An Expository on Matthew 27:51-54
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"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’"
- Matthew 27:51-54
One of the more bizarre passages in the New Testament is the one above found in the Gospel of Matthew. This particular passage which occurs at the point of time when Christ died on the cross was part of a series of climactic events which occurred in Jerusalem. In addition to this event where the “saints” (Greek: Hagios - Those who are like Christ or Likeness of nature with the Lord) arose, we also have the curtain separating the inner Holy of Holies being torn in two starting from the top down to the bottom. Without a doubt, this is a difficult passage and one which I have found no one quite can agree on. This is a passage which had perplexed me for more than 30 years. On its surface, it does not seem to make a great deal of sense. Are we reading spiritual analogy, is it meant as symbolism, or did this event really occur as it was recorded by the Apostle Matthew? I will endeavor to answer the question to the best of my ability.
I will start this exploration by making a few things about what I believe very clear. Unless one knows my perspective, one will not be able to follow my explanation. I will begin by making clear that I do not hold to many orthodox views respecting Christianity as readers of my commentaries are already well aware. While my views do not necessarily follow orthodoxy, I will challenge anyone—ANYONE—to show me where my views diminish Christ. To be clear, Jesus Christ is God Almighty. There is but one God that I believe in and He showed Himself to us in the personage of the Christ. He interacts with us in this day though His Spirit and through other Christians who are to be His face. A great deal of what orthodoxy teaches is essentially doctrine and dogma. Some of this Dogma has been embraced by my Evangelical brethren, but there is scant evidence of its legitimacy. Again, readers of my commentaries are already aware of this. I would suggest any who wish to understand more about my viewpoint to start with my commentary on Matthew 27:46 which is a nice companion piece to this present commentary. It can be found here:
I feel as though I need to paint a picture of the situation in the world at the time this event occurred before I begin. The situation was not limited to the temporal realm, but to the spiritual as well. In fact most of what was transpiring during this period was as a result of a war going on in the spiritual realm which had been unseen by most of humanity.
Jesus Christ had been prophesied to come to earth since the very beginning. In Genesis 3:15 we find this piece of condemnation levied against the serpent that had deceived Eve:
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heel.”
The allusion is Christ being superficially injured as a result of an act by the serpent. The serpent fares far worse for the exchange which will take place between the two. One of the more striking prophesies is found in Psalm 22 where the entire future crucifixion scenario is played out. Isaiah also very accurately prophesies the coming Messiah. A careful reading of the Old Testament scriptures will reveal a time when the Messiah was to come to earth and dwell amongst us. The question, however, is why?
Why. Yes indeed—that is a question. If The Most High God had created mankind with foreknowledge of their disobedience and that disobedience necessitated their deaths, then can it be reasonably argued that it is not so much humanity which failed, but rather God Most High for creating something so manifestly inferior to begin with? Of course I am well aware that to even contemplate such makes me a heretic. (You’ll have to stand in line to hurl that particular appellation at me. Might I suggest you bring reading material—maybe one of my novels http://www.thegodprinciplebook.com . It’ll be quite a wait, so you may as well enjoy it.)
Regardless, it is a legitimate question to ask. If God is the ultimate Creator and knows all, then shouldn’t God have employed better methodology with respect to his human creation? The entire Garden of Eden scenario impresses me as little more than a setup. That is, it would impress me as little more than a setup IF I subscribed to the orthodox view. Clearly I do not and am more than comfortable with what I have come to believe really happened. Let me explain:
If one wishes to hold to the view that God Almighty as manifest in the Old Testament scriptures is Jesus Christ, one has a huge hurdle to jump. As a result of the blatant disparity between the two principles, many theological teachings have sprung up over the two millennia since Christ bade us an earthly farewell. The one which pervades Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christianity is Dispensationalism. However, we also have facets of Calvinism and Deism which construct a disparity between God’s character and that of Christ. Dispensationalism attempted to give us the “Why” of the question and John Nelson Darby is at the very least to be given his just due for that. However, orthodoxy never dared ask the question, simply holding to the view through the model of the Trinity that God and Christ were two different components of the Triune Godhead. An example: If you are married, you and your spouse may be in agreement on how to raise your children, but one of you may be the “easy touch” to your children whereas the other is the disciplinarian. You are both in general consort with one another, but one is much more harsh and unforgiving in approach than the other. Between the two of you, a reasonable middle ground is reached. This is essentially how orthodoxy views the Trinity and its players.
