We pick up things this afternoon
where we left off this morning. Therefore, I turn you again to
the letter to the Hebrews, verse 1: “God, having of old time
spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions and in
divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in
His Son Whom He appointed heir of all things.” Will you just
remember that last clause: “His Son Whom He appointed heir
of all things.”
Now to chapter 12 and we’ll
just begin at verse 22. We have seen all the things which are
gathered under the word “not”, you are not come
unto quite a lot of things. “But ye are come
unto mount Zion and unto the City of the living God, the heavenly
Now will you please turn with me
right back to the Old Testament, to the prophecies of Isaiah,
chapter 34 at verse 8: “For it is the day of the Lord’s
vengeance, the year of recompense in the controversy of Zion.”
The controversy of Zion... please remember that
Chapter 31, Isaiah chapter 31,
at verse 4: “For thus saith the Lord unto me, like as when
the lion growleth and the young lion over his prey, if a
multitude of shepherds be called forth against him, he will not
be dismayed at their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of
them: so shall the Lord of hosts come down to fight upon mount
Will you just pick up the
fragments: ye are come to mount Zion; the controversy of Zion;
the Lord of hosts shall come down to fight on mount Zion.
Now to the book of the Psalms,
the second psalm, “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples
imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and
the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against
His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast
away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall
laugh: The Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak
unto them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure: yet
have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion.”
I have set My King upon My holy
hill of Zion... Whom He appointed heir of all things... and, ye
are come to Zion.
This is the Word of God. It is
not my word, this is in the Bible, it is in the New Testament. It
must mean something and it is for us to find out what it means.
Ye are come to Zion, not you’re going to come to
Zion. Not you Jews used to come to Zion, but: you Christians have
now come to Zion. You, here in this room this afternoon,
have come to Zion. It is not the old Zion, the Zion of the Old
Testament. It is the new Zion. You are not come to that but
you are come to this. We did try this morning to see something of
what Zion means.
Zion, of course, is the true
Church and the true Church is the City of the living God. The
true Church is the place where Jesus Christ is Lord. Wherever
Jesus Christ is truly Lord amongst a people, that is Zion. But I
put a circle round that word “true”. The true
Church. All that is called the church is not the true
Church. What the Word is speaking about here is about that true
Church. You notice in this whole statement it says you are come
to the Church of the First born ones, that is, the truly born
again ones, born from above. And it goes on to say, “Whose
names are enrolled in heaven,” and only heaven knows whose
names are enrolled there. I think we shall get some surprises
when we get to heaven, we shall look at some people, we shall
say, “You? Here?! How did you get here?” Alright, we’ll
Now the point for this afternoon
is this controversy of Zion. You will notice that the terms
“Jerusalem” and “Zion” are interchangeable.
They are used as though they were the same thing. If there is any
difference, it is this: Zion embodies the intrinsic values
of Jerusalem. It is as though all the true meanings of Jerusalem
are gathered up into Zion. The old Jerusalem of the Old Testament
is an illustration in principle of the new Jerusalem of the New
Testament. Of course, as we have seen, it is a transition from
the earthly to the heavenly, from the temporal to the spiritual,
from the time to the eternity.
This New Testament Zion is a
heavenly thing; not an earthly thing. It is a spiritual thing and
not a temporal thing. Well, I think we all understand that. But
we look back at Jerusalem... do you know Jerusalem has been an
eternal thought of God? God has always had Jerusalem in His mind
as a thought but the earthly Jerusalem never fulfilled the
thought of God. It was only a type of the heavenly
I wonder if you have ever
noticed a rather impressive thing. When the Lord got Israel out
of Egypt, and got them through the Red Sea, right there they sang
a song. And do you notice what the song says? “He brought
them out that He might bring them unto His holy hill.”
Already, many, many years before ever they came to Jerusalem, God
had it in His thought. But even then the earthly Jerusalem never
fulfilled the full thought of God. Even Abraham looked for a city
but he never found it. And he looked beyond time to eternity, he
saw in his spirit that eternal city of God Whose builder and
maker is God.
Now let us look at the old
Jerusalem as a type of the new Jerusalem, the old Jerusalem as a
type of what we have come to. Do not get mental pictures
of some place in the future. We sing hymns about marching upward
to Zion, we’re on our way to Jerusalem. Well, that’s
not Scriptural! We have come to Zion, the heavenly
Looking at this earthly
Jerusalem, one thing about it impresses us very much: its long
history of conflict. Jerusalem has always been a point of
controversy. It’s always been a trouble in the nations. How
very many times Jerusalem has been besieged! How many times the
nations have come up against Jerusalem. Sometimes they have
destroyed it, sometimes the Lord has defeated them, but it has
always been a point of controversy.
