The Cornerstone of Zion
“For it is contained in Scripture: ‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone, chosen, a foundation cornerstone, precious; and he that rests his faith on it will by no means come to disappointment.’”—1 Pet. 2:6, NW.
1. What is Zion, what kind of stones are used in its building, and when built what takes place?
JEHOVAH’S purpose is to build a heavenly organization which is to be a sanctuary. It is called Zion. It is his own habitation and he will dwell in it forever. All its “stones” are of his own selection, preparing, testing; and he will be responsible for laying them in place. The most important of these is the foundation cornerstone. The whole structure must be built according to the chief cornerstone, it being of fundamental importance in setting the whole building in line. Then, too, every stone in the building must be in full conformity to the principal stone. Such “stones” are in fact faithful slaves of God who are approved after the chief “stone” Christ Jesus was fashioned to the Master Builder’s requirements. Nearly 2,000 years have passed since the first “stone” was prepared, but at last the time has arrived to build up this sanctuary of God. At the completion of the building, great joy and salvation are brought to the faithful believers, but judgment and destruction to the unbelievers.
2. Is it necessary to have some knowledge of the local setting of prophecy? Why is this the case?
2 The words used by the apostle Peter in the above text were quoted from the prophecy at Isaiah 28:16. In order to get an appreciation of the fulfillment we should have some knowledge of the speaker, of those addressed, and of the time and the circumstances as revealed in the local context. The setting of this scripture is important, for it helps us to know the reason for Jehovah’s laying the foundation stone in Zion, the kind of people to whom he was speaking, his promise of protection and salvation to his own, and why he destroys others. So a brief comment is now made concerning the local conditions.
PROPHECY AND ITS CONTENTS
3. Briefly, what is the local setting for the prophecy at Isaiah 28:16?
3 The prophecy recorded at Isaiah 28 was against the “drunkards of Ephraim”. It is a message of denunciation. “The head of Ephraim is Samaria,” and Samaria had not at this time been destroyed. (Isa. 7:9) Many of the Israelites wanted to shake off the Assyrian yoke, but by reliance on the help of Egypt and not in the strength of Jehovah. Samaria was besieged and taken in the sixth year of Hezekiah. (2 Ki. 18:9, 10) These “drunkards of Ephraim”, who had conspired against the king of Judah, were swept away. She had been a beautiful sight as she lay on a delightful, circular hill, situated at the head of the valleys, boasting wonderful fertility. Moreover, she lived in luxury and splendor.—Amos 6:4-6.
4. Jehovah purposed to do what to Samaria?
4 Jehovah is angry with these boastful, bombastic, arrogant Ephraimites and is about to bring punishment upon them and therefore gives the warning. He will cast Samaria to the ground so the proud crown may be trampled underfoot. He will be like a terrible storm and devastating hail to these despisers and drunkards. Yes, they shall be like an early fig appearing before the August harvest, such a special delicacy that scarcely sooner does one touch it with the hand than it is swallowed. This is a picture of the beauty and pride of Samaria doomed to inevitable destruction. Though God is angry with these evil men, yet to his people he is a glorious crown and a diadem of beauty.
5. (a) How does the prophet describe these Ephraimites, and how does Jehovah deal with them? (b) When the “stone” is laid in Zion, what happens to the “drunkards”?
5 Condemnation comes to priest and prophet. They are drunken topers. The injustices of their corrupt ones were the crying evil, and their place was to be taken by others. These disgraceful servants were actually reeling to their service, and uttering prophecies which were not genuine. The most loathsome features of drunkenness are their portion—everything swimming with vomit, every table filled with it, and no place left clean. They scorn and ridicule the Lord’s prophet and, as drunken men, bellow out loudly in foolish ditties. The scornful never learn, though the rule is given to them over and over again; but they jeer and mock at the constant iteration of the same fundamentals, the same message. However, regardless of their scorn, scoffing and ignorance, Jehovah speaks most severely and answers saying it shall be rule on rule to them, command on command, precept upon precept. Will they never hear and take notice? All it results in is a little here and a little there. These drunkards have a false sense of security, for lies and deceit were in the Egyptian alliance they were courting. Jehovah would now flush them and their filth completely away. With these facts in mind the following prophetic expression betokens impending judgment: “Therefore thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone of sure foundation: he that believeth shall not be in haste. And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plummet; and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place.” (Isa. 28:16, 17, AS) The laying of the stone in Zion is for the purpose of judgment upon those drunkards of Ephraim. His favor was not with such scoffers and wicked ones, but with Zion, the capital city of the beloved king, David. There is one thing sure, Jehovah had his promises bound up in the “sure mercies of David” and therefore with the promised occupant of David’s throne. He will bring to pass his strange work and strange act, accomplishing exactly what is purposed.
