It is a well-known fact that Jesus, according to the synoptic gospels, expected “the renewal of all things,” when the Son of Man would be seated on his throne of glory, and his twelve followers would sit on twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28 // Luke 22:28, 30b). It is not surprising that the question topmost in the minds of the eleven in the interval after his death by crucifixion in which Jesus appeared to them, is when he, whom God had made Lord and Messiah (Acts 2:36), would restore the kingdom of Israel (Acts 1:6).
These hopes are rooted in Daniel 7:9-14, 27. It is not stated in Daniel where the headquarters of the kingdom of the Son of Man would be; that it would be Zion is easily deduced from a combination of other passages, such as Isaiah 2:2-5; Amos 9:11-15; and Obadiah 15-21. Thus it should come as no surprise that Paul states that salvation history is destined to conclude with an event that originates in Zion:
καὶ οὕτως πᾶς Ἰσραὴλ σωθήσεται
ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ῥυόμενος
ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβ
καὶ αὕτη αὐτοῖς ἡ παρ' ἐμοῦ διαθήκη
ὅταν ἀφέλωμαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν
So all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “A Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them, when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:26-27)
Paul alludes elsewhere to related hopes:
ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν
ἡ γὰρ ἀποκαραδοκία τῆς κτίσεως τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν τῶν υἱῶν τοῦ θεοῦ ἀπεκδέχεται
Do you not know that the
saints will judge the world? (1 Corinthians 6:2)
For creation awaits with intense anticipation the manifestation (‘apocalypse’) of the sons of God (Romans 8:19)
It is better known that in the Apocalypse of John chapter 20, the time of judgment by saints on thrones is situated in a millennium, a period of a thousand years.
It bothers people that Jesus, Paul, and the early Christians generally differed little in the extent of their this-worldly hopes vis-à-vis other Jewish movements of the time. To be sure, there is tremendous variation in detail (and John 4:21-24, for example, is an outlier relative to the New Testament strands cited above). It has seemed best to many to downplay the focus on Zion that so many passages of promise have in scripture. I would suggest that the opposite move would bring us closer to the beating heart of the message of the Hebrew Bible. Surely Jon Levenson was onto something when he identified Sinai (that is, Torah) and Zion as the two poles around which the hopes and fears of ancient Israel were coordinated.
To be sure, the caricature of biblical Zionism and eschatology advanced by the Hal Lindseys of our day have convinced many that the this-worldly horizon of hope of biblical literature is to be tossed aside as so much ancient detritus. On this view, anyone who prays with conviction, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” must be some sort of nutcase. But is it even possible to live without a this-worldly horizon of hope? Surely the only question is: in what might that hope consist? Perhaps the new-found slogan, "We are the ones we've been waiting for" impresses you. It is not too difficult to predict that its shelf-life is not going to amount to much.
As the eye continues to look toward Zion, the delineation of a credible eschatology of hope remains an urgent task. Jürgen Moltmann understood this. I wish the task were front and center in theology today.
Jon Levenson, Sinai and Zion: An Entry in the Jewish Bible (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1987); Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology (London: SCM, 1967); Marius Reiser, Jesus and Judgment: The Eschatological Proclamation in Its Jewish Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997)