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DENNY - My question has to do with the scripture found in Matthew 27:51 which reads,
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom;"
In this scripture we find that the when Christ died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn. This must have some meaning to it and importance since it is mentioned in the other gospels as well (Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). The problem I have is what exactly is the symbolism behind this veil being torn? I have spoken to a methodist pastor about this, and this is where he accuses LDS Church in its practice of not allowing everyone into its temples as being wrong, since this is in opposition to his idea that the tearing of the veil in the temple clearly shows that anyone may enter the temple. He believes that this is one of the great differences between the Old and the New Testaments. Please help me understand this passage, so that I may know the true meaning of the torn veil in the temple of Christ's day.
JOEL - You are right about the significance of the veil being torn at the death of Jesus. Some believe that the rending of the veil signified the rending of Judaism and the end of the Mosaic dispensation, bringing about the beginning of Christianity under apostolic administration.
Some see the rending of the veil as a solemn act of mourning on the part of the house of the Lord. In the East men express their sorrow by rending their garments; and the temple, when it beheld its Master die, seemed struck with horror, and rent its veil.
For many generations only the high priest had been permitted to pass through the veil of the temple, which symbolized entering the presence of God.
But through his death, Jesus rent that partition from top to bottom, signifying that all people could reach God's presence if they wanted to. The atonement, death, and resurrection of Jesus gave everyone the opportunity to enter into God's kingdom, whereas before this time it was not even possible. However, to take advantage of this opportunity there are certain things we need to do as Jesus explained in Matthew:
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven (ie. passsing through the veil); but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
Even though, because of Jesus, we now have the opportunity to enter God's Kingdom, we won't get there unless we do the will of the Father.
Even though the atonement of Jesus makes it possible for everyone to receive forgiveness of their sins, that is not going to happen unless we repent and forsake our sins.
Following the same logic, even though everyone now has the opportunity to enter the Temple of God and pass through its veil, we can not be allowed to unless we are worthy to do so, because no unclean thing can enter the House of the Lord.(1 Cor. 3:16-19, 2 Chronicles 23:19, D&C 109:20)
A scripture in Alma says:
"And he doth not dwell in unholy temples; neither can filthiness or anything which is unclean be received into the kingdom of God;" (Alma 7:21)
This doesn't mean we have to be perfect, but we do need to be worthy and qualified to enter in.
You said that the paster believes "that the tearing of the veil in the temple clearly shows that anyone may enter the temple". But that was already the case even before Jesus died. Before the veil was torn almost anyone could go into the temple:
"And early in the morning he(Jesus) came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them."(John 8:2)
Even the disrespectful moneychangers were allowed to go in:
"And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves," (Matthew 21:12)(See also 2 Kings 11:13)
The main restriction was that no one could go past the veil into the "Holy of Holies" into the presence of God. I think the better interpretation is what I explained above. That it symbolized that, because of the sacrifice of Jesus and His atonement and resurrection, everyone now had the opportunity to enter the presence of God in His kingdom if they repent and "doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven".
Also the purpose of the temples in Old and New Testament times was different than what God wants to have happen in His latter-day temples.
The law of Moses temples were operated by men born to the Aaronic or Levitical Priesthood and were led by a high priest, who was a literal descendant of Aaron. That high priest was the only person who entered the most sacred room on only one day a year, the Day of Atonement. It was just outside of the temple on an altar that sacrifices prescribed in the law of Moses were offered. That is not the purpose of latter-day temples.
Modern temples operate under the direction of a living prophet who holds the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood that were first restored to Joseph Smith to perform ordinance that have been revealed to God through our prophets.
Through latter-day revelation we have learned that God wants all to be worthy before entering His holy house.
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