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Words: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel
Note: Charles Gabriel was one of the best known and most prolific writers of sacred song of the latter part of the nineteenth century, and the beginning of the twentieth. Around 1917, he faced a difficult and painful parting. His son had been called up to serve in the First World War, and the day of his embarkment for France was at hand. Perhaps dad would never see his son again.
They stood together at the waiting area in New York harbour, saying their last goodbyes. Young Charlie gave his father a hug, and the gates swung open so the soldiers could get on board ship. Then the son was struck by a sudden thought. “Dad,” he said, “if I never see you again here, I’ll meet you where the gates never swing outward.”
It was a way of saying that the blessings of heaven will never end. And on the train back to Chicago the hymn writer turned it into a song. A song that speaks of the brief time between now and eternity.
CH-1) Just a few more days to be filled with praise,
And to tell the old, old story;
Then, when twilight falls, and my Saviour calls,
I shall go to Him in glory.
I’ll exchange my cross for a starry crown,
Where the gates swing outward never;
At His feet I’ll lay every burden down,
And with Jesus reign forever.
CH-2) Just a few more years with their toil and tears,
And the journey will be ended;
Then I’ll be with Him, where the tide of time
With eternity is blended.
We expect time to pass in a steady and consistent way. Seconds, minutes, hours, and so on, click by at a dependable pace. However, our means of measuring time is not always so reliable.
For the ancients, time was estimated by the position of the sun. Then, mechanical devices provided more exactitude–though early clocks had to be adjusted frequently. Battery-powered time pieces are more accurate. And most precise of all are the atomic clocks used today. An atomic clock can be expected to be no more than a second off after twenty million years!
All of this being said of scientific advancement, it remains true that our experience of time is another matter. Sitting in a classroom, a student may feel that a boring lecture has gone on for hours. But when an appointment is made for root canal work at some time in the future, the time between seems to fly by in a blur. The day comes all too quickly.
Our Creator invented time and space as a framework within which His creatures would live. But the Bible says He “inhabits eternity” (Isa. 57:15). He exists outside of time. It’s not surprising then that the Lord does not think of the experience of time as we do. The Bible tries to convey this by saying that, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (II Pet. 3:8). “A thousand years in [His] sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night” (Ps. 90:4).
For ourselves, times of suffering we experience can seem drawn out, and even feel as though they may never end. But the Bible assures us that, in relative terms, and in contrast to eternity up ahead, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment [by comparison], is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17).
The return of Christ is another of these matters of time in which our perceptions are not necessarily in keeping with reality. When He was on earth, the Lord Jesus promised that He would come back and conduct His children to heavenly dwelling places that He would prepare for us (Jn. 14:2-3). He even said He was coming “quickly” (Rev. 22:12, 20). Yet nearly two thousand years have passed since then. That doesn’t seem “quick” to our finite and often distorted experience of time! But in God’s sight it is.
CH-4) What a joy ’twill be when I wake to see
Him for whom my heart is burning!
Nevermore to sigh, nevermore to die,
For that day my heart is yearning.
1) What does the Lord expect of us, as we wait for His return?
2) Other than meeting the Lord Jesus, who are you looking forward to greeting in heaven?