The Glory of Zion


The Glory of Zion

Isaiah 60

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord shines over you. (Isa 60:1)

Main Idea: The stunning glory of Zion, the heavenly City of God, is revealed in words that soar beyond any earthly fulfillment in the physical city of Jerusalem.

  1. Zion Is Commanded to Arise and Be Glorious (60:1-2).
    1. Zion commanded to arise and shine (60:1)
    2. Zion’s glory a contrast to the darkness of the nations (60:2)
  2. The Nations Are Drawn to the Glory of Zion and Glorify It More (60:3-9).
    1. The magnetic attraction of Zion’s glory (60:3)
    2. Zion’s sons and daughters carried home (60:4,9)
    3. God’s house beautified by the diverse glories of the nations (60:5-9)
  3. Zion Is Increasingly Beautiful as the Riches of the Nations Stream In (60:10-18).
    1. Nations and kings will rebuild Zion (60:10).
    2. God’s wrath will be atoned for (60:10).
    3. Zion’s gates will be eternally open: security and prosperity (60:11,17-18).
    4. All nations who refuse to serve Zion are warned (60:12).
    5. Zion will be beloved and served, no longer hated (60:13-16).
  4. The Eternal Glory of Zion (60:19-22)
    1. Sun and moon are replaced by the glory of God (60:19-20).
    2. The people of God are eternally righteous, to the glory of God (60:21-22).

Zion Is Commanded to Arise and Be Glorious

Isaiah 60:1-2

In this chapter it seems that the Holy Spirit of God overwhelmed Isaiah with words of stunning radiance that flowed through his pen. These words give us an amazing foretaste of the glories of heaven. The chapter is about “Zion” again, for Zion is mentioned clearly in verse 14, and the feminine grammar of verse 1 points to Jerusalem as the bride of God. God commands Zion to arise and shine, showing that only the sovereign power of God through his word can accomplish Zion’s glory. Zion was humiliated by the wrath of God and is in ruins (v. 10). But the work of God the “Savior and Redeemer” (v. 16) is clearly on display and results in an ever-increasing glory that will act with magnetic power on the darkened nations of the world. For Zion to arise and shine is nothing less than a resurrection from the dishonor and guilt of sin and death, accomplished by the sovereign power of the Spirit.

As we have seen before with chapters that speak of the redemption and glory of Zion, an immediate fulfillment is in the restoration of the exiled Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the city and the temple under Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai. But the words soar so far above as to make it obvious that the Lord had something far better in mind. Isaiah employs language his people would have been familiar with concerning the rebuilding of the city and its sanctuary using building materials from the nations. Just as Solomon employed the best craftsmen in the world for felling timber (the Sidonians, 1 Kgs 5:8), so the eternal Zion will also be built with the diverse glories of the nations. So Isaiah 60 has predominantly in view the heavenly Zion of Hebrews 12:22 and the coming new Jerusalem of Revelation 21:9-25. Both are built by the spread of the gospel to every nation on earth, and the flow of their diverse worship radiantly beautifies the heavenly glory of both. The building materials of the new Jerusalem are “living stones” (1 Pet 2:5) quarried from Satan’s dark kingdom (Isa 60:2, “darkness will cover the earth, and total darkness the peoples”) from every culture on earth, and irradiated by the gospel for eternal glory. No chapter so clearly celebrates the rich diversity of ethnic heavenly worship as does Isaiah 60.

The Nations Are Drawn to the Glory of Zion and Glorify It More

Isaiah 60:3-9

The magnetic draw on the elect from every nation is the existing glory of God seen in the church on earth and in the promises of God in Scripture. As missionaries bring the gospel to a new region and some of its people believe and begin loving each other, living holy, and worshiping God by the Spirit, the unconverted elect in that region will see the light of Zion’s glory in their lives and in the words of Scripture, and they will come to the light of Christ. Nations will come to Zion’s light and kings to the brightness of her radiance (v. 3). Zion will look up and see the streaming of the nations as more and more of the elect come to Christ. Zion’s heart will tremble with joy at the success of the gospel and the stunning diversity of cultural patterns of worship that the nations will bring with them through the gates of Zion. No religion is so embracing of nonmoral diversity as is true Christianity. Islam seeks to export Arabic culture everywhere, but Christianity celebrates the amazingly diverse ways genuine converts have worshiped Christ.

So the sons and daughters of Zion will be carried on the hip to Zion (v. 4), and caravans of camels will bring the riches of the nations into the city. Marvelously, offerings are accepted from Kedar and Nebaioth the sons of Ishmael, the father of the Arab nations (Gen 25:13). Though Ishmael was the son of the slave woman (Gal 4:22-25), cast out and a model for the nonelect in Romans 9:7-9, yet some of Ishmael’s descendants are included in the harvest from every people group on earth (Rev 7:9). Thus, missionaries boldly seek to reach Muslims in Arabia, knowing that though some will violently persecute, others will stunningly be saved.

