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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: Hermas, by Frances Ridley Havergal
Note: In 1871, Frances Havergal provided both words and music for this fine hymn, calling it “Ascension Song,” and referencing Ephesians 4:8, “When He ascended on high.”
The occasion for its creation was as follows. The hymn writer was visiting a boys’ school with a friend (Charles Snepp, editor of Miss Havergal’s book Songs of Grace and Glory) While he went inside to attend to some business, she leaned against a wall adjacent to the playground, feeling very tired. But ten minutes later he came out to find her at work. Miss Havergal had taken an old envelope and was scribbling on it the words of a new hymn about Christ’s ascension. Later, she would compose the tune for it as well.
There can be little doubt either of Frances Havergal’s deep piety, or her considerable scholarship. She mastered languages with ease–among them Hebrew and Greek, Latin, French, German and Italian. (She even learned enough Welsh to take part in services in that tongue.) Added to this was her skill as a musician, both as a vocalist, pianist and a composer. But it was her spirituality that shaped her life and ministered to others. She said, “‘Thy will be done’ is not a sigh, but only a song!” Inscribed on her tombstone, at her request, was” “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” [I Jn. 1:7].
Of interest may be her comments on her method of writing hymns.
“Writing is praying with me, for I never seem to write even a verse by myself, and feel like a little child writing. You know a child would look up at every sentence and say, ‘What shall I say next?’ That is just what I do. I ask that at every line He would give me–not merely thoughts and power, but also every word, even the very rhymes. Very often I have a most distinct and happy consciousness of direct answers.”
T he ascension of Christ is described by Mark and Luke in the Gospels (Mk. 16:19-20; Lk. 24:49-53). That latter writer reviews the event at the beginning of Acts (Acts 1:9-11). After that, Christ’s place in heaven at the Father’s right hand, and His continuing ministry to the saints from there, are mentioned more than two dozen times in the New Testament. “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33; cf. Rom. 8:34; Phil. 3:20; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:3, 13; 4:14; 6:19-20; 8:1, etc.).
CH-1) Golden harps are sounding, angels voices ring,
Pearly gates are opened, opened for the King;
Christ the King of glory, Jesus, King of love,
Is gone up in triumph, to His throne above.
All His work is ended, joyfully we sing,
Jesus hath ascended! Glory to our King!
CH-2) He who came to save us, He who bled and died,
Now is crowned with glory at His Father’s side.
Nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die;
Jesus, King of glory, is gone up on high.
Consider the significance of the Lord’s ascension, both for Him and for us. It marked the end of His earthly redemptive work. His cry from the cross, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30) says it–literally meaning “Paid in full!” speaking of His payment for sin (cf. I Jn. 2:2). That is what Miss Havergal means in her refrain when she says, “All His work is ended.”
The earthly companionship enjoyed by His followers was ended too. Though He has pledged always to be with us in His spiritual presence (Matt. 28:20), we will not see Him face to face until we are called into His presence, either by death (II Cor. 5:8); Phil. 1:23), or at the rapture of the church (I Thess. 4:13-18).
Christ’s entry into heaven was a “Triumphal Entry” far more magnificent and universally praised than was His entry into Jerusalem just before His death (cf. Jn. 12:12-16). In heaven once more, Christ assumed His actual and visible glory, a glory that was almost always veiled on earth (with only a glimpse given to Peter, James, and John, at His transfiguration, Matt. 17:1-2; cf. Rev. 1:12-18).
Seated at the Father’s right hand, on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21), Christ began His work as Head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:11-12), and as great High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16) and Advocate for His own (I Jn. 2:1-2). It is from there that He will return at His second coming to take up His earthly messianic throne, the throne of David (Lk. 1:31-33).
CH-3) Pleading for His children in that blessèd place,
Calling them to glory, sending them His grace;
His bright home preparing, faithful ones, for you;
Jesus ever liveth, ever loveth, too.
1) What is, to you, the greatest value of Christ’s place in heaven?
2) Does your church teach clearly about Christ’s ascension and His present ministry?