The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwellwith everlasting burnings? (Isaiah 33:14)

There are two kinds of persons among God’s professing people: the one, those who are truly godly, spoken of in the verse following the text, “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly” (Isa 33:15a). The other kind consists of “sinners in Zion” or hypocrites. It is to be observed that the Prophet in this chapter speaks interchangeably, first to the one and then to the other of these characters of men, awfully threatening and denouncing the wrath of God against the one and comforting the other with gracious promises.

It may be inquired, “Who are the sinners in Zion?” I answer, “They are those who are in a natural condition among the visible people of God.” Zion, or the city of David of old, was a type of the church; and the church of God in Scripture is perhaps more frequently called by the name of Zion than by any other name. And commonly by Zion is meant the true church of Christ, or the invisible church of true saints. But sometimes by this name is meant the visible church, consisting of those who are outwardly, by profession and external privileges, the people of God. This is intended by Zion in this text.

The greater part of the world are sinners: Christ’s flock is and ever hath been but a little flock. And the sinners of the world are of two sorts: those who are visibly of Satan’s kingdom, who are without the pale of the visible church; and those who do not profess the true religion nor attend the external ordinances of it. Beside these there are the sinners in Zion. Both are the objects of the displeasure and wrath of God; but His wrath is more especially manifested in Scripture against the latter. Sinners in Zion will have by far the lowest place in hell. They are exalted nearest to heaven in this world, and they will be lowest in hell in another. The same is meant by hypocrites. Sinners in Zion are all hypocrites, for they make a profession of the true religion. They attend God’s ordinances and make a show of being the worshippers of God; but all is hypocrisy.

They will hereafter be afraid: now many of them seem to have little or no fear. They are quiet and secure. Nothing will awaken them: the most awful threatenings and the loudest warnings do not much move them. They are not so much moved with them, but they can eat, and drink, and sleep, and go about their worldly concerns without much disturbance….Though now preaching will not awaken them, and the death of others will not make them afraid; though seeing others awakened and converted will not much affect them…yet the time will come, when they will be awakened and fear will take hold of them.

They will be surprised with fear: this seems to imply two things, viz., the greatness of their fear and the suddenness of it. (Online source)

Jonathan Edwards