6. Do prophecies have more than one fulfillment? Explain.
6 The recording of the many happenings to Israel was for the benefit of those who would be living when the end of the system of things should come, both in the days when Christ Jesus was on earth and also at the time of Kingdom rule now. The prophecies were to have a double fulfillment, one which would be the miniature and the other the major and complete one. The miniature will here be dealt with first, and therefore we commence considering those scriptures relating to the ‘stone of Zion’ at Christ’s first advent.
7. Describe the condition of those in the days of Jesus who were foreshadowed by the “drunkards of Ephraim”.
7 Israel’s condition at this time was deplorable, disgraceful and truly merited Jehovah’s anger and disfavor. Of those religious rulers who filled the part prefigured by the “drunkards of Ephraim” it is recorded: “When [John] caught sight of many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the baptism he said to them: ‘You offspring of vipers, who has shown you how to flee from the coming wrath? So then produce fruit that befits repentance.’” “Then Herod [the religio-political ruler], seeing he had been outwitted by the astrologers, fell into a great rage, and he sent out and had all the boys in Bethlehem and in all its districts killed, from two years of age and under, according to the time that he had carefully ascertained from the astrologers.” Said Jesus: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you resemble whitewashed graves, which outwardly indeed appear beautiful but inside are full of dead men’s bones and of every kind of uncleanness. In that way you also, outwardly indeed, appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 3:7, 8; 2:16; 23:27, 28; see also Matt. 3:11, 12; 12:33, 34; 23:3, 13, 25; John 12:9-11, NW) The foregoing shows these rulers to be just as reprehensible as the typical “drunkards” of old time. They are about to receive judgment. Being his professed people and standing before the nations as such, God deals with them accordingly. Simeon had also prophesied, “Look! this one [Christ] is laid for the fall . . . of many in Israel and for a sign to be talked against.”—Luke 2:34, 35, NW.
8. How did Jesus extend Kingdom opportunities to Israel?
8 Christ Jesus preached the Kingdom and taught that he was the Kingdom. “But on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming he answered them and said: ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness, neither will people be saying, “See here!” or, “There!” For, look! the kingdom of God is in your midst.’” “But if it is by means of God’s spirit that I expel the demons, the kingdom of God has really overtaken you.” “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it.” (Luke 17:20, 21; Matt. 12:28; 11:12, NW) These scriptures clearly show that many in Israel had the opportunity of having a share in this kingdom. He presented himself to Israel as their king, but they refused to accept him, so rejecting him as their king. Judgment was then pronounced upon Israel, and he cleansed the temple.—Matt. 21:5; Luke 19:37-40, 42-46, NW.
9. When the Jews tried to kill Jesus, how did he show what their action meant?
9 Thereafter the rulers of Israel sought to kill him. “Furthermore, he went to teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the principal ones of the people were seeking to destroy him.” (Lu 19 Verse 47) Shortly afterward and while Jesus was preaching in the temple he gave an illustration. It related to the planting of a vineyard. Those who were left in charge went to beating the slaves of the owner, who were sent to get some of the fruit, and they finally killed the son and heir of the owner, concluding that now the vineyard would be theirs. Jesus then said, ‘What will the owner therefore do?’ and the answer is given: “Because they are evil, he will bring an evil destruction upon them and will let out the vineyard for hire to other cultivators, who will render him the fruits when they become due.” (Matt. 21:41, NW) Following this reply Jesus then quoted from Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14 and Daniel 2:34, and applied these to himself as the “son” and “heir” and showed that the rulers of Israel were the “cultivators” and murderers.
