripping it. God was showing that the way of access into His presence was now available for everyone, not simply the Old Testament high priest (Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-22).
Second, at Christ’s death a strong earthquake occurred, splitting rocks (Matt. 27:51). Truly the death of Christ was a powerful, earthshaking event with repercussions affecting even the creation.
A third event mentioned was recorded only by Matthew. The tombs of many holy (righteous) people (Matt. 27:52) were opened, probably at a Jerusalem cemetery. The NIV suggests that these saints were resurrected when Jesus died and then went into Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection. A number of commentators agree with this view. Many others, however, say that since Christ is the firstfruits of the dead (1 Cor. 15:23), their resurrection did not occur till He was raised. In this view, the phrase “after Jesus’ resurrection” goes with the words were raised to life and came out of the tombs. This is possible in the Greek, and is suggested in the KJV and the NASB The tombs, then, broke open at Christ’s death, probably by the earthquake, thus heralding Christ’s triumph in death over sin, but the bodies were not raised till Christ was raised.
These people returned to Jerusalem, (the Holy City) where they were recognized by friends and family. Like Lazarus (John 11:43-44), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:52-56), and the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:13-15), they too could have passed through physical death again. Or some say they may have been raised with glorified bodies like the Lord’s. The author Walvoord suggests this event was “a fulfillment of the Feast of the Firstfruits of harvest mentioned in Leviticus 23:10-14. On that occasion, as a token of the coming harvest, the people would bring a handful of grain to the priest. The resurrection of these saints, occurring after Jesus Himself was raised, is a token of the coming harvest when all the saints will be raised.”
So, at least three things could have happened to those who were resurrected along with Jesus: 1) they could have continued to live and died a second death and then went to heaven, 2) they could have been raised sometime after Jesus, or (3) Jesus could have taken them with Him to paradise left any who needed to go to the Place of Torment and then taken those left from the grave and those in Paradise on to heaven with Him. Then Jesus could have entered heaven first and the others after Him. God did not reveal much information on those who were resurrected at the time of the great earthquake. So we must relegate ourselves to the things we know and trust in Jesus.
What it Meant
Our Compassionate High Priest
14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Commentary: 4:14. But this need not be so. On the contrary there is every reason to hold firmly to the faith we profess in view of the fact that the believers’ great High Priest . . . has gone through the heavens. Only once previously (2:1-3:6) had the writer referred explicitly to the priesthood of Jesus, though it was implicit in 1:3, but now he was preparing to undertake an extensive consideration of that truth. But before doing so, he wished to suggest its practical relevance to his readers whom he exhorted to “hold firmly to the faith.” They had to know that the priesthood of their Lord offered them all the resources they needed.
4:15. The One who served as High Priest on their behalf had been where they were and had been tempted in every way, just as they were. Though unlike them He was without sin (cf. 7:26; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 John 3:5), never responding wrongly to any of His temptations (nor could He, being God), yet as a man He could feel their reality (much as an immovable boulder can bear the brunt of a raging sea) and thus He is able to sympathize (sympathēsai, lit., “to feel or suffer with”) with their and our weaknesses. It may indeed be argued, and has been, that only One who fully resists temptation can know the extent of its force. Thus the sinless One has a greater capacity for compassion than any sinner could have for a fellow sinner.
4:16. With such a High Priest, it follows that believers should approach the throne of grace with confidence (parrēsias; cf. 3:6; 10:19, 35). In a book filled with lovely and captivating turns of expression, few excel the memorable phrase “throne of grace.” Such a conception of the presence of God into which beleaguered Christians may come at any time, suggests both the sovereignty of the One they approach (since they come to a “throne”) and His benevolence. At a point of contact with God like this Christians can fully expect to receive mercy and find grace to help . . . in . . . time of need.
Hold Fast Your Confession
19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 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.
Commentary: 10:19-22. The central assertion of these verses is in the words, Therefore, brothers (cf. 3:1, 12) . . . let us draw near to God. The intervening material, beginning with the word since, gives the basis for the author’s call to approach God. The readers are New-Covenant people (“brothers”) who should have confidence (parrēsian; cf. 3:6; 4:16; 10:35) to come into the very presence of God. This idea is enriched by the use of Old-Covenant imagery. God’s presence in the most holy place and the curtain that once was a barrier to man is now no longer so. It symbolized Christ’s body, so the writer may have had in mind the rending of the temple curtain at the time of Christ’s death (Matt. 27:51). At any rate His death gave believers the needed access and route to God, aptly described as new and living, that is, partaking of the fresh and vitalizing realities of the New Covenant.
But in addition, the call to draw near is appropriate since we have a great Priest over the house of God with all that this entails in the light of the writer’s previous discussion. So the approach of believers should be with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith. There ought to be no wavering in regard to these superlative realities. Rather each New-Covenant worshiper should approach God in the conscious enjoyment of freedom from guilt (having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience) and with a sense of the personal holiness that Christ’s sacrifice makes possible (having our bodies washed with pure water). The writer’s words are probably an exhortation to lay hold consciously of the cleansing benefits of Christ’s Cross and to draw near to God in enjoying them, putting away inward guilt and outward impurity. These verses approximate 1 John 1:9.
Always keep Jesus in your heart and on your mind.
God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?
Fear God, love God, honor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time.
Prayer: Father in heaven, I praise You for Your Son and the Holy Spirit. I praise You for Your grace in sending us Your wisdom about the “Tearing of the Curtain and What it Meant.” Please bless all who have read this article for they to are seeking Your righteous truth, love, wisdom and understanding.
May God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Christianity be our guiding lights, our safety nets and our inspiration for loving happiness in all of Your kingdom. Father into your hands I commend my spirit. Not my will, but Yours be done. Please come Lord Jesus.
I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory through the power of the Holy Spirit,