The Names of Christ
Names in scripture generally say something about the people who bear them and this is particularly the case with the names of God and the Messiah. Hence, the Psalmist cried; “They that know Thy name shall put their trust in Thee” (Psalm9:10).
Jehovah is so named because He is “from everlasting even to everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:36), infinite, eternally unchangeable and faithful; He is known as Elohim because He, the glorious triune God, alone is to be worshipped; He is known as Shaddai because He is the Almighty and Omnipotent One; Jehovah Jireh because has He Himself provided a ransom for the sin of the world, Shalom because He is the peace-giver and so in every one of His names there is contained some revelation of His perfections and attributes.
This is the case also with the Messiah; we have already seen Him portrayed in scripture as the Branch our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5-6)’ God’s Servant the Branch (Zechariah 3:8); the man whose name is Branch (Zechariah 6:12-13) and the beautiful and glorious Branch (Isaiah 4:2). Why is He described as Shiloh (Genesis 49:10) except that He is to be the Prince of Peace? (Isaiah 9:6); why Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) except that He was, and is, God with us (Matthew 1:23)?; why Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6) if not to describe His miraculous birth and His fulfillment of God’s creation, man, as man was meant to be?; why Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6) if not that He is very God in Whom, though man, dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily? (Colossians 2:9); why everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6) if not that His goings forth have been from of old (Micah 5:2) and whoever has seen Him has seen the Father? (John 14:9). Indeed the very name, Messiah, suggests a sent one who will have a very special anointing of the Holy Spirit to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and opening of the prison to them that are bound and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Isaiah 61:1). Jesus Himself laid claim to this title and task (Luke 4:18).
Zechariah’s prophecies of four other Messianic titles bear fuller consideration than they generally get; “out of Him (Judah) shall come forth the Corner-stone, out of Him the Nail, out of Him the Battle Bow, out of Him the Absolute Ruler” (Zechariah 10:4).
The Corner (Hebrew pinnah)
That this title applies to Christ cannot be doubted, particularly when considered alongside parallel scriptures as in Isaiah 28:16; “therefore thus says 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”. In the New Testament this reference is applied to Christ both by Himself (Matthew 21:42) and the apostolic writers (Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:4-8). But what does this title signify?
In the first instance, I believe that the Holy Spirit wants us to understand that Christ, and Christ alone, is the sure foundation upon Whom rests the spiritual superstructure now in the process of completion and which is raised up for “an habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). For stability and safety in any building, everything depends upon the foundation. As Jesus pointed out, if the foundation is built upon sand, the house will fall (Matthew 7:27), whereas if it is built upon the rock it will stand (Matthew 7:25).
Now God, in setting down the pattern for the tabernacle in which He will dwell with man on earth, and which, in ages to come, will make known to “the principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom” (Ephesians 3:10), in order to ensure its safety against the attacks of the enemy and to make it proof against storm and tempest, laid as its foundation His own Son, “Who abides forever” (John 8:35). This Son is the same rock who followed Israel in the wilderness and from which they drank (1 Corinthians 10:4); and in respect of those who belong to Christ, those living stones who are prepared by the Spirit of God to become parts of that spiritual temple, they “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone in whom all the building fitly framed together grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21).
The foundation of the true temple, the habitation of God, then, is not in Rome or Canterbury or in any place upon this earth or in the domains of men, but in heaven. Only thus, is it out of reach of all God’s enemies and above the power of the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18).
