10. Jerusalem, the City of Rock

The Old City of Jerusalem (Mount Zion and the Temple Mount) as well as its immediate surroundings, are closely related to the world-reforming teachings and redemptive work of Yeshua the Messiah, the Son of David. The Mount of Olives is the scene of His soon expected second coming (Zech. 14:4-5), while the throne of David will be restored on Mount Zion (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:16-17) and a new temple built on the sacred site designated for this purpose (Ezek. 40–44).

On closer examination it soon becomes evident that there is a much more intimate relationship between Yeshua and Jerusalem than is commonly assumed – even insofar as every building in the city bears witness to Him as the Rock that was cleft for us. The ancient tradition of building with hewn stones in Jerusalem renders a unique appearance and character to the city, and directly links it to its real owner, King and Saviour. He is not only known as Lamb of God and King of kings, but also as Rock, Foundation and Cornerstone. The last mentioned three titles are closely related as they all reflect Yeshua as the Cornerstone of Israel and its capital city, and as the basis or Foundation of every person on earth who truly believes in Him as the Rock upon which his or her life is built:

The Rock

The Messiah said: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27).

Jesus Himself is the Rock upon which He builds His church, as promised in Matthew 16:16-18. It is obvious that only the life of a born again person is built upon the Rock, Jesus. This association offers him stability and crisis resistance to prevail against the storms of life. A person not anchored to this Rock does not have the strength or ability to withstand these onslaughts.

The Foundation

Paul said: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). There is no spiritual foundation other than Jesus, the Rock that was cleft for us. To build on any other foundation is to build on sand and to be heading for failure and disaster when the storms strike. Even if you live a successful life in a secular sense, based on the foundation of your own achievements, you will not survive the dark storms of God’s final judgement. All those who have not built their lives on Jesus the Rock, will be uprooted and cast away from the presence of God forever!

The Cornerstone

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whoever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Luke 20:17-18). According to Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Peter 2:4-7, Jesus is the Cornerstone of the building of God into which we are built as living stones to be a spiritual house to His glory. This is the fulfilment of promises made in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22. To those who do not trust in Him He will be a Stone of stumbling who will condemn them to perdition. There is no middle ground between these two attributes of Messiah. He is either the Cornerstone upon whom your life is built and who supports and sustains you, or He is the Stone of stumbling who will bring you to eternal ruin. It all depends on the nature of your relationship with Him.

The cleft Rock

We need to more closely examine the typology of Jesus as the Rock that was cleft for us. Paul says that the Israelites in the wilderness “all drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ [Messiah]” (1 Cor. 10:4). In the wilderness the people yearned for water, and the Lord said to Moses: “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink” (Ex. 17:6).

The striking of the rock points prophetically to the crucifixion of the Messiah by the leaders of the nation. He was nailed to a cross and His body pierced, [sacrificed] for our sins. The result of the striking of the Rock was that a fountain of living water was opened to quench the spiritual thirst of the entire world. Jesus said: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” (John 7:37-39).

It is obvious that in the events at Horeb there was a typological portrayal of the Trinity. The Father was there, as He said to Moses: “I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb” (Ex. 17:6). The rock that was to be cleft represents Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), while the water that flowed from the cleft rock depicts the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39). It was clearly the plan of God the Father to give His Son to be “struck” on our behalf, so that the water of the Holy Spirit could quench the thirst of a perishing world.

Why was it such a great sin in the eyes of the Lord when Moses, at a later occasion, again struck the rock? As the rock is a type of the Messiah, it was only to be struck once for the spiritual thirst of the nation. In the same way a Passover lamb was only to be slaughtered on one occasion during the exodus; the rock likewise was to be struck once only:

“But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Heb. 7:24-27).

When the people of Israel camped at Horeb for the second time, Moses was instructed to speak to the rock and not to strike it again: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water. … Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod” (Num. 20:7-8, 11).

This disobedience of Moses and Aaron was a very serious offence in the eyes of the Lord – so serious in fact that he and Aaron were not permitted to lead the nation into the Promised Land: “Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (Num. 20:12).

Under the New Covenant it is likewise a very serious sin to crucify Jesus twice (Heb. 6:6). He was struck once, and now we should merely ask for the living water (John 4:13-14; Luke 11:13). We only need to pray for the living water and it will be given to us freely (Rev. 22:17). The saving grace of the Lord Jesus is at the disposal of everybody.

