Our Lord’s Entrance Beyond the Veil
July 12th, 1981 @ 10:50 AM
Ascension, Heaven, Resurrection, Veil, Great Doctrines of the Bible: Christology, 1981, Hebrews
THE ENTRANCE OF OUR LORD BEYOND THE VEIL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-12-81 10:50 a.m.
With infinite gladness we welcome you who are sharing this hour on radio and on television. All the members of the congregation here in the First Baptist Church, praise the Lord with you for the grace and goodness of Christ that has been extended down to us. In your Bible, turn to the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews and keep it open there for the message; Hebrews chapter 9.
We are reaching the end of the long doctrinal series on Christology, the doctrine of Christ. In these last several Sundays, we have spoken of The Entrance Of Our Lord Into Suffering, His atoning death; The Entrance Of Our Lord Into The Grave; The Entrance Of Our Lord Into Resurrection Life; The Entrance Of Our Lord Into Heaven; and today the message is entitled The Entrance of Our Lord Beyond the Veil, within the veil. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, he picks up a theme that he has introduced in chapter 6, verses 18 and 19. He speaks of our strong consolation:
We who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;
Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus Christ, our High Priest.
Now in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews he expatiates at great length upon the entrance of our Lord into the veil. The first ten verses describe what he calls the worldly sanctuary [Hebrews 9:1], kosmikos, the “earthly” sanctuary. The first covenant had ordinances of divine service and a kosmikos sanctuary, an earthly sanctuary made in pattern after the one in heaven, our heavenly and eternal sanctuary [Hebrews 8:5]. And this one down here in the earth is like that one up there in heaven. Then he describes that kosmikos sanctuary, the tabernacle , and the verses that follow after describe its furniture, its vessels [Hebrews 9:1-6], and then the Day of Atonement when once each year the high priest with blood of bulls and goats entered into the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:7].
Then in verse 11, he describes Christ who is come, of whom all of those pictures and figures in the tabernacle did adumbrate. And there He enters into the Holy of Holies to obtain redemption for us beyond the veil [Hebrews 6:19-20, 9:11-14]. And so the rest of the chapter bespeaks what Christ has wrought for us in that eternal redemption beyond that beautiful and sacred tapestry [Hebrews 9:15-28].
The tabernacle and the Leviticus sacrifices of the Old Testament were types, and pictures, and figures, and adumbrations of the atoning work of our Lord. God is teaching us in pictorial form what He is preparing to do for our salvation, and He is teaching us the nomenclature, the vocabulary of heaven. We talk in terms down here of fields, and fruits, and business, and investments, and houses, and homes. That’s our language here.
The language of heaven is propitiation, and atonement, and expiation, and altar, and sacrifice, and intercession. And God taught us the meaning of those words in types and in figures just as we teach our children. We have pictures and these pictures represent something that we’re teaching the child. And it has a name and we teach the child the words. Thus God did with us in the kosmikos sanctuary, in the tabernacle down here in this earth.
So He names the tabernacle. There is a gate into the court, and on the inside of the gate there’s the brazen altar of sacrifice. Then beyond, the laver; then the door into the sanctuary, then the Holy Place. To the south on the left is the seven-branched lampstand of gold. On the right to the north is the table of showbread. Directly in front and before the veil is the golden altar of incense. Then the tapestry in between, and beyond the veil, the presence of God; the ark of the covenant, the propitiatory, the mercy seat, and the cherubim whose overarching wings touched as they look full down upon the mercy seat of God [Hebrews 9:2-6].
Without fail, without exception, in the Old Testament God is always pictured as being separated, as being hidden. Our sins have divided between us and God [Isaiah 59:2]. He is on one side of the tapestry, and we are on the other side. Just once a year did a representative man, the high priest, lift up the veil and enter in that sanctum sanctorum with blood of expiation [Hebrews 9:7]. All of the feasts, and festivals, and holy days of the Jewish nation were glad. They were happy days. They were joyous days. Just one day out of the year the Levitical code demanded that they afflict their souls, the judgment of God upon sin. Today they call that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. And on that day the representative man with blood appeared before the Lord [Leviticus 16:1-34].
The teaching of the Scripture in that tabernacle is very faithful to the reality of God. He is hidden from us. He is on the other side of the curtain. Our sins have divided us from Him.
Isaiah so eloquently described it in the first verse of his fifty-ninth chapter:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear:
But your sins have separated between you and your God, and your iniquities have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
God is always presented in the Old Testament as hidden, as separate, beyond the veil, on the other side of the curtain. But at the same time there is a beautiful visual and pictorial adumbration, promise of an entrance, access within. Do you notice, do you notice that the separation is not a brick wall? It is not even made of cedar wood overlaid with pure gold, but it is a veil [Exodus 26:31-33]. It is a tapestry, it is a curtain; it can be lifted.
