Hebrews 10:19-20 says that we have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh.” It is a wonderful blessing, and a lovely verse, but what precisely does the author refer to at the end of the verse when he speaks of the Lord’s flesh? Is he saying that the veil of the tabernacle pictured the Lord’s flesh? Or does the expression, “His flesh,” correspond to “the new and living way”? The following two articles relate to this question, presenting two views for you to carefully consider in coming to a conclusion on the interpretation of Hebrews 10:20. The purpose of presenting opposing views is not to create controversy nor to generate division, and it is not merely for you to assess who formulates a better argument. The purpose is to help you to understand the viewpoints, and to encourage you to study it more deeply yourself in your own time. Our two writers have read and considered the opposing view and continue to happily respect each other.
– Matthew Cain
I am approaching this discussion from the perspective that the veil and His flesh are synonymous terms, the veil being the Old Testament symbol for the New Testament reality (the flesh) that embraces our Lord’s human experience from His incarnation, sacrifice, and death, to His resurrection and exaltation. It is through this that He has opened the way into the presence of God and brought us into the enjoyment of the new and living way. The latter describes our approach and suggests our acceptance before God. It is new in contrast to the Old Testament way, which allowed only limited access to the Holy of holies. Hebrews 8:19 speaks of the bringing in of a better hope. We are linked with the living Man in glory Who has gone before and now represents us as our great high priest. We draw near through Him.
The Typical Picture in the Old Testament (Exodus 26:31-35)
The veil was made of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine twined linen and hung upon four pillars of shittim wood. It is generally accepted that the four fabrics picture the glories of Christ as set forth in the gospel accounts. The gospel writers can be seen in the pillars of shittim wood, covered with gold and set in sockets of silver – men standing on the basis of redemption, divinely controlled and directed, as they give their records of the life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ.
The veil concealed the brilliance of the divine glory from the eyes of the priests. It is called “the veil of the covering” (Exo 35:12, 39:34, 40:21) and was used to cover the ark whenever the tabernacle was set up (Exo 40:3) or moved (Num 4:5). The meaning of the Greek word katapetasma, translated “veil” in Hebrews 10:20, is, “an extension” (Young), “spread thoroughly” (Strong), and “that which is spread out before” (Vine), all consistent with the thought of covering. The Septuagint translation uses the same Greek word for veil in Exodus 26:31.
God is described as “dwelling in light that no man can approach unto; whom no man … can see” (1Tim 6:16). The Lord’s response to Moses’ request to see God’s glory was: “there shall no man see Me and live” (Exo 33:20). The One who was and eternally is in the form of God, was made in the likeness of men. The human body of the Lord Jesus was like the veil of the tabernacle concealing the effulgence of His deity. Besides concealing the brilliance of divine glory from human eyes, the veil stood as a separation (paroketh,) between God and man. Christ, in His humanity, stood between God and man, but was ultimately to become the Mediator between God and man, opening the way.
Some see the veil acting as a barrier. What barrier then does it represent? If sin, this would hardly accord with what is pictured in the tabernacle veil. Israel’s high priest passed around or under the veil. He approached in the preciousness of the person (seen in the incense) and the work (seen in the blood) of Another. When the One of Whom the veil spoke came, He would introduce liberty of access into God’s presence.
The Substance of the Shadow in the New Testament
An interesting feature of the veil is that cherubim were woven into it. This corresponds with the record in the gospels of the presence and activity of angels throughout the life of the Lord Jesus on earth. They announced His birth in Bethlehem, witnessed His temptation in the wilderness, His agony in Gethsemane, announced His resurrection, and witnessed His ascension and His exaltation on the throne. Cherubim in Eden prevented access into the divine presence; here they observe the One who is the way.
Another parallel is seen in the veil being suspended by gold hooks under the 50 gold taches (Exo 26:33) that joined the two sets of five multi-colored curtains together. The uniting of the two sets of curtains appropriately prefigures the bringing together of Jew and Gentile believers into one entity (Eph 2:14-15). The 50 taches direct our thoughts to Pentecost when this occurred. The hanging of the veil together with the joined curtains can be seen as a foreshadowing of our Lord in His exaltation, bringing Jew and Gentile together. The veil was attached far above human reach and parallels Paul’s statement that “God hath highly exalted Him” (Phil 2:9). This typical picture gives credence to the veil corresponding to the flesh, or the human experience of our Lord Jesus.
It has been remarked by several writers that Hebrews 10:20 does not make any mention of the rending of the veil. The rending of the veil recorded in the synoptic gospels refers to the veil of the temple and not the tabernacle. This is sometimes paralleled in thought with the rending of the Lord’s body in sacrifice but the Scripture clearly states: “A bone of him shall not be broken” (John 19:36). The way into the presence of God was not accomplished by the rending of the veil, but rather by the fullness of the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross. John 19:28 states that Jesus knew that all things were now accomplished. This would signify that the work of propitiation was finished, the demands of divine justice had been met, and that all that was required for man’s entrance into the presence of God had been completed. John’s gospel, interestingly, does not mention the rending of the veil.
The expression “within the veil” in Hebrews 6:19 describes the unseen realm of the divine presence. Our Lord Jesus Christ is both the embodiment of, and the entrance into, the divine presence. By His sacrifice, resurrection and ascension He has brought us positionally into the divine presence and we now enjoy the way of approach – the new and living way.