Our Lord’s Entrance Beyond the Veil
July 12th, 1981 @ 8:15 AM
THE ENTRANCE OF OUR LORD BEYOND THE VEIL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-12-81 8:15 a.m.
Out of all of the sermons I have ever prepared, there has been none that has meant more to me personally than the one I shall ask God to help me to deliver this morning. Turn in your Bible to the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews. And we welcome you who are listening on radio and ask you also, if you will, to turn in your Bible to Hebrews chapter 9. We are reaching the climactic message on Christology, the doctrine of Christ. In these days past, 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 now, today, The Entrance of Our Lord Beyond the Veil, within the veil.
He had already written, the author of Hebrews, in the concluding words of the sixth chapter of Hebrews, he had already written that:
We have a 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, our High Priest.
He first, then we after Him, our Lord’s entrance within the veil; in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, at great length he expatiates upon that great, wonderful, marvelous, startling reality, the entrance of our Lord within the veil.
He starts off in the ninth chapter, “Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a kosmikos,” translated here “worldly.” It’d be a better word for us to say “earthly.” In counter distinction to the heavenly sanctuary, there was a kosmikos, an earthly sanctuary here in this world [Hebrews 9:1]. Then he describes the tabernacle in those verses following [Hebrews 9:2-6]. And as he describes the tabernacle, he speaks of the entrance beyond the veil: in verse 7, of the high priest who once a year appeared in the presence of God with blood of atonement [Hebrews 9:7]—a figure, he says in verse 9, of what is to come [Hebrews 9:9]. Then beginning at verse 11 and to the end of the chapter, he speaks of the anti-type of those types. He speaks of the substance of those shadows; Christ being come and the redemptive atoning death by which He won redemption for us [Hebrews 9:11-28].
Now let us leave the Book open here at the ninth chapter of Hebrews, and we shall speak of these things. The tabernacle and the Levitical sacrifices of the Old Testament were for a purpose. They were types, and figures, and pictures of the atoning death of our Lord. We were being taught the nomenclature of heaven. Down here in this earth we talk about plowing, and business, and investments, and all the things that consume our daily life. That’s our vocabulary down here in earth. There is a different vocabulary that God uses in heaven: He talks about propitiation, and about atonement, and about sacrifice, and about an altar. Well, what does God mean by a propitiation? And what does God mean by an altar? What does God mean by sacrifice?
In order to teach us the nomenclature, the vocabulary, the language of heaven, God gave us that earthly sanctuary. And He taught us the things of His atoning grace in those pictures and with those words. It is an identical thing as we do with our children. We teach our children with diagrams, and pictures, and figures, and words that describe what those pictures are. So it was with the tabernacle, the earthly sanctuary of God made after the pattern of the one in heaven [Exodus 25:9, 40; Hebrews8:5].
There was a gate into the court [Exodus 27:16]. When you entered the courtyard, there was the brazen altar [Exodus 27:1-5]; then beyond, the laver [Exodus 30:17-21]; then the door into the Holy Place [Exodus 26:36-37]. When you entered the Holy Place, always entering from the east, to your left, to the south, was a seven-branched lampstand [Exodus 25:31-40]. To your right on the north was the table of showbread [Exodus 25:23-30]. In front of you just before the veil was a golden altar of incense [Exodus 30:1-10], then the veil [Exodus 26:31-34]. And beyond the veil there was the ark of the covenant [Exodus 25:10-22], with the cherubim looking full down upon the propitiary, upon the mercy seat [Exodus 25:17-22].
Now God was teaching us in that tabernacle, a marvelous and sometimes awesome lesson. Always in the Old Testament, God is pictured as separated from us. He is apart from us. Always God is pictured in His unapproachable holiness. There’s a division between God and man.
And the picture of that separateness, that apartness of God in the tabernacle is seen in the veil [Exodus 26:31-34]. On that side of the veil dwells God, and on this side of the veil dwells the man [Exodus 40:34-35]. He entered into the presence of the holiness of God but one time a year, a representative man, the high priest; and even then he entered with blood of atonement [Hebrews 9:7-8].
There is a separation between God and us; sin has divided us. Isaiah described it eloquently 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 He cannot hear:
But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
There is a separation between us and God. Sin has divided us. And yet, in that tabernacle there is a visual, pictorial adumbration; promise of a way, of an entrance yet to be manifested [Hebrews 9:8].
