“The mystery of God is not in what is going to be— it is now, though we look for it to be revealed in the future in some overwhelming, momentous event.”
And he continues with, “Realize that the Lord is here now, and the freedom you receive is immediate.”
This makes me think of all the final verses of many of our most celebrated Church hymns. So many of them sing about finally being in heaven with God after we’re dead, or seeing God’s glory finally descending to earth with the “second coming”.
Final verse of “Amazing Grace”. Words by John Newton, 1779:
When we’ve been there 10,000 years
Bright shining as the sun
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun
Last verse of “Be Thou My Vision” by Eleanor Hull & Mary E. Byrne (1912) possibly reworking Irish lyrics from the 6th to 8th Century by Saint Dallan.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
And it’s a thought that’s started to show up in newer songs too! Here’s the last verse of “Bless The Lord (10,000 Reasons)” with words by Matt Redman & Jonas Myrin © 2011.
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Soon my soul will sing Your praise unending
10,000 years and there forever more
Or re-invented old lyrics in newer songs like “Cornerstone” (2011 from Hillsong) using words from Edward Mote’s 1834 hymn known as “The Solid Rock” or “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”.
When He shall come with trumpet sound
Oh may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne
These are wonderful, poetic verses and worth singing, for sure. There is solid Biblical teaching that there is an eternity with God for true believers to look forward to. But when most of these lyrics were written, life was a lot tougher than we experience today. Pain, suffering and death were much more common and a part of everyday life for people in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries. I can imagine how the thought of an end to this earthly existence and being with Heavenly Father in His glory was very attractive. Singing these verses, often with a highly emotive key change, helped inspire people to continue the struggle.
However, I am concerned that the unthinking, unbalanced singing of these verses today may contribute to the ease with which the many “pew-warming” Sunday-Christians are lulled into the false sense that we are waiting around for God’s-Kingdom-Come rather than realizing more fully that we have a role to play: To be conduits for God’s Kingdom to Come here and now!