To me the Trinity is a complete misnomer. I am not going to delve too deeply into the history of the concept of the Trinity as I have answered that in earlier commentaries, most notably my commentary on Matthew 27:46. I will say that as an embraced concept within the early church, the Trinity as we understand it did not exist. It wasn’t until 186 AD that the church fathers were able to even come to a rudimentary understanding of the three aspects of God. The Trinity as we’ve come to embrace it was wholly a construct of the Ecumenical Councils first convened by Constantine the Great, Emperor of Rome. His reasoning for creating a structured hierarchy is clear to see: Just as there is a structural hierarchy in Heaven; God the Father, as ultimate head, then Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in lateral lesser, but essentially equal positions, Constantine could recreate that Spiritual structure with an earthly counter-part. He would rule as the ultimate leader (an earthly God the Father) while the Pope (or father of the Church) would fulfill the Christ leg of the Trinity with their doctrine and dogma filling in the gap for the Holy Spirit. In this hierarchical structure, complete control was assured; no one would be straying from the established and sanctioned path without incurring the Emperor’s holy wrath.
What the Church has to come to grips with (and what they are tremendously resistant to do) is recognize that the doctrine and liturgy which they embrace is a result of these councils. Unless and until we understand church history, the enemy can use it to cloud our understanding. And we cannot forget that as Christians, we are facing a very, very powerful spiritual entity that will stop at nothing—NOTHING—to take us away from the truth. The Christian faith has been infected repeatedly with false teachers who I firmly believe began their mission perfectly sincere, but then were seduced by the adulation of their followers. It is difficult to ignore people who look to you to have all the answers. Worship is alluring to even the strongest among us.
“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.”
- Matthew 24:24
These spiritual enemies are warring against God by warring against us human beings. Prior to Christ, this entire realm (not just the planet earth, but the entire universe) was theirs. Everything which was contained within was theirs. This was as it was set up by covenant. God gave them this realm to create, to shape, to build. When one reads the Gospels and specifically Paul and Peter’s letters, this becomes quite clear. Let me explain:
"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
- John 3:19-21
There is a chronology to the Bible which I find all too often overlooked by too many in theological circles. Too many teachers of the Bible tend to forget that until Christ died upon the cross, He—along with everyone else—was living under the strictures of the Law. I cite this so often because when one believes that Christ was NOT under the Law one is misinformed as to just what the Law truly was. Christ fulfilled the Law not only by not sinning (read transgressing the Law), but by being killed by the enemy for no covenantal reason. Hebrews is quite clear on this point in explaining why Christ had to die.
“For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
- Hebrews 9:15 (emphasis mine)
“By calling this covenant “new,” He has made the old obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”
- Hebrews 8:13 (emphasis mine)
“But now He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
- Hebrews 9:26 (emphasis mine)
Paul adds to this point of view given by the unknown author of the book of Hebrews and even expands upon it in his letters to the Churches at Colossi and Ephesus.
God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the Powers and Authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” - Colossians 2:13-15 (emphasis mine)
“Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the Rulers and Authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Ephesians 3:8-11(emphasis mine)
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the Rulers and Authorities, against the Powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” - Ephesians 6:12 (emphasis mine)
There is little doubt that Paul gives us a rather interesting insight on the unseen spiritual entities which rule the earth. Both the author of Hebrews and the Apostle Paul also seem to make very clear that these are beings which not only gave us the Law, but ruled the earth long before Christ came and “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” The naked truth is that if one does question the veracity of the argument that the world prior to Christ’s crucifixion was ruled solely by God, one then is forced to explain just what these entities are and why they have such vast power over us; why Christ had to come and defeat them.
