Matthew 27:35-55; Matthew 28:1-11.
W. T. P. Wolston.
What the gospel does for a soul that receives it, is to bring it to God, not merely to bring a man to heaven when he dies, but to bring him to God now, to enjoy God now, before he gets to heaven. "Christ suffered for sins once, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Now that is the very last place where you who are unconverted would like to be brought. You do not want to be brought to God, and I will tell you why; because you are afraid of God. The unconverted man is always afraid of God; he does not want to get into His presence; and why? Because he knows very well that there are some questions God will raise with him, and he is not prepared to answer them. God must raise the question of sin with every soul. It is a question that has to be answered between every soul and God, and the man that does not know Christ cannot happily answer it in God's presence.
Now, there are three things that mark Christianity — a rent veil, a risen Saviour, and a redeemed sinner. In Hebrews 10:19, 20, we read: "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." Here the Spirit of God gives us what the veil was a type of. If we turn to the Old Testament we shall get what this veil was, and what it was used for. It had a twofold use, it shut man out, and it shut God in — man could not go in to God, and God could not come out to man.
If we look at the description of the tabernacle, we shall see it was an oblong tent divided into two parts, the holy place, and the most holy. The whole mass of the people might come no farther than the brazen altar in the court of the tabernacle, on which the sacrifices were offered — type of the death of Christ in atonement for sin. Beyond this the people dared not go. The priests, the sons of Aaron, might go farther, having first washed at the laver which stood betwixt the altar and the door of the tent. They went inside the first covering into the holy place, to perform the service of the tabernacle, but the veil shut them out from the most holy place. Within that veil they might never go; what was there, their eyes might never look upon.
Inside that veil was the ark of the covenant, containing the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant, and over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercy-seat; each cherubim looking towards the mercy-seat. But besides this, what else was there? The presence of God! God dwelt there between the cherubims, and into that presence they could not go, and if He came out, it could only be in judgment. Oh, the solitariness of those long years wherein God dwelt alone! One only day, once in a year, might man approach God. Once in the year the high priest might go inside that veil, shrouded by the incense, and with the blood of atonement in his hand, and every other man was shut out.
Christ, as man, walked this wilderness path without sin, and that is what no other man ever did. In life, then, the life of Christ, there is no approach for a sinner to God. By His death only can you approach God.
Let us look for a moment at what that wondrous veil was made of. If you turn to Exodus 26:31, you have it: "And thou shalt make a veil of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen of cunning work; with cherubims shall it be made."
Now what is the blue? The blue is the well. known symbol of what is heavenly. And was not Christ heavenly? Where did He come from? From heaven! He could say while walking this earth, "The Son of man which is in heaven." He is "the second man, the Lord from heaven." He came from heaven, down to this earth, and everything about Him was heavenly. There you get the blue the heavenly character of Christ, as the God-man, God manifest in the flesh.
What is the purple, then? Well, purple is the imperial colour, and what is He? King of kings, and Lord of lords. He whose right it is to reign shall yet be displayed in this character to the whole universe of God. In bitter mockery they clothed Him in purple in the day of His shame and agony, but He is King of kings and Lord of lords, and the wide universe of God will yet own His sway. There never has been an earthly king or potentate whose kingdom has not been taken away from him; death has come in and robbed him of all his glory, but this King, after a long and glorious reign over the wide earth during a thousand years gives up His kingdom to the Father, that God may be all in all. Death comes and takes it from every other. This One goes through death first — wears no crown in life down here, but the crown of thorns they gave Him in cruel mockery — rises up out of earth, and there. by acquires the right to be set as Son of man, God's King, over all creation.
Then there comes the scarlet. "Oh," you say, "scarlet means suffering." Not always. Scarlet is the Jewish royal colour, for not only is He to be king over the whole earth, but in very special manner He is "king of the Jews," and as purple was Gentile colour, so scarlet was the Jewish emblem of royalty. They put over His cross, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews," and they wrote it in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin, that all peoples and tongues might read the inscription. It really did describe who He was, and what their guilt was, for He was king of the Jews, and they had crucified, in scorn and hatred and unbelief, their king.
Next, you have the fine twined linen of cunning work, figurative, I believe, of His only nature as man; that which all could see and recognize and underneath the veiled Godhead. Perfectly righteous, perfectly holy, perfectly pure, as man, and with all the glory of the Godhead shining through. The cunning work is emblematic of the way God devised by which He was legally Joseph's son, and thus heir to the throne — the Jewish law esteeming Mary as Joseph's wife after espousal — really the son of Mary, as it is written, "a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son," while actually as to His nature the Son of God, — yea God Himself become a man. Amazing mystery of Divine wisdom and love!
"With cherubims shall it be made." Cherubims symbolize the governmental dealings of God; and is not "the government upon His shoulder?" Has not God committed all judgment to Him?
