[Note: unashamed Bible Study time. Get in that frame of thinking. This is good stuff.]
The Rock of the Revelation of Jesus Christ
In the first two chapters of Peter’s first epistle, we have a beautiful picture presented to us of the house of God. It takes some work, especially in the first chapter, to discover some of this picture, but I firmly believe it is all there if the reader is in the flow of the whole counsel of God, the whole of Scripture, as guided by the Holy Spirit.
Peter’s encouragement to the believers begins very strongly with the theme of looking forward to ‘the revelation of Jesus Christ’ – that is, His second coming. The terms that Peter uses in this are important to note, as they can be used in reference to Zechariah’s prophecy of the second coming of Christ:
‘What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’ (Zechariah 4:7)
Here in the prophetic picture of the rebuilding of the house of God, the prophet envisions the victorious conclusion of the rebuilding with the hands of Zerubbabel (who, importantly, had laid the foundation also, Zechariah 4:9) bringing the capstone with shouts of “Grace!”
Now in 1 Peter the apostle begins to speak in these terms, addressing the believers
“who are protected…for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time…” (1:5 emphasis mine)
“so that the proof of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1:7 emphasis mine)
“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries…” (1:10)
Arguably Zechariah could be one such prophet. Let us continue to read what Peter has to say about this prophetic inquiry which in the context of the chapter and of the possible reference to Zechariah that Peter is thinking of, would concern the second coming of Christ:
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which angels long to look.
“Therefore…fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1:12-13)
It would seem very likely that Zechariah can be reviewed in light of Peter’s words. He is speaking of the grace to come at Jesus’ return, just as Zechariah declared that “Grace!” would be spoken at the placing of the capstone.
If we venture forwards into chapter 2 of 1 Peter, we begin to see a different, more present picture presented for us. We discover that Jesus is “a precious corner stone” and “the stone which the builders rejected, [which] became the very corner stone” (2:6-7, citing Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22 respectively). Now Jesus is not the capstone but the cornerstone! These two have very different functions. The cornerstone is at the crux of the foundation, without which the builders cannot do. If you steal the cornerstone before they have laid it, they are stuck and must find another! Jesus came as the absolute necessary piece of the foundation for the faith of the people of God. In times past there had been hints and ways for the people of God – one or two of them – to live in real, effective faith. But a way had to be made for all to come to God and to be able to live for Him effectively in the world.
Jesus laid a strong, firm foundation for His church. In Matthew 7 He called it a rock upon which we are to build our house. When we build on this rock, no amount of bad weather can knock it down! Very similarly in Matthew 16 He spoke in no uncertain terms of how He would build His church on the rock of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Guess who He revealed this to? Peter!
The capstone, however, is that which crowns and completes the building, which gives it the final and complete perfection, the beauteous finish. It is often observable in the centre of an archway as the stone which slots neatly between those other stones which have been built up to it. It is not the tough, load-bearing, unattractive and probably invisible stone that the cornerstone is; it is a decorative, strong, attractive final touch to impress those who enter.
Wonderful! But what are these stones inbetween the cornerstone, and the capstone?
It’s us! Peter says:
“And coming to Him as to a living stone…you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (2:4-5)
What a fabulous place we have in history! Jesus has come, as the cornerstone, to lay a foundation for the church. He has utterly made a way for men and women to live for God. Now we, as living stones, are being built up in Him (see also Ephesians 2:20-22 in which He is again the cornerstone and we are also being built up into a house). At some point, we will reach completion, which is what I believe Ephesians refers to as the “fullness of God” (3:19) and “a mature man…the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (4:13). When we have grown up to this stature, God having completed that good work which He began (Philippians 1:6), Jesus can return for His spotless bride, who has been transformed into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18), and as the capstone crown the whole thing!
Kings and Priests
In speaking of our being ‘built up’ Peter refers to us clearly as priests who have a job to do. I love the Amplified translation here:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 AMP)
Our role here, in the building of the house, is thoroughly and unarguably priestly. Priests were those that took what people had on earth and offered it up as worship. It was an earth-to-heaven direction.
The priestly role is in fact observable if we return to Zechariah, and chapter 3. Here we discover Joshua, high priest at the time of Zechariah, being encouraged in his role as priest in the house of God, given ‘free access’ to minister in His house. So we too as priests have been cleansed and clothed with Christ as Joshua was, because of the atoning work of Jesus, the Great High Priest.
But remaining in Zechariah and looking back into chapter 4 again, we return to the character we have already spoken of: Zerubbabel. Who was he? He was of the kingly line of Israel, who should at that point have been on the throne but for the fact that they were only just returning from exile.
This gives us a lovely picture of how the role of Jesus as Priest and King fits into history and the destiny of the church. When He came first as the cornerstone, as the foundation, He worked as priest unto God, as the Lamb of God offering up that which was acceptable to God on behalf of man, as the Great High Priest. By that work once for all now we can all come as priests before God.
When He comes the second time round however, He is coming as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (significantly it was the kings of Judah, of which Zerubbabel was one, that in God’s eyes held the true throne from David), as the victorious King, to adorn the temple of God (which is us) with the beautiful final capstone, appearing not as a despised, ugly cornerstone, but as the beautiful and completing capstone!
Thank You Jesus!
Watch this space and maybe I’ll find time to give attention to this subject in other places in the Bible, like the book of Hebrews, and the book of Revelation. There is more to be had!