Verse 4 of “It is Well”
4. And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.
Verse 4 of “How Great Thou Art”
4. When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
And take me home- what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
And there proclaim, my God, how great thou art!
Maybe you’re like me and you too grew up in church singing these great hymns. I will always remember the worship leader, Mr. Roland, saying, “Now let’s lift the rafters of the church.” For a second I thought we had a rafting team I didn’t know about, but instead everyone knew what he meant; “Sing it, shout it, loud and long…”
Either way, these songs were not just to sing, shout, or be loud, they were also meant to teach and educate the congregation on matters of theological importance. Historically in most hymns, verse 4 is where we learn about the return of Christ. So if we were to take this principle and look just at these two hymns, what do we learn about the Second Coming?
The Second Coming, According to Verse 4
- The clouds will be rolled back as a scroll
- A trumpet will sound
- The Lord will descend
- There will be a shout of acclamation (loud and enthusiastic approval)
- We’ll go home
- Bow in humble adoration (deep love and respect)
- Proclaim, “My God, how great thou art!”
This isn’t bad considering that almost none of the hymn writers had a PhD in Theology; but what they did have, was the Bible! To think, they actually believed what they read in God’s word, and translated it to song in order to help teach doctrine. So where did they get these imageries? Well, one of the most famous passages is found in our reading today, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NLT):
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words.
“Show Me the Way”
So now that you have a picture in your mind regarding Christ’s return, let me share with you a challenging thought I’ve always considered. Why does Jesus need to return in order to take us to heaven? Is God not powerful enough to grab us up and bring us to heaven?
I mean, picture this… The clouds are being peeled back, the sky is being ripped open, there’s a loud shout from an angel, and we hear the blast from the loudest trumpet ever created; Jesus is descending, down, down, down… then he stops. Suddenly he begins to reverse his direction and all the “dead in Christ,” both physically and spiritually are called up to the tune of, “Show Me the Way,” by the band, Styx.
Folks, this is not what Paul tells us happens upon Christ’s return. Yes, Paul uses language like, “caught up in the clouds,” and “meet the Lord in the air,” but all of this leads to his final sentence in verse 17, “Then we will be with the Lord forever. Paul never mentions where we will be the Lord forever, just that we will be with the Lord forever! The whole point and purpose of Paul’s teaching here is two things: 1. Resurrection of the believers, and 2. Being united with Christ FOR ALL ETERNITY!
“…To meet the Lord in the air.”
There’s been quite a bit of debate over what exactly this term means. Until you dig a little deeper, you may be led to believe that our eternity will be spent somewhere between heaven and earth. The Greek word “to meet,” ἀπάντησις (apantēsis), is really the key piece to unlocking this passage.
According to scholars, Apantēsis is the technical term used in the New Testament times to describe a public welcome given by a city to a visiting dignitary. Here’s what’s really cool about this word; It describes the custom of people leaving the city to meet the distinguished guest and then…listen…go back with the distinguished guest into the city.
Based on Paul’s word choice for “meet up,” “all Paul is saying here is that raised and transformed believers are caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord as he descends from heaven, implying that after this joyful meeting they will go back with him to the earth (The Bible and the Future, Anthony Hoekema, pg. 168).”
The word Apantēsis is only used a total of three times in the New Testament! With a word being used so sparingly, we need to pay close attention to the other uses.
Acts 28:15 (NIV) 15 The brothers and sisters there had heard that we were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet us (eis apantēsin hēmin).
This means, the brothers and sisters from Rome traveled outside the city to meet Paul, THEN they returned with Paul to Rome.
Matthew 25:6 (NIV) 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him(eis apantēsin)!
Found in the Parable of the Ten Virgins, “the wise virgins in the parable went out to meet the bridegroom on his way to the marriage feast, so raised and transformed believers, after meeting the Lord in the air, will remain with the Lord as he continues on his way to the earth (Hoekema, pg. 168-169).”
The most important fact in the resurrection is the resurrection itself! To much debate has been had over when, where, how long, for who; but the one thing that is never debated is this: “Then we will be with the Lord forever.” I honestly don’t think I’ll care where that is, as long as it is.