The author of Hebrews asserts that Christ came but once. This is an assertion which carries with it some weight. What it means is that Christ never appeared here in this realm prior to His earthly incarnation. This is significant because orthodoxy claims that the instances of God throughout the Old Testament, instances where God talked face to face with Abraham, Job, Moses—even to Adam and Eve—were either the pre-incarnate Christ, or a Theophany. A Theophany is best defined as a spiritual manifestation of a deity. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that those manifestations of the Old Testament God were not Jesus Christ in any incarnation.
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” - Hebrews 9:27-28 (emphasis mine)
Note that Christ’s return a second time would be in His Glorified incarnation. Thus He will appear in the same manner as He would have appeared to these various Old Testament figures to those who hold a pre-incarnate Christ view. When one is studying scripture, it is vitally important that one do so without filtering such through any preconceived notions as to what it is “really” saying. Orthodoxy long ago concluded at the Ecumenical Councils that a Triune Godhead ruled, thus every theological interpretation of the scriptures must follow that lead without equivocation. This presents a problem for many, many passages of scripture which clearly indicate that something else was going on.
Humans are rather judgmental characters. That isn’t a criticism, just a fact. We make judgments about everything all the time. Because of human character, we tend to look at God as though He was also human. Because the attitude of the Old Testament God is also very judgmental, there is a certain kinship which exists; human beings can readily identify with a God who chooses some people over others, who covets, who is jealous, who angers quickly and who kills. The Old Testament is filled with this type of god and his antics. I won’t bore the reader with the examples here; they are listed in my other commentaries and throughout the Old Testament. What is important to consider, however, is that God in the Old Testament makes a rather bold assertion. God states unequivocally that He does not change. (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6) If that is in fact the case, one has to explain why Christ is so vastly different in approach from the God of the Old Testament. Further, one would have to explain how the Spirit of God is also vastly different from the Old Testament God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
- Galatians 5:22-23
This is a rather tall order to fill when one considers the Spirit of God and the Word of God act in total opposition to “God” Himself. The Old Testament God acts nothing like Christ and displays NONE of the fruits of the Spirit. If he is to be believed in His assertion that He does not change, then exactly what is going on? Even if one subscribes to the Triune Godhead, the dictates of such a structure would demand that they act in perfect accord with one another. Thus, there should be no discernible difference in their approach, only how they manifest themselves to us.
Paul was keenly aware of this case of mistaken identity where Christ and the Old Testament god were concerned. To the Church at Colossi he wrote:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than Christ.” - Colossians 2:8(emphasis mine)
The human tradition I’ve emphasized is understandable enough. Most of orthodox doctrine was conceived through man, not Christ. The Nicene Council established most of what the Christian Church believes and teaches. The underlined “basic principles” is interesting though. What does that mean exactly? What is it Paul was trying to convey? In the Greek, basic principles translate to the word, “stoicheion”or “stoixeion” στοιχεῖον, ου, τό. The definition of this word is interesting. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance renders its meaning as:
4747 stoixeíon– properly, fundamentals, like with the basic components of a philosophy, structure, etc.; (figuratively) "first principles," like the basic fundamentals of Christianity.
[4747 (stoixeíon) refers to "the rudiments with which mankind . . . were indoctrinated (before the time of Christ), i.e. the elements of religious training or the ceremonial precepts common alike to the worship of Jews and of Gentiles" (J. Thayer).
The RSV however renders stoixeia as "elemental spirits," i.e. spiritual powers or "cosmic spirits" (DNTT, 2, 828). This views 4747 /stoixeíon ("elements") as ancient astral beings associated with the very beginning (make-up) of the earth.]
Consider for a moment that Paul is merely referring to the “rudiments with which mankind …were indoctrinated (before the time of Christ). Would not God’s rudimentary teachings be the same as Christ’s irrespective of a Triune Godhead? Are these two not supposed to act in one accord? Yet the very word choice points out that this isn’t at all what is going on. Paul is warning the Colossians NOT to be taken captive by such basic principles—stoixeia.
Consider now that these basic principles are more in keeping with Paul’s other admonitions with respect to spiritual Rulers and Authorities in the heavenly realms. Not only would that be consistent with what Paul has said to other churches, it also answers some very nagging questions as to exactly who is who in the Old Testament. Naturally such a view is discarded out of hand by those who have adopted the orthodox view; the concept of Christ molded by the hands of a Roman Emperor who worshipped the pagan sun god, Amun Ra.
