In reading through the bible we come across a theme surrounding the “Stone”. Often this “Stone” is a personification of the (Messiah) Jesus Christ. Many errors can be avoided in biblical doctrine if we were to identify clearly the usage of the term “Stone” by asking the following questions about each particular stone passage. It is really no more complicated than “Who”? “What”? “When”? “Where”? “Why”? Or in an even simpler form it may be just as easy to show the Old Testament declaration of the Stone, and then show how the New Testament writers identified the who and the when of the fulfillment of those stone passages.
I have sought to highlight some fairly obvious messianic prophetic uses and fulfillment’s dealing with the “Stone” and I have attempted to answer those questions in the text surrounding the place where it is used.
“But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:)” Genesis 49:24
Who? – The Shepherd of Israel. This is the messiah. Jesus is the good shepherd. In 1 Peter 4:5 Jesus is identified as our Chief Shepherd.
“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”
When? – For the when of this passage you must go back to the introduction of this passage. We see in Genesis 49:1 Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, the one in the line of Abraham and Isaac preparing to give a blessing to each of his 12 sons. He begins his blessing by giving the time frame of the fulfillment of the blessings.
“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.”
So the “when” is during “The Last Days”. Does the New Testament tell us when these last days are or will be? Yes they clearly do. Hebrews 1:1-2 says that the last days are the days where “God… has spoken unto us by His Son.” There was ONLY ONE time in the history of the world where God spoke through His Son that was in the first century.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these LAST DAYS spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” Hebrews 1:1-2
In the previous verse (23) “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him:” This could be a reference to the mistreatment that Joseph received at the hands of his brothers. He was thrown into a pit and sold into slavery, but then in Potiphers house he was lied about and falsely accused. Then finally when he was in prison he was mistreated by the prison keeper. In answer to this mistreatment Jacob gives the promise that “His bow will abide in strength…” He will be strengthened by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob. This is the why. Why is the stone going to come? He will come to give strengthen to the weak.
This is exactly what Paul says occurred in his day in the first century.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong”. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
So, the “Stone of Israel” who makes strong the hands of Joseph is the Messiah who came in the first century. This prophecy was fulfilled in Christ at his incarnation.
This next “Stone” passage is from Psalm 118:22. This is a very famously understood messianic passage and it is quoted directly by Jesus and by Peter and alluded to by Paul. This is about the “Rejected Stone”.“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.”Psalm 118:22-26
This is pretty obvious, the who is Jesus Christ, he is the rejected stone. In Matthew 21 Jesus is speaking in the temple when the chief priests the Pharisees and the rulers of the people begin to challenge his authority. He tells them a parable about a man who planted a vineyard. His conclusion is that when the husbandman comes to collect what he is due from the murderous abusive tenants, he will ultimately and utterly destroy those wicked men. And then Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22. Jesus saith unto them,
“Did ye never read in the scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?”
Jesus quoting this passage to the leaders of the nation of Israel is an explicit declaration that the time of the prophesy is here. The scribes know full well that Jesus is referring to them as the rejecters of the stone and it angered them so much that they sought to lay hands on him and kill him.
“And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.” Matt 21:45-46
So in answering the question about who and when it is clear that the stone in Psalm 118:22 is Jesus, and he is being rejected by first century Israel as represented by it leadership. This is all happening in the first century in the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem.
In the context surrounding the promise of the rejected stone from Psalm 118:22 we find in verse 24 the statement 24;
“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
This sounds an awful lot like 1 Peter 4:13
“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
In this same book Peter had much to say about the stone (see chapter 2). In Revelation 19:7 we read;
“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”
In a call to worship in light of the marriage of the Lamb, we see the allusion if not a direct quote of this passage from Psalm 118.
As well in Psalm 118:25
“Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD:”
During the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem the people were celebrating the salvation of God and laying palm branches in the way of Christ, riding on the donkey (Another fulfilled messianic prophecy). As he rode in, they chanted
“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the Highest.” Matt 21:9.
You guessed it; this is a direct quote from Psalm 118:25. The word Hosanna is a contraction of the words “save now”. So we see in each of the verses following the “Stone” verse in Psalm 118 that each one of them was fulfilled in the first century in direct connection with Jesus Christ. So the text is a fulfillment of the promise to reveal Jesus Christ to Israel?
“And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Isaiah 8:14
In this text from Isaiah we have an interesting twist on the activity of the Stone. We read that the stone would be for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. For this we can refer back to the parable Jesus was telling the leaders in Jerusalem as he taught in the temple in Matt 21. In the response to the Chief Priests and Pharisees he told them that the stone would do the following. 1. Whoever will fall on this stone shall be broken. 2. But on whoever it shall fall upon, it will grind him to powder.
“Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.”
This stone has a two-fold purpose; to break or to crush into powder. Neither one of these sounds good at all; does it? What Jesus is telling these Jewish leaders is in the form of a warning. He is giving them two choices. One Fall upon this stone and be broken. That is, repent! This has been Jesus message from the beginning. Even before Jesus entered public ministry the message of John the Baptist was;
“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 3:2.
