Advent and Mount Zion

Text: Isaiah 2:1-5

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore.
O house of Jacob, come and let us walk
In the light of the Lord.


Today is the first Sunday of the season of Advent. The word advent means “coming,” and the season of Advent is when the church remembers and proclaims the coming of the messiah. In the Bible, the coming of the messiah is the culmination of covenantal history. In involves the kingdom of heaven, cosmic upheaval, and judgment. It’s about the “Last Days” and the “End Times.” The messiah is supposed to judge the earth, establish the true worship of God, and convert all of the nations. So that’s what Advent’s all about, the prophecies and expectations around the coming of the messiah.

To really understand Advent, you have to read the Old Testament prophets and especially Isaiah. Isaiah is where almost all of the big messianic prophecies are found. Isaiah is where we are told that a virgin will conceive and bear a son (7:14). Isaiah is where we hear that, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder” (9:6). It is in Isaiah where we are told about the shoot from the stump of Jesse (11:1). Isaiah is where we hear, “Comfort, comfort you my people… tell Jerusalem that her warfare is over” (40:1-2). It is in Isaiah where we hear about the suffering servant of the Lord (42-43), and it is in Isaiah where we are told that God will create a new heavens and a new earth which have no death or sorrow.

This morning we will be looking at Isaiah 2. It is a prophesy about the last days, but it shows us what things look like after the big cataclysmic judgment. It tells us that the messiah will teach all people the law and transform them into peaceful people who walk in the light of the Lord.

The Mountain of the Lord’s House

Isaiah chapter two gives us a picture of the redeemed world. Notice what it says:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it. (Is. 2:2)

The time is “the latter days,” and in those last days, something glorious will happen. God, speaking through Isaiah promises to send all of the nations of the world to “The mountain of the Lord’s house,” and there they will be taught by God and live in harmony. There will be no more war. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (vs. 4), all because the law-word of the Lord will teach them to walk in the light (vs. 3, 5).

But where is this “mountain of the Lord’s House”? What exactly is Isaiah telling us?

The full expression “the mountain of the Lord’s House” only occurs one other time, in Micah 4. That section of Micah is a parallel to this passage of Isaiah, and it repeats the same words nearly exactly. Both Isaiah and Micah tell us the name of this mountain. It’s Mount Zion.

When we look up “Mount Zion,” we find a great many references. In 2 Samuel 5:6, we are told that Zion was a literal place. It was the stronghold or innermost fortress of the city of Jerusalem. Ancient cities were built as series of concentric circles. There’s the outer wall, then perhaps a second wall, and then, in the very center, there’s one more. It’s usually the smallest, the strongest, and the most heavily-guarded. It’s the last refuge in the event of an attack. It’s where the king would retreat, and he could hold out there for a very long time. Zion was the innermost refuge of the city of Jerusalem. This is portrayed in more detail in 1 Chronicles 11:5-8, if you want to see it in real history.

David goes on to install the tabernacle in that location, and it becomes the symbolic location of God’s presence, or God’s house. Later, in Solomon’s day, the temple is built, but it’s not quite the same location. Thus it is interesting to note that “Mount Zion” retains symbolic preeminence.

This “Mount Zion” becomes the theme of many psalms. We are told that God will take up residence there and rule His kingdom. Psalm 2 is just one example:

“Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession.” (Ps. 2:6-8)

When we get to the prophets, Zion is everywhere. It is mentioned 121 times from Isaiah to Malachi, and the consistent picture is that God Himself is going to come to earth and dwell in this place, the stronghold of Zion, and He will spread His kingdom from that place across the whole world. In the last days, the “house of the Lord” will be exalted, and that every nation of the world will come to it to learn God’s ways. God’s kingdom will become worldwide.

Where is Mount Zion Today?  

So this is our expectation. God will dwell in His holy temple, and that temple will somehow spread through the whole earth, converting and teaching the nations so that they submit themselves to the true God and follow after Him. This is part of what the messiah will do, and it is how the world will be redeemed.

Do we see this in the New Testament? Does this “Mount Zion” show up again?

“Mount Zion” is mentioned explicitly in two places in the New Testament, once in Revelation 14, where it’s a reference to God’s dwelling place in heaven, and then again in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Indeed, it’s Hebrews 12 which gives us the best explanation of what exactly “Mount Zion” is now:

You have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore… 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. (Heb. 12:18-24)

So, what is this “Mount Zion”? It’s the church. It is not simply one congregation, nor is it a denomination or even ministerial network or association. It’s the universal church, all believers in both heaven and earth, as they are united together through Jesus. We might say that this is what is called the “invisible church,” but it’s not just an idea or a concept. It is any and every assembling together of believers around the word. Wherever people gather around the word, that is the church. So this worship service this morning is directly connected to this Mount Zion. We may not see it all, but we believe it. We are in heaven, at Mount Zion, meeting God Himself through Jesus Christ.