Inwoven into that tapestry are figures of cherubim [Exodus 26:31]. And again without exception wherever in the Bible cherubim appear, they are figures and symbols of God’s grace, and mercy, and loving forgiveness. Not only was the division between God and sinful man a tapestry, but it could be lifted. And once a year it was lifted; it was raised for the high priest to enter in, the representative man [Hebrews 9:7]. And that is an adumbration, a token, a promise, that some day a way of access would be manifested.
So it is that the author of the Book of Hebrews comes to the eleventh verse and speaks of the marvelous, and startling, and wonderful fulfillment of all of those pictures and types in Jesus our Lord. He has come, our representative man, our High Priest, and in the tabernacle not made with hands, there in heaven beyond the veil; not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered in once into that Holy of Holies to obtain eternal redemption for us [Hebrews 9:11-12].
And that is the amazing story of the coming of God, incarnate in flesh into this world [Hebrews 10:5-10], and He stands with us on this side of the veil. Though He is Lord and though He is God, He does not stand on that side of the veil, He stands on this side of the veil with us. He is in our place, sinful men and women; He is standing with us. The sacrifice of our Lord was on this side of the veil. The altar was in the court [Exodus 29:37, 42] and when the sin offering was made to God, the body was burned outside the gate, outside the camp [Leviticus 4:12]. Thus our Lord was sacrificed on this side of the veil, where we are, and He suffered outside the gate [John 19:20; Hebrews 13:12], outside the camp, and between Him and the Father hung that tapestry dark and heavy. He cried, “My God, Eli, why, lama sabachthani, hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46]. And the light of the world went out. The sun refused to shine [Matthew 27:45]. Christ, our representative man, in sacrifice on this side of the veil [Hebrews 9:11-14].
Then the marvel of salvation in the tenth chapter, the next chapter of Hebrews, verse 20, in the sacrifice of our Lord there is a new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, in order that we might have access to God through the veil; that is to say, His flesh [Hebrews 10:20]. When our Lord’s body was torn, when our Lord was sacrificed, the veil was rent in twain, not from bottom to top as though a man had pulled it apart, but from top to bottom as though God had done it [Matthew 27:51].
And in the torn flesh, in the broken body, in the sacrifice of our Lord, the veil between us and God was rent in two. Had it just been lifted, it could have fallen back again. But being torn and rent it hangs limp on each side, and the way into heaven is open and clear; unobstructed, the sinful man and God through the veil of the flesh of the sacrifice of our Lord [Hebrews 10:20]. And our Lord entered into the sanctuary of heaven, not with the blood of bulls and of goats, but with His own blood, to make atonement, “at-one-ment,” for us and God [Hebrews 9:12]. Then the author of Hebrews describes that salvation so efficacious that the Lord has won for us in His entrance beyond the veil. He says it is efficacious; it is able, it is mighty forever! It is a forever thing that our Lord has done [Hebrews 9:13-15].
And he uses two words to describe what our Savior’s work is like, having entered beyond the veil. He speaks of His sacrifice as being once for all [Hebrews 9:25-28], and he loves to emphasize that word “once,” hapax. He uses it seven times.
In the seventh chapter, verse 27, “For this Christ did hapax, once, when He offered up Himself” [Hebrews 7:27]. Look again in the ninth chapter at verse 12, “Not by the blood of goats and bulls, but by His own blood He entered hapax, once, into the Holy Place” [Hebrews 9:12]. Look again in verse 26 of chapter 9:
Now hapax, once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
As it is appointed unto men hapax, once, to die, and after this the judgment:
So Christ was hapax, once offered to bear the sins of many.
Look in the next chapter, chapter 10, and verse 2, “Because that the worshipers hapax, once purged should have no more conscious of sin” [Hebrews 10:2]. And in the tenth verse of that tenth chapter, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ hapax, once for all” [Hebrews 10:10]. It is a forever atonement that our Lord has made; one time, and that one time is sufficient forever.
He uses an illustration. Men die one time, not twice; every man that dies, dies one time. So Christ died one time [Hebrews 9:27-28]. The sacrifices that were offered in the tabernacle in type were repeated again and again and again [Hebrews 9:25], but this sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all time and forever; once, just once [Hebrews 9:28].
In the Old Testament a leprous house was burned down one time. It never needed to be burned down again. So the atoning sacrifice of our Lord was offered to God once, and it never needs to be repeated [Hebrews 9:28]. And in fulfillment of that prophecy, the typology that looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ [Colossians 2:17], all other sacrifices have been done away [Hebrews 7:12], and that to me is one of the most amazing fulfillments of Scripture and history that you could read anywhere in the world’s story.
