Chapter 3 – Removing the Veil
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus.
God made us for Himself; that is the only explanation that satisfies the heart of a thinking man. I speak to thirsty hearts whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them, and such as they need no reasoned proof. God formed us for Himself. “Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” With this the twenty-four elders agree:-
Rev 4:10 -11, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever and cast their crowns before the throne saying, You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, And by Your will, they exist and were created. God formed us for His pleasure, and so formed us that we, as well as He, can in divine communion enjoy the sweet and mysterious mingling of kindred personalities. He meant us to see Him and live with Him and draw our life from His smile. We have broken with God. We have ceased to obey Him or love Him, and in guilt and fear have fled as far as possible from His presence. Yet who can flee from His presence when the heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him? when the wisdom of Solomon testifies that the Spirit of the Lord fills the world? The omnipresence of the Lord is one thing and is a solemn fact necessary to His perfection. His manifest presence is another thing altogether, and from that presence we have fled, like Adam, to hide among the trees of the garden, or like Peter to shrink away crying, Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man. So, the life of man upon the earth is a life away from His presence, wrenched loose from that “blissful centre” which is our right and proper dwelling place, our first estate. The whole work of God in redemption is to undo the tragic effects of that foul revolt and to bring us back again into a right and eternal relationship with Himself. This required that our sins be disposed of satisfactorily, that a full reconciliation be effected and the way opened for us to return again into conscious communion with God and to live again in His presence as before. Then by His prevenient working within us, He moves us to return. This first comes to our notice when our restless hearts feel a yearning for the presence of God and we say within ourselves, “I will arise and go to my Father.” That is the first step. The interior journey of the soul from the wilds of sin into the enjoyed Presence of God is beautifully illustrated in the Old Testament tabernacle:-
- The returning sinner first entered the outer court where he offered a blood sacrifice on the brazen altar and washed himself in the laver that stood near it.
- Then through a veil, he passed into the Holy Place where no natural light could come, but the golden candlestick, which spoke of Jesus the Light of the World, threw its soft glow overall. There also was the *shewbread to tell of Jesus, the Bread of Life, and the altar of incense, a figure of unceasing prayer. Though the worshipper had enjoyed so much, still he had not yet entered the presence of God.
- Another veil separated from the Holy of Holies where above the mercy seat dwelt the very God Himself in reverential and glorious manifestation. While the tabernacle stood, only the high priest could enter there, and that but once a year, with blood which he offered for his sins and the sins of the people.
It was this last veil which was rent when our Lord gave up the ghost on Calvary, and the sacred writer explains that this rending of the veil opened the way for every worshipper in the world to come by the new and living way straight into the divine presence. Everything in the New Testament accords with this Old Testament picture. God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole life there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held; it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day. This flame of His presence was the beating heart of the Levitical order.
The greatest fact of the tabernacle was that Jehovah was there; a Presence was waiting within the veil. Similarly, the presence of God is the central fact of Christianity. At the heart of the Christian, the message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His presence.
The modern-day type of Christianity which now exists knows this presence only in theory. It fails to stress the Christian’s privilege of present realization. According to its teachings, we are in the presence of God positionally, and nothing is said about the need to experience that Presence actually. And the present generation of Christians measures itself by this imperfect rule. Lowly contentment takes the place of burning zeal. We are satisfied to rest in our judicial possessions and, for the most part, we bother ourselves very little about the absence of personal experience. Who is this within the veil who dwells in fiery manifestations? It is none other than God Himself, “One God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible,” and “One Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God; begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father,” and “the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, Who proceeded from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.” Yet this Holy Trinity is One God, for “we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal and the majesty co-eternal.” Behind the veil is God, that God after Whom the world, with strange inconsistency, has felt, “if haply they might find Him.” He has revealed Himself to some extent in nature, but more perfectly in the incarnation; now He waits to show Himself in ravishing fullness to the humble of soul and the pure in heart. The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God, and the church is famishing for want of His presence. The instant cure of most of our religious ills would be to enter His presence in spiritual experience, to become suddenly aware that we are in God and that God is in us. This would lift us out of our pitiful narrowness and cause our hearts to be enlarged. This would burn away the impurities from our lives as the bugs and fungi were burned away by the fire that dwelt in the bush.
What a broad world to roam in, what a sea to swim in is this God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is eternal, which means that He predates time and is wholly independent of it. Time began in Him and will end in Him. To it, He pays no tribute, and from it, He suffers no change. He cannot do either, for being perfect He cannot become more perfect, and if He were to become less perfect, He would be less than God. He is omniscient, which means that He knows in one free and effortless act all matter, all spirit, all relationships, all events. He has no past and He has no future. He is, and none of the limiting and qualifying terms used of creatures can apply to Him. Love and mercy and righteousness are His, and holiness so ineffable that no comparisons or figures will avail to express it. Only fire can give even a remote conception of it. In fire He appeared at the burning bush; in the pillar of fire, He dwelt through all the long wilderness journey. The fire that glowed between the wings of the cherubim in the Holy Place was called the Shekinah, the presence through the years of Israel’s glory. And when the old had given place to the new, He came at Pentecost as a fiery flame and rested upon each disciple. God is spirit and only the spirit of man can know Him really. In the deep spirit of a man, the fire must glow, or his love is not the true love of God. The great ones of the kingdom have been those who loved God more than others did. No one need be downcast, for Jesus is the joy of heaven, and it is His joy to enter into sorrowful hearts. We can exaggerate about many things, but we can never exaggerate our obligation to Jesus, or the compassionate abundance of the love of Jesus to us. Eternity will not be long enough to learn all He is or to worship Him for all He has done, but then, that matters not; for we shall be always with Him, and we desire nothing more. Men of the breaking hearts had a quality about them not known to or understood by common men.