The veil that separates us, the division that separates between God and us is not a brick wall. It is not even made of cedar wood, acacia wood covered over with pure gold. It is a curtain. It is a tapestry. It is a veil and woven into the veil are cherubim [Exodus 26:31]. In the Bible, without exception, cherubim are always symbols of the grace and mercy and forgiveness of our Lord. I say it is not a wall, the separation. It is a veil [Exodus 26:31]. It can be lifted up; and once a year, the high priest raised the tapestry and entered in to the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God [Leviticus 26:11-17]. Now having said that, having presented that in the eleventh verse of the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 9:11], he speaks of the startling and astonishing and amazing fulfillment of all of those types and pictures and adumbrations in the coming of our great High Priest, Jesus our Lord [Hebrews 9:12-14].
Now when our Lord came, He stood with us on this side of the veil [Philippians 2:7]. Though He is God, though He is from everlasting to everlasting, He did not stand on the other side of the veil where God is [Philippians 2:6]: when Christ came, He stood on this side of the veil where we are, a man with us [Philippians 2:7]. “You mean that Jesus, God, our Lord, stands where we stand, a representative man, a typical man; man, a very man?” Yes. He came to stand on our side of the veil [Philippians 2:7]. He is numbered with us. He is on our side! And His sacrifice was made on our side of the veil; the altar is in the court on this side of the veil [Exodus 27:1-5]. And in the Old Testament the sacrifice for sin, the sin sacrifice was burned outside the camp, outside the gate [Leviticus 4:21]. And our Lord suffered outside the camp, outside the gate on this side of the veil [Hebrews 13:12; John 19:20].
The veil hung dark and heavy between Him and the Father. He cried, “Eli, Eli, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” [Matthew 27:46]. And the world was covered in darkness, the veil between Him and God [Matthew 27:45]. He stood with us on our side, and He was sacrificed outside the gate—outside the camp [Hebrews 13:12; John 19:20]. Then in that sacrifice according to Hebrews 10:20, “He hath consecrated for us a living way, through the veil; that is to say, His flesh.” When the flesh of our Lord was torn and rent, the veil of which it was a type [Hebrews 10:20], the veil was torn. It was rent not from bottom to top, as though a man had done it, but from top to bottom as though God had done it [Matthew 27:46]. And the veil of separation between us and God was torn asunder and it is hanging limp, and loose, and apart [Matthew 27:51]. Had it just been raised, it could have fallen back into place but it can’t fall back into place now because it is torn, rent asunder, separated [Matthew 27:51]. And in the tearing of the flesh of the Son of God [Hebrews 10:20], the veil that separates between us and God was torn apart [Matthew 27:51]. And with Him we enter in to the very presence of God [Hebrews 10:20].
When our Lord enters into the sanctuary of sanctuaries, the sanctum sanctorum, the Holy of Holies, He enters, as the author says in [Hebrews] chapter 9, verse 12, “Not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered once into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” [Hebrews 9:12]. Our Lord entered into the veil, not with the blood of a sacrificial animal that had to be repeated again and again, but with His own blood. He entered to make atonement for our souls, to pay the penalty of the judgment of God upon our iniquities [Hebrews 9:12].
Now the author expatiates upon the eternal efficacy, the saving power and might of that sacrifice, and he does it with two words that he repeats again and again. He apparently loves to use that word “once,” o-n-c-e, in Greek, hapax. He uses it seven times here.
In [Hebrews] chapter 7 and verse 27, the sacrifice by which the Lord offered Himself for our people, “This He did once, hapax, when He offered up Himself” [Hebrews 7:27]. Here’s a second time it’s used, “Not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in hapax, once into the Holy Place” [Hebrews 9:12]. Look at it again in the twenty-sixth verse of this ninth chapter:
He did not offer Himself many times…since the foundation of the world: but now hapax, once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
And as it is appointed unto men hapax, once to die, after this the judgment:
So Christ was hapax, once offered to bear the sins of many.
Now, look at Him again, in chapter 10:2, “Because that the worshipers hapax, once [purged] have no more conscience of sin” [Hebrews 10:2]. And look in verse 10 of chapter 10, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus hapax, once for all” [Hebrews 10:10].
The sacrifices were repeated over, and over, and over, and over again, which showed, he says, they could not make atonement for sin [Hebrews 10:11]. They were but types and pictures of the ultimate atoning sacrifice in our Lord, and when He died for us, it was once and for all! It never needs to be repeated. The sacrifice of our Lord for us is sufficient forever and forever! [Hebrews 9:12]. And He avows we die one time. Any man dies but one time. So our Lord died but one time [Hebrews 9:27]. He never needs to die again. We never need to die again.
