"Sing with all the saints in glory, Sing the resurrection song! Death and sorrow, earth's dark story, To the former days belong. All around the clouds are breaking; Soon the storms of time shall cease; In God's likeness, we awaken, Knowing everlasting peace.
"O what glory, far exceeding, All that eye has yet perceived! Holiest hearts for ages pleading, Never that full joy conceived. God has promised, Christ prepares it; There on high our welcome waits. Every humble spirit shares it, Christ has passed the eternal gates."
Not everyone knows that hymns typically have one or more biblical texts that serve as both anchor and inspiration to the hymn-writer. This one in particular draws insight from four different texts: Revelation 7:9-17 and 21:1-5; 1 Corinthians 2:9; and John 14:1-3. Singing with all the saints in glory: that's the visual 19th-century co-hymn-writer William J. Irons took away as his big image for this song.
While being in the presence of God in heaven must be every fantastic adjective one could ever think of, it still seems words fall flat when we actually try to describe it. Popular phrases like "streets of gold," "heavenly mansions," or "everlasting paradise" create a mental image of sorts, but they quickly become vague and subjective. On the other hand, to say that "It sure won't be boring," or "It'll be more fun than the best party you ever attended" sound like ham-handed sales pitches.
The truth is we don't know very much at all what heaven will be like.
That's why this is my favorite line in the hymn: "God has promised, Christ prepares it; There on high our welcome waits." That heaven awaits, God has promised. That Christ Himself is getting things ready for our arrival, He tells us personally. That we are welcome there, a legion of prodigals and profligates, is the kind of stuff only God would do. And He does it because of Jesus, because Jesus has made it all possible.
That's why taking the effort to describe what heaven will look like or what it will be like seems to be an exercise in futility. What will it be like to be in the presence of the Creator -- the One who spoke the universe into existence? How will we react when we see the Savior -- the One who surrendered it all to become one of us so that, having conquered sin, death, and the devil, a bridge was established to bring man back to God?
There are no word to express these things.
The apostle Paul knew this, too, when he cited what must have been a favorite writing of his: "But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him'" (1 Corinthians 2:9).
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, we can only imagine what heaven will be like. Words cannot describe what is beyond our comprehension. We will be with You and Your Son. That alone is worth an eternity. Give our hearts a taste of this pending joy. In Jesus' Name we pray. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Paul Schreiber. It is based on the hymn, "Sing with All the Saints in Glory," which is found on page 671 in the Lutheran Service Book.