The Temple, the Torn Veil, and the Shekinah Glory

In Blogs, Jewish History by Timothy Rabinek1 Comment


During Jesus’ ministry, the enlargement of the Temple complex in Jerusalem was in its final stages. You can imagine standing on the Mount of Olives, soaking in the glorious view of this spectacular structure, which Herod the Great considered the most important project of his life. Herod, who died in 4 BC, never witnessed the completion of the Temple construction.

The Magnificent Temple

According to historian Flavius Josephus, Herod began renovating and enlarging the Temple in the 18th year of his reign, around 19 BC. The Temple took 46 years to build (John 2:20), bringing us to the time of the fifth Roman procurator, Pontius Pilate (AD 26–36). Some parts of the Temple complex were not completed until about AD 63, a mere seven years before the Temple’s destruction by the Romans in AD 70.

The sheer scale of the Temple complex undoubtedly required many years of construction. Herod’s renovation of the Second Temple was a remarkable feat of ancient engineering and architecture, reflecting his ambition and the Temple’s importance in the ancient world.

Herod expanded the Temple Mount to create a vast, flat platform, which involved massive earthworks and the construction of huge retaining walls, including what is now known as the Western Wall. The engineering and architectural techniques employed were advanced at that time and created a space that could accommodate tens of thousands of pilgrims. Those who saw the Temple in Jerusalem could not hide their adoration for it. In the Talmud, we read: “One who has not seen Herod’s Temple has never seen a beautiful building in his life.”1

This historical context of the Temple’s grand size and beauty helps us better understand the excitement of Jesus’ disciples when they noted the Temple’s beauty (Matthew 24:1). Jesus responded by foretelling that there would be nothing left of the building: “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (v. 2).

His words were fulfilled when the Romans destroyed the Temple in AD 70. Josephus describes how the fire caused gold in the Temple to melt and seep into the cracks between the stones. Eager to recover this gold, Roman soldiers dismantled the Temple’s stones to retrieve the precious metal, effectively fulfilling the prophecy that not one stone would be left upon another.2

The Return of God’s Glory

Jesus taught that Herod’s Temple lacked what He was offering. When Jesus began His ministry to His Jewish countrymen in Israel, He proclaimed that God’s glory would return to dwell again among His people. The Second Temple in Jerusalem lacked the most critical element of the Tabernacle and the First Temple of Solomon—the Shekinah Glory of God.

The Second Temple in Jerusalem lacked the most critical element of the Tabernacle and the First Temple of Solomon—the Shekinah Glory of God.

The prophet Ezekiel described seeing the glory of the Lord move from the threshold of the Temple to the east gate of the Lord’s house (Ezekiel 10:18–19) and eventually depart from the city to stand on the mountain east of Jerusalem (11:23). This departure was God’s response to the sins and idolatries of the people of Israel, leading up to the First Temple’s destruction. The Bible does not state that God’s glory returned to the Second Temple upon its construction during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Herod may have made the complex more beautiful and extensive, but the Temple he constructed lacked God’s presence. 

Compared to Jesus, who was the return of God’s visible glory after almost 600 years of Jewish exile, Herod’s Temple lost its significance. This fact is evident in Jesus’ shocking statement to His Jewish audience, saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). In speaking about the Temple, Jesus was referring to His body, not Herod’s beloved structure. 

The Barrier Between God and Man Removed

When Jesus was crucified, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51). The phenomenon of the torn veil, which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the Temple, demonstrated that the way into God’s presence came through Jesus the Messiah.

Through Jesus’ ministry and work on the cross, the barrier between God and people has been removed and made accessible to all.

In fact, even before Christ’s death on the cross, which triggered the removal of this physical barrier between God and man, the veil was only symbolic. The glory of God no longer dwelt in the Temple, but Christ was the Tabernacle among His people. Jesus entered Jerusalem from the east, manifesting the return of God’s glory that had departed from the First Temple.

Through Jesus’ ministry and work on the cross, the barrier between God and people has been removed and made accessible to all. The tearing of the veil represents the inauguration of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34), under which forgiveness and a direct relationship with God are made available through faith in Jesus Christ.

Watch Timothy Rabinek teach about Herod’s Temple:

1 Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 4a.
2 Josephus, Flavius, The Jewish War, book 7, chapter 1, section 1.

About the Author
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Timothy Rabinek

Timothy is a Field Representative in Poland for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. You can support his ministry online here.

Comments 1

  1. The books, Zephaniah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Joel, as well as likely others reference the new temple, the temple of Ezekiel, that will soon be built. All of these books affirm the new temple of God. The New Testament book 2 Thessalonians states that this new Jerusalem temple is “God’s Temple.” Both the New Testament and the Old Testament confirm that Satan and antichrist will attack and oppose this new Jewish Temple precisely because it is temple and what is going on there is righteous and holy. Precisely because it is God and holy, Satan will oppose and “stop the sacrifice” And the will even try to set himself up in this temple precisely because it is an insult to God. Gentile Christians don’t need to follow the law of Moses, but God did request Jews to do so and Jewish Christians still have it between them and God what he wants them to do about the Covenant between their ancestors and God at Sinai. For many they do feel compelled by God in their present to have fellowship with him in this way. Sacrifices are not for taking away sin they are for fellowship with God. The sacrifices are beckoning and calling for Jesus Christ to come to earth. Whether they realize it or not, the Jews are hoping for Messiah to come they just don’t realize that he’s coming back on a horse from the sky instead of being born. Jesus is their Messiah and as they bring the sacrifice to God, they are asking Jesus to come again soon. The sacrifices are the scriptural metaphor and image of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and this ministry of temple sacrifice is going to point people towards Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice. Witnessing and participating, the Jews are going to Jesus Christ, amidst the temple rituals. The Bible states that God has not abolished the law, but he has said it aside. This means it is not mandatory, but it is still in existence and in Operation. All the people who hate the red heifer sacrifice also hate the Jews and Israel in general. And the same is true about those who hate this new temple. They hate the Jews and Israel in general, and that, is a satanic spirit of antichrist, which hates Israel, as well as the demonic spirit Hamas, which is mentioned many times in the Bible. One of the first people to have the Hamas (violence/wickedness) spirit was young Ishmael.

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