Posted by: rcottrill | June 27, 2011

Heaven Came Down

Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)

Note: The Wordwise Hymns link will give you the story of how the song came to be written. A word of testimony by an elderly man has been turned into a song that’s brought blessing to countless thousands. The Cyber Hymnal doesn’t have a note on this specific hymn from 1961, but there is a link to a brief biography of Mr. Peterson.

We normally think of our hymns (narrowly defined) as being more doctrinally rich. Gospel songs–or, as they were called in the nineteenth century, “Sunday School songs”–are usually viewed as lighter fare, with much repetition of simple truths. However, this song by John Peterson is an exception, a gospel song that covers a great deal of important Bible truth. And, other than the refrain, there are no repeated phrases. It deals particularly with the work of salvation, and the blessings received by it. In that, the writer (and we, as singers) rejoice!

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61:10).

In the first stanza, the author describes how he used to be, a sinner, a needy soul, wandering in darkness. But all of that changed when he met the Saviour, a tender and compassionate Friend. Many times, the Bible describes the sinner as being in darkness (Jn. 3:19; Rom. 13:12). The Lord Jesus described Himself as the Light of the world (Jn. 8:12), and when we put our faith in Him, we are spiritually brought into the light (Acts 26:17-18; Eph. 5:8; I Thess. 5:5). The refrain says,

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,
When at the cross the Saviour made me whole;
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day–
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.

Peterson’s second stanza goes on to describe the new birth, with clarity: “Born of the Spirit, with life from above, into God’s family divine” (cf. Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3). He also notes that it’s justification that gives us our righteous standing before God (cf. Rom. 3:21-24; Tit. 3:5-7). To “justify,” as the Apostle Paul uses the word, means to pronounce righteous. God credits the righteousness of Christ to our account, and declares us to be so (II Cor. 5:21). And “the transaction so quickly was made.” Justification isn’t a process, but the saving act of a gracious God, received in an instant, through faith in Christ.

The final stanza speaks of our enduring hope, in Christ, and the eternal future He is preparing for us, when we dwell in heavenly “mansions,” in His presence (cf. Jn. 14:1-3). And it’s all traced back to “that wonderful day, when at the cross I believed.” The word “supernal” may look a bit like it’s a short-form for “supernatural,” but it’s not. It means heavenly, or celestial; that which has its origin in the God of heaven. The “riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7; 2:7) are “riches eternal and blessings supernal.”

1) In what ways is the new birth similar to our natural (or physical) birth? In what ways is it different?

2) From John Peterson’s song, see how many of the blessings of salvation you can list.

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)


  1. Hello Robert 🙂
    I have not visited for a while and thought I would this evening. I just wanted to say that this hymn has blessed me so. I used to be a part of a church many years ago where this was one of the regulars. It blessed me so back then and it blessed me again reading just the title!! I will now have a look through and see what other treasures you have put on recently.
    Bless you brother


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