Worship & Theology is a series of posts produced by the members of our worship team to explore the spiritual and biblical meaning found within some of the songs we sing. Our hope is that these posts would increase our understanding of God and our love for Him, while adding depth to our time of worship together. Enjoy.
On that day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace
All my fears swept away
In the light of Your embrace
Where Your love is all I need
And forever I am free
PRE CHORUS 1:
Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence healed and whole
Let the songs of heaven
Rise to You alone
No weeping no hurt or pain
No suffering You hold me now
You hold me now
No darkness no sick or lame
No hiding You hold me now
You hold me now
In this life I will stand
Through my joy and my pain
Knowing theres a greater day
Theres a hope that never fails
Where Your Name is lifted high
And forever praises rise
For the glory of Your Name
Im believing for the day
PRE CHORUS 2:
Where the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven
Rise to You alone
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your Name
My initial desire to dive deeper into this song was driven by two thoughts that I had previously never fully explored. The first was that there simply aren’t very many contemporary worship songs about Heaven. The “life to come” was a common topic of traditional hymns but for some reason today’s songwriters tend to shy away from it. Because this song is one of a select few, I wanted to further explore how it depicts Heaven and if it aligns with the truth of Scripture. My second curiosity was the subject direction of the lyrics. On initial inspection, it seems to be a song primarily focused on us – on the depravity of our human nature – not about God or His work in the world. After some study of the lyrics it has become clear that this song is a plea to our God. It expresses a deep longing for the coming of Christ, the restoration of the Earth, and reconciliation with our Father.
Before I jump in, I want to lay out a few truths about Heaven that will serve as a basis for the discussion to come. First, Heaven is not a place in the sky, nor just a place to which we will go. The Bible states that God is currently doing and will continue to do a restoring work in the world. He will establish the New Jerusalem on Earth and reconcile his people back to Him upon His return.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God…’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ – Revelation 21:1-3, 5
We must always bear in mind that God intends to restore His people and His creation. This is a process of which all believers are called to be a part. (For more about the restoration of the world, I suggest N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.)
The structure of the song is reasonably straight forward but an explanation helps illuminate the intention. The first verse, pre-chorus, and chorus are written about the future. The second verse reverts to the present to reflect on the writer’s current condition, and then transitions back to the future for the second pre-chorus through the end of the song. After reflecting on the lyrics and the nature of this present/future flipping, the text no longer strikes me as humanity focused. This is a song of longing for the restoration of the Earth and reconciliation with our Father. As such, when we sing these words, it should not be a celebration of how great we will have it when we get to heaven but rather an expression of our soul’s desire to be reunited with God.
The majority of the song comes directly from Revelation 21 where the author, John, is describing his vision about the New Heaven, New Earth, and New Jerusalem. These verses describe the fulfillment of prophecies from Isaiah which promise, “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces.” (25:8) “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (35:10)
In general, the verses are poetic interpretations of the fulfillment of God’s promises. The pre-choruses and choruses come directly from Scripture. Instead of going line-by-line, here are a few notable things:
1. The reference to seeing God “face to face” in the first verse brings to mind the Old Testament teaching that no one can look at the face of God and live. (Exodus 33:20) Once we are reconciled to Him in the New Jerusalem, we will be able to see the face of our God as he welcomes us home.
2. Most of us are familiar with images of golden streets (Rev. 21:21) and the absence of weeping, death, and pain (Rev. 21:4), but the notion of “no darkness” was new to me. Here the glory of God and Christ are illustrated as the only light source present in the New Jerusalem, sufficient for banishing all darkness:
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk… – Revelation 21:23-24a
3. There is no mention of “no hiding” in Revelation, but perhaps this is a reference to Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve, because of their shame, hid from the presence of God. How often do we, like Adam and Eve, foolishly attempt to hide from a loving, omniscient God? When we are fully reconciled to Him, there will be no need or desire to hide from our Father’s presence.
4. Finally, the bridge is where the song culminates in a great proclamation of what it will be like when the longing of our hearts is fulfilled and we are reconciled to Him. “For eternity; All my heart will give; All the glory to Your name.”
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.’ – Revelation 7:9-12
Although I am now more comfortable with the content of this song and truly believe that it is genuinely God-focused, I must examine myself in light of my new understanding of the lyrics’ intentions. If this is truly a song of longing for reconciliation with God, am I always in a place to sing it with integrity? Is the true desire of my heart for Heaven to come to Earth at any moment? If I’m being honest, how often do I want Heaven to come next week once I’ve finished that book, or next month after I’ve come back from that vacation I’ve been planning for the last six months?
I need to spend time examining my priorities to be sure they align with my Heavenly Father’s. If I’m constantly longing for reconciliation to Him, I must also constantly insist on being a part of the restoring work He is doing in the world and constantly prepared for the coming of the New Jerusalem.
Geoff Kornegay lives in east Dallas with his wife Katy. When Geoff is not playing a variety of stringed instruments, he is working as an intern architect at HKS Inc. in their sports division. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.