Tradition is a hard habit to break and no one knows that better than I. But it is a fact that some traditions are better discarded than nurtured. Just because something has graduated to the status of tradition, does not necessarily make it good. Paul recognized this and warned against it—almost three hundred years before Constantine convened the first of the councils. In Paul’s day, it was the traditions of the Hebrews which troubled him, but not just the Hebrews, the pagans as well. They had their “basic principles” too.
Consider this interesting passage in the book of Isaiah:
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.
- Isaiah 14-12-15
There are a couple of interesting things about the above passage. We have been taught that Lucifer was the name of Satan prior to his fall from Heaven. This is incorrect. The name “Lucifer” appears only in the Latin Vulgate and the King James Bible translation of the Holy Bible. When Jerome of Stridonium translated the Greek Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate in approximately 382 AD under the direction of Pope Damasus, the names of all other named angels in scripture—Michael, Gabriel, Raphael—were left in their original Hebrew. However this particular angelic (or Celestial) entity’s name was not left in its original Hebrew, rather Jerome translated it into Latin. Jerome gives no reasoning as to the why. Lucifer means, “the morning star,” or “light bringing” or "light bearer." In the Hebrew, Lucifer is rendered as Helel: הֵילֵל
An interesting aspect of this name is that it describes this spiritual entity as being the bringer of light. One should find it reasonable to ask, “Whose light?” If Almighty God already reigns as supreme and Lucifer (Satan) stands opposed to Him, whose light is Lucifer bringing?
Consider that as Christians today, we are supposed to bring to others not already in a relationship with Christ the “Light” of His Word and truth. We are to bring the Light of Christ to our fellow man. Prior to Christ, this was the job of these Celestial entities. As I have already pointed out, they failed in this task magnificently for many of the same reasons human beings do. These entities charged with administering over humanity and bringing God’s Light to us all, fell prey to the seduction of worship instead. As time went on, they bothered less with reflecting God’s true Light and instead reflected their own.
This sentiment is reflected by the Old Testament Prophet, Isaiah. It is an interesting passage in Isaiah Chapter 14 which seems to come out of nowhere to describe an act of duplicity motivated by pride and vanity:
You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to Heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
On the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
- Isaiah 14:13-14
Understanding that there were spiritual entities which were placed here to be liaisons between God and man is necessary to fully understand what occurred when Christ gave up His spirit. One must understand the “lay of the land” before one can proceed. Thus, I will proceed upon the premise that there were these spiritual entities which are referred to as Celestials in the book of 2nd Peter and Jude. (2nd Peter 2:10-11, Jude 8) These entities were charged with being God’s face to the human creation. In this, they failed magnificently. Nothing they did was as it should be. The true nature of God was not reflected in their administration of the human creation and as a result, Christ came and freed us from their rule. Covenantally, this entire realm was theirs. When Satan offered the entire world to Christ if only He would bow down before him, this was not an empty promise. The Celestial entity that made the offer had full rights to this entire realm; not just planet earth, but the entire temporal realm. (Matthew 3:1-11)
For those inculcated with the teachings of orthodoxy, this is simply too fantastic to believe. The first reaction is shock, then anger will set in. After this initial digestion of information occurs, there is a scrambling to prove the error with scripture. Rationalizations and twisting of scripture will have to be employed in order to get around certain obvious statements made by Christ, Paul, Peter, John, the author of Hebrews, Jude and Luke in Acts.
It was these spiritual Powers and Authorities—these stoixeia which Christ was speaking to while hanging on the cross in Matthew 27:46. When He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” He was not lamenting being forsaken by God the Father, He was speaking first to the Celestial beings who had engineered his crucifixion (Colossians 2:15) and then to the Jewish leaders who were well familiar with the referenced incipit which we know of today as Psalm 22. Christ was telling both parties what was about to happen.
When He finally gave up His Spirit and left his temporal body upon the cross, Christ descended to Sheol where all human spirits were trapped since the beginning. This prison of Sheol was what was regarded as a spiritual death for it was a (seeming) eternal separation from Creator God Almighty. Sheol was a construct of this temporal realm and as such, it belonged to those who had rule over this temporal realm: That being the Celestial entities, the stoixeia.