Zion Is Increasingly Beautiful as the Riches of the Nations Stream In

Isaiah 60:10-18

The glory of Zion keeps increasing as the chapter unfolds. Foreigners will take an active role in rebuilding this eternal city, and kings will humble themselves to serve her. The image of gates standing open day and night to receive the streaming of wealth from the nations far exceeds any assistance Cyrus or Artaxerxes gave to the Jews. These open gates are a picture of total security and of overwhelming prosperity, “the wealth of nations” being brought into Zion, even with their kings led in procession (v. 11). The continual success of the gospel will make Zion more and more prosperous, more and more glorious. God promises that the “glory of Lebanon” will come to beautify the place of God’s sanctuary. In Solomon’s day King Hiram of Tyre had his skillful woodsmen hew down the cedars of Lebanon and float them to port cities in Israel for the building of God’s house (1 Kgs 5:8-10). Now God is interested in human beings—Lebanese souls, won to Christ by courageous witnesses.

In the center of this chapter, however, is a stern warning to all nations on the face of the earth concerning Zion. In verse 12 God warns that any nation that will not serve Zion will eternally perish; those nations will be annihilated. During this present age of gospel advance, many rulers and nations use their temporal power to resist the church of Jesus Christ and the spread of his gospel. But just as in Psalm 2, those kings and nations are warned that they must repent and serve the Son, lest his anger ignite in a moment and they be destroyed in their rebellion (vv. 10-12). In the final state of Zion, the new Jerusalem will have no enemies left, for all who refused to serve Christ will be in everlasting torment in the lake of fire (Rev 21:8). Thus will her gates always stand open, and the redeemed will continually bring the glory of the nations into the eternal city (Rev 21:25).

In the end Zion will be infinitely better than anything this earth has ever seen. Solomon’s Jerusalem was stunningly beautiful, adorned with the best materials money could buy. He made golden shields to hang in the royal palace. But when his foolish son, Rehoboam, took his place, God raised up an Egyptian army who carried off the treasures of the city, including the golden shields. So Rehoboam made bronze ones to replace them (1 Kgs 14:25-27). But in Isaiah 60:17 the process is eternally reversed. Everything will be immeasurably improved in the new Jerusalem: gold instead of bronze, silver instead of iron, bronze instead of wood, iron instead of stones. That is to say, words can’t describe how glorious the eternal city will be. The walls of the city will be named “Salvation,” and her gates will be called “Praise” (v. 18).

The Eternal Glory of Zion

Isaiah 60:19-22

The chapter ends with a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem not at all different from the vision the apostle John had on the island of Patmos. Revelation 21–22 concludes the Bible with a stunning depiction of the new Jerusalem, adorned like a bride for her husband, radiant with the glory of God: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the Lamb” (Rev 21:23). The same prediction is made here in Isaiah 60. In this present age the sun sets, bringing darkness; the moon wanes, depriving the earth of its gentle beams. But the glory of God will never set or wane, and the new Jerusalem will be radiant with God’s glory at every moment. This is the eternal destiny of Zion, for verses 19-20 speak of the glory of the Lord as her “everlasting light,” and verse 21 speaks of perfect righteousness and eternal possession of the land.


God means for his suffering people to renew their hope every single day by meditating intently on the present and coming glory of Zion. We should read Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21–22 again and again and remind ourselves of how magnificent that city is now (in the heavenly realms) and how glorious it will be (in the future new earth). Only faith can see either glory, so we must be regularly in the Word, drinking in the promises of God. As we are radiant in hope, we will be magnetically attractive to lost people who are walking in satanic darkness (v. 2) and who are without hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:12). If we shine with hope while suffering afflictions (like disease) or persecutions or deprivations, unbelievers will be strongly motivated to ask us to give a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Pet 3:15). But if we grow weak in faith through neglect of the Word, we will live much the same as they do.

We should also embrace the missionary thrust of this chapter. The wealth of the nations streaming through the gates of Zion represents the astonishing diversity of cultures worshiping Christ by faith. We should delight in that and move out for the sake of unreached people groups. We should meditate on the significance of Ishmael’s sons (Kedar and Nebaoith) giving offerings acceptable to God. We should expect God to save many Arab Muslims, despite the overwhelming obstacles. And when it comes to the diverse nonmoral aspects of their worship, we should allow it to push us out of our own arrogant cultural superiority when it comes to patterns of worship. Too many local churches have “worship wars,” and people assert that this or that pattern of music is the only way to worship. Isaiah 60 should cause us to be more expansive, for God delights in far more forms of worship than you or I do.

Reflect and Discuss

  1. What does the presence of the strong commands “Arise, shine” tell us about the sovereign power of God in the glory of Zion?
  2. How are the nations in darkness now, according to verse 2? How does it relate to Ephesians 2:1-3? How is the gospel’s light the only answer to this satanic darkness?
  3. This chapter is filled with the image of Gentile nations and their kings streaming into Zion’s gates with amazing treasures to enrich Zion. How is this a picture of the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth?
  4. How could the specific mention of Nebaioth and Kedar, Ishamel’s sons, in Isaiah 60:7 (cf. Gen 25:13) give us a great encouragement about missions to Arab Muslims?
  5. In what ways do “foreigners rebuild [the] walls” of Zion now, if Zion is a heavenly city? How do kings serve Zion now (v. 10)?
  6. How does the fruit of Christ’s atonement for the inhabitants of Zion come across in verse 10?
  7. What is the terrible warning in verse 12? How do some kings use their temporal power to hinder the church?
  8. How does verse 14 show the amazing transforming power of the gospel?
  9. What similarities do you see between Isaiah 60:19-22 and Revelation 21:9-25?
  10. How does the radiant glory of Zion relate to our own resurrection glory, as in Matthew 13:43 and 1 Corinthians 15:43?