A Living Composition of all God's Redeemed, Life-Study of Revelation, Message Sixty, pp. 693-696
VII. A LIVING COMPOSITION
OF ALL GOD'S REDEEMED
The New Jerusalem is a living composition of all God's redeemed. The fact that it is such a composition means that it is a living building. The thought that God's people are a living building is not first found in the book of Revelation. In the Old Testament we see that God's people were considered material to be built together as His dwelling place.
The Bible covers two main things—God's creation and God's building. In the beginning of the Bible we have creation, and at the end we have the building. Between these two ends we have God's building work. In creation God produced the building materials. As He carries on His building work, He fits all these materials together into one unit, which is His building.
In Genesis 2 we have a garden created, and in Revelation 21, a city constructed. A garden is something natural created by God, and a city is something built up by Him. The New Jerusalem is not a natural garden; it is a built-up city. In the garden in Genesis 2 there is the tree of life, and near the tree of life there is a river flowing in four directions (Gen. 2:8-10). By the flow of this river we have gold, bdellium, and onyx, a precious stone. Bdellium here is a resin secreted by a tree that hardens to form a pearl-like substance. The first mention of stone in the Bible is not of ordinary, common stone, but of onyx, a type of precious stone.
What were the three precious materials in Genesis 2, gold, bdellium and onyx stone, used for? In order to answer this question we must read through the whole Bible. In the breastplate of the high priest were set twelve precious stones (Exo. 28:15-21), the first of which was sardius and the last, jasper. Included among these twelve stones was an onyx. This indicates that the breastplate of the high priest is related to both Genesis 2 and Revelation 21, for in Genesis 2 we have onyx and in Revelation 21 we have jasper. In the description of the breastplate of the high priest and of the two onyx stones engraved with the names of the children of Israel (Exo. 28:9-12), we see a miniature of God's building. The precious stones of both the breastplate and the shoulder plates bore the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. This signifies that the redeemed Israelites are for God's building. The twelve precious stones on the breastplate were set in gold. The gold base held all the precious stones. Certainly this is a picture of God's building. This breastplate was a building that expressed God.
Upon the breastplate were also put the urim and thummim (Exo. 28:30). In Hebrew urim means light and thummim means perfection or completion. Many years ago I read an article by a Hebrew writer saying that thummim is a precious stone with four letters of the Hebrew alphabet carved upon it. Upon the breastplate of the high priest were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraved upon twelve stones. The names of these tribes contained only eighteen of the twenty-two letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Therefore, upon the breastplate of the high priest there was a shortage of these four letters. However, these letters were carved upon the thummim, and when this stone was put into the breastplate, there was completion and perfection. There were the full twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The urim was a stone put into the breastplate to give light. The writer of this article went on to say that when the high priest went before the Lord, certain stones upon the breastplate with their respective letters would shine, and at other times other stones with their letters would shine. The high priest took down all the letters from the various stones as they shone, and in so doing he formed words and sentences. Eventually he received a complete message or judgment from the Lord. Therefore, through the shining upon the breastplate, God expressed His thought, His mind, and His feeling, and the high priest could know God's mind in this way. This is a miniature of God's building today. Today we know God's will through the building, the church.
According to the record of Genesis 28, Jacob, a supplanter, had a divine dream in which he saw a ladder set up on earth and reaching to heaven. When he awoke from sleep, he called the name of that place the house of God (Gen. 28:17). Then he took the stone he had used for a pillow, set it up as a pillar, anointed it with oil, and called it the house of God (Gen. 28:18-19, 22).
The stone is also mentioned in the book of Zechariah. Zechariah 4:7 speaks of the headstone, and 3:9, the stone with seven eyes. The stone in Zechariah is neither the foundation stone nor the cornerstone; it is the topstone with seven eyes. These seven eyes appear again in the book of Revelation as the seven eyes of the Lamb (5:6). Thus, the seven eyes relate the stone to the Lamb, who is also the Lion (5:5). For this reason, we speak of the Lion-Lamb stone.
When Peter first met the Lord Jesus, the Lord changed his name from Simon to Cephas, which means a stone (John 1:42). After Peter received the revelation that the Lord was the Christ, the Son of the living God, the Lord said, "And I also say to you that you are a stone, and on this rock I will build My church" (Matt. 16:18, lit.). In this one verse we have the stone and the rock. Later, in his first Epistle, Peter said, "To whom coming, a living stone, having been rejected by men, but with God chosen, held in honor, you yourselves also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house" (1 Pet. 2:4-5). Therefore, the concept that the believers are stones to be built up for God's habitation is not new in the book of Revelation. It is found elsewhere in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.
Paul had the same concept in 1 Corinthians chapter three, where he said that the church was God's farm and God's building and that he was a wise masterbuilder (vv. 9- 10). In this portion of the Word Paul also warned us to be careful about the materials we use in our building work. We should not build with wood, hay, and stubble, but with gold, pearl, and precious stones (vv. 10, 12).
If we put together all the portions of the Word concerning the stone, we shall see that precious stones signify God's redeemed, regenerated, and transformed people. All the stones with which the New Jerusalem is built are God's redeemed, regenerated, and transformed saints. The Apostle Peter has told us clearly that we are living stones. Now we are in the process of transformation and of being built into God's building. Firstly, God transforms us; then He builds us. Therefore, Jerusalem is not a pile of material; it is a composition of material that has been built up. The entire city of New Jerusalem is God's building, the living composition of all God's redeemed, regenerated, and transformed saints.