Paul states where Christ went upon His earthly death very clearly:
“When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men.” (What does “He ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) -Ephesians 3:8-9
The Apostle Peter makes the same declaration in his epistle:
“For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.” - 1st Peter 18-19
What truly occurred at the moment that Christ died upon the cross was something completely opposite of what these Celestial Rulers and Authorities had expected. I surmise from what Paul explained as their reaction that they had expected Christ to admit defeat, pack His bags and return to the eternal ether from whence He had came, leaving them to continue to administer over the human creation as they saw fit. Instead, upon reaching the abode of the dead in Sheol, Christ was armed with the power which came from a violation of the very Law the angels themselves had written: They had killed when death was not warranted—nor allowed. Christ had not transgressed their Law, yet they killed Him anyway. In so doing, these Celestials proved themselves to be just as flawed, just as errant as the human creation they asserted were nothing but sinful, unworthy creatures. This is nothing to brush aside blithely; Christ proved to these Celestial Rulers and Authorities before the entire host of heaven that they were absolutely no better than their human charges. Upon that stark realization, God Almighty, in the personage of Jesus Christ the Messiah, was able to take legal control of this realm out of their hands.
Christ’s first order of business was to empty this abode of all its occupants. Within three days, He rose again in a new, glorified body which was not of flesh and blood, but was perfect. It was a body which possessed all the qualities of a fleshly body, but was imperishable. This new body was not bound by the laws of physics or space-time. Christ was able to alter His appearance at will, appear and disappear at will, but He could also eat and drink; He could touch and be touched. Most of these instances are recorded in the Gospel of John which are too numerous to list.
With special attention now being given to those who were in Sheol at the time Christ arrived, I will now endeavor to explain just who it was that came out of their tombs upon Christ’s earthly passing. Being well cognizant that space and time are not measured the same, what is seen as almost instantaneous to us, may have been a length of some time to those inhabitants of Sheol and to Christ Himself. Those who rose were regarded as saints, but a better rendering would be believers. These were most likely people who had heard Christ’s teachings, believed in Christ and had recently passed. Let me explain.
There a few things to clear up with respect to misconceptions about this particular passage in Matthew. First, addressing just who it was that emerged from the tombs. I have read various expository writings and commentaries whereupon the authors assert the saints raised were such luminaries of the Old Testament as Elisha, Abraham, Daniel, Isaiah, etc. Such is not the case. Were any of those men to have been the ones coming out of the tombs (putting aside the fact that none of those men save for Abraham even died in Israel), no one would have known who they were. There were no cameras back then, no renderings of what any of these men looked like in paintings, busts, etc. Bringing forth any of these Old Testament “saints” would have been pointless as a testimony for no one would have been alive to recognize who they were; they would have been strangers.
The second thing to clear up is a bit more obvious, but I’ll cover it here none-the-less. It has to deal with the tombs themselves and the culture surrounding the dead for the Jews. In that era (and going back much further, in fact), upon death, a body was washed and then dressed for burial by being wrapped in linens filled with various aromatic herbs and flowers. The body was then laid in a “tomb” (more like a hollowed our space in a rock face) where it remained until the soft tissue decayed and left nothing but a skeleton. This was a process that took approximately two years. At the end of that time, the bones were collected and placed into a small stone box called an ossuary. This ossuary could be left in the tomb (if it was owned by a family of means), or it could be kept in the home or elsewhere convenient. Given that in the Gospel account these tombs broke open and the bodies of the saints came out, I would assume based upon my knowledge of the customs that these were people who had died within the last two years, thus in much the same way that Christ raised Lazarus from his tomb, so too were these bodies raised.
