I recently published a blog entitled:
In an offline discussion, a friend raised some interesting questions about this blog. I have responded in a blog rather than a reply because of the importance of this topic to understanding the OT and the New Covenant.
The answer to your question/issue is complex and very important. I will give a brief response here and hope others will add their knowledge and understanding via comments.
Let me first say, you are absolutely correct that the tearing of the curtain (veil) put an end to the need for the (annual) rite of animal sacrifice. The blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus was the ultimate, perpetual atonement of sin for those who believe in him. (Note that in some places, blood sacrifice of animals continued(s) for some who had/have not been introduced to Christ Jesus)
The model for the Temple was the Tabernacle as described in Exodus. Therefore, to understand the meaning of the construction and items in the Temple (including the curtain or veil) requires us to understand God’s instructions and purpose for the Tabernacle.
In the Temple, the doorways separating the various areas of the Temple were usually open. People not allowed in the progressively restricted areas could at least look into the next area. Not so with the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies).
To understand both the purpose and symbolism of the curtain (veil) separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) we must go to the Old Testament. “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil: you cannot tolerate wrong.” (Habakkuk 1:13a)
The Hebrew word for veil means to hide or shield. Why did God need to be hidden from man? Why did man need to be shielded from God? These are among the most important questions and lessons in the OT.
The answer to the second question is addressed in the quote from Habakkuk. God cannot abide sin; He could not look directly upon or be in the presence of sinful man.
The first question is more difficult. Yet it is answered many times in the OT. Sinful man cannot look directly on the face of God. In His glory, it is simply too much for sinful man to handle. To be in the presence of God in an unclean (sinful) state led to death. Even Aaron and his successors as high priest could only enter the Most Holy Place (when God was present) on the Day of Atonement, once a year. Before entering the Holy of Holies, the high priest went through a very extensive and meticulous cleansing. The blood sacrifice of animals on that day was an annual event to cleanse the high priest (lamb’s blood) and the nation of Israel (goat’s blood) of sins. Again, this was made unnecessary by the blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus. We are now able to approach God directly, without an intermediary.
(God showed His presence in the Holy of Holies via the cloud or fire. Only when these were not present could the nomadic Tabernacle be disassembled and moved.)
Now, let’s go back even further, to Genesis 3, The Fall of Man. Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve enjoyed a direct personal relationship with God. They were able to meet and speak with Him directly in the Garden of Eden.
What separated them from God? The sins of pride and disobedience. After the Fall, Adam and Eve and after them, all of mankind, could not have that direct relationship with God unless it was by God’s initiative. (Often defined as Original Sin)
God is holy. Man is sinful. So which of these brought need for the veil? It was not God’s holiness but man’s sinful nature that brought about this need for the veil (hiding or shielding). Symbolically, therefore, the veil represented (was) the result of sin.
When the veil was torn, man could again establish a personal, direct relationship with God without an intermediary. For those who accept Jesus (are re-born in the Holy Spirit), our sins are washed away by the blood of Christ. Sin no longer separates us from God. (This last statement is also very complicated to understand and controversial. I welcome comments on this as well.)
I hope this provides some clarification.
Alive in The Word