They habitually spoke with spiritual authority. They had been in the presence of God and they reported what they saw there. They were prophets, not scribes, for the scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells us what he has seen. The distinction is not an imaginary one. Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen, there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are today overrun with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with an inward eye upon the wonder that is God. And yet, thus to penetrate, to push in sensitive living experience into the holy presence, is a privilege open to every child of God. With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’ flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God? We hear the Bridegroom say, Song of Solomon 2:14: “O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the cliff, Let me see your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. We sense that the call is for us, but still, we fail to draw near, and the years pass and we grow old and tired in the outer courts of the tabernacle. What hinders us? The answer is usually given, simply that we are “cold,” will not explain all the facts. There is something more serious than coldness of heart, something that may be behind that coldness and be the cause of its existence. What is it? What could it be but the presence of a veil in our hearts? It is a veil not taken away as the first veil was, but which remains there still shutting out the light and hiding the face of God from us. It is the veil of our fleshly fallen nature that lives on, unjudged within us, uncrucified, and unrepudiated. It is the close-woven veil of the self-life which we have never truly acknowledged, of which we have been secretly ashamed, and which for these reasons we have never brought to the judgment of the cross. It is not too mysterious, this opaque veil, nor is it hard to identify. We have but to look in our own hearts and we shall see it there, sewn and patched and repaired it may be, but they’re nevertheless, an enemy to our lives and an effective block to our spiritual progress. This veil is not a beautiful thing and it is not a thing about which we commonly care to talk, but I am addressing the thirsting souls who are determined to follow God, and I know they will not turn back even though the way leads temporarily through the blackened hills. The urge of God within them will assure they’re continuing the pursuit. They will face the facts however unpleasant and endure the cross for the joy set before them. So, I am bold to name the threads out of which this inner veil is woven. It is woven of the fine threads of the self-life, the “hyphenated” sins of the human spirit. They are not something we do; they are something we are, and therein lies both their subtlety and their power. To be specific, the self-sins are self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love, and a host of others like them. They dwell too deep within us and are too much a part of our natures to come to our attention until the light of God is focused upon them. The grosser manifestations of these sins – egotism, exhibitionism, self-promotion – are strangely tolerated in Christian leaders, even in circles of impeccable orthodoxy. They are so much in evidence as actually, for many people, to become identified with the gospel. I trust it is not a cynical observation to say that they appear these days to be a requisite for popularity in some sections of the church visible. Promoting self under the guise of promoting Christ is currently so common as to excite little notice. One should suppose that proper instruction in the doctrines of man’s depravity and the necessity for justification through the righteousness of Christ alone would deliver us from the power of the self-sins, but it does not work out that way. Self can live unrebuked at the very altar. It can watch the bleeding victim die and not be in the least affected by what it sees. Self is the opaque veil that hides the face of God from us. It can be removed only in spiritual experience, never by mere instruction. We may as well try to instruct leprosy out of our system. There must be a work of God in destruction before we are free. We must invite the cross to do its deadly work within us. We must bring our self-sins to the cross for judgment. We must prepare ourselves for an ordeal of suffering in some measure like that through which our Saviour passed when He suffered under Pontius Pilate. Let us remember: When we talk of the rending of the veil, we are speaking figuratively, and the thought of it is poetical, almost pleasant; but in actuality, there is nothing pleasant about it. In human experience, that veil is made of living spiritual tissue; it is composed of the conscious, quivering stuff of which our whole beings consist, and to touch it is to touch us where we feel pain. To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free. Let us beware of tinkering with our inner life in the hope of rending the veil ourselves. God must do everything for us. Our part is to yield and trust. We must confess, forsake, repudiate the self-life, and then reckon it crucified. But we must be careful to distinguish lazy “acceptance” from the real work of God. We must insist upon the work being done. We dare not rest content with a neat doctrine of self-crucifixion. That is to imitate King Saul and spare the best of the sheep and the oxen. Insist that the work be done in very truth and it will be done. The cross is rough, and it is deadly, but it is effective. It does not keep its victim hanging there forever. There comes a moment when its work is finished and the suffering victim dies. After that is resurrection glory and power, and the pain is forgotten for the joy that the veil is taken away and we have entered in actual, spiritual experience the presence of the living God.
Lord, how excellent are thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man. Show us how to die to our selfish desires, that we may rise again to newness of life. Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as thou didst rend the veil of the temple. We would draw near in full assurance of faith. We would dwell with thee in daily experience here on this earth, so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter thy heaven to dwell with thee there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.