Posted by: rcottrill | June 6, 2012

When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder

Words: James Milton Black (b. Aug. 19, 1856; d. Dec. 21, 1938)
Music: James Milton Black

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The interesting story of how this gospel song came to be written is found in both the Wordwise Hymns and Cyber Hymnal links. The song was first sung at the funeral of the young girl who inspired it. It’s earliest publication was around 1892.

CH-1) When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,
And time shall be no more,
And the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
When the saved of earth shall gather
Over on the other shore,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

When the roll, is called up yonder,
When the roll, is called up yonder,
When the roll, is called up yonder,
When the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.

This song was inspired by an actual roll call at a youth meeting. But it draws a parallel to a heavenly roll call, based on what the Bible says about the Book of Life. (This volume is mentioned eight times in the New Testament, seven in the book of Revelation (cf. Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19). There are a few other texts that may possibly be speaking of the same thing (Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Dan. 12:1; Lk. 10:20; Heb. 12:23).

Whether or not these refer to a real, literal book with pages, it is clear that the Lord keeps accurate records of what takes place on earth. Not only is there a Book of Life, but other books recording the conduct of all living (Rev. 20:12). It is sobering to consider that nothing we say, do, or even think, escapes the watchful eye of the Lord (cf. Ecc. 12:14; Rom. 2:16; I Cor. 3:13; 4:5). All will be revealed, when we are summoned before Him.

That being said, the Bible makes a clear distinction between the gathering of believers before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10), and the summons of sinners before God’s great white throne (Rev. 20:11-15).

¤ The judgment seat of Christ (bema, in Greek) is a judge’s stand, where those who are worthy of reward are honoured. (It calls to mind a podium at the Olympics, where winners are crowned.) Only the saints will be summoned to the bema. And it is not a place of condemnation, since Christ took sin’s condemnation upon Himself on our behalf (Jn. 5:24; Rom. 8:1). Rather, it is here that rewards are given for service. Will we have some regrets there? Yes, I believe so–as we consider what more we could have done for our wonderful Lord. However the misdeeds and the wasted resources of the believer’s life will not merit eternal judgment, but merely a loss of rewards (cf. I Cor. 3:11-15).

¤ The great white throne of God is entirely different. It comes between God’s cataclysmic destruction of the old earth and the creation of the new (Rev. 20:11; 21:1; cf. II Pet. 3:10, 13). The word used for it is thronos (in Greek). Not a judge’s stand, but a majestic seat of government and judicial power. There, all the unsaved dead will be assembled to receive their final condemnation and be consigned to the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). No born again believer will stand before God at the great white throne. If we are there, we will be standing with God, in heavenly glory.

Two summonses, and two eternal destinies. The question is, where will you stand when each roll is called? Through faith in Christ and His saving work on the cross, we are made ready to be among those rewarded at the bema. And if we belong to the family of God, through faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26), then…

CH-3) Let us labour for the Master
From the dawn till setting sun,
Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care;
Then when all of life is over,
And our work on earth is done,
And the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

1) If you knew that the Lord Jesus Christ would call us to Himself tomorrow, how would you spend today?

2) In distinguishing things that are of no eternal worth from those that are, what measure do you use?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


%d bloggers like this: