by Pastor Doug Batchelor
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An Amazing Fact: The new One World Trade Center is the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere, reaching a height of 1,776 feet. The massive tower rests on solid bedrock in Lower Manhattan. It took two months of blasting to clear the foundation area. About 40 trucks then dumped 400 cubic yards of concrete to provide solid footing for the 40,000 metric ton structure.
The Gospel of Luke records, “As some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and donations, [Jesus] said, ‘These things which you see—the days will come in which not one stone shall be left upon another that shall not be thrown down’ ” (21:5, 6).
When Jesus predicted the complete destruction of Herod’s temple, His disciples must have been traumatized and shocked. Any event so catastrophic as to unseat the massive stones of the temple would have indicated the end of the world to them. How large were these foundation blocks? When archaeologists excavated the Western Wall tunnel near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, they discovered one monolithic rock called the Western Stone that measured 44.6 feet long, 9.8 feet high, and 10.8 feet wide. This giant rock weighs 570 tons and is one of the largest building blocks in the world. That’s equivalent to the weight of two fully loaded Boeing 747s. Yes, that’s just one stone in the temple!
If the disciples were stunned by Jesus’ statement about the temple, the religious leaders were outraged when He said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). We know that Christ was not referring to the literal temple, but to His own body. The church is also called “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). While the earthly temple could be destroyed, there is a building that will never fall: God’s church built upon Christ. When the church, by faith, stands on Jesus, who is revealed to us in the Bible, it rests on a sure foundation.
Built on the Rock
Jesus spoke with His disciples about building on a firm rock. “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ ” (Matthew 16:13–15).
Notice the response of one Simon Peter: “ ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ ” (vv. 16, 17). The term “Bar” in this name means “son of.” So his name is Simon, son of Jonah. Peter was a nickname given to Simon by Jesus, and it means “stone” (see John 1:40–42). This is the type of rock you would pick up and throw.
Christ next said something profound: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). What “rock” is Jesus speaking about upon which He would build His church? It certainly cannot be Peter, the little stone, since a few verses later in this chapter Jesus called Peter “Satan” (see verse 23).
The rock on which the church is built is found in Peter’s declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is upon Jesus, the Word of God made manifest (John 1:1), that the church was founded. It is in Him that the church finds a sure foundation against which the forces of hell will not overcome. The Scriptures are the basis of God’s true church.
We All Need Foundations
Foundations are everything. We need them for building. We need them in our families. Even our country requires a foundation, which is supposed to be our Constitution. The United States was built on foundational truths that are being relentlessly attacked. They are being eroded little by little, called “outdated” by millions. The Bible says, “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). However, what’s true for our nation is even truer for the church.
The word “foundation” is defined by one dictionary as: “The basis or groundwork for anything.” Just as a building has a prepared footing on which to rest the full structure, we need an underpinning in our lives and in our church. Have you thought about the foundations in your life? On what ground have you built your future?
While conducting a prophecy series in New York City back in 1999, our team went to the top of the World Trade Center and prayed over the city. It was an especially emotional experience to watch, on September 11, 2001, those buildings implode. Two months later I visited Ground Zero in person, and smoke was still rising from the great cavities where the original towers once stood.
How do they build skyscrapers so tall in New York? Well, Manhattan is basically sitting on a giant rock. It’s been said that if you would build high, you must first go deep. That’s also true in the Christian life. If you want to reach heavenly heights, you must first go deep in the Word. The deeper you dig into the Bible, the higher you will go in your walk with God. Just as dynamite was used to blow away rock and rubble to prepare for the new Freedom Tower, we need the power of the Spirit to clear away the sin in our hearts so we can live freely by God’s Word.
Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great (Luke 6:47–49, my emphasis).
I’ve quoted from Luke’s version of this parable because it highlights just how important it is to dig deep when laying a foundation. It is true wisdom. Matthew refers to the one who builds on the sand as “foolish.” The foolish person hears the Word of God but doesn’t believe it’s a worthy foundation. Wise people dig deep into the Scriptures and base their values and choices on the Bible alone.
We desperately need the solid foundation of the Bible in our lives because a storm is soon coming to our world. Unless we are firmly grounded in the Word, we will be shaken and unprepared for catastrophic events striking our planet.
I recently attended a religious broadcasters convention in Nashville where I heard John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speak on just how dangerous a world we live in right now, loaded with frightening nuclear developments. He said world peace is hanging by a thread with the problems happening in the Middle East.
I also heard other speakers describe how the foundations in our culture are being threatened. Basic Christian values are being tossed out the window. Sex before marriage is considered acceptable. Narcissism is applauded. Lying is celebrated. Marrying someone of the same gender doesn’t matter. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3).