When the author of the Hebrews wrote that, there were sacrifices and altars on every high hill in the world. There was the sacrificial altar in Jerusalem, on Mt. Moriah, in the court of the temple. There were those altars in Ephesus, in Antioch, in Athens, in Rome, in Alexandria, in every town and city in the Greco-Roman Empire. On every high hill, there you’d find an altar, and a sacrifice, and the smoke reaching up toward God.
But in this one sacrifice all of the sacrifices were done away [Hebrews 9:28]. And I have never seen any altar and any sacrifice on any altar in any city I’ve ever been in the world, and I’ve been around the world three times. I’ve seen thousands and thousands of villages. I’ve never seen an altar in it. I’ve looked at thousands and thousands of hills. I’ve never seen an altar on the top of one of them. There is one great sacrifice for sin, once for all! And that sacrifice was offered by Jesus our Lord, one time [Hebrews 9:28]. And all of the other types and figures were fulfilled in Him, an all-sufficient sacrifice. Not only that, but the author avows that in the atoning blood of our Savior, as He entered into that Holy of Holy places beyond the veil, He obtained—and here’s another word he loves to use—He obtained eternal redemption for us [Hebrews 9:12-15].
That word “eternal” is a long, long word: aionian, and he uses it right here three times. In verse 12, He obtained eternal redemption for us [Hebrews 9:12]. In verse 14, He offered Himself unto God through the aionian, the eternal Spirit [Hebrews 9:14]. And in verse 15, that we might receive the promise of aionian inheritance; eternal inheritance [Hebrews 9:15]. Redemption is an eternal thing in the mind of God; it is not an afterthought. In the unnamed, unknown ages past, redemption, salvation, deliverance is in the heart of God [1 Peter 1:20].
All creation moves toward redemption. All of the providences that we know in life move toward redemption. All of the voices that God has created have in them an overtone, an undertone of redemption. It is at the heart of God’s purpose for the universe. It is not an expedient by which God proposes to snatch the world from some unprecedented, unforeseen accident. It is not the patching up of a broken down purpose in the mind of God; it is the great purpose of God from the beginning!
And you know when I read after these scientific journals—the last issue of the National Geographic magazine has one of those long studies—and when I read those scientific articles and read about our universe, how fallen it is: cold—five, seven hundred degrees below zero on some of those planets; boiling furiously hot, thousands of degrees Fahrenheit hot on those planets. And when I read history and the newspapers, how fallen humanity is on this planet! But God has a purpose, an eternal purpose for the redemption, the recreation, the rejuvenation, the deliverance of a creation that groans under the weight of the judgment that fell upon it in sin [Romans 8:22]. And that eternal redemption was in the mind of God from the ages past, and it reaches toward the unnamed ages that are yet to come. It leaps to the blasting of the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2-11:19], to the dreadful outpouring of the vials of wrath [Revelation 15:1-16:21]. It reaches to the vast consummation of the age.
And in this valley in which we live between those two mighty peaks of eternity, God’s redemptive program is pressed against our hearts. The Lord is saving sinners now; He is redeeming men and women now. It is the eternal purpose of God to deliver the world and to save those who find refuge in Jesus.
Will you look at one other thing? As our Lord enters beyond the veil into a Holy of Holies, bearing blood, not that of bulls and goats, but His own blood, in order to purge and to make atonement for our sins [Hebrews 9:12]; then following that tabernacle, he illustrates it beginning at [Hebrews 9:18]: the first covenant—the Old Testament—the first covenant God dedicated with blood. When Moses had spoken the words of the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, and he sprinkled it on the Book, the Book of the Covenant, the Old Testament. And he sprinkled it on all the people, and he sprinkled the blood on all the tabernacle, and all the vessels, that altar, that laver, that seven-branched golden lampstand, the table of showbread, the golden altar of incense, the veil. The furniture, the vessels, everything was purged with blood [Hebrews 9:19-21].
And without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins [Hebrews 9:22]. Then he says that, in Hebrews 9:19-21, he says the sprinkling of the blood of atonement on the vessels, and the furniture, and the people, and all of the tabernacle is a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ who enters the heavenly sanctuary, heaven with blood of atonement, His blood, to purge those holy places in glory [Hebrews 9:23-28]. Now that is the most startling thing I have ever read in the Bible. “You mean the author is saying that the heaven of heavens are defiled, that the inner sanctuary beyond the veil where God lives, that it must be atoned for by the blood of Christ?”
That’s what he says. And when I think of it, I’m so startled I think, “Well, the man cannot quite have understood.” In the heaven of heavens, in the sanctuary of sanctuaries where God is, our Christ had to enter with blood of expiation and atonement [Hebrews 9:23-24]. Even the heavens are defiled. And then as I think, why, my brother that’s where our prayers ascend to [Revelation 8:3-4]. That’s where our praises go to. And our prayers are imperfect. And our praise, however we might strive to make them worthy, our praise is not perfect. And our hearts ascending into the sanctuary of God where His throne is, they’re not perfect. They are human and filled with imperfection.
