Scripture: Exodus 26:31-33
The vail brings before us a subject that is one of the great underlying themes of the Tabernacle — access to the presence of God. There were three doors or entrances in various parts of the Tabernacle structure. The first was the gate in the linen fence that suurounded the Tabernacle court; the second was the door of the Tabernacle proper; the third was the vail that hung before the holiest of all. Each of these doors emphasizes the gospel truth that there is one way to God — through Jesus Christ alone, John 14:6. The first door opened to the brazen altar; the second, to fellowship with God here on earth; and the third opened into the immediate presence of God. At each point Christ is the only way to the Father.
I The composition of the vail.
As a whole the vail represents the humanity of the incarnate God, Hebrews 10:20. Christ as the God-man is seen here. His life as a man among men here on earth is depicted. The One in Whom God was veiled in human flesh — God dwelled behind the veil!
The colours of the vail relate to various viewpoints on that humanity.
Blue, 1 Corinthians 15:47.
Purple, His royalty. Even in His humanity He is King, born and dying as the King of the Jews. See Matthew 2:2, 27:37.
Scarlet, His humanity was in order to His death and bloodshedding. Cp Psalm 22:6 – worm is the word for ‘scarlet’.
Fine linen, the whiteness and quality of this material emphasized the moral perfections of Christ even in the flesh. He was the righteous one, the Holy One of God.
1. A reminder of the heavenly glory and divine authority that Christ carried at all times, even in His humiliation. The cherubims which were on the curtained ceiling of the Tabernacle were also on the vail.
2. The fact that these cherubim stood before the priest was a solemn reminder of Genesis 3:24. Because of sin it was not possible to proceed into the immediate presence of God.
Cunning work — the vail was of cleverly devised work, Divine devising. Here is the revelation of a Divine plan requiring Divine skill and wisdom to implement!
II The support of the vail.
The support of the vail teaches us several important principles about the life of Christ here on earth among men.
(i) The vail was suspended upon 4 shittim/gold pillars. The glories and beauties of Christ’s life as a man on earth are displayed because of what He is in His own person — God and man. There is a striking fact about these pillars — there is no reference to chapiters or fillets. They were pillars cut short, without a crown or ornamentation. The life of Christ was of course cut short in ignominy and shame.
(ii) These pillars like the boards of the Tabernacle stood on silver sockets. This was the foundation of Christ’s work. It is the great redeeming purpose of God that underlies the life of Christ on earth — He came to stand upon earth because of the work of redemption He had undertaken to carry out.
(iii) Further, there were hooks of gold. Christ was upheld by Divine support from above even as He lived on earth. Cp Isaiah 42:1, 50:6-7.
III The role of the vail.
a. It divided between the holy place and the holiest of all, Exodus 26:33. The vail was therefore divisive. Cp Leviticus 16:2. The Hebrew root word of vail = ‘to break (with violence)’. It forcibly cut off access to God. It broke any hopes that man had of standing before God in his own merit. This was a message reinforced by the portrayal of the cherrubim.
The life of Christ as represented by the vail, is a barrier to men approaching God. His moral glories and sinless perfections set forth the kind of humanity with which God is well pleased and which may stand in His presence. The life of Christ displays just how far man has gone from God in his depraved, fallen state. The incarnation/Christ as man in itself does not bring God near to the sinner nor the sinner to God. Such reconciliation is only accomplished by shed blood which was the great end/purpose of the incarnation. It is not the perfection of Christ’s life that brings us to God but the shedding of His blood. To try and life like Christ cannot bring us to God. His life stands as an effective barrier to such attempts — His perfect life stands between the sinner and God and emphasizes the separation that exists.
b. It instructed the OT believer that the way to God was not yet clearly revealed, Hebrews 9:7-8. The shadowy rituals of the OT revealed that there was a way to God by the shedding of blood but that the true sacrifice for sin had not yet been given. That such a way to God would be revealed was obvious from the fact that the vail was a curtain and not a wall. A curtain is only temporary! The fact too that once a year the High Priest had access to the holiest of all behind the vail by atoning blood was also a sign that the day would come when the vail would be removed. It would not be until the One represented by the vail came and His humanity was stained with blood that the way to God would be fully and clearly revealed. This instruction stirred faith to look forward to the One whom God would reveal to be the Lamb of God.
The vail is now rent and therefore acts as a door to God’s presence.
Hebrews 10:19-20. Christ was the great antetype/fulfilment of all the sacrifices of the OT. His death opened up the way to God and declared clearly to all men that He was the One by whom they came to God. The rending of Christ’s body by the hand of God as He hung between Heaven and earth was accompanied by the rending of the vail in the Temple (Matthew 27:50-51) by the same hand. In His death Christ again stands between God and the sinner but this time as the open door by which they may enter. His life is a barrier, His death means access to God.