Why did God tear the Temple curtain?
In Matthew 27:51 and in Mark 15:38 , the Bible teaches that when Jesus died that God tore the temple curtain from top to bottom.
"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn
in two from top to bottom." (Matthew 27:51 NIV)
"The curtain of the temple was torn in two from
top to bottom." (Mark 15:38 NIV)
The Church traditionally teaches that God tore the temple curtain to symbolize that for the FIRST TIME in human history mankind could now have DIRECT ACCESS to God in prayer in order to ask God’s forgiveness for sins without going through the High Priest.
But the traditional interpretation of the Church above cannot possibly be correct.
For if the above interpretation is correct, then Joshua, Jabez, Samson, David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Jonah, Elijah and Elisha and could never have prayed directly to God and expect that God would hear and answer their prayers. Yet the Bible makes it clear that all 11 of these men prayed directly to God and that God answered their prayers. So God was indeed allowing mankind to pray directly to him and answering their prayers long before God tore the temple curtain when Christ died. Therefore, the Church's traditional explanation above for why God tore the temple curtain cannot possible be correct.
You see, Mankind has ALWAYS had direct access to God without going through a High Priest, whether this was INSIDE the Garden of Eden or OUTSIDE the Garden of Eden, both BEFORE Noah’s Flood and AFTER Noah’s Flood, both BEFORE God gave the Mosaic law and AFTER God gave the Mosaic Law concerning the High Priests, the sacrifices and the temple. And all of this was true centuries (if not millennia) BEFORE God tore the temple curtain from top to bottom immediately after Christ died on the cross. So there is no possible way that the symbolism of Christ tearing the temple curtain could mean that for the FIRST TIME in history Mankind would finally have direct access to God in prayer without going through the high priest. That makes no sense at all.
For instance, not only did Adam and Eve have direct access to God INSIDE the Garden of Eden, but outside of the Garden of Eden as well, just like Cain and Able had direct access to God OUTSIDE the Garden of Eden during their sacrifice when they saw God face to face and God spoke directly to them. Enoch also had direct access to God when he literally walked with God. So anyone who truly believed the legend of great, grandpa ADAM, and who wanted to personally meet God face to face, could follow any one of the 4 major rivers (i.e. the Gihon, the Pishon, the Tigris and the Euphrates) upstream until the four rivers became one major river that flowed from Eden and then follow that same river to the edge of Eden where two angels would block their way into Eden. At that location, they could have direct access to God and speak to God face to face. Then, when the population grew so large that the average person began to live so far away from the Garden of Eden that the trip back to the outside of Eden was prohibitively difficult (plus, the line of people outside the Garden of Eden waiting to meet with God might have become too long to wait for your turn to speak with God), that God finally told men that they would not have to make the trip back to Eden just to speak with God, but that God could always hear them if they simply prayed directly to him. That is why, after the population surrounding the Garden of Eden began to grow sufficiently large, that in Genesis 4:26b, it says, “At that time, men began to call upon the name of the Lord” (i.e. they began to pray directly to the one true God, as an alternative to making the trip back to just outside the Garden of Eden).
Of course, you might say, “But that was BEFORE God gave the Mosaic Law, which indicated that mankind would now have to go through the High Priest as the ONLY way to get to God.
But that is not true either, because many people still had direct access to God even AFTER the Mosaic Law was given. For instance, God heard Elijah’s prayer (James 5:17-18) without going through the High Priest. And God heard the “Prayer of Jabez” (I Chronicles 4:9-10) as well as the prayers of Sampson, Hezekiah, David, Solomon, and many, many others without “going through any High Priest” at all, long AFTER the Mosaic Law was given and long BEFORE the temple curtain was torn when Christ died on the cross. So obviously, tearing the temple curtain did NOT suddenly give mankind any more direct access to God in prayer AFTER God tore the curtain than we already had BEFORE God tore the curtain.
So it should be self-evident that God had an entirely different reason for tearing the temple curtain from top to bottom. But what could that reason be?
In my opinion, after Christ died, God decided to FORSAKE Israel because Israel had been regularly forsaking God for about 1400 years, culminating in Israel actually KILLING God himself (i.e. Jesus) on the cross—the perfect symbol of Israel forsaking God. So God tore the temple curtain because God was extremely angry at Israel and intended to leave Israel, never again to return to the temple until his Second Coming, when he will once again enter his temple (i.e. Ezekiel’s millennial temple).
Remember, in Deuteronomy 31:16b-18, when God was talking to Moses about Israel’s future, God said,
“They will FORSAKE me and break the covenant
I made with them. And IN THAT DAY I WILL
BECOME ANGRY WITH THEM AND FORSAKE
THEM; I will hide my face from them, and they will
be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will
come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have
not these disasters come on us because our God is
not with us?’ And I will certainly hide my face in that
day because of all their wickedness in turning to other
gods.” (Deuteronomy 31:16b-18 NIV)
Think about it. Of all the things the Israelites or the Jews could do that would make God angry, what is the one thing that would make God the angriest and would make him most likely to FORSAKE them and even give them an illustration of God FORSAKING them? Killing God (i.e. Jesus) on the cross would be the thing that would make God the angriest and would make God most likely to FORSAKE them and therefore tear the temple curtain as if to say,
“You killed me—the one true God. So I’m outa here!”
The symbol of God tearing the temple curtain is like the Israelites tearing their clothes when they are upset about something. God was so upset at them that he tore the temple curtain and left his own temple and will never again return to live in the temple until Christ comes a second time and enters Ezekiel’s Millennial Temple and lives there for a thousand years.
In conclusion, God did NOT tear the temple curtain to indicate that for the FIRST TIME in human history that mankind could now have direct access to God in prayer, because mankind has ALWAYS had direct access to God in prayer. Rather, God tore the temple curtain to indicate that, because the Jews had now so completely forsaken God by killing him (i.e. Jesus) on the cross, that in turn God would now forsake the Jews (per Deuteronomy 31:16b-18). Of course, the perfect symbol of God forsaking the Jews would be God tearing the temple curtain from top to bottom as an illustration that God was now leaving the temple and that he would never return to the temple for another 2000 years or so until Christ comes again in the clouds at his second coming.