The crucifixion of Jesus

With the crucifixion of Jesus, the Rock of Ages was cleft for you and me. It is highly significant that He was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem in the quarry of Solomon where the stones for the building of the temple were hewn. A large part of the mountain was excavated for building material, until an area was reached where the rock became crumbly and not suited to hew building blocks. From a distance the holes in the side of the excavated mountain resemble the eyes, nose and mouth opening of a skull. The name Golgotha (Place of a Skull) was probably derived from the skull-like appearance of the mountain side.

Another possible explanation for this name is that it originated from the skulls that were lying there during the time of the Roman occupation. The Roman authorities annually executed about 200 criminals on this site north of the city by crucifying them. The bodies were not buried but left to decompose in the quarry.

Stones for the temple

It is no coincidence that Jesus was crucified in this particular place. The stones for the temple of Solomon that were hewn there, point prophetically to the Rock of Ages who was cleft in the same quarry so that each of us may be built up as temples of the living God:

“And the king commanded them to quarry large stones, costly stones, and hewn stones, to lay the foundation of the temple. So Solomon’s builders … quarried them; and they prepared timber and stones to build the temple. … And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built” (1 Kings 5:17-18, 6:7).

A perfect work

When the Lord Jesus gave Himself over to be cleft in the quarry of Solomon, He did a perfect work for us – nothing needs to be added or taken away from it. On the building site of the temple it was prohibited to continue shaping the cornerstone or any other stones. They had to be delivered in exactly the right size from the quarry.

We must go to Jesus where He was cleft for us on the cross, so that we may be made into living stones that are suitable to be built into the house of the Lord. A stone that was not formed and prepared in the quarry was not suitable to be built into the temple. Likewise, every person who has not been to the cross is unsuitable for the kingdom of God – he is cast away. The invitation to the quarry of God at Golgotha, outside the gates of Jerusalem, still stands:

“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ [Yeshua the Messiah]. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame” (1 Pet. 2:4-6).

Rejected by His people

Jesus as Cornerstone was rejected by the spiritual leaders of the nation: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:22-23).

Because Israel refused to build their national house upon the Rock of the Messiah, but chose to rather continue the religious sacrifices of the Old Covenant, they disregarded the messianic promises and the solid foundation of the Messiah Himself, and in effect built on sand. That is the reason for them not being able to withstand the continued oppression of the Roman Empire, and they eventually crumbled as a nation and were dispersed.

The Messiah who was rejected by them became the Cornerstone of the Church among all nations, as promised by God (cf. Isa. 49:6). Many Jews have accepted Jesus as Messiah in His capacity as Saviour and Cornerstone, and have built their lives upon Him. However, the large majority of orthodox, reformed and non-practising Jews still deny and reject Him to their own detriment. For this reason they find that the going is tough and that their lives are unstable. Since the Six Day War of 1967, an orthodox religious group called Temple Mount and land of Israel Faithful Movement, have tried in vain several times to lay a cornerstone of 4½ tons on the temple Mount where the temple is to be rebuilt. Permission is denied them by their own government to proceed with the project.

Even if orthodox Jews would succeed in laying a cornerstone and building the temple, it will be completely at variance with the New Testament revelations of the Messiah. Since His crucifixion and resurrection during His first coming, He has been the only spiritual cornerstone upon which Israel and all other people could build their lives. It is lamentable that modern Jewish scribes and scholars continue to reject the evidence regarding the first coming and atoning death of Jesus, and take their refuge in legalistic and manmade substitutes for His redemptive work.

Why don’t the orthodox Jews in Israel go back to the quarry of Solomon where the cornerstone for the first temple was hewn? Here they will get a clear indication of the true Cornerstone that God provided to the nation. Thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world visit the site every year. The special interest shown by them in the place of crucifixion is a sign to Israel to draw their attention to the Cornerstone who was rejected by their fathers, and is still rejected by the majority of the present generation. Close to this place they will also find the empty tomb, hewn out of solid rock. That is another sign of the risen Messiah who still invites all people (also Israel) to come to Him outside the city gates where He suffered and died for all of us (Heb. 13:11-13).

There is no substitute for the only true Cornerstone provided by God for the lives of individuals and nations. His kingdom on earth is built upon this Rock. For all those who reject Him, He is a Stone of stumbling who will destroy them in the coming judgement of God.

Jerusalem, the rock city

The instruction for the building of the temple with hewn stones has given rise to a similar practice among the inhabitants of Jerusalem. After the nation’s return from the Babylonian captivity, their intentions with regard to the rebuilding of the temple were expressed as follows: “Let it be known to the king that we went into the province of Judea, to the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones” (Ezra 5:8). The same building material was also used all across the nation to construct their houses: “The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones” (Isa. 9:10; also see Amos 5:11).