We first read of the cherubims in Gen. 3:24: "So he drove out the man; and he placed at the cast of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." Here, as the executive of God in judgment, they appear looking outward toward man in his sin. Secondly, in Exodus 25:18-20, we get: "And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy-seat . . . of the mercy-seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof . . . and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy-seat shall the faces of the cherubims be."
Here, in type, they gaze inward on to the blood-stained mercy-seat, which we know from Rom. 2:25 means Christ — having finished a work which enables God righteously to save guilty man. Thirdly, we have seen them in the veil, i.e. connected with Christ personally. What does John 5:22 mean? "For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son." Again (v. 27), "and has given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." And again, God "has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). And, "who shall judge the quick (or living) and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom," but our Lord Jesus Christ? (2 Tim. 4:1).
It is, then, clear that Christ both judges and executes judgment on the ungodly. How then, sinner, can you escape it? The rent veil is the silent, the eloquent answer. He who is the judge, after your sin, but before the day of His judgment thereof, steps in and Himself sustains the judgment, that He may deliver you from it. What amazing love!
The veil was to be hung upon four pillars of shittim wood. "What is the shittim wood?" you say. Well, I believe the shittim wood speaks of His humanity. He took a human form that He might be able to die. But the shittim wood was overlaid with gold. Gold, in Scripture, represents Divine righteousness. The hooks, likewise, were of gold, and the sockets were of silver, Now silver is typical of redemption. You will notice the sockets of the tabernacle were made of the half shekels of silver that were paid by the people as redemption money — "every man a ransom for his soul" (See Ex. 30:12; Ex. 38:25-28). Everything is based on redemption.
Since the fall, man cannot meet God save on the ground of redemption. But how is this redemption accomplished?
Jesus dies, and by His death opens the way of life for you, for me. Read carefully the tale the 27th of Matthew records. Look at it; look at the scorn, the enmity, the mockery, the hatred He passed through. "Oh," you say, "but did not God comfort Him in that terrible hour, did not God sustain His soul?" I believe from the third hour to the sixth hour, that is from nine o'clock in the morning when they crucified Him, until twelve o'clock, that God did stand by Him, did sustain His soul, did manifest to Him His perfect, infinite delight in Him. I believe that never was He so the delight of the Father's heart as in that hour, when, scorned by the world, and forsaken by His own, He hung there between heaven and earth.
But see what happens! At the sixth hour — that is, twelve o'clock, noon — darkness, like a pall, falls over the whole land. What is it? What is this strange eclipse at noonday? Is it God in judgment coming forth to execute vengeance on men — on sinners for their treatment of this Holy One, His beloved Son? Is God about to pour forth His judgment on their guilty heads? Well might they think so. No doubt they did. Well might they believe it was swift and just retribution coming for their murder of Him, of whom even the thief dying by His side could say, "This man has done nothing amiss;" whom Pilate declared to be a "just person," in whom he could find no fault; who even their own guilty hearts and consciences must have known was unworthy thus to die.
But was it God's judgment on a guilty world? No! It was something greater far, deeper far. It was not God dealing with sinful man, but God dealing with His own Son, God deal. ing with Christ, because of man's sin, that He had taken upon Him. In that terrible hour, when darkness veiled the land, there was another far greater eclipse, a perfect eclipse between God and that One who hung there, even, His own beloved Son, bearing sin. God hid His face from Him then. When all had forsaken Him, as He says, "Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, then, at that very time, God forsook Him too!
And those three hours of darkness, those three hours of total eclipse between God and the One on the cross, rolled on, and then at the ninth hour, three o'clock in the afternoon, comes that great, that terrible cry from Him, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Ah, He forsook Jesus in that hour, that He might never forsake you and me. There was darkness for Him that there might be only light for us. He bore the judgment that we might go free.
Once more, He cries with a loud voice, "It is finished," and gives up His spirit. "No man takes it from me, I lay it down of myself."
And at that same moment God rends the veil, cherubims and all. He who should execute judgment on man, has in grace sustained and borne it for man; the price has been paid, redemption has been accomplished, and God is able now to come out in grace to man, in spite of his guilt, because of what Christ has done, and man may go in to God through a "new and living way." Beautiful word, a living way. I like that word! How a living way? Because it is not a dead Saviour that I am presenting to you now, but a risen and a living Saviour. He "ever lives to make intercession for us." He has gone into the grave and come up out of it, having abolished death, and destroyed him who had the power thereof. The third day the tomb was empty, the Saviour had risen. That open grave, that risen Saviour, are the proof that the sins for which He suffered are for ever gone.
And what about the redeemed sinner? Well, I need not say much about him — Christ has everything to do with his redemption, He has brought him to God, as I said at the beginning, and the sinner, or rather he is the believer now, thus brought to God, has nothing to do but to "joy in God," and to wait quietly for the return of the Lord to take him to be with Himself, delighting in the meantime in every little bit of sweet service he can render Him while he stays here.
