Be sure to read part one of this two part series.
THE REJECTED STONE
Peter (Acts 4:11), quotes from Psalms 118:22: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” The “Stone” motif in scripture is very significant, and especially in the way Peter calls it to mind. To appreciate the power of Peter’s citation, we need to see the original prophecies of the Stone, and how those prophecies are used in the New Testament. We can only do a brief survey. Be sure to get a copy of my book The Elements Shall Melt With Fervent Heat for an extensive study of Christ as the Rejected Stone, and its implications for the study of eschatology.
Psalms 118– This is a song of ascent, sung on each of the three major festival occasions as the travelers approached the city. The reference to the rejected stone was hotly debated in Israel. There was uncertainty as to whether this referred to Abraham, to David, perhaps to Israel as a people, or, to the Messiah. For Peter, there was no mistake. Jesus was the rejected cornerstone, rejected by the leaders. For the astute listener of Peter’s speech, to hear him say that Jesus had become the chief cornerstone, after being rejected, meant but one thing, that Stone was going to now crush them. This is confirmed in Acts 5:28 where the Sanhedrin accuses Peter and John of attempting to “bring this man’s blood upon us.” And this crushing was predicted in the Old Covenant
In Isaiah 8:14f, the prophet spoke of Jehovah as the Stone of stumbling and rock of offence. Many would be offended by Him and fall away only to be destroyed. This verse is cited by Simeon in Luke 2:32f when he picked up the infant Jesus. Simeon knew by inspiration that Jesus was set for the rising and falling of many in Israel. There is an unmistakable element of judgment in this citation, for it is also cited by Jesus in Matthew 21:42f in his application of the parable of the wicked husbandmen. The stone they had rejected, would become the chief cornerstone and crush and destroy them when the master of the vineyard came. There is an undeniable referent to the A. D. 70 judgment here, as virtually all commentators agree.
Isaiah 28:16f– Once again, the prophet foretold the laying of the cornerstone, and promised that those who accepted (approved) of it would not be ashamed. On the other hand, those who rejected the Stone would be the objects of God’s “unusual work,” the work of judgment against them. This “unusual work” would occur in the day that Jehovah would destroy the “heaven and earth” in spite of the doubt of the “scoffers.” Further, this Day, when the Stone would crush the scoffers, would be a Day like previous Days of the Lord, for Jehovah says that He would act in the manner He had acted in previous Days (Isaiah 28:21f).
Daniel 2:44— Daniel foresaw the time when a stone cut out without hands would grow into a might kingdom, crushing all who opposed it. Some have conjectured that this stone reference is different than in Isaiah, and it must be granted that the idea in Daniel is not of a foundation stone. However, since Jesus seems to conflate Psalms 118, Isaiah 8, and Daniel 2:44 in Matthew 21:41-42, we are justified in listing it as part of the Stone motif.
It will be noted that in each of the Stone prophecies, the motif of judgment is dominant. Those who rejected the stone would be crushed; the rejected foundation stone would crush those who rejected it. The scoffers would be destroyed in the Day of the Lord. This is exactly the way Jesus utilized the Stone motif in Matthew 21:41-42, and we have no right to dismiss that theme when other writers incorporate the Stone prophecies in their writings. But there is another motif/theme immediately linked with the Stone prophecies, and that is the prediction of the New Temple of God.
The idea of a foundation stone being laid brings to mind the construction of a building. The Old Testament is replete with prophecies of the last days when Jehovah would dwell with His people (Isaiah 4:5f), in a New Temple, under a New Covenant (Ezekiel 37:24-26; Ezekiel 40f). The Messiah would build this New Temple, and sit as king and priest on the throne (Zechariah 6:12-13). The New Temple motif is nothing less than the prophecy of the establishment of the kingdom– at the judgment of those who rejected the Chief Corner Stone!
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