The name Zion is adapted from the ancient Hebrew word Tsiyon and it referred to a Canaanite hill fortress in the city of Jerusalem that was captured by David and thereafter christened, the city of David. After David captured this city, it became an important location not only for his kingdom but also for the symbolism the name has in the scriptures.
The term Zion may refer to a mountain, nation, or government. In the context of scripture, Zion is often used to mean “the mountain of God.” Geographically speaking, Zion can refer to the hill where ancient Jerusalem was located, the entire of Jerusalem, or the dwelling place of God.
Zion in the Old Testament
The first mention of Zion in the scripture is in the book of Samuel.
Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion-which is the City of David. 2 Sam. 5:7
From then on, Zion became synonymous with God’s dwelling place and it is used in many other scriptures (especially in Psalsms) to denote this. For instance, God is said to love the gates of Zion (Psalms 87:2-3), it is described as the place where God is enthroned (Pslams 9:11), It is said to be God’s holy mountain (Psalms 2:6), and it is said to be the place from where David’s salvation emerges (Psalms 9:14).
Apart from Pslams, Zion also features in many other books of the Old Testament including Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, and lamentations. For instance, in Isaiah 4:3, the remnants of Zion are referred to as Holy.
Zion in the New Testament
The word Zion appears in several books of the New Testament but mostly as a quote from Old Testament scriptures. Some of the authors that mention Zion include Mathew, John, Peter, and Paul. For instance, Paul alludes to the fact that Jesus is the Stone in Zion which will cause people to stumble while at the same time ensuring that those who believe in Him are never put to shame (Romans 9:33). Peter confirms this train of thought by saying that Jesus is the precious and chosen cornerstone (1 Peter 2:6). John the revelator also mentions Zion in the book of Revelation. John records how he saw the Lamb of God standing on Mount. Zion with the 144,000 that had the name of God written on their foreheads (Revelation 14:1)
Symbolism of Zion
Zion is used both literally and figuratively in the scripture. In the literal sense, Zion refers to the physical location of Jerusalem. An example of such a reference is found in Isaiah 62 which is a clarion call for intercessors to pray for the restoration/establishment of Zion. This can be seen as a literal meaning of the geographical location of Jerusalem. However, there are also several places where Zion is used as a metaphor. The following are some of the commonly used symbols of Zion.
Zion is often used as a metaphor for God’s house. This symbolism lines up well with the literal meaning of the word zion which means “fortified place” or stronghold. This is because the house of God is a “city of refuge” that has the name of the Lord in it and as scripture records, the righteous can run into it and they will be safe (Proverbs 18:10).
There are many scriptures that hint at Zion being God’s dwelling place but the most prolific is Pslams 132. Check it out;
For the LORD has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling: “This is my resting place forever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it. Psalms 132:13
There are many other places in scripture where Zion is used as a symbol of God’s house/dwelling place. For instance, in Psalms 48:1-3, the Psalmist talks about the holy mountain that is the city of God. This is meant to draw a parallel between Zion as the city of David and Zion as the city of God.
In Hebrews 12:22, the congregants that gather to worship God are said to have come to the mountain of God (Mt. Zion). Another interesting illustration is found in Obadiah 1:17 where God’s house is referred to as Mt. Zion and is described as a palace of deliverance and blessing. This is the mountain that the prophets Micah and Isaiah said would be lifted as the chief mountain and then people would flow to it.
Kingdom of Heaven
Zion not only refers to the house of god but it also refers to the kingdom of heaven. This imagery is portrayed best by John in the book of Revelation.
Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. Rev. 14:1
Zion is seen as the final destination of the church. The pilgrimage of the church towards Zion does not refer to the physical location on Earth but to a spiritual location otherwise known as the kingdom of Heaven. This imagery is further corroborated by the revelation of the new Jerusalem that John saw in Revelation 21.
But before we get to the kingdom of heaven, it is worth noting that Jesus mentioned that the kingdom of God is within our hearts (Luke 17:20-21). Zion is therefore also a symbol of a spiritual kingdom that is within us. Jesus, who is referred to by Peter as the chief cornerstone is the pillar upon which we build this kingdom in our hearts.
Zion may be a physical place in Israel but it holds a lot of meaning for Christians. It is not just a place in Israel but a symbol of God’s dwelling place. It is not just the city of David but a symbol of the city of God. As John the Revelator saw, Zion also represents the new kingdom of heaven that will come when heaven and earth pass away.