Jesus after being tempted in the wilderness for forty days began his public ministry with the message;
“Repent , for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matt 4:17.
And when Jesus sent the apostles out 2 by two to the cities of Israel, he told them to preach the message;
“But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matt 10:6-7.
The message of the Kingdom of Heaven has always been to; Repent. This is what is meant by “falling upon the stone”. We are to fall before our savior in repentance, and this is an indication that we have been broken over our sin. So we can fall and be broken, or the other option; let the rock fall upon us and be crushed. This option involves judgment. This is very clear to the Chief Priests and Pharisees for they immediately recognize their predicament and they want to kill Jesus. This is the snare that the Jews find themselves. Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand -or be destroyed when the stone that you have rejected falls upon you in judgment. In Romans Paul quotes this passage from Isaiah directly.
“As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” Romans 9:33
Paul quotes this passage in a very clear teaching of how God is dealing with Israel. He leaves no doubt that it is Christ that is causing the first century Jews to stumble. In the two verses just prior to Paul’s citation of Isaiah he clearly sets the context.
“But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone;” Romans 9:31-32
Israel was stumbling in their attempt to live by law, and they were stumbling because they had rejected Christ the stumbling stone. The stone that the builders rejected. So clearly the stone in this passage is Christ-the Who. He is also the judge, He is going to judge in the first century nation of Israel in Jerusalem. And finally he will judge because of Israel’s rejection of their messiah. This again shows a first century fulfillment of the Old Testament Isaiah passage of the Stone.
“Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.” Isaiah 28:16
This one is pretty easy to identify. In Acts chapter 4 we have Peter quoting this verse directly. After healing the lame man at the gate “Beautiful” in the temple, Peter and John were called before the Jewish leaders to explain themselves and they were told to stop preaching.
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12
Peter in no uncertain terms states that this Jesus Christ of Nazareth…IS the stone which was set at naught of YOU builders, and that he has become the head of the corner…and from then on there will be NO OTHER NAME by which men must be saved. Peter does not give us the option to postpone this into the future. Peter is saying that this is a done deal. Christ is in fact (in the first century while Peter is still living) the rejected stone already laid as the foundation of the New Covenant church. We are not waiting for “Become” the stone, He is already the stone and fulfilled this prophecy in the days of the Apostles.
Peter is not the only Apostle to recognize this fulfillment. Paul as well indicates the the cornerstone, Jesus the Messiah has come and has set the foundation of the church, Himself being the “Chief Cornerstone”.
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:20
Again, Paul writes indicating that this is a done deal, a completed prophecy, not waiting for any other thing. It is here and now, and it was here than in the first century.
Lastly, Peter again makes it clear that this “Stone” is Christ Jesus and he has fulfilled all that was written in the Old Testament. In 1 Peter 1:10-12 Peter is declaring that those things that the prophets wrote were testimonies of Christ and that it is “Unto US” (the first century Apostles) that these things have been revealed., and now reported and preached in the gospel.
“Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.” 1 Peter 1:10-12
After Peter declares that these prophecies are coming to pass in his day as he is declaring the gospel he affirms in the next chapter the reality of the stone in the lives of believers.
“To whom coming, as unto a living STONE, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively STONES, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion A CHIEF CORNERSTONE stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the STONE which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a STONE of stumbling, and a ROCK of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” 1 Peter 2:4-8
Here Peter really brings it all together. Jesus is that stone, the chief cornerstone, the stone of stumbling, etc. There is no part of the stone motif that is left unfulfilled. Jesus has completed all of the figures and types as the fulfillment of the stone.
One last passage to consider: Since Jesus is the first century once for all fulfillment of the prophetic stone passages found in the Old Testament, consider Daniel’s use of the Stone motif.
“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” Daniel 2:34-35
Here is the stone “Cut out without hands”, again this is pretty much universally recognized as the Messiah. He comes and he smites Nebuchadnezzar’s statue on the feet. Keep in mind that this statue by way of Daniels interpretations represents four kingdoms. They are: Babylon, Medes and Persians, Greece, and finally Rome. The stone strikes the statue at that place in the time line of the statue that is Rome. There is no escaping the fact that this stone is the same messianic stone of Genesis 49, Psalm 118, and of Isaiah. All these stone references came to pass in the first century. When did Rome rule the known world? It was in the first century. This stone cut out without hands is crushing the empires of the world at the point in time that Rome is ruling…in the first century.
“Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Daniel 2:45
So, in the final analysis, we are partakers of the blessing of this stone today because all of the prophetic fulfillment of the stone motif was finished in the first century. We are not waiting for another stone. We are not waiting for a second stone. Christ has fulfilled all the types, shadows and pictures of the Stone. It is for us to but Speak to the ROCK and to eat and drink of the fullness of the blessings of our union with that stone, Jesus Christ.
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: AND THAT ROCK WAS CHRIST.” 1 Corinthians 10:4