Jerusalem seems to have been the
storm center of history. But Jerusalem has always been a sign of
spiritual conditions. If the spiritual condition of Jerusalem was right, Jerusalem was in the ascendant. No nation could overcome Jerusalem when they were spiritually right. It was when the spiritual life of Jerusalem was wrong that Jerusalem was overrun. The history of Jerusalem has been like a
spiritual see-saw. If the spiritual life of Israel was low,
Jerusalem was in weakness. If the spiritual life of Jerusalem was
right, the spiritual Jerusalem was on top. I hope you’re
collecting all these things as we go along because they’re
coming to our message.
This battle over Jerusalem has
been a lifelong battle and it has been a battle, therefore, over spiritual
life. Now, you are, we are, come to Zion and this thing that
we have come to in Christ is a point of tremendous
controversy. There is a great battle on over the heavenly
I suppose most of us Christians
know that we’re in a spiritual battle, of course if you don’t
know anything about that then I have nothing to say to you this
afternoon. Is there anyone here this afternoon who knows nothing
about spiritual warfare? When they have come into Jesus Christ,
they have come into a real spiritual battle. Is that true? I
think we are knowing something about that. What does it mean?
Just what Zion means. The nations rage, people are moved, it’s
against Zion. “Yet have I set My King upon my holy hill of
Zion... Whom He appointed heir of all things.” Oh,
that opens a large door!
There was one who said, “I
will exalt my throne in the heavens, I will be equal with
the Most High.” In other words, “I will sit upon
the holy Zion. I will be heir of all things. I will
be the prince of this world.” You know who that one was, the
Bible tells you, that was satan before he fell from heaven.
Because God had already appointed His Son heir of all things,
anyone who challenged the place of God’s Son had to be cast
out. And so satan and all those who were with him were cast out.
But they have never given up the fight for that place. They, if
they can by any means, are going to occupy the place of the Lord
Jesus, they are going to capture His place in Zion.
What does Zion mean then? Let us
change our language: what does the true Church mean? If we are of
the true Church by heavenly birth, what do we mean? We just mean
that we are an abiding menace to the evil power. The controversy
of Zion is this: who is going to be above all in the end? Who is
going to govern all things and fill all things in the end? That’s
the occasion of the warfare.
The Word of God shows us that it
is the Church united with Jesus Christ as its Head which is going
to govern this universe. The Church is going to take the place
that the evil powers now have over this world. You see, the Word
is, “The appointed heir of all things.” That
doesn’t leave anything for anyone else. Satan therefore,
stands to lose everything. And if the Church comes to the place
that God has appointed for it in Christ, satan’s going to
lose everything. That, then, is the controversy of Zion.
What is the nature of this
warfare? What is it that is against Zion - this true, spiritual
thing, this true heavenly thing, this true eternal thing - what
is the nature of the conflict? How does the enemy work to defeat
Zion? First of all, he uses the carnal nature of man. What do we
mean by carnal? Well, of course the first letter to the
Corinthians tells us what that is.
There are two things in that
letter, these two things are over against one another: the carnal
– the spiritual. These two things are in conflict. Now, what
is the nature and meaning of the carnal? And in this way we are all
more or less carnal, we are all less or more spiritual.
What do we mean by that? Well I’ll tell you very simply. Do
you have any difficulty in accepting and believing in the
superiority of the spiritual, the far greater importance of the
spiritual to the natural? Do you have any difficulty over that?
Is it not man’s very nature now to want to see
things, want to feel things, want to handle things?
The greatest difficulty of the natural man is to believe that the
spiritual is far greater than the natural.
This natural way of our
nature is always wanting to put something up on this earth that
we can see. Our natural idea of success is how big a thing is.
Just how much people can say, “Well, look at that! That’s
a success!” So a material thing on this earth just satisfies
the natural man, the flesh. The natural man just must have
something that he can see. He must have something that he can
feel! He must have a demonstration of things. He must have signs
and wonders. He must have manifestations. There’s a lot
contained in that isn’t there?
Oh, how we Christians just love
to have demonstrations! If you have signs and wonders and things
that look like miracles, well, that’s success; we say,
“Now this is it!” That’s a real characteristic of
the natural man and we are meeting more of that today than ever
before. The Corinthian church was the most unspiritual
church of all. And the mark of its unspirituality was its love of
demonstrations - this natural life which loves to see and feel
something... which loves to point to something on this earth and
say, “Now you see, that’s a success! That is really a
big thing.” And how difficult it is to believe that
something quite small may after all be the more real thing than
The battle for Zion is the
battle between what is spiritual and what is carnal. We’re
all in this battle and this is something that you must remember:
the further we go with the Lord, the older we are in the true
Christian life, the less the Lord satisfies our natural life.