10. How serious was the decision of the rulers in Israel to reject their King?
10 Note now what Jesus says to the religious drunkards: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” He disclosed that they were rejecting their promised king, the ‘stone of Zion’. In unbelief and disobedience following the traditions of men, they could find no place in their organization for the foundation cornerstone of Zion. They were confounded and put to open shame. “Now it was preparation of the passover; it was about the sixth hour. And [Pilate] said to the Jews: ‘See! your king!’ However, they shouted: ‘Take him away! Take him away! Impale him!’ Pilate said to them: ‘Shall I impale your king?’ The chief priests answered: ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ At that time, therefore, he handed him over to them to be impaled.” So they stumbled over Jesus as the promised Messiah, the King of Israel. “They stumbled on the ‘stone of stumbling’; as it is written: ‘Look! I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock-mass of offense, but he that rests his faith on it will not come to disappointment.’”—Rom. 9:32, 33; John 19:14-16, 19-22, NW.
11. Explain by scripture how Jesus Christ was a ‘tried’ and ‘tested’ cornerstone.
11 The ‘cornerstone of Zion’ is a tried stone when presented as king. How could this be so? It was because Christ Jesus the chosen “stone” of God, was to be the foundation of his city, and it pleased the Father to first have his beloved Son tested to the uttermost. For three and a half years he was subjected to all manner of trials, tests, temptations and persecutions, and throughout his ministry he was true and faithful, never once going contrary to his Father’s will, but loving him completely. How wonderfully the scriptures record of him: “For in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.” “For we have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.” “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the one who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” “These are the things the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by God.” “Christ Jesus, who as a witness made the right public declaration in the audience of Pontius Pilate.” Jesus Christ resisted every attempt to break down his integrity, he endured all trials and continued faithfully on regardless of the opposition of sinners against him. Jehovah could trust him with any responsibility, privilege or honor, for this “stone” was true, tried and tested in every way, therefore a “sure foundation”. He belonged entirely to Jehovah God, the Builder of Zion.—Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 5:7, 8; Rev. 3:14; 1 Tim. 6:13, NW.
12. Show how Christ Jesus qualified in other ways to be the cornerstone.
12 Christ Jesus was qualified to be the “cornerstone” of Zion, for not only was he tried and tested but he was also the inheritor of the promises concerning the Kingdom. He was the “Lion of the tribe of Juda”, a direct natural descendant of King David whose seed was to rule upon the throne forever. “The sure mercies of David” were his. He was the promised “seed”, the Signal, Redeemer, Commander, Messiah, the Leader and Perfecter of our faith. It must be concluded that the miniature fulfillment pertaining to the ‘laying of the stone in Zion’ took place when Christ Jesus as a tried stone offered himself as king. When he rode into Jerusalem on the colt of an ass, he was loudly acclaimed as king by his disciples and the people in general, but was rejected and put to death by the religious rulers. Then, at that time, Jehovah withdrew his favor from Israel, marking the end of typical Zion. Thus Christ Jesus, God’s anointed King, is clearly seen to be the “stone” laid in the heavenly Zion.
THE HEAVENLY ZION
13. A city speaks of what, and what did literal Zion symbolize?
13 There was a typical earthly city of Zion and there is a heavenly Zion, and Jehovah established both. A city speaks of a community well organized for business, residence and worship, and having a clearly defined area with local laws and regulations, and with certain ones in authority attending to the general welfare of the citizens, such as health protection, food and water supply. Such a city was Zion with its palace and temple. It was the capital city of the nation. Zion symbolically stands for God’s organization and in particular the official part, where the throne was established.
14. How do we know there is to be a heavenly Zion? Prove by scripture.
14 All the promises given to the literal, typical Zion now become applicable to the heavenly, “since the Law has a shadow of the good things to come.” “For those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ.” (Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:17, NW) Zion was called the “city of God”, God’s dwelling place. “For Jehovah hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my resting-place for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Pss. 87:2, 3; 132:13, 14, AS) The typical foreshadowed the greater. “But you have approached a mount Zion and a city of the living God, heavenly Jerusalem, and myriads of angels, in general assembly, and the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens, and God the Judge of all, and the spiritual lives of righteous ones who have been made perfect, and Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and the blood of sprinkling which speaks in a better way than Abel’s blood.” “But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (Heb. 12:22-24, NW; Gal. 4:26, NW) These scriptures cannot apply to the earthly Zion, but to the invisible, whose stones are those “living stones” spoken of in First Peter 2:5. They are spiritual, and finally are all built into the heavenly Zion.