As a redeemed sinner I have nothing to do but to rejoice in the One who has redeemed me. "But what about your sins?" you ask. Well, I will tell you: God has talked to Christ about my sins, that He might talk to me about Christ.
During those three hours of darkness God dealt with the Lord Jesus about my sins, that He might be able to speak to me only of Jesus.
"But what about the judgment-seat: are you not afraid of that?" No. If I were to stand there and hear every one of my sins brought up, I should only say, "Lord, remember — Lord, remember." Remember what? "Not me, but Christ. Remember He died for me. I am unworthy, but He died for me. His blood was shed for me."
Have you ever noticed one thing lacking in the vessels of the tabernacle? There is no seat there found. And why, think you? I will tell you. Because the priest's work was never done. "Offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God." There is no repetition of His offering, there can be none. Whatever your sins are, His offering, once offered, is a full discharge for all. "Offered one sacrifice for sins." For whose sins? For sins. But for whose? For sins. It does not say for whose, nor for how many, and if I had the whole sins of a nation on my shoulders this moment I should not care, with my eye on this word of the living God, for the next moment I might know that I am without a single one, free to go in boldly into God's presence because He died for sins, and therefore He died for my sins. That veil was rent: rent, too, from the top to the bottom. Why from the top, to the bottom? Because man had no hand in it. If man had rent that veil, it would only have been to bring out swift destruction on himself. God Himself opened the way of access thus for the very vilest sinner into the holiest of all.
God will never enter into judgment with one who simply trusts in Christ. Those who believe on Him will be with Him, and like Him, before that judgment-seat is set. John 5:28 says, "The hour is coming in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment."
"And does not that all take place at once?" No; more than a thousand years roll between the first part of that verse and the second. The Lord takes two days to empty the graves and to raise the dead. Could He not do it all at once? No; impossible! He comes first to fetch His own. He Himself descends into the air, and there is the sound of the trumpet and the voice of words, His own voice, and part of the graves are emptied, the tombs are opened, and their occupants come forth. Where do they go? They go up with their Lord, to be for ever in His own bright presence. "They that have done good to the resurrrection of life," that is, of that eternal life which they possessed, because He gave it to them when they were still down here. That light that He lit in their hearts never went out, that life He gave never was extinguished, once lighted. God never intended that that light should go out. "I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
"They that have done good," then, i.e. all who have Christ, go up to be with Him, and the rest of the dead remain in their graves, and more than a thousand years roll by, and then there comes another opening of the graves, another resurrection of the dead, and they stand, small and great, before the great white throne; to be judged out of those things written in the books, according to their works. "They that have done evil to the resurrection of judgment." They stand there clothed in their sins, to he judged. Which of these two resurrections are you, my friend, going to have part in? Are you going to stand before Him in your sins then, or do you know what it is now to have boldness to enter into the holiest, through that new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh?
Do you know what it is to "draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith?" And let me tell you "full assurance of faith" does not mean a very great amount of faith, but that which simply clings to Christ, and trusts in His atoning blood as its only ground of access there to worship within the veil.
"Where do you worship?" one asked me, some weeks since. "Oh," I answered, "I am very High Church; I worship inside the veil, in the holiest, and that is in heaven itself. I know of nowhere else where I can worship. If I worship the Lord Jesus, I must worship Him where He is." If you look on to Heb. 13: you will find something else combined with being "inside the veil," and that is, "outside the camp." Now, people oftentimes do not like this, they do not like the reproach outside the camp; but depend upon it, the two go very much together, and if I am not prepared for the reproach of being outside the camp with a rejected Christ, I shall not know much of the joy of being inside the veil. These two truths are like the two blades of a pair of scissors — one is very little use without the other — to have one blade alone is no good at all, but when you have both joined together, how good and how useful. There is nothing so cutting as these two blades together — "inside the veil" and "outside the camp." People like to get inside the veil, but depend upon it they do not remain there long unless they know something of what it is to be outside the camp too. That is why one hears so often of loss of joy: loss of peace, too, oftentimes. People want to mix up being inside the veil with God and being in the world too, and they cannot; they want one blade of the scissors without the other.
The Lord give us to hold fast the profession of our hope without wavering, provoking to love and good works, that is, being so true to the Lord ourselves, that we may be helpers of each other till the day of His coming again!
"In the grave they could not find Him,
He had told them so before:
Justice could no longer bind Him,
Mourner, let your fears be o'er;
'He is risen!'
Jesus lives for evermore.
'Peace to you!' this His greeting,
Word of Him that cannot lie,
From the heart that bore our judgment,
Heart of love that cannot die.
'Peace to you!'
Still He speaketh from on high.
'It is finished!' 'He is risen.'
Ye who these blest words receive,
Peace in Him is now your portion,
Peace eternal He will give,
'Peace to you!'
All who on His name believe."