There is a lot of talk about “veils” in 2 Corinthians 3 and verses 12 through 18. The background of the account, in the passage, is the incident where Moses had just come off Mt. Sinai after a very long encounter with the Living God. He had spent a lot of times face to Face with Yahweh, where he (Moses) was given the Law of God.
Then, In Exodus chapter 25, the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments which He himself wrote on the two tablets of stone. Moses came off the mountain only to see his brother Aaron had built a golden calf, for the people, which many were now “worshiping” in drunken perversion. In disgust, Moses, showing the temper which would later cost him his physical life, smashed the two divine tablets containing the Commandment to pieces. Moses, then had to go back up the mountain and cut two more tablets. This time he spent 40 days and nights with God on the mountain, neither eating nor drinking.
The Glory of God alone was enough to keep him going. When he came off the mountain after those 40 days and nights, his face shone with the Radiance of God so mightily that it scared even his brother Moses. Moses had to put a veil over his face to cover the radiant glory of the Lord (Exodus 34:33-35). After a while, away from the close and personal daily encounter with God over those incredible 40 days, the glory began to fade. This is a perfect illustration of the unbreachable gap between the Old Covenant of God and the New. This is what the chosen vessel of Christ to the world – the Apostle Paul – is taking about here in the above 2 Corinthians Chapter 3 passage. See here:
2 Corinthians 3:12-18
12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away.
14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
The glory faded from Moses’ face because the Holy Spirit was not yet sent to indwell all who believed. The glory also faded because Moses was also faced with caring for, instructing and shepherding millions of Israelites through the wilderness and life got in the way of well, ministry.
The same thing happens to Christians today. We can go to the most exciting, spirit-filled and biblically sound two days of a conference or something, and come right back to, what may seem to be, “mundane” lives. A lot of believers choose to either become unhappy with their mountaintop and valley experiences instead of comprehending the ways and wonders of God, in order to flow victoriously with the highs and lows of Life.
Hence, the Lord, through His servant Paul, chooses to give us a lesson from the historical perspective of Moses. Before we get to 2 Corinthians 3:16, the following must be noted:
* The veil is a covering. Whether it is a bridal veil or the one in the Temple, a veil hides a certain thing or group of things (or a bride’s face just before the wedding vows) for a specific reason. In the wedding ceremony, it is mean to contain the beauty and mystery of what is about to occur between a man and a woman, as ordained by God. In spiritual terms, it signifies spiritual blindness.
* This Spiritual Blindness is pervasive through all of humankind, since the Fall of Man and definitely since Jesus died on the Cross. All we have to do is look no further than the majority of folks around us. There is no sense of urgency. There is no discernment, wisdom or understanding, even among the people of God. There is no outrage at things which any sane human would previously call deadly wrong.
There is no recognition of the darkness of people’s souls and entire cities, homes and even churches because the majority’s eyes are focused on their own pleasures, pursuits and prosperity. Yes, spiritual blindness abounds, while the world parties. This is the teaching from Moses covering His God-induced glow on this face, from the unredeemed masses. But there is more.
* 2 Corinthians 3:15 reminds us that Christ removed the veil the second He died on the Cross, for all humankind, for all kind. HOWEVER, there still remains an obstacle on the human side of the equation. The offer of the full glory of God is still there, for God so loved the world, that He gave. The problem is the human spiritual heart is spiritually corrupt, dead and undelivered from the penalty of sin….which is death. The heart is the repository of the things we love and prioritize in our lives. The scripture says to “open the eyes of our heart”. The Scripture also tells us that the heart is exceedingly wicked (God in Jeremiah 17:9) .
Even the nicest and gentlest of people, whom the world may call a “saint” is nothing before God unless this heart, this corrupt core of the unsaved, unregenerated soul, is changed by the Holy Spirit of God Himself. Until the conviction of personal sin and there is a realization of the need for a sinless Savior to forgive all that sin, and the acceptance in Faith, of Jesus as Lord and Master- there will not be any conversion and the Veil remains permanently over the heart.
* But there is hope, as Verse 3:16 of 2 Corinthians tells us. This hope can only be found in one place – the Person of God Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ. **When the Temple Veil was ripped to shreds to allow access to the Throne of heaven for all God’s people, its permanent removal was both symbolic and practical. The immediate effect was the signal from Heaven that the old Jewish law of sacrificing animals as a temporary atonement for their annual sin – was DONE for good.