15. Who makes up the ‘Zion which is above’, and how do we know?
15 It has pleased Jehovah to have such a building, a spiritual royal house, a spiritual temple, built up of faithful slaves, every one chosen of God, tested and tried, as was the foundation cornerstone. The apostle Paul is used to reveal this great secret to his brothers in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, just as he chose us in union with him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love.” The glorious heavenly place was first given to Christ Jesus. Then to others this undeserved kindness of God was given, actually an invitation to become “living stones” in this spiritual royal house. (Eph. 1:3, 4, 20, 21; 2:19-22, NW) The apostle Peter states so in very unmistakable language. The apostle John also uttered prophecy covering Zion many years after the literal Zion was destroyed. “And I saw, and look! the Lamb standing upon the mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.”—1 Pet. 2:4-6; Rev. 14:1, NW.
16. What is the complete Zion?
16 The real, complete Zion, therefore, is the heavenly city made up of the faithful slaves of God who are spirit-begotten, anointed, tried, tested and approved, built upon the “sure foundation” Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone, God’s anointed King.
JEHOVAH’S DELIGHT IN ZION
17. Describe the magnificence of the heavenly city.
17 How beautiful and delightful and indicative of Zion’s purity are these precious words: “This is my resting-place for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” (Ps. 132:14, AS) Knowing the completed Zion will be a magnificent heavenly edifice, we are mercifully permitted to get a spiritual glimpse of this wonderful habitation of Jehovah. Just for a moment try to conjure up in your imagination the glory and radiance of this dwelling place. Forget if you will the horrible, sordid things of this evil day, and banish from mind the boasted products of this world’s builders. Rather take into your vision the excellence of the heavenly city. Read Revelation 21:10-27 and see how this community draws all its light and glory from the Creator of the universe, the Most High God, Jehovah. Here is complete harmony and tranquillity, with no disproportions to mar its loveliness. Consistent throughout, beautiful in symmetry, wonderfully variegated in its splendor, its dazzling, yes, sparkling, colorful light shining forth with brilliance. The foundation of the city’s wall is adorned with every kind of precious stone. The broad way of the city was pure gold, as transparent glass. If you can follow the vision through, then you have some conception of how Jehovah looks upon his resting place where he will dwell forever.
18. (a) For how long a period has the building been in course of preparation? (b) How did the building of Solomon’s temple fitly prefigure the heavenly?
18 This city has been in course of preparation for nearly two thousand years. Each “stone” is fashioned according to God’s holy purpose and then is laid aside until the time comes to build up the structure. These faithful slaves may have been forgotten by men and by this evil system of things, but not by God. “For you died, and your life has been hidden with the Christ in union with God.” “Beloved ones, now we are children of God, but as yet it has not been made manifest what we shall be. We do know that whenever he is made manifest we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is.” (Col. 3:3; 1 John 3:2, NW) The building of Solomon’s temple pictured the building of the heavenly one with all its stones prepared beforehand and then all put into place without any noise. “And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready at the quarry; and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building.” (1 Ki. 6:7, AS) When the literal temple was built it was a marvelous sight, but more magnificent is the heavenly Zion’s building.
19. Describe how Jehovah thinks upon Zion? and what has he promised to do for her?
19 The building up of Zion takes place when the Lord appears in his glory. “Thou wilt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for it is time to have pity upon her, yea, the set time is come. For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and have pity upon her dust. So the nations shall fear the name of Jehovah, and all the kings of the earth thy glory: For Jehovah hath built up Zion; he hath appeared in his glory.” “His foundation is in the holy mountains. Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.” “Why look ye askance, ye high mountains, at the mountain which God hath desired for his abode? Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever.” “Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of Jehovah of hosts, in the city of our God: God will establish it for ever.” “Jehovah . . . is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; O Zion, let not thy hands be slack. Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing.” (Pss. 102:13-16; 87:1-3; 68:16; 48:2, 8; Zeph. 3:15-17, AS) The capital city of the universe is Zion, the joy and delight of the whole earth, for his beloved Son is its foundation and everyone in it speaks Jehovah’s praise.