The Broken Stones of Israel
At Sinai, the tablets of the Law of Moses were broken and restored. The Old Testament is a history of “new covenants,” including that promised in Jeremiah and fulfilled in Zechariah. Ultimately, the vertical Oath and the horizontal Sanctions met in the death of Jesus on the cross as our great High Priest. The New Covenant Oath was ratified in the fruit of the land (bread and wine) given to us as the fruit of the womb (flesh and blood). Unlike the Passover, this new meal turns Adams and Eves themselves into acceptable mediators, doors to life smeared with the blood of human lambs.
Jesus had no physical children yet His brothers and children are now a multitude of millions (Luke 8:21; Hebrews 2:10-18). The true children of Abraham were not those who shared in circumcision of the flesh but partook with him in circumcision of heart. That is why Jesus could refer to the Pharisees as serpents like Pharaoh (Matthew 12:24; 23:33), and children of the devil (John 8:44) while commending the faith of believing Gentiles.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:7-10)
This brings us to what is possibly the most terrifying and ironic allusion to the Urim and Thummim, one which condemned the earthly city of God as a city of man. A dove had descended upon Christ, and blackbirds would encircle Jerusalem as if it were a bloody carcass bereft of the protection of Abraham (Genesis 15:11; Matthew 24:28), but there would also be stones. Jacob Neusner writes:
Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the Lord always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the Temple by night and get up in the morning and find them wide open.((Jacob Neusner, The Yerushalmi, 156-157.))
Both the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmuds record these strange events. After the crucifixion, it is written that:
The scapegoat was chosen by lot, the engraved stones in the ephod worn by the High Priest. The last time the lot was used by the saints was for the purpose of choosing a replacement for Judas. After the Day of Pentecost, the lot was never used again, since that external method was replaced, rendered obsolete, by the internal, indwelling Spirit of God (Colossians 3:15).
Yet the ministry of the Temple continued as if the birth, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ – and the Day of Pentecost – had never occurred. These events were suppressed because they undermined the official narrative (Romans 1:18). For the Jewish Priesthood, however, a white stone still communicated “innocent” and a black stone “guilty.” These enduring liturgical signs in the Sanctuary would be measured out in judgment across the Land.
This divine testimony was a reversal of the events in Zechariah’s visions. To signify that the Aaronic priesthood was recommissioned after the exile, an engraved stone was set before the reinvested High Priest (Zechariah 3). This sign in the “Garden” resulted in a memorial in the “Land,” the lifting up of the stone by kingly Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4) as a testimony of light.((The “plumbline” in the hand of Zerubbabel in Zechariah 4:10 is a mistranslation. The word is bdellium, a metal which came from Havilah (Genesis 2:12). Manna is likened to it in color (Numbers 11:7). In Numbers 31:22 it is mistranslated as tin. This white stone would be the capstone above the Temple door.)) That white stone communicated a resounding “Yes!” from the Lord. Atonement was accepted. The Temple of God would be completed and Israel’s priesthood after the exile could once again be considered holy.
But if the Talmudic accounts above are true, and the black stone denotes that the Temple atonement was never accepted by God after the death of His Son on the cross, then the white stone in Revelation 2 takes on bloody connotations. Herod’s Temple had become an idol, and the Body of Christ the true Temple. The anointing of the latter on the Day of Pentecost was a precursor of the decommissioning of the former. But Dagon is only ever dismembered through the prior tearing apart of the true Tabernacle of God (1 Samuel 5:4). All those who followed Christ potentially followed Him into the grave as spotless sacrifices. In Him, all who believed were now accepted in the assembly of the Lord as perfect and complete, lambs without blemish, even the Ethiopian eunuch. Beginning with the stoning of Stephen, historical continuity was now conveyed by a different kind of Succession: the “seed” born of the Gospel, that is, the public testimony and blood of the martyrs. The foundation of the New Jerusalem was the Apostolic Church, the fruit of the Spirit, presented as a blameless “firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4-5; 21:14).
