with Jeremy Westcott –
Stone and Mountain
I want to begin today by looking again at two scriptures we have seen before:
Now it will come about that In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it (Isa 2:2).
You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands …But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan 2:34-35).
This Stone and Mountain are very important: Jesus taught about it, and so did the apostles. The Stone is Jesus and the Mountain is His kingdom; the house of the Lord is God’s people. The kingdom is manifest (or demonstrated) through the church as God’s people, not through the institution called ‘church’.
There has only ever been one people of God: people of faith. Faith is the key: it is not about being born into a Christian family. It was never even about being born into a Jewish family: you were not of the true Israel unless you had faith. It really wasn’t a national thing, as we will see.
‘Two sides of the same coin’
When God comes in righteousness, He often comes in judgment as well as in salvation: they are two sides of the same coin.
‘Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne (Kingdom); Lovingkindness and truth go before You’ (Ps 89:14).
“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt 3:10-12).
- The Flood brought salvation for Noah and his family, but judgment for the world.
- In the Exodus, in the crossing of the Red Sea, there was salvation for Israel, but judgment for Egypt as all their army was swept away.
- At the Cross there is salvation for believers, and it is open to everyone. But if you do not receive it, there is judgment.
- In fact in all Jesus’ comings – and there are many comings of Jesus, ending with his Last Coming – there is both salvation and judgment.
Speaking of that Stone again:
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed (1 Peter 2:7-8).
The Stone, we know, was Jesus. Those builders who rejected Him were the Jewish people at the time. Not all of them rejected Him of course: the earliest church was made up of Jewish believers. But for those who did reject Him, those are strong words. ‘Doom’, like ‘woe’ in Matthew 23, is a covenant word.
No peaceful co-existence
Jesus ascended back up to heaven in around the year AD 30. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple happened in AD 70. That 40-year period was a generation in which the old covenant people co-existed with the new covenant people. It was not a peaceful co-existence. Saul, before he met Jesus and became Paul, was sent out by the Jewish leaders to persecute Christians. They were trying to stamp out what they saw as heresy. Later on, in every city where (as Paul) he went to preach, he spoke to the Jewish people there first as God’s people and inheritors of God’s promises. When he showed them that these could only be received in Christ, most of them persecuted him, though some believed. That is why he was beaten and stoned.
So in this period the Old Covenant (with its Natural Country, City and Temple) was still in existence alongside the New Covenant (with its Spiritual Country, City and Temple). Much of the New Testament was written from the perspective of the persecution which arose because of this.
In particular, the whole of the book of Revelation was written about the covenant judgments (‘doom’) that were to come at the end of this period, the consequences of Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and their persecution of the church. It was written to provide comfort to those Christians who were suffering that intense persecution, to reassure them that God had a plan in it and that it would come to an end. It was not written about ‘the end of the world’. We need to get that out of our thinking, and then look at these scriptures for what they actually say.
That is a process we will begin in the next post. I want to look at the whole passage which leads up to the disciples’ question in Matthew 24, because that is essential if we are to properly understand the answers that Jesus gave them.
Related articles from Freedom ARC
- Breaking off the Greek Mindset
- The Abomination of Desolation
- Covenant Blessings, Covenant Judgments