When we encounter the name Zion in the Bible, we are immediately drawn to the city of David, Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 5:7 – “Yet David did capture the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.”
Throughout the historical pages of Scripture, Zion is equated with the city of Jerusalem, and the sacred place where God dwells within his temple. The name itself appears to be derived from a form of a Hebrew word meaning a conspicuous sign, or a monument like a pillar or signpost. Certainly, Jerusalem has been that throughout the pages of history.
However, as we move into the writings of the prophets, the picture of Zion becomes a bit more ethereal, more hazy in time and space, and becomes transformed into an ideal. Zion becomes equated with concepts like Eden and eternity; it comes to represent the source of God’s presence on the earth throughout time.
Isaiah 51:3, 11 – “For Yahweh will comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of Yahweh. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and melodious song. … And the redeemed of Yahweh will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.”
Micah 4:5-7 – “Though all the peoples each walk in the name of their gods, we will walk in the name of Yahweh our God forever and ever. On that day — this is Yahweh’s declaration — I will assemble the lame and gather the scattered, those I have injured. I will make the lame into a remnant, those far removed into a strong nation. Then Yahweh will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time on and forever.”
We find that this prophetic Zion becomes defined more clearly as we move to the culmination of God’s revelation in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews pulls the prophetic Zion imagery into the present reality of the work that God was doing among his people at that time.
Hebrews 12:22-23 – “Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels, a festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to a Judge, who is God of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect…”
This imagery of the heavenly Jerusalem, a spiritual Mount Zion, is further expressed in the closing pages of the book of Revelation.
Revelation 21:2, 10 – “I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. … He then carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…”
Here, the New Jerusalem is identified with a high mountain like Zion, and is named Jerusalem like Zion. However, it is NEW, it is no longer the earthly mountain or city; it is something different, something that had become an eternal, iconic representation of God and his people.
It is possible that Yeshua was even referencing this imagery when he defined the “city on a hill” that could not be hidden, whose light would be visible everywhere by its conspicuousness.
Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.”
In the fullness of the revelation of God’s word, we find Zion, the monument and signpost city, represents the presence of the heavenly kingdom, the Kingdom of God on this earth, now and for eternity. It is the “kingdom which cannot be shaken,” (Hebrews 12:28), and it will never fade nor diminish in its power or influence (i.e., its light), but only continue to grow until it covers the earth.
Revelation 21:23-26 – The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. Its gates will never close by day because it will never be night there. They will bring the glory and honor of the nations into it.
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