When we are little children
spiritually, the Lord deals with us as little children. And how
do you parents deal with your little children? The little child
says Mummy or Daddy I want so-and-so. And if they will only say
it often enough you will give it to them just to keep them quiet;
just to please them, because after all, they’re little
children... In the early stages of the Christian life that is how
our Father deals with us.
The apostle Paul said to the
Corinthians, “I could not, could not speak to you as
grown men but as little children,” and a mark of their being
little children was that the Lord gave them many spiritual gifts.
He gave them the gift of tongues, the gift of healing and other
gifts. Oh, these are very nice things for little children, they
satisfy the little child’s life and Father just gives them.
You grow up and see what
happens! When we are coming to full growth we find that we have
to live by faith and not by sight. We have to believe God because
He is and not because of what He gives us. The older we get
spiritually, the less the Lord deals with us as little children.
He deals with us as grown men. Paul said, “When I was a
child, I behaved as a child, I thought as a child, I spoke as a
child. When I became a man I put away childish things.” But
that sets up a good deal of conflict doesn’t it?
Oh, the Lord is not doing what
He used to do, “There was a time when I seemed to have only
to ask the Lord and He gave it to me, oh, it was so wonderful...
What has happened to me? I pray and the Lord doesn’t seem to
even hear me. I ask the Lord for a lot of things and He doesn’t
give them to me. What has gone wrong?” And the conflict is
on. A real spiritual battle isn’t it, why the Lord is
dealing with us like this.
You know we’re in Hebrews
still, “God dealeth with you as with sons,” not
children. The New Testament draws a clear distinction between
children and sons. Children are the little born again ones. Sons
are the grown up ones. God deals with you as with sons. And these
people to whom this letter was written were having a very
difficult time and this letter was written to try and help them
in their difficulties because God was dealing with them as grown
I wonder if I’ve said
enough to make clear what the controversy of Zion is in the first
place. Is this not true: the real battle is between our natural
life and our spiritual life, between my old man and my new man,
between my earthly life and my heavenly life. That is the
controversy of Zion because it is all concerned with our
spiritual life because Zion is a spiritual thing and it is
this spiritual thing that is going, in the end, to take the
throne. The controversy of Zion... first between the natural and
The second thing, between:
Traditional and the Spiritual.
Where do we Christians who
really want to go on with the Lord find our greatest difficulty?
Am I going to say a very terrible thing? We do not find in
the first place that our greatest difficulty is with the
world. True spirituality has its battle mainly against traditional
When the Lord first showed this
to me and I went all out in heart for something really spiritual
of the Lord, something really heavenly, I thought - I foolishly
thought! – “Why, then all the Christians, the
evangelical Christians, will take sides with me! My, they will be
inviting me to speak at their conventions, to preach in their
churches! I’m sure this is what they want!” There was
no more foolish man on this earth than I was then! I found that
the doors of all the churches just closed! I found that all the
suspicion and misunderstanding and the opposition came from
There’s no doubt about it,
we may as well be perfectly honest; if we are going right on with
the Lord, we are not going to find that traditional Christianity
supports us. Rather will it be against us and all the
misunderstanding, all the misrepresentation, all the suspicion;
all that, will come from the Christian church. You’ll not be
able to do anything but what they’ll give a wrong
interpretation to it. Well, I could tell you a lot about that,
but it’s very true.
Well, aren’t we still in
the Bible? In the New Testament you have this controversy of
Zion, but it is between true Christianity and Judaism. If the
apostles thought that Judaism was going to come alongside of
them, they made a very great mistake. Judaism was the traditional
religion. It was deeply rooted in history. It had a long history
and this is the thing, and the Jews said, “This is it.”
Now look at the conflict between the apostles and Judaism;
between the new Israel and the old Israel, between Christianity
and established religion.
The apostle Paul gives us
several long lists of the things which he suffered. He was in
prison often, he says he was beaten with rods. Oh, we read the
story of his journeys from city to city and country to country
and the Lord had said to him that in every place persecutions
awaited him. Where did it all come from? It came from traditional
religion. It came from the Judaizers. It came from the old
Israel. Everywhere that he went they followed him and stirred up
You know, traditional
Christianity can be a very, very strong thing against
spirituality. If you’re really going on with the Lord they
may put you out; cast you out as an evil thing. This is the
controversy of Zion.
Then we come to another aspect
of this controversy. That is:
with the World.
I wonder if you see what’s
happening now. Do you notice that missionary work as it has been,
has almost come to an end? It has been turned out of China. It
has been turned out of Russia. It is being turned out of India,
it is almost impossible for a missionary to return to India now.
