What does Zion refer to?


The word Zion first appears in the Bible as the name of the ancient
Jebusite fortress called the city of Jebus which was situated on a hill
within the subsequent boundaries of Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 5:7 states:
“Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of
David).” Note that from this original conquest, the area was enlarged:
“Then David dwelt in the stronghold, and called it the City of David.
And David built all around from the Millo and inward” (2 Samuel 5:9;
also, 1 Chronicles 11:4-9).

The hill upon which Solomon built the
temple was Mount Moriah — a different location than that of the
original City of David. David purchased from Ornan the Jebusite the location on which the
temple of God would later be built by Solomon
(Compare 1 Chronicles 21:18-30 and 2 Chronicles 3:1).

Tracing the
earlier history of the site, we find that Israel’s two tribes of Judah
and Benjamin were given this as a part of their inheritance in the land
God promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Benjamin’s share included the
city of Jebus — which is part of what became the city of Jerusalem
(Compare Joshua 18:28). Judah’s boundaries also included the area
bordering the city of Jebus (Compare Joshua 15:8).

However, the
Biblical record shows that when Judah and Benjamin began to take their
inheritances by force, they were unable to drive out the Jebusites
(Compare Joshua 15:63 and Judges 1:21). Part of the area belonging to
Judah was captured but not the fortress of Zion (Compare Judges 1:8).

the time of Abraham, the place where the city of Zion was built was
known as Salem. It is from this city that Melchizedek reigned as king
and priest of “God Most High” (Genesis 14:18).

In the New
Testament, further explanation concerning this remarkable site is given
in Hebrews 7:1-3: “For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the
Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the
kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all,
first being translated ‘king of righteousness,’ and then also king of
Salem, meaning ‘king of peace,’ without father, without mother, without
genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made
like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”

The meaning
of Zion continued to expand in its usage throughout the Bible. Zion
became synonymous with Jerusalem and Israel and was applied to the land
and people that God had chosen, as well. For example, Jerusalem and its
inhabitants are personified as the “daughter of Zion” (Compare Isaiah
62:11; Zechariah 9:9; and, Matthew 21:5).

Zion is
especially significant regarding the many prophetic statements
concerning the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth and the
location of His rule.

“For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has
desired it for His dwelling place: ‘This is My resting place forever;
Here I will dwell, for I have desired it’” (Psalm 132:13-14). Zion is
called the “…city of God” (Psalm 87:3) and the “…city of the great
King” (Psalm 48:2).

Note this prophecy about Zion, picturing
the future reign of God, as found in Zechariah 2:10-12: “‘Sing and
rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell
in your midst,’ says the LORD. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the
LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in
your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to
you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in
the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem.’”

reference states: “For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word
of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:3). Psalm 102, verse 16,
explains: “For the LORD shall build up Zion; He shall appear in His

The physical location of Zion is the place on this earth
where Jesus Christ will assemble those who have part in the first
resurrection (or who are changed from mortal to immortal — compare 1
Corinthians 15:51-52 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18): “Then I looked, and
behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and
forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their
foreheads” (Revelation 14:1).

We should also realize that a
“Mount Zion” exists in the spirit world, describing the place of God’s
presence and of His unending rule over His creation (compare our free
booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World.”)
Speaking to Christians, the author of Hebrews says: “But you have come
to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly
and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the
Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the
Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that
speaks better things than that of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

“heavenly Jerusalem,” which will come down from heaven to earth, is
further described in Revelation 21 and in verses 1-5 of chapter 22.
Here, in the context of “…a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1), the
throne of God and of the Lamb will be placed in the New Jerusalem —
the holy city.

We see, then, that the meaning of Zion is far more
than its original designation as a Jebusite stronghold or fortress.
Zion depicts the headquarters for governmental administration — that
is, for God’s rule in and from heaven; for a united Israel under King
David; and eventually for the rule of God’s government over mankind.
Importantly, Zion also describes the people and the land of promise as
a symbol of the hope that God has prepared for all nations!

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

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