On the one hand, it’s a term that is charged with a certain amount of vision and emotion for many in my church (as I explained in the last post).
On the other hand, as a word in its own right, it clearly has some much less positive associations – like blowing up Palestinians in the Middle East, for instance.
(And for some it’s that place in The Matrix...)
In other words, it’s a loaded word. And it’s also rather fuzzy – what exactly does it mean (even to members of the Jesus Army who tend to use it, rather loosely to mean “us”)?
Scripturally, it’s fairly clear. “Zion” is a frequently-used Old Testament word. Strictly it is the name of the fortress in Jerusalem, but it became synonymous with Israel as a whole. This is the way we find the word used in the Psalms and the Prophets.
In the New Testament, it seems clear that the word “Zion” (along with words like “Israel”, “kingdom”, “nation” and “Jerusalem”) came to denote the church as well as the literal, physical nation of Israel or city of Jerusalem.
Galatians 4:26, 6:16; Hebrews 12:22; 1 Peter 2:5-10; Revelation 1:6 etc. etc.
Such words sometimes took on a spiritual meaning and applied to the church and sometimes still referred to the earthly or natural city/nation. (At times, it can be a tad difficult to distinguish with certainty which is which, especially in “difficult” bits like the book of Revelation...)
Perhaps the part of the point of the word “Zion” is that it is mysterious – and highly-charged (it wasn’t for nothing that the writers of The Matrix called their city of freedom “Zion”). Zion is an ideal. It is the vision of the kingdom coming in. A taste of heaven on the earth. Reaching out for a better society, a Utopia... the kingdom of heaven.
We can’t fully have it this side of eternity. But nor should we just sit about waiting for “pie in the sky when we die”. We live in the creative tension between “now” and “not yet”.
When we speak of Zion, we should do so with care. We’re really not into blowing up Palestinians (or anyone) – but we do want to press into the kingdom of God as much as possible and live the prayer:
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.