This is spreading over the world. It is becoming more and more
difficult for the Gospel of Christ to go out; that is, in the way
that it has been for hundreds of years. It seems that there’s
a great power at work to bring an end to the testimony of Jesus,
to bring an end to the true spiritual Church.
If the Lord brings together a
little company of true believers, something very precious to
Himself, a real representation of Zion, does not the enemy set
himself to break that up; bring in every difficulty to bring that
thing to an end? There’s a great world power against
what is of Jesus Christ. The world is not only a place, it’s
a spiritual thing. It’s a spiritual power which is against
Christ and against all that represents Christ and we are in
There’s another aspect of
this which is very interesting. This controversy of Zion spoken
of by Isaiah is very interesting. Well, let’s go back shall
we, to Egypt; Israel in Egypt for four hundred years. When the
Lord had got Israel to a place where He could bring them out,
what happened? A whole series of convulsions began in Egypt.
Everything in Egypt began to work in a way where it was being
torn to pieces. A great battle was going on. We say a battle
against Pharaoh and the Egyptians but the Scripture says against
all the gods of the Egyptians. Behind Pharaoh and the
Egyptians there was a spiritual system and that spiritual power
was keeping Israel in bondage. Now to get Israel out, all these
tremendous things began to happen in Egypt. Egypt was being
thrown into confusion, was being broken up; just convulsions
taking place. Out of all that the Lord brought Israel.
Do you know the same thing
happened in Babylon? When Israel had gone into captivity in
Babylon and they were there for seventy years, the word of the
prophet was this: “For your sake I have sent to
Babylon and have brought down all their high ones.”
Now you look at the story of the return of Israel from Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar... wonderful, great, important man in his own
eyes, Nebuchadnezzar who said, “See this great Babylon that
I have made!” Alright Nebuchadnezzar... Belshazzar...
Darius... Ahasuerus. These are all the “great ones” and
the Lord overthrew every one of them; a whole series of
destructions, a whole series of disintegrations. Why was it all?
What’s the explanation? God has a people there and to get
that people out, He will throw whole empires to destruction.
What about today? All that was
the old time controversy of Zion... why all the
convulsions in this world today? Are there convulsions in this
world? Are there convulsions in nature? Are there convulsions in
industry? Are there convulsions in education? In society? Why,
this world is in a state of convulsion. Is it true? Why? God has
a people... and He is going to get that people out. But it is a tremendous
battle to get people out. The whole world power of satan
is against this people being taken out to Zion, to the
heavenly Jerusalem the spiritual Church, to come to the place of
God has a controversy with the
nations and He is in battle with the nations because of this
people. It’s very true. Well, if you read your Bible, your
New Testament, you will see that just before the Church is
raptured to heaven there is a tremendous and terrible state of
conflict on this earth. “Woe unto you that dwelleth on the
earth because satan has come down with great wrath because he
knows that his time is short.” His time is short!
What time? The time when he has power over this earth, it’s
going to be taken away from him. It is going to be given to this
I think the Lord is dealing with
this world very much as He dealt with the big fish that swallowed
Jonah. I think the fish had a bad attack of indigestion! The poor
fish said “Oh, let me get rid of this!” and so the fish
spewed out Jonah and I think that’s how it is in the world.
The world is being troubled by us. Zion is a nuisance to this
world and this world and the prince of this world says, “Let’s
get rid of them!” It’ll be a fine time when we are
spewed out! Of course satan doesn’t mean that, he just wants
to get rid of us out of his world. But when we do go out
it’ll be an end of his world. We are not going out onto the
earth, we’re going out to glory, so the word is, “Lift
up your heads your redemption draweth nigh”. But what is the
immediate context of those words? Distress of nations. The Greek
is: “no way out for the nations”. Lift up your heads,
your way out draws near. The statement is, “Men’s
hearts failing them for fear,” fear of the terrible things
which are coming on the earth. Then, the Lord says, your way out
is near. In the meantime it’s the controversy of Zion.
You see dear friends, true
spiritual life is a very vital thing. Going on to full
growth as this letter says, is a tremendous thing because the
letter finishes upon receiving the kingdom which cannot be
shaken. That word “kingdom” just means “the
sovereign rule”. The sovereign rule which cannot be shaken.
We are come to that. But see, it all bears down upon the
spiritual life and the controversy of Zion is the battle over
Now, though it’s taken two
men to say all that, it wants hundreds of men to say it all. Our
difficulty is just to get it all over. But I do trust that in
these few hours we’ve had together, the Lord has shown us
something. I trust that you have been able to see what it is the
Lord is after. This is not all just objective teaching, we are in
this spiritual battle; it is the battle for Zion. That is the
battle for that which is going, in the end, to take the kingdom
and reign. The Lord help us to go on. Amen.