This also makes sense with what both Jesus and Paul tell us about the Holy Spirit. They say, in various places, that the Holy Spirit will come down and dwell within us. They tell us that God will dwell in us through the Spirit, and Paul says that this makes us the temple. So we, the church, the people of God, are the continuation of the temple on earth. We are the location of God’s presence now, the site from which He spreads His kingdom. And that means we, this morning, are a fulfillment of the prophecies of Zion. God has established His mountain in the church, in us. We are His holy house.

The Church Disciples the Nations

Now, if the church is Zion, then that means it has to fulfill a few key things:

All nations shall flow to it… He will teach us His ways… For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Is. 2:2-4)

How does the church do this? Do we see “all nations” coming to the church? Is the church teaching the word and law of the Lord in such a way as to transform those nations, their lives and behavior? It should be.

The church was given a charge, a commission from Jesus before He left. We recite this every week here at Christ Church. It’s the famous “Great Commission.” But sadly, a great many Christians have reduced this to a much smaller commission than originally given. They simply translate it to mean “Preach the gospel,” by which they tend to mean, “Tell people how to get saved.” But that is not what Jesus says. How does the commission go? Jesus says this:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20)

Now this certainly includes preaching the gospel and explaining salvation, but surely it does not end there. Jesus say that the church must “make disciples,” baptize them, and teach them to observe all of the things that He has commanded. And what were those things that He commanded? Why, all of the previous chapters of Matthew’s gospel! Certainly He has in mind the Sermon on the Mount.

What this means is the moral principles of Christ which ought to transform the way that we live. It needs to do this on an individual level, and, eventual, on a community-wide level. This commission, this discipline of the nations, is how the law of Zion will go out to all of the nations and teach them. Zion reigns as the Church makes disciples. And so that means that both evangelism and discipline are means of establishing the Lord’s holy mountain throughout all of the earth.

This can only “work” as God blesses it and transforms hearts and minds through the power of His Spirit. But we need to see that He does not promise to transform people randomly, just out of the blue. No, God promises to fulfill His “end times” promises through the ordinary ministry of His church. He’s going to do this miraculous work as we preach the gospel, teach people to read their Bibles, and help them live lives of holiness.

Do you know what else? The nations cannot be taught by the church unless the church is first taught itself. We must know what Jesus has commanded us. We must know the law of the Lord. And that’s why Isaiah’s prophecy also says, “O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Is. 2:5).

If we wish to be the means that God teaches the nations and spreads His kingdom, His kingdom must be established in us. Christ must be our sovereign, and we must submit to Him. This means that we must live holy lives. We must look to His word to learn both what to believe and how to live. And we must submit ourselves to what it says.

I’m afraid that there’s been a perversion of the doctrines of grace out there that allows us to avoid having to change our lifestyles. We say to ourselves, “Well, oh yes, of course we are sinners. Of course we can’t keep the law perfectly. And what a good thing that God sees Christ instead of us!” All of that is true, by the way, but this way of saying it also goes on to say, “And therefore all of that moral teaching is just a strong suggestion for us to get to eventually, later in life, nothing to be too worried about right now.” We allow ourselves to live lives of disobedience, to sin so that grace may abound. But this is not the mind of Christ. This is not discipling the nations. This is not establishing the law of Zion. This is mocking Christ and asking for judgment! Anyone who lives this way, who chooses to continue sinning and has no fear of judgment, will be cast out of Christ’s kingdom.

So we must tend to things in their proper order. For Zion to rule the world, it must rule us. Christ must be our king, and we must submit to Him. We must put away sin and walk in the light. We must change our lives and behavior, studying the Scriptures to see what is right. Then, we go out and tell others to do the same.


As this holiday season gives us the occasion to remember and think about the coming of Christ, I want you to think about that in terms of the coming of the messiah. Consider the ways in which Jesus was a fulfillment of those Old Testament prophecies. Think about Advent. And then see the ways in which that messianic work was given to the church. We are the vehicle by which the nations will be brought to Mount Zion and taught God’s law.

And then let us go and proclaim this truth to the world. Let us teach the nations so that they might submit themselves and be baptized into the messiah, into the Christ. “O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord”

Let us pray.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which Thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when He shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through Him who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

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