Singing our way home

Thou New Jerusalem

Thou New Jerusalem, arise and shine!
The glory of the Lord on thee hath risen!
Zion, exult! Rejoice with joy divine,
Mother of God! Thy Son hath burst His prison!
O heavenly Voice! O word of purest love!
Lo! I am with you always to the end!

This is the anchor, steadfast from above,
The golden anchor, whence our hopes depend.
O CHRIST, our Pascha [Passover lamb]! greatest, holiest, best!
God’s Word and Wisdom and effectual Might!
Thy fuller, lovelier presence manifest,
In that eternal realm that knows no night!

—John of Damascus, 500s, translated by John Mason Neale

Jerusalem the golden

Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not, what joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare. . . .
There is the throne of David, and there, from care released,
The shout of them that triumph, the song of them that feast;
And they, who with their Leader, have conquered in the fight,
Forever and forever are clad in robes of white.
O sweet and blessèd country, the home of God’s elect!
O sweet and blessèd country that eager hearts expect!

—Bernard of Morlaix, 1146, translated by John Mason Neale

 

O quanta qualia

O what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessèd ones see;
Crown for the valiant, to weary ones, rest;
God shall be all, and in all ever blessed….
There, where no troubles distraction can bring,
We the sweet anthems of Zion shall sing;
While for Thy grace, Lord, their voices of praise
Thy blessèd people eternally raise.

—Peter Abelard, 1100s, translated by John Mason Neale

Wake, awake, for night is flying

Now let all the heavens adore Thee,
And saints and angels sing before Thee,
With harp and cymbal’s clearest tone;
Of one pearl each shining portal,
Where we are with the choir immortal
Of angels round Thy dazzling throne;
Nor eye hath seen, nor ear hath yet attained to hear
What there is ours, but we rejoice and sing to Thee
Our hymn of joy eternally.

—Phillip Nicolai, 1599, translated by Catherine Winkworth

Come we, that love the Lord

The hill of Zion yields a thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav’nly fields or walk the golden streets.
Then let our songs abound and every tear be dry;
We’re marching through Immanuel’s ground, to fairer worlds on high.

—Isaac Watts, 1707

Come, let us join our friends above

Come, let us join our friends above, who have obtained the prize,
And on the eagle wings of love to joys celestial rise.
Let saints on earth unite to sing with those to glory gone,
For all the servants of our King in earth and heaven are one.
One family we dwell in Him, one church above, beneath,
Though now divided by the stream, the narrow stream of death;
One army of the living God, to His command we bow;
Part of His host have crossed the flood, and part are crossing now.

—Charles Wesley, 1759

Glorious things of thee are spoken

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose Word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for His own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.
See! the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.

— John Newton, 1779

Swing low, sweet chariot

Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home;
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Coming for to carry me home.
I looked over Jordan; what did I see
Coming for to carry me home?
A band of angels coming after me,
Coming for to carry me home.

—Nineteenth-century African American spiritual, credited to Wallace Willis

Shall we gather at the river?

Shall we gather at the river,
Where bright angel feet have trod,
With its crystal tide forever
Flowing by the throne of God?
Yes, we’ll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God.
Ere we reach the shining river,
Lay we every burden down;
Grace our spirits will deliver,
And provide a robe and crown.

—Robert Lowry, 1864 (see “Did you know?,” inside the front cover for more on this hymn’s writing.)

Hymn of promise

In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

—Natalie Sleeth; taken from “Hymn of Promise” © 1986 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission. CH


By The Editors and hymn writers through the ages

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #112 in 2014]

Next articles

Can heaven wait?

Images of heaven in popular culture

The editors

Life after life after death

Christian History talks about the resurrection with N. T. Wright, author of Surprised by Hope

N. T. Wright

Recommended resources

Learn more about the long history of Christian reflection on heaven and put today’s “heaven headlines” into context with resources recommended by CH editorial staff and this issue’s contributors

The editors

The forgotten Inkling

Owen Barfield (1898-1997) insisted on the imagination as a road to truth. It profoundly changed his friends—and through them, us

Edwin Woodruff Tait
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Issue 112

Christian History Magazine #112 - Heaven

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