In the Old Testament, a leprous house was burned down one time [Leviticus 14:34-57]. It never needed to be burned down again, just once. And in the atoning sacrifice of our Lord, it was efficacious forever [Hebrews 7:27]. All sacrifices ceased. And let me comment: I think that is one of the most astonishing fulfillments that you will read in human history. When the Lord died, there were sacrifices on every high mountain; there were sacrifices in every city. In Jerusalem on Mt. Moriah, in the temple area on the brazen altar; in Antioch, in Ephesus, in Athens, in Rome, in Alexandria, in every city of the Greco-Roman empire; in every town and every village, on every high hill, there did you see those sacrificial altars erected and the smoke rising up to heaven. In the sacrifice of our Lord, they all ceased. I have never seen a sacrifice in my life, and I’ve been in all those cites and in a thousand cities beside. I’ve been in a thousand villages; I’ve been on a thousand high hills. I’ve never seen an altar yet. I’ve never seen a sacrifice yet.
One of the most astonishing fulfillments of Bible prophecy, in the sacrifice of our Lord, in the atoning death of our Lord: one time and it was efficacious forever [Hebrews 7:27]. All other sacrifices ceased. Not only does he emphasize that word “once and for all” [Hebrews 10:12], but he emphasizes the word “eternal” aionion. He obtained, in [Hebrews 9:12], an “eternal redemption” for us. And in [Hebrews 9:14], He gave Himself, the blood of Christ, through the aionian, the eternal Spirit. And in [Hebrews 9:15], that we might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. The efficacy of the atoning death of Christ is forever and forever. It is eternal! It looks back into the unnamed, undimmed ages of the past. All creation moves toward redemption, all of it. All of the voices that God has created, their undertone and their overtone, speaks of redemption.
The moving Spirit back of all providences moves toward redemption, salvation. Redemption is not an afterthought of God; redemption is not a snatching of the world away from some unprecedented and unlooked for accident. Redemption is not the patching up of some broken down purpose or program of the Almighty; redemption is in the heart of God from before the eternal ages of the past [1 Peter 1:19-20]. And redemption eternal leaps all of the ages that are yet to come, and finds its consummation and fulfillment in the forever and the forever. It leaps beyond the blast of the seven trumpets [Revelation 8:2, 6]; it goes beyond the dreadful, awesome pouring out of the vials of wrath [Revelation 16:1]. It reaches to the eternity of the eternities that are yet to come. And it is the purpose of God now, between these two vast peaks of eternity, in the past and the eternity yet to come, in the valley in which we live—redemption is the program of God for us. God is saving men now; in Christ, it is the eternal purpose of God that we should receive the inheritance [1 Peter 1:3-4].
Now do you notice in this ninth chapter, that our Lord enters the veil, beyond the veil in order to prepare for our entrance too, in order to prepare for our coming? And he presents this in the most startling way that you could imagine. Let’s look at verse 18 and following in chapter 9, Hebrews 9:18. That first divine service was dedicated with blood. When Moses had spoken the law, he took the blood of calves and goats and he sprinkled the Book of the Covenant, he sprinkled all the people, he sprinkled the tabernacle—all of the furniture of the tabernacle, the tabernacle itself, all of the vessels that were used in the tabernacle—all of the things that are spoken of by the law were purged, were cleansed with blood [Hebrews 9:19]. And there was not any remission of sins without the shedding of blood [Hebrews 9:22].
Now, he says, Jesus has done the same thing in heaven [Hebrews 9:23]. It was necessary that the pattern of the things in heaven should be purified with those offerings of blood [Hebrews 9:23]. But the heavenly things are sanctified and purified with not the blood of bulls and goats, but with the blood of Jesus Christ who entered into the holy places, into heaven itself to appear in the presence of God for us [Hebrews 9:23-24]. Can you imagine that? He says—listen to this; I can’t believe it—he says that as the earthly sanctuary had to be cleansed and purified and sanctified with atoning blood, all of it, the court, the altar, the laver, the seven-branched lampstand, the table of showbread, the veil, the altar of incense, the propitiatory, the mercy seat, the ark of the covenant, the priest, all the shovels and vessels that were used, everything had to be purged and sanctified with atoning blood. Now he says the same thing has to be done up there in heaven. Our Lord entered beyond the veil, into the Holy of Holies, into the sanctuary of God with His atoning blood that He might sanctify and cleanse the heaven of heavens! [Hebrews 9:25-28]
I can hardly realize that! You mean the heaven of heavens has to be cleansed with His atoning blood? [Hebrews 9:25-28]. Why, I thought they were pure and undefiled. Yet he says this picture that we saw of the sprinkling of the blood on all of the articles and furniture and vessels of the tabernacle [Hebrews 9:19], is but a type of the cleansing of the sanctuary of sanctuaries, when our Lord entered beyond the veil and into the sanctuary of God with His atoning blood [Hebrews 9:25-28].