Jerusalem is unique due to the fact that it is the only city in the world in which all the buildings have been constructed with hewn stones. In 1996, the city celebrated its 3000th anniversary since it was captured by David from the Jebusites in 1004 BC. Even after all these years the tradition of building with hewn stones is still followed. A municipal regulation to this effect is enforced in Jerusalem. No bricks may be used. Concrete constructions are allowed on condition that they are covered with stone tiles. The appearance of these buildings is the same as that of stone buildings. In most cases thick hewn tiles with a rough stone surface are used, and in only a few instances are stone tiles with a smooth surface used. Even the embankments of the streets and the terraced slopes in the city are paved with hewn stones.

My Rock and my Salvation

Many people immediately notice the uniqueness of Jerusalem as the rock city, because all the buildings have the same rock-faced appearance. However, its symbolism as the city of the great King, the Rock that was cleft in the quarry of Jerusalem for all mankind, is seldom recognised. Israel itself is oblivious to the metaphoric relationship between their rock-like capital and the spiritual rock of their salvation, despite the fact that God revealed Himself to them from the earliest days as their Rock and their Salvation (Deut. 32:4; Ps. 62:2).

Moses reprimanded Israel for their spiritual ignorance: “Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you” (Deut. 32:18). The God of Israel is a Rock, and there is no rock like Him (1 Sam. 2:2; 2 Sam. 23:3). He gives to Israel a strength that is far above that of their enemies (Deut. 32:31). For this reason king David could sing, “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; … my strength in whom I will trust; … my stronghold” (Ps. 18:1-2).

David was mindful of the fact that before God could be his strength and refuge, He would first have to be his Saviour who would save him from spiritual darkness: “He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps” (Ps. 40:2). While David was fleeing from Saul he often found shelter in caves high up in the mountains. In the safety of his rock fortress he also realised that God was his only protection against his enemies: “Be my rock and refuge, a fortress of defence to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress” (Ps. 31:2-3). He understood the relationship between physical and spiritual shelter, and thanked the Lord for His faithful protection and salvation.

Every resident of Jerusalem who enters his home of rock should be reminded of the merciful God of Israel who earnestly desires to spiritually shelter His children. On entering their homes built of hewn stones, they should pray: “In You, O Lord, I put my trust. … Be my strong habitation to which I may resort continually; … for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked” (Ps. 71:1, 3-4). “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

There will be joyful songs of praise in Israel when the nation has been reconciled with their Messiah-King, who is a mighty Redeemer and the only true refuge for His people: “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, and the great King above all gods” (Ps. 95:1-3).

Allen Ross (1985:862) confirms the Messianic nature of Psalm 95, referring to the time when the Messiah will rule as King from Jerusalem: “This enthronement psalm calls for the people to acknowledge that the Lord is a great King above the gods. ... The congregation is exhorted to worship their Creator.”

Capital of a rock kingdom

During the coming reign of the Messiah on earth the rock city, Jerusalem, will be the capital of a Rock Kingdom. This symbolism is derived from Daniel 2 where the Messiah’s coming is likened to a rock that will utterly crush and replace the pagan kingdoms of this world:

“You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:34-35).

Without a doubt, the interpretation of this dream refers to the coming of the Messiah and His reign on earth: “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold” (Dan. 2:44-45).

When this Rock strikes the earthly kingdoms, the prophecy in Revelation 11 will be fulfilled: “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).

The Rock Kingdom will be the greatest of all kingdoms and will fill the entire earth. The throne of the Messiah will be in Jerusalem – the very city where His body was once broken so that He would become a Cornerstone upon which all people who trust in Him, can build their lives. At present He is in heaven, but soon He will return to Jerusalem in Person to establish His kingdom visibly on earth: “After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen down. I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, so that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things” (Acts 15:16-17).

If we have sought to take refuge in the Holy One of Israel and have built our lives upon the Rock, we will be safe for all eternity. We will not come into judgement as we have passed from death into life (John 5:24). For that reason we can also sing: “Rock of Ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee…”

Not all people have this blessed assurance, and they have every reason to fear the future. Dark clouds of the impending judgements of God are gathering around the world, and soon millions of people will be flung into an eternity of separation from the Messiah because they have not built their lives upon the Rock of our Salvation.