The gospels state that the last thing Jesus did on the cross (at about 3 p.m.) was cry out that he was giving his spirit to the Father (see Luke 23:46, Matthew 27:50). Before he was buried to await being resurrected, however, something happened that only the hand of God could perform.
51. And suddenly the veil of the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom . . . (Matthew 27:51)
The veil mentioned in the gospels that tore when Jesus died hung between the Holy of Holies (also called the Most Holy Place) and the Holy Place. The Holy Place in the temple contained a candlestick (lampstand), the golden altar of incense, and the table of shewbread. The Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant with its mercy seat on top. The only person allowed to enter the Holy of Holies was the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.
The veil that covered the entrance to the most holy location in the entire temple was not the kind of curtain or thin veil we might think of. It was at least 30 by 60 foot big (9.1 by 18.2 meters) with a thickness of between 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters)!
The miraculous tearing of the veil showed that Christ's atoning death for the sins of mankind made possible, for the first time, DIRECT access to God the Father. As incredible as this is, there was still MORE that occurred that was truly amazing!
Matthew is the ONLY Gospel that records what happened AFTER the temple's veil was tore in two. First, a massive EARTHQUAKE powerful enough to shake Jerusalem and split rocks struck (Matthew 27:51). Matthew then writes the following.
52. And the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had died arose. 53. And AFTER His resurrection, they came out of the tombs and entered into the holy city, and appeared to many.
The Bible clearly states that the graves of many dead saints opened after the Lord died. Then, after he was resurrected, they were not only brought back to a physical life but also showed themselves ALIVE to family, friends and others in Jerusalem! The question is why did God do this?
Waved before God and Man
Though resurrected near sunset on Saturday, Jesus did not present himself to God the Father until sometime after his appearance to Mary Magdalene early Sunday morning (John 20:17). This corresponds exactly to the ancient ceremony God commanded the Israelites to perform on this very day called the waving of the sheaf or wave sheaf.
10 When you come into the land that the LORD is giving you and you harvest your grain, take the first sheaf to the priest. 11 He shall present it (wave it before) as a special offering to the LORD, so that you may be accepted. The priest shall present it the day after the Sabbath (Leviticus 23:10 - 11)
Every year the firstfruits of the spring harvest were waved before God as an offering. Jesus, as the "first of the firstfruits" (1Corinthians 15:20, 23) fulfilled the symbolism of the wave sheaf by 'waving' or presenting himself before God in heaven as the first to be spiritually resurrected from the dead. Christ represented those who will be in the FIRST resurrection of God's plan to save man. Those physically raised after him and 'waved' before both God and those in Jerusalem represent another or second resurrection from the dead. This resurrection is back to a physical life in God's great white throne judgment for those who never received a full opportunity at salvation (Revelation 20:4 - 5).