We can’t pray perfectly. We don’t even know what we should ask as we should. The Spirit has to make intercession for us with groanings that we cannot utter [Romans 8:26]. And our entrance into that heavenly sanctuary, we’re not perfect. And how is the sanctuary of God to remain undefiled when we are entering in? Sinful men, sinful women, in the presence of the holiness of God? Our Lord preceded us; He went into the sanctuary first with blood of expiation, and atonement, and forgiveness [Hebrews 9:12]. And He cleanses the holy place, even though we are there; our Lord, beyond the veil [Hebrews 9:23-24].
Nothing could be more vividly, theologically, truthfully a presentation of that doctrine of the atoning blood of our Lord offered to God beyond the veil than this poem by Vachel Lindsay, one of the great poets of America, written upon the death of General William Booth, the founder and leader of the Salvation Army. He entitled it, “General William Booth Enters Heaven.”
Booth led boldly with his big bass drum—
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
The Saints smiled gravely and they said: “He’s come.”
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
Walking lepers followed, rank on rank,
Lurching bravoes from the ditches dank,
Drabs from the alleyways and drug fiends pale—
Minds still passion-ridden, soul-powers frail—
Vermin-ridden saints with moldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of Death—
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
Every slum had sent its half-a-score
The round world over. (And Booth had prayed for more.)
Every banner that the wide world flies
Bloomed with glory and transcendent dyes.
Big-voiced lasses made their banjos bang,
Tranced, new born, they shouted and sang—
“Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”
Hallelujah! It was queer to see
Bull-necked convicts in that land made free.
Loons with bazoos blowing blare, blare, blare,
On, on upward thro’ the golden air!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
Booth died blind but by Faith he trod,
Eyes still dazzled by the ways of God.
Booth led boldly, and he looked the chief
Eagle countenance in sharp relief,
Beard a-flying, air of high command
Unabated in that holy land.
Jesus came out from the court-house door,
Stretched His hands above the passing poor.
The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled
And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world.
Drabs and vixens in a flash made whole!
Gone was the weasel-head, the snout, the jowl!
Sages and sibyls now, and athletes clean,
Rulers of empires, and forests green!
The hosts were sandalled, and their wings were fire!
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
And their noise played havoc with the angel-choir.
(Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?)
O shout Salvation! It was good to see
Kings and Princes by the Lamb set free.
The banjos rattled and the tambourines
Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens.
And when Booth halted by the curb for prayer
He saw his Master thro’ the flag-filled air.
Christ came gently with a robe and a crown
For Booth the soldier, while the throngs knelt down.
He saw King Jesus. They were face to face,
And he knelt a-weeping in that holy place.
Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?
That is what Christ did for us when He entered beyond the veil [Hebrews 9:23-24, 10:20]. How could we, sinful men and women, enter into that Holy Place where God dwells? We enter in blood of atonement [Hebrews 10:20]; we follow the prints of the feet of our blessed Lord. He goes before. He prepares the way. And through the veil of His flesh [Hebrews 10:19-20], rent in twain [Matthew 27:50-51], and in atoning grace and love, preceded, He welcomes us also into the family of God, into the presence of the Most Holy One [Hebrews 10:19]. And there with Him we rejoice and worship in an eternal salvation. O Lord, what a wonder! What an amazement! What an overwhelming realization what God in Christ has done for us, we who were so separated because of sin [Isaiah 59:2], and now we who are so one in the atoning blood, and grace, and sacrifice of Jesus our Lord [2 Corinthians 5:19].
May we stand? Lord, no wonder the prophet said, “And His name shall be called Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father” [Isaiah 9:6]. At-one-ment, atonement has our Lord made between us and God [Romans 5:11]; and we who are lost sinners—condemned to death and separation—we are made one in the family of God [Ephesians 2:1-9].
O rejoicing, hallelujah! Praise the name of Jesus. Our hearts flow to Thee in infinite gratitude and thanksgiving, precious Savior, of whom all the types and figures and pictures of the ages past did speak of. Dear Jesus, thank Thee for coming into this world [Hebrews 10:5-14], dying that sacrificial death [Philippians 2:3-8], and through the veil of Thy flesh torn asunder [Hebrews 10:20], making access for us into the very presence to God [Hebrews 10:19-23]. No one of us now need ever be lost. He is there waiting for us in our day and in our time.
And while our people pray just for you, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you, in the balcony round, down one of those stairways, in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, today I have opened my heart heavenward, Christ-ward, God-ward, and here I stand.” Don’t let timidity keep you back. On the first note of that first stanza, take that first step. It’ll be the most meaningful step you’ve ever made in your life. Do it, and God bless you as you come.
And thank You, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us this holy hour. In Thy saving name, amen. While we sing, welcome.