Words: Jessie H. Brown Pounds (b. Aug. 31, 1861; d. Mar. 3, 1921)
Music: John Sylvester Fearis (b. Feb. 5, 1867; d. Sept. 2, 1932)
Note: According to the list of songs in the Cyber Hymnal, there are about four dozen songs whose titles begin with the word “beautiful.” This one from 1897 has been criticized for its vague sounding “somewhere” about heaven, but the Wordwise Hymns link explains Mrs. Pounds’ intention. And the Wordwise Hymns link to composer John Fearis has a rendition of the song by fine British tenor Harry Secombe.
We can surely agree with Jessie Pounds that heaven is somewhere. But though it’s quite clear that heaven is a real, concrete “place” (Jn. 14:2-3), called a “city” numerous times in the Bible (Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:2), we do not know the precise location of it.
Many texts refer to heaven as being “up,” and tell us that is where the Lord Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us.
“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11; cf. II Cor. 12:2, 4; I Thess. 4:17; I Tim. 3:16; Rev. 4:1; 11:12; 12:5).
But even so, that does not completely solve the problem. How can the heavenly city be “up” from everywhere on earth? Up from North America, and up from Australia too?
Or are we to deduce that, since it’s called “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22), it is “up” above the earthly Jerusalem? (This idea would seem to me to have some merit.) Another possibility is that the heavenly city exists in a different dimension entirely, and earthly directions are inadequate to describe where it is. That we’re simply to understand “up” in the sense of beyond this earthly sphere.
Ah, but let’s turn from what the hymn writer wisely leaves in question to what she confidently affirms.
¤ “God lives, and all is well” (CH-1). We “serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14; cf. 7:25), a title given to Him thirty times in the Scriptures. He is also “the eternal God” (Deut. 33:27). For the believer that assures us that all is well, since God keeps His promises, including those about the bliss and blessings of heaven (Ps. 16;11; 23:6; Rev. 7:15-17).
¤ Heaven is the “land of the true” (refrain). If “the True” is intended as a description of Almighty God, it certainly fits (cf. Jn. 14:6; Tit. 1:2). If Mrs. Pounds meant it as a reference to the saints, we know that “there shall by no means enter it [heaven] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie” (Rev. 21:27; cf. 21:8; 22:11, 15).
¤ It is where we live anew” (refrain). In glorified resurrection bodies, believers will begin a new and wonderful life that is beyond our imagination (Phil. 3:20-21; I Jn. 3:2).
¤ It is where “the task [our earthly duty] is done” (the evangelizing of a lost world), and new work begins (CH-2; cf. Rev. 22:3).
¤ It is where “the guerdon [reward is] won” (CH-2; cf. Rev. 22:12).
¤ It is where “the load [of earthly care] is lifted,” and “the clouds [of sorrow and discouragement] are rifted [parted]” (CH-3; cf. Rev. 21:4).
¤ It is where “the angels sing” (CH-3), or at least speak the praises of God, and we will too (Rev. 5:8-12)
These are a few of the things we know for sure about heaven, and the Bible tells us even more. Chief among them that God is there, and we’ll fellowship with Jesus, the heavenly Lamb.
CH-2) Somewhere the day is longer,
Somewhere the task is done;
Somewhere the heart is stronger,
Somewhere the guerdon won.
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!
Land of the true, where we live anew,
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!
1) Most people believe in heaven and hope to go there. But what are some false notions of heaven that are held by the unsaved and untaught?
2) What are your favourite hymns about heaven?