Now the better question is why? Well, the text gives us the reasoning, but we had to put everything in its proper context. These were people who had been returned to their fleshly bodies in much the same way as Christ had raised many, many people from the dead throughout His earthly ministry; the state of decay is immaterial. Lazarus had been dead for four days and putrefaction had already set in. An unembalmed body after four days would have been beyond viable no matter how one may wish to look at it. A sack of bones or a bloated corpse is the same to God. The word used for “bodies” here in this passage is the Greek word, “Soma” σῶμα. The literal translation is, “the body (as a sound whole), used in a very wide application, literally or figuratively:--bodily, body, slave. A body, the mass of anything, usually a corporeal tissue, human, animal, or plant, though it can also refer to a heavenly body; the church is said to be like a (human) body, emphasizing its essential unity with very important diversities of function within the unity”.
- Strongs Concordance 4983
So these two interesting signs occur just as Christ gives up His spirit. The curtain separating the inner Holy of Holies is torn in two from the top down, and recently dead followers of Christ miraculously emerge from their tombs and return to family and friends to tell them the Good News of Christ’s victory over the enemy upon His resurrection.
So why tear the curtain in two and what is the significance of tearing it from the top down? The answer is one filled with much symbolism. First let’s look at the curtain itself. The dimensions of this curtain (or veil) were quite stunning. It was sixty feet in height, thirty feet in width and four inches thick! This veil was made of fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn. There were figures of cherubim (angels) embroidered onto it. Cherubim, spirits who serve God, were in the presence of God to demonstrate His almighty power and majesty. They also guarded the throne of God. These cherubim were also on the innermost layer of covering of the tent. If one looked upward, they would see the cherubim figures.
Angelic figures were all about the veil and the interior of the Holy of Holies. The very lid of the Ark of the Covenant had two cherubim angels with their wings outstretched, touching one another. Between these wings, the essence of God would appear on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. If it is as we have already established—the Celestial Ruler and Authorities were the acting “god” to the human creation, then the abundance of cherubim imagery is more than explained: We are seeing a cult of angelology manifest in the entire temple structure. Christ understood this completely and upon wresting covenantal control from these Celestial entities, He signified the end of this cult of angelology by tearing apart the veil separating the inner Holy of Holies from the outer temple from the top down—as only Creator God Almighty could do. These beings would no longer stand between God Almighty and His creation. God would now interact with humanity on a very intimate and personal level.
When coupled with the witnesses from Sheol who had risen from their tombs and most likely went to find their families to wait until after Christ’s resurrection in order to spread the Good News about Christ’s victory, this entire situation had to have not only angered these Celestial Rulers and Authorities, but actually caused great fear—perhaps something experienced by them for the very first time. There is absolutely no record that those who were raised from their tombs suddenly returned to the ether, or otherwise did anything but live out a natural life only to taste physical death once again. I’ll hasten to add that there is no accounting of Lazarus’s life after his resurrection either. There is no accounting of exactly how many people came forth from these tombs, and thus far there is no actual accounting outside of the Gospel of Matthew to buttress this incident. But they did witness and testify as to where they had been and who had set them free. They were also able to give an accounting of who sent them there and kept them in chains. To these Celestial entities, this must have been more than they could bear. The Apostle Paul stated clearly that, “Christ had made a public spectacle of them…” (Colossians 2:15)
I happen to believe this event occurred exactly as it is outlined in the Gospel. Where I find myself at odds with my fellow Christians is the “why” of the matter. One can clearly see that the orthodox point of view essentially lets these Celestial entities—Satan, if you prefer—almost completely off the hook. For millennia we’ve blamed the Jews for killing Christ. Even though we tend to recognize that the entire plan was Christ’s from the beginning, without knowing the actual reasoning behind why things work the way they work, we’re left wondering. The earthly part of the battle was only a slim sliver of what was really going on. Christ engaged these Celestial beings (yes that is a plurality I have employed. Paul, Peter, and Christ acknowledged a plurality when referring to the enemy) and emerged victorious.
The Book of Hebrews is a book rich with information to the Spirit-filled reader. I urge any who are reading this to look more deeply into what it is that I have suggested in this commentary. There are many ideas which will be new to you, but give them prayerful examination before you decide they are without merit. Consider that in this era with Christ’s return imminent, the time of angelology has passed and we must now embrace Christ. With that, I leave with a quote from that book and its unknown, but Spirit-filled author:
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. 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,” - Hebrews 10:16-20
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