Amazingly, there are even movements in our very church today that claim the Bible is not a dependable foundation because it doesn’t keep up with our evolving culture. The Bible needs to conform to our culture, they say, not the other way around. Well, we’re seeing now the devastation, the infighting and mean-spirited debates that can happen among Christians when the cornerstone of our faith, the Scriptures, is pushed aside even over a single doctrine. It’s extremely dangerous, even deadly, counsel, because it’s telling the faithful that when it comes down to it, a Bible foundation cannot really be trusted. I fear that with this same spirit, once the storm hits, the sheep will scatter. They already are scattering, looking for a foundation.
Jesus warned us that a great tribulation is coming, “such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). We are on the brink of extraordinary events, yet this is also a time of extraordinary opportunities. God is not surprised, and He has raised a movement “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). This is a time to share the foundational truths of Scripture to seekers around the world. Many of them are in churches that do not adhere to the entire Word of God; their foundations are weak and wobbling.
Yet there are believers who love the Lord and want to know truth. They are searching their Bibles, and they will soon become part of God’s remnant people waiting expectantly for Christ’s return. Let’s keep offering them the solid foundation of Scripture so they can stand firm.
One of the primary illustrations in Scripture about foundations is spoken of by Christ. “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” (Matthew 21:42). Christ is referring to Psalm 118:22, 23. The rabbis were familiar with this passage and knew that it referred to the Messiah.
Two other Old Testament verses expand on this: “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). “The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel” (Isaiah 8:13, 14).
These verses refer to an experience briefly mentioned in Scripture. (The whole story is found in Jewish history.) When Solomon built the temple, the Bible says, “Solomon had seventy thousand who carried burdens, and eighty thousand who quarried stone in the mountains. … And the king commanded them to quarry large stones, costly stones, and hewn stones, to lay the foundation of the temple” (1 Kings 5:15–17). Notice, “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 6:7). This was very unlike building today, where you hear jackhammers and explosions at the build site. It was sacred work at the temple.
Architects carefully drew blueprints for Solomon’s temple and gave engineers precise specifications for all the stones for the foundation, including the cornerstone. Today we use concrete for footings. In Bible times they used large stones that were perfectly plumb. The temple cornerstone might have looked unusual because part of its face sat on the bedrock of the temple mount and the rest of it was square. It was likely one of the first stones prepared and brought to the site. The hewers probably assumed the construction crew knew about it.
But somehow there was a miscommunication. The temple builders kept bumping into this large oddly shaped stone. Perhaps they thought it was a piece of leftover rubble from work done by the Jebusites, who built there once before. As the crew cleaned and prepared several acres for the foundation of the temple, workers chose the wrong rock for the chief foundation stone. They chose stones that cracked. In the meantime, they had pushed the true cornerstone out of the way, and it tumbled down into Kidron Valley.
When the construction crew finally asked the men at the quarry to provide them a cornerstone, the hewers told them, “We already sent the perfect stone. It was the first rock we delivered.” After some searching, they discovered it was indeed the stone they had shoved out of the way. Workers gathered together and dragged it back up and into place. It fit perfectly.
The story of the rejected cornerstone became an analogy used throughout the Bible. Peter wrote:
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 a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 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.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed (1 Peter 2:4–8).
Peter understood that Jesus Christ was the Rock who was rejected, just as the church today begins to reject His Word. He knew that it was upon the true Cornerstone that the church would be built. We are living stones built on that foundation. Paul explained:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:19–22).
One of the most devastating earthquakes in U.S. history was in 1906 San Francisco. About 3,000 people died, and more than 80 percent of the city was destroyed.
A few years before this quake, a Memorial Arch was erected at the main entry to Stanford University in memory of Jane and Leland Stanford’s only child. The massive arch was 100 feet tall, 90 feet wide, and 34 feet deep. A 12-foot high frieze adorned the top with carved stone sculptures representing the “Progress of Civilization in America.”
But the magnificent arch, that was to last for hundreds of years, stood for fewer than four. Like most buildings that crumbled in the quake, the arch had a poor foundation. The construction crew thought a layer of gravel would substitute for a rock-solid foundation. The arch was eventually dismantled, and only the remaining columns stand today.
When it comes to building up God’s church, Paul gave us wise counsel. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it” (1 Corinthians 3:10).
How about you? Have you laid a sure foundation in your life on God’s Word? Someday we will be tested by a time of shaking. Unless we have wisely built our homes, our churches, and our values on the Bible, the edifices we’ve constructed will surely collapse. I pray that your faith will be built on Christ, the solid Rock revealed in Scripture. Jesus is the only foundation on which we can survive the storm in these last days.