The closest background to our passage is in OT descriptions of “the day of the Lord,” which seem to envisage an obscuration that affects the entire world, not just a particular country (see Joel 2:1–2, 10, 30–31; Amos 8:9–10).Marcus, Joel. Mark 8–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 27A. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2009. Print. Anchor Yale Bible.
Many scholars have noticed the connection between the events surrounding the death of Jesus and the day of the Lord. The main difference between the two events, however, is that the signs of the Cross were literal whereas the signs associated with the various days of the Lord in the Hebrew Scriptures were figurative.
One of the most obvious examples of this is in Isaiah 13, a passage about the fall of Babylon to the Medes in 539BC:
For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not flash forth their light; The sun will be dark when it rises And the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil And the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud And abase the haughtiness of the ruthless. I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold And mankind than the gold of Ophir. Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the Lord of hosts In the day of His burning anger.Isaiah 13:10–13
In the last article, I gave a brief summary of the signs of the Cross and some additional information to assist in understanding the signs when possible. Today, I’ll make a few points regarding how these signs relate to the day of the Lord. I understand, in making these arguments, that they will not fully satisfy those who don’t already agree with my views on prophecy, but perhaps they will be of some help regardless.
Here is my major point I’ll be making: throughout the Old Testament, the language used to describe the signs was figurative, but at the Cross the events literally happened. These signs served as literal, physical manifestations of the spiritual realities that had been made possible because of the Cross.
The Darkness and the Earthquake
In the prophets, the sun being darkened and the moon turning to blood signified the removal of Kings, Queens, and Princes, or you could just say the principalities and powers.
The literal darkness surrounding the death of Jesus signified the defeat of the “prince of the world.”
Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.John 12:31
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil…Hebrews 2:14
As I mentioned yesterday, one can’t really separate the Cross from the day of the Lord. The Cross (including the resurrection and ascension) are eschatological, meaning they relate to the time of the end (Hebrews 9:26). Jesus’ death, for instance, could be seen as a fulfillment of the seventieth “week” of Daniel 9, a passage about the “abomination of desolation.”
Jesus, along with Peter and John, speaks of darkness in connection with His coming again (parousia).
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.Matthew 24:29–30
The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood, Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.Acts 2:20
I looked when He broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.Revelation 6:12–13
So the literal darkness associated with the Cross foreshadows the figurative cosmic darkness that accompanies the fall of Jerusalem. Just as the literal death and resurrection of Jesus point to greater spiritual realities, a battle that was being waged in the spiritual world (cf. Ephesians 4:8), the darkness and earthquakes signify the removal of the powers of the world.
Using this same method (literal events at the Cross >> spiritual events at the second coming), we can gain insight into the other signs of the Cross.
I argued yesterday that the first veil was torn in the temple (the entrance into the holy place), not the second veil (the entrance into the holiest of all). The reason I gave for this conclusion was that nobody would be able to see the second veil torn except for the priests. The crowds at Passover, on the other hand, would see the first veil torn.
Today. I’ll give my theological argument for this conclusion.
The first veil separated the area into which the common Israelite could travel from the holy place where only the priests could enter. The most holy place, where God’s presence was, was only accessible by the High Priest once a year. The tearing of the first veil opened the way for all believers to be priests in the kingdom. It signified a changing of the priesthood.
For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.Hebrews 7:12
For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.Hebrews 7:18–19
Now all believers regardless of sex, social status, or citizenship are allowed into the Holy Place. The Cross of Jesus marked the beginning of the royal priesthood, as Peter called it in 1 Peter 2.
The second veil was not torn at the time of the Cross because entrance into the most holy place would not be granted until the coming of the Lord.
First, notice the description of the tabernacle from Hebrews 9.
Now even the first covenant had regulations of divine worship and the earthly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place. Behind the second veil there was a tabernacle which is called the Holy of Holies, having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant; and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.Hebrews 9:1–5
This is one of the most frustrating passages in the Bible because the Hebrews writer recognizes the significance of the various items in the temple, but the writer doesn’t go into detail! But that just goes to show how we don’t need to know everything.
Let me give it a shot, though!
So, the first tabernacle is where the priests did their daily rituals. The second tabernacle is where the High Priest went in once a year.
Now when these things have been so prepared, the priests are continually entering the outer tabernacle performing the divine worship, but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance.Hebrews 9:6–7
Jesus is our High Priest, as Hebrews 7 argues, and He entered the most holy place at his ascension.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.Hebrews 9:11–12
For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us…Hebrews 9:24
This is shown ever so briefly in Luke’s account.
And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.Luke 24:50–51
Jesus took on the role of High Priest in offering Himself “outside the gate” (Hebrews 13:12), going into the most holy place, and then appearing for a second time.
so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.Hebrews 9:28
The Anchorage Yale Bible Commentary points out this reference to a “second appearing” combines two types of associations: apocalyptic and priestly.
On the Day of Atonement, people gathered around the high priest as he came out of the inner sanctuary (Lev 16:18; Sir 50:5). Christ’s second coming is depicted in similar terms.Koester, Craig R. Hebrews: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 36. New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008. Print. Anchor Yale Bible.
Jesus’ second appearing is inseparable from the Cross! They are the same “day”!
Now, why is this important?
Remember, the first veil being torn allows all believers into the holy place. The second veil being torn, however, would allow entrance into the presence of God! Notice what the Hebrews writer argues,
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Hebrews 10:19–22
The “holy place” or “sanctuary” in verse 19 is the inner sanctuary, the most holy place. This way was “inaugurated,” but when would it be completed? This is the same kind of language used in Hebrews 7 about the “changing” of the covenants or in Hebrews 8 where he writes, “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear” (Hebrews 8:13). All of this language speaks to a time of transition. It began, or was inaugurated, by the Cross, but it is consummated at the second appearing.
Notice the following:
The Holy Spirit is signifying this, that the way into the holy place has not yet been disclosed while the outer tabernacle is still standing, which is a symbol for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a time of reformation.Hebrews 9:8–10
The author is speaking of the “present time” not the past time. This passage is about an ongoing reality at the time of writing, not a time previous to the Cross. The Old Covenant had yet to vanish away. But there was hope! When the temple would fall at the coming of the Lord, the way into the sanctuary would be revealed!
Jesus’ coming again finishes what was begun at the Cross. The first veil was torn at the death of Jesus, but the second veil would be “torn” when the Old Covenant would vanish away. God’s presence would be made available to all, not just one man of one family of one tribe of one people.
I’ll cover this in an article by itself! This is a bit longer than I expected.