The Revelation, with its letters to the seven churches including Pergamum, was written just prior to the biggest massacre of Christians in history. Significantly, this demonic tribulation of the saints occurred just after the biggest Passover celebration in all history. The Herods had seized the white stone for Jerusalem. Their great buildings, including the newly completed Temple, were covered in “white stone,” a pretense of holiness before God. But their whiteness was that of the leper, of a sepulcher filled with bones and uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).((It seems that the “white stone” of the Herods, as described by Josephus, was nothing of the sort. “Building materials were conveyed from afar only in exceptional cases… marble was not included in Herod’s inventory of building materials, with the sole exception being the use of small marble tiles… In all cases where Josephus refers to marble (his “white stone”), it must actually have been either local limestone, a coating of white plaster, or stuccowork.” (Ehud Netzer, The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder, 310.) ))Aptly, Jerusalem, once the “city of peace,” was also given new names: Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon.
After one generation of “liturgical” warnings within the Temple, and Apostolic warnings without, the city which had slaughtered over 250,000 lambs in AD65 in rebellion against the cross of Christ would now desecrate itself with the blood of the final contingent of Christian martyrs, the lambs which Peter had fed for the slaughter (John 21:15-19). Now ripe for judgment, the siege of the city began under General Titus.
In mid AD70, after the failure of negotiations with the Jewish rebels for peace, Titus decided to make an assault upon Jerusalem from the northwest in order to capture the Upper City and the Antonia Fortress. He ordered the legions to build earthworks, placing artillery in front of his engineers for protection from the artillery fire coming from the city walls. James L. Bloom writes:
The Xth Legion’s artillery section was the best equipped and trained of all the legions; their machines were capable of hurling a hundredweight stone [75 pound/34 kg] a distance of over two furlongs – about a quarter of a mile [370 meters] with great accuracy. In order to try to counteract these deadly salvos, sentinels were posted to keep a steady eye on the Xth Legion’s heavy weapons sections and as soon as they observed a launch they would follow the flight of the incoming stone, which shone white in the sun’s rays. The message would be relayed back to those in the probable area of impact: “Baby on the way!” Then they would try to take cover and throw themselves to the ground, preferably in a depression. The Romans took note of this passive defense method and took to painting the stones a dull, non-reflective black so the Jews could not detect the trajectory.((James L. Bloom, The Jewish Revolts Against Rome, A.D. 66–135: A Military Analysis, 164.))
Eventually, of course, not one stone was left upon another (Matthew 24:2).
The new High Priest is described by John in Revelation 1. Besides Jesus’ full-length robe and golden sash, all of the attributes listed are “internal” qualities rather than external accoutrements. He is a human Tabernacle (John 1:14). Yet, the externals still serve a purpose. The robe indicates that He is invested with authority, qualified to bear the sword on the Father’s behalf since He Himself submitted to that sword on earth. But what of the golden sash?
The Aaronic sash was made of linen, with indigo and purple and scarlet yarns. I suspect that these three colors refer to the three stages of the death of the sacrifice: blood in the flesh, blood coming from the flesh, and oxygenated blood spilled as a testimony, or in official terms, Priest, King and Prophet. There was no gold in this sash, since it spoke of death and not resurrection. The Aaronic ephod, however, was made of the same but with the inclusion of golden thread. The shedding of atoning blood enabled Israel to survive every attempt to bring about its end.
In Revelation 1, there is no ephod. This indicates that the work of the Circumcision (Abraham) and the Priesthood (Moses) was complete. An ephod or belt about the waist is Adamic, but a sash upon the breast is “bridal.” The ephod, with its two stones, spoke of fruitfulness in land and womb, but the sash speaks of circumcision of heart. Although every stage of Covenant history required a growth to maturity, Pentecost was the seismic shift from external to internal law, from the exalted Adam to His glorious Bride gathered by the Spirit. As anticipated by Abraham (Hebrews 11:16), the Covenant promises shifted from a focus on the priestly cycles of earthly succession to those things which they pictured: “once-for-all” eternal life in the kingdom of God (Hebrews 7:27-28). The ephod was for generations, an Abrahamic “utility belt,” but Jesus is now the firstfruits of the land and the womb represented in the firstborn from the dead, testifying forever in the Sanctuary of God. The gilding of the sash reveals that His bloody work is done. The Seed of the Woman has crushed the serpent, and His very name is our Covenant Oath, our white stone. We do not take His name upon us in vain. Instead of swearing by external foundations, by heaven or earth, or the Temple and city (Matthew 5:33-37), our testimony is the fruit of the indwelling Christ.
Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:17-22)
Mike Bull is a graphic designer in the Blue Mountains of Australia, and author, most recently, of Moses and the Revelation.
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