Then I began to think about that. Why should the heaven of heavens need to be cleansed with His atoning blood, beyond the veil where God is? [Hebrews 9:25-28]. Then I began to understand. Why, my brother, that’s where our prayers ascend and our prayers are never perfect [Romans 8:26]. That’s where our praises ascend and our praises are never perfect. There is lack, even in our finest devotions before God. And someday, that’s where our presence will be—up there beyond the veil in heaven—and we’re sinners. And in order for us to enter in, Jesus had to sanctify the Holy of Holies [Hebrews 9:25-28]. For us to stand on those golden streets and live in that beautiful city and to mingle with God’s angels, He had to sanctify and cleanse it for us poor, lost sinners; for us to be in the presence of such holiness [Hebrews 9:25-28].
I don’t know of a more graphic way to illustrate that than in Vachel Lindsay’s—one of the tremendous modern poets of all time and an American—Vachel Lindsay wrote upon the death of General William Booth, the founder in England of the Salvation Army. When General William Booth died, he wrote this poem, “General William Booth Enters Heaven.” Listen to its theology.
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-eaten saints with mouldy 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 o’er. (And Booth had prayed for more.)
Every banner that the world wide 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, and 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 in a sweet, new 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 of forests green!
The hosts were sandaled, 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 throng 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’s what I’m preaching about. That’s what he’s saying. For us to enter in undefiled, we had to be cleansed and the sanctuary had to be cleansed for we are sinners. We would have defiled it. We do now, with our inept and imperfect prayers. But the blood of Christ, who entered into the sanctuary before us, who went beyond the veil to proceed us, He has atoned. He has purged. He has sanctified with His own blood for our coming [Hebrews 9:25-28]. Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb? [Revelation 1:5]. It’s a great gospel, and it’s a great thing that Jesus has done for us.
Bear me just one other thought here, then we’ll sing our song. Do you notice in verse 24? “For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, beyond the veil, into the sanctuary, “now to appear in the presence of God for us” [Hebrews 9:24].
I wish I had time to preach a sermon just on that: He is there appearing for us [Hebrews 9:24]. You see if I had time to preach the sermon, it would be a sermon on the eternal redemption that He spoke of, the eternal security of the saints [Hebrews 9:12].
When our Lord is in heaven for us, representing us [Hebrews 7:25]; it is an identical thing as when a man appears in court by his representative, by his legal attorney. And the man himself may be miles away, but he’s in court when he’s there by his legal representative. He says our legal representative is in heaven. And as long as He is not expelled, as long as He is there, we can’t be expelled either.
Well, let me turn it in another way. As long as a man’s head is above water, you can’t drown his feet. And I may be the least of His saints, the very sole of His foot but as long as the head, my Master, Jesus is in heaven, I can’t be drowned. I can’t be lost. As long as our legal representative is in glory, we will not fail, our presence in that holy and heavenly sanctuary; isn’t that a wonderful thing?
Dear Lord, what if I was true to Thee in every way until the last day of my life, and then slipped and fell and I’d miss heaven? What if no matter how well I try; my life is characterized by lack and mistake, imperfection? Isn’t it wonderful to know that our Lord is in heaven and as the sermon next Sunday will be, making intercession for us? [Hebrews 7:25]. And as long as He is there we’re not going to be lost. As long as our Representative is beyond the veil, we’re there too [Hebrews 7:25]. And as long as He lives, we’ll live also. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. O, what a foretaste of glory divine.” It’s a great gospel, if we just knew how to preach it, and how to say it, and how to present it. Now, may we stand together?
Our Lord, in Thy infinite grace and goodness, all the love that reached down for us, we could praise Thee forever and yet not encompass the boundless love of God in Christ Jesus for us lost sinners [Ephesians 3:19]. Thank Thee, Lord, for being our representative beyond the veil, our great Intercessor and Mediator and sympathetic High Priest in heaven [Hebrews 2:17-18].
In this moment when we wait, in a moment when we sing, to give your heart to the blessed Lord [Romans 10:9-10], put your life with us in this dear church; a family, a couple, or just you, while we pray and make appeal and sing this song, come.
And our Lord, thank Thee for the sweet harvest in Thy precious name, amen. While we sing, welcome. Welcome.