The practical “religious” (if you will) meaning was that ancient Judaism was now fulfilled and done with as the Creator of Judaism – the Lord Jesus – had paid the Ultimate Price for the New Covenant, with His Life, His death on the Cross. This once-and-for-all payment took away all sin for all time and forever dismissed the need for one mortal man to go behind the temple veil, into the Holy of Holies. With Jesus’ Death, burial and Resurrection, all mankind now had an all-access pass, directly to the Throne of Heaven. This access, while available to all alive in the last 2000 years and until the end of the age, remains unclaimed by most.
* Another extremely significant thing which we should note in 2 Corinthians 3:16 is that the unsaved, unredeemed and spiritually blind person has not just a veil over his/her heart, soul and destiny but it may as well be a thick layer of concrete. Only the Perfect Lamb of God – Jesus – can remove that permanent sentence of death and replace it with a heart of love, hope and joy for Eternity. Only Jesus. It starts with God prompting ALL sinners. He tries and tries and tries. God sends people into the lives of mortals who would show them the way to Heaven – John 14:6 (Jesus says I am the Way, the Truth, the Life).
God will even reveal Himself to some, as an answer to their questions. Sadly, even a face to Face encounter with the Lord, is not enough for some to cry out to Him for salvation and the removal of the blinders from their eyes.
To all who are reading this, do not be like the “disciples” of John chapter 6, who followed Him as long as He was performing miracles, and signs and wonders. They loved Him when He feed tens of thousands with just a few loaves and fishes or healed the sick. But when He said what His REAL mission was, they turned and walked away from Him, as recorded in John 6:66. Too many today have fallen prey to the scourge of “easy-believism”.
All of this talk about veils, shrouds or tearing apart is deadly serious. However like everything else concerning the Lord, behind the frowning providence, He hides a smiling Face (as the hymn goes - "God Moves in a Mysterious Way, William Cowper, 1774). All through Scripture, we see the Lord bring many through trials and tribulations, only to bless them more at the end of it, than He did at the beginning. Job is the perfect example of course. But so much of His Word and Promises speak to the darkness giving way to a bright new dawn.
There is no reason any person on this earth should go to the hell, which was originally created for the devil and his angels. Many could come to know the satisfying calm assurance of not just their eternal destiny, but a life now which, while full of troubles and even persecution, gives us the evidence of things not seen. The removal of the veil of spiritual ignorance and dark nights of the soul absolutely leads to the arrival of God the Spirit into the lives of every true believer.
This arrival signifies our guarantee from the Savior that we are truly His. The Holy Spirit testifies over and over that Jesus is Lord and the Bible is true – if we are listening and tuned in completely to His “frequency”, so to speak. And when the dark clouds of doubt are lifted off our spirits and the Spirit of Jesus lives in us, there is nothing more liberating and joyful than this. Galatians 5:1 says that it is for “freedom that He set us free”. We are the only ones in this entire world – born-again Christians – who possess the Spirit of true Liberty.
We possess the Spirit of true Liberty from the penalty and eternal punishment of our lifetime of sin. We possess the Spirit of true Love in that we are free to love our lost neighbors and those who hate us, because greater Love was shown to us at our conversion to Christ. We possess the Sound of His Voice calling us to Himself and one day, He will stand before the Father and say “this one’s Mine”, only because we have trusted and believed in Him, as forgiven sons and daughters of the King.
We may not see it now, but we see and feel His Hands in ours, guiding and directing our paths. If we allow Him full access to all compartments of our lives, our lives will be so rich, even in our previous spiritual poverty, that we can only imagine what it would be like when we see Him as He is.
There is a truth in 2 Corinthians 3 verse 18 which should encourage, excite and embolden every true believer as to what lies ahead. The verse says "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit". This implies something truly and overwhelmingly unspeakable, in a tremendously powerful way. We know the Christian life is full of peace, joy, contentment (if we live right) and hope, on this side of Heaven. Our faces are now unveiled by God removed our spiritual blindness. He did that for a reason - that we will reflect His Glory, Love, Compassion and Salvation.
The very minute when Jesus breathed His last breath as a human being, while He died on the Cross, something occurred which opened the doors of Heaven for all humankind to access the Throne of Heaven, directly and in person, if we are called to salvation. We know from both secular history and the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27 and verse 51, that “behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks split”. The secular historian Josephus said that the veil of the Temple was four inches thick and made of Babylonian curtain (in his Antiquities 3.6.4 126; 3.7.7 183 and 8.3.3.). Only God could have ripped that thing in two, from the top down!