In the second place, the corner stone is the stone that unites the two walls and by presenting the Messiah to us in this figure, the Spirit is foreshadowing the link between the Jew and the gentile, who are both made one in Him. “For he is our peace, who made both one, and broke down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15). It is in this connection that Paul introduces the Lord Jesus by the figure of the “chief corner stone” in this passage of scripture (Ephesians 2:20). He tells the gentiles that although once “far off” and “aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel” they are now “brought nigh” and, together with the Jews, “have access by the Spirit unto the Father”. Christ Himself is the chief corner-stone at which these walls meet and become united in the one building, which is the habitation of God through the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, Christ is also styled the Head of the Corner; in Psalm 118:22 (the Hebrew rosh) where the Septuagint translates this as kephale gonias, where kephale means “head” in the sense of supreme, a passage of scripture that Jesus applies to Himself in Matthew 21:42. This expression is different to that used by Isaiah and referred to by both Peter and Paul when talking of the “corner-stone”; the Septuagint and the epistles use akrogoniaios or corner stone. So not only is Jesus the foundation stone of the spiritual temple and the corner-stone that unites the two walls in Himself, He is also the crowning glory of the building itself.
Now these are relationships in which Christ stands to His ecclesia. He is the immovable foundation, the bond of union between all members and also the top stone or cover and the crown of glory over the whole spiritual edifice.
There is a personal application in this figure of Christ as the corner-stone. Quite apart from the significance of this picture of Christ to the Church generally, it also has relevance to every individual believer, more so in these last days because of the decline of spiritual authority in the Church and the absence today of fire upon the altar. It is only as I rest on the sure foundation which God has laid in Zion that I can say that“I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
I am vitally connected and united to Christ Jesus who Himself is vitally united to God so who can snatch me from His hands? Moreover, the stone which is my foundation is a stone that has been tried and tested by God before becoming manifest as the only foundation for His people’s salvation and eternal happiness, and He has declared that He was well-pleased with Him (Matthew 17:5). What better assurance is there than the testimony of the living God? Millions who have accepted the testimony of God and have put Christ to the test, have not found Him wanting, but able, in every respect, to bear the superstructure of their redemption.
Prophetic Application to Israel
As might be expected, the figure of the corner-stone also teaches us something of the past and future of Israel as a nation. According to Jewish tradition, during the building of Solomon’s temple, a certain stone, designed for the “head corner-stone” was rejected by the builders and cast away as useless but, since no other stone could be found to take its place it was brought out again and fitted into the position for which it had been designed. This gives real meaning to the scripture; “The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner. This is Jehovah’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22-23). So this symbolic scripture also commemorates a real transaction in the history of God’s chosen people. This historical event, to which there are many allusions in the scriptures, is used by the prophets and apostles as typifying the treatment of the Messiah by the Jews at His first and second advents. On His first appearance, to be “wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities” and then to be led “as a lamb to the slaughter” He was, in the eyes of the Jews, like a “root out of dry ground” with “no form or comeliness” so they “despised and rejected Him” as fit for the Cross rather than to sit on the throne of David.
But the time is not far distant when Israel, after waiting vainly for another Messiah to appear, will again seek out the stone which they have once, in the blindness of their hearts, rejected. And when He comes they will cry out “Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 26:64). Thus, it will come to pass that “the stone which the builders rejected will become the head stone of the corner; this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in my eyes”.
Prophetic Application Generally
This is the application which the Lord Jesus Himself made of this scripture in Matthew 21:42-44, and He added; “and whosoever will fall upon this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it should fall, it will crush him”.
Two thousand years ago, “Christ crucified” became “a stumbling block to the Jews” and the stone which God intended as a sure foundation for their redemption became instead, a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel” (Isaiah 8:14 and Romans 9:33).
They fell on it and were broken in pieces and those pieces were scattered throughout the world as a testimony to the justice and judgement of a righteous God. But the judgement that befell Israel is nothing compared to that which awaits hypocritical professed Christendom. Israel fell on the stone when He was on the earth in a state of humiliation and suffering, and they were broken, but there is hope for them in that already those broken pieces have been re-gathered from the four corners of the globe and made whole again. But as to hypocritical and compromised Christianity, the stone will fall on them and it will grind them into dust. When Jesus returns, it will not be as the “meek and lowly” but in flaming fire to proclaim the vengeance of our God and then there will be no more hope for those who spurn His love and reject His offers of salvation.
Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, the stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner; and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:6-8).