There’s an amazing line in Psalm 87. After noting the foreign nations who acknowledge the God of Israel, the Psalmist adds “The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: ‘This one was born in Zion.’ It’s the grace of the adjusted birth certificate. Here’s the psalm:
“He has founded his city on the holy mountain.
2 The Lord loves the gates of Zion
more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.
3 Glorious things are said of you,
city of God:
4 ‘I will record Rahab and Babylon
among those who acknowledge me –
Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush–
and will say, “This one was born in Zion.”’
5 Indeed, of Zion it will be said,
‘This one and that one were born in her,
and the Most High himself will establish her.’
6 The Lord will write in the register of the peoples:
‘This one was born in Zion.’
7 As they make music they will sing,
‘All my fountains are in you.’”
The idea of “Zion” was a key idea for the people of the Hebrew Bible. It was the shape and promise of something ideal, something wonderful.
The earliest mention comes in 2 Samuel 5:7 in a military report.” The king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites …[and] David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.” So from the time of David, Zion was synonymous with the city of David.
Immediately after that (In 2 Sam 6:12), David brought the ark of the covenant into this stronghold of Zion. The ark of the covenant was the sacred seat of the holy of holies where God met his people in the tabernacle. So Zion became the centre of worship and of God’s presence.
And for most of the hundred and fifty plus usages in the Old Testament, “Zion” refers to the city of Jerusalem, not just as another name, but because it is the city of God’s presence and the city of great hope for God’s people. But that’s not all. It follows that Zion became the place from which the people expected help. Zion became the source of deliverance and salvation. “And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes! “
But sin made judgement inevitable, even for Zion (Lamentations 2:15), and so Zion became a pointer to an as-yet-unrealized-future .If imperfect Zion is the place of God’s presence on the earth, then there must be a perfect Zion where God dwells in heaven (cf. Acts 7:48f).
And if imperfect Zion is the place of God’s presence on the earth now, then all the promises of complete and perfect reign on the earth must mean that there will some day be a new and ideal Zion on the earth where God rules over all the nations. In other words, the old Jerusalem points upward to a heavenly Zion, and forward to a future Zion.
And so we read passages such as Isaiah 2:2f:
“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains . . . and all the nations shall flow to it . . . For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
So the old Jerusalem points forward to a glorious future Zion from which God will reign on earth.But there’s more: it also points to a heavenly Zion where God already reigns now.
And so we arrive at Psalm 87. It starts with a statement of God’s choice and favour: “He has founded his city on the holy mountain. The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the other dwellings of Jacob.”
And then the Lord speaks: “‘I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me – Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush– and will say, “This one was born in Zion.”’
He foretells the day when these pagan nations will turn and know God. And then he describes them as natural born citizens of Zion —”This one was born there.”
If Zion is the place of God’s presence, if Zion is the place of God’s power and blessing and protection, if Zion is the hope of God’s future rule over the earth, then what is the hope of us Gentile outsiders? We may never have seen Jerusalem, let alone become a citizen! What about us whom Paul says are “separated from the commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12)?
Simply this: The Lord declares over us: “This One Was Born in Zion.”
God is populating Zion with outsiders from every corner of the globe.
Galatians 4:26 says something amazingly similar: “The Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” We have been conceived and born in the heavenly Jerusalem. In other words, we have all been born once in some earthly city, but we have to have a second, spiritual birth. We have to have our citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20) and in the Jerusalem above. Our second birth certificate has to say, “This one was born in Zion.” “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a person is born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Hebrews 12:22 says to Christians, to those who trust Christ, “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering and to the assembly of the first born, who are enrolled in heaven.”
You’ve already come! If you trust Christ, you are already a permanent citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem. And when this new Jerusalem appears, you will be there too in glory.
And this is the note on which the whole Bible ends. The last two chapters describe the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven at the end of the age. It’s for those with adjusted birth certificates. Here is our Zion:
Adorned like a bride for her husband.
And every tear is wiped away, with no more death, or crying or pain.
Its radiance is like a rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.
And there’s no temple in the city for the temple is the Lord God Almighty
and Jesus Christ the Lamb.
And there’s no sun or moon to shine, for the glory of God himself is its light
and the lamp is the Lamb.
And at the centre of the city is the throne of God and flowing out
from the throne is a river of the water of life.
And on either side of the river is the tree of life that bears fruit forever.
And behold the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them and they shall be his people and he will be their God and their light and their joy, and they shall reign forever and ever.
And “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’