What happened when the temple curtain tore?


The Temple Curtain: Why It Tore When Jesus Died

Scott Dill

Listen Now 7 mins

The fact that the Temple curtain tore when Jesus died might be the best news you’ll hear today.

But to understand why it’s such a good thing, let’s talk about FOMO (not Bruno), because Jesus cared about your FOMO before it was a thing.

The first time I saw that phrase used (FOMO, not Jesus), it was for a shoe commercial. Truth be told: I don’t have FOMO around shoes (This is evident by the 1/25 ratio of my shoes to my girls’ shoes at the door to our garage).

But I do have a “fear of missing out” on things that matter to me. I bet you do too. And although “FOMO” is a 21st-century phrase, it’s a timeless terror.

That feeling of FOMO can reveal what we desire (a Tesla?), but more importantly, it can show us what we were designed to possess. Things that Jesus has always wanted us to have.

The primary of these is a deep and meaningful relationship with Him.

To illustrate this, we need to go back in time. If I only had a time machine, right? Talk about FOMO! Maybe stand up and spin around and make a weird noise?

OK, sit back down before you hurt yourself.

Now imagine…

Harrington, Delaware, in 1973.

A young (and, dare I say, handsome) Scotty Dill lies awake in his bed around 9 PM. OK, the young Scotty Dill is me. An author has to be allowed a little bit of liberty.

I’m lying there listening to mom and dad downstairs watching a TV show. I want to be sitting with mom and dad in our living room. I want to be watching a TV show and not lying in my lame bed, awake. So I creep down the stairs.

Mom and Dad always hung a curtain up around our staircase in the winter to keep heat downstairs. But there was a split in the curtain. So I’d sit there on the middle steps as quietly as possible and watch whatever they had on through the break in the curtain.

Eventually, the freakin’ squeaky old stairs always gave me away; but the point is I had FOMO.

I wanted to be with the people I loved most in the world. I wanted to experience what they were experiencing.

I wanted to be on the other side of the curtain.

So…what does Scotty on the stairs have to do with Jesus?! That is a valid question.

As a follower of Jesus, I can’t help but see Him in the everyday. And more than that, I see Him reaching out to connect with me in my world. Hang with me as I show you how (and why).

Now, onto our next stop.

Jerusalem, 957 BC.

King Solomon (the son of David) was in power as the third king of Israel and had just completed building the temple.

God had laid out specific rules around the temple - like who could go into the Holy Place - priests only!

And who could go into the sacred of all rooms called the Holy of Holies - High Priest only!

And how often the High Priest could go inside to make a sacrifice on the Day of Atonement - once a year!

God can be super picky. Kind of like that guy in front of you at Chipotle who wants extra white rice, both sets of beans, half chicken, half steak, and precisely two lettuce leaves (plus guac on the side, but who can blame them?).

But unlike that guy, God is holy.

It’s important to note, too, that the Holy of Holies was separated from the other room by a large curtain that hung from the ceiling to the floor.

The curtain is key. We’ll come back to that.

It’s a critical part of the story that is GOOD NEWS for you and me!

The Bible tells us that before Jesus came to earth, Israel had the temple that good ol’ Solomon had built. God’s presence would fill the Holy of Holies’ room. The High Priest was the only one allowed to enter and directly commune with God, offering sacrifices for themselves and the entire nation one day a year. The people had to rely on their High Priest.

For the most part, none had a direct relationship with God.

Now let’s hop back in the time machine one last time…

Why did the temple curtain tear when Jesus died?

Jerusalem, AD 33

Jesus has just died on the cross. The book of Matthew describes it this way,

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. (Matthew 27:50-51)

We see that at the moment Jesus died, the temple curtain was “torn in two, from top to bottom.” Remember what we learned earlier about the curtain? It separated the Holy of Holies. The one room that only the High Priest could go into and commune with God.

Here’s the money passage for this whole thing - and don’t get caught up on the word “brothers.” The writer was speaking the language of the time. He means men AND women. We all get to receive this promise equally.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

So many things in this passage are worthy to celebrate! First, the writer says, “…we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…”. Just like the priests of old, we too are considered priests and able to enter the holy place because of Jesus’ sacrifice.

The only price for entry is believing in Him.

Second, the writer says, “…the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh…”.

Hold on a minute.

Who used to go through the curtain?

The High Priest who communed with God once a year.

And now, who gets to go straight to God because the curtain is destroyed?

Every one of us.


All the time! (because we’re told Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all!)


Jesus’ sacrifice tore the curtain from top to bottom. Again, the new reality is access to God at all times!

Lastly, let’s look at this part of the passage, “since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith,” Jesus is the ultimate High Priest. But don’t miss this; it says we also “draw near with a true heart…”. Remember who gets to go through the curtain and draw near? The High Priest.

To be clear, I’m not equating us with Jesus. He IS our Lord and Savior. But as the Bible says, we are being transformed in His (Jesus’) image (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So therefore, anyone who claims Jesus as their Lord and Savior are also High Priests who are in a constant, deep, eternal relationship with the ultimate High Priest, Jesus Christ.

Good News, indeed! FOMO, be gone!

Scott Dill
Meet the author

Scott Dill

I'm married to a great woman. We have two fantastic daughters. Occasionally, you can find me strumming a guitar or banging a drum. Otherwise, I'm hanging with my family and eating popcorn. God continues to be good to me.

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