Posted by: rcottrill | September 14, 2012

Mansion Over the Hilltop

Words: Ira Forest Stanphill (b. Feb. 14, 1914; d. Dec. 30, 1993)
Music: Ira Forest Stanphill

Links:

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Stanphill)

Note: The Cyber Hymnal has no information on this song, but has a short biography of Mr. Stanphill, with a long list of his compositions. Wordwise Hymns describes the incident that inspired the song.

I’ve sometimes thought that this 1949 song sounds crassly materialistic. It helps a little when you know the story behind it. (But only a little!) The man whose testimony inspired Mansion Over the Hilltop was looking for something beyond the possessions and accumulated wealth of this world, with all the worries they bring. But Mr. Stanphill’s song seems to simply offer him more of the same!

The passage of Scripture that mentions heavenly mansions for the saints is John 14:2-3 (Jesus speaking).

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

The key word “mansions” (NKJV) has been translated various ways: abodes, dwelling places, resting places, homes, and rooms. Whether each will be a free-standing dwelling on a piece of property, or a luxury apartment in a larger building, they are intended as permanent residences for believers, places to stay in the heavenly city where we will be forever with the Lord (cf. Jn. 17:24).

Sometimes Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 5:1 are given as a cross reference to those of Christ in John’s Gospel. “We know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” But it seems clear from the context (which speaks of a habitation with which we’ll be “clothed,” vs. 2) that the apostle is speaking of our resurrection bodies, not of our heavenly mansions.

It’s possible that David’s words in Psalm 23 are relevant. He says, “I will dwell in the house [home or household] of the Lord forever.” Or as the Amplified Bible has it, “the house of the Lord shall be my dwelling place (23:6). David can’t mean Israel’s tabernacle on earth. He must be speaking of his heavenly home within the city of God called New Jerusalem, for which the word “tabernacle” (or habitation) is actually used (Rev. 21:2-3).

What is described in the Scriptures has many of the features of a city, and heaven is spoken of as a city many times (e.g. Heb. 11:10, 16; 13:14), a city with walls and a main thoroughfare leading to the throne of God (Rev. 21:11-12; 22:1-2). It’s described as a city of gold, and a city of glorious light, where the tree of life is found.

The heavenly city is a wonderful place. But the greatest thing about it (one to which, sadly, Stanphill makes no reference at all) is that we will be with the Lord Jesus there. Ira Stanphill says, with the saints of old, that he’s “just a pilgrim in search of a city” (stanza 3). But why? What’s in it for us? Much more than a big house and streets of gold.

As John 14:2-3 shows, it’s Christ’s desire that we be with Him in heaven (cf. II Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; I Thess. 4:17). Can anything top that? He’s presently preparing a place for us to dwell there and live in His immediate fellowship. A prepared place for a prepared people. And it’s the presence of the Lamb of God that will make heaven heavenly for us, above all else. In the words of English pastor Guy King years ago, “What lucky beggars we are!”

1) I’m satisfied with just a cottage below,
A little silver and a little gold;
But in that city where the ransomed will shine,
I want a gold one that’s silver lined.

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop,
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old;
And some day yonder we will nevermore wander
But walk the streets that are purest gold.

Questions:
1) What aspects of the description of heaven, or characteristics of it, are especially meaningful to you?

2) What hymns do you know about heaven that provide a better picture of the spiritual and eternal joys it offers?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal (Ira Stanphill)


Responses

  1. The riches and the material goods of heaven are not the most important to me. For me, the most important characteristic of heaven is that my Lord and Savior is there, and I will be there with Him, not by my abilities, not by my works (no matter how good they may be), but SOLELY by his mercy and grace! That is what makes heaven most meaningful to me.

    There are several hymns that speak to me of heaven that I prefer to “I’ve Got a Mansion Just Over the Hilltop”. The ones that I like are “Face to Face with Christ My Savior” (though I wish for a better tune), “The King is Coming”, “When We All Get to Heaven”, and “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder”.

  2. […] by many gospel singers, and published in many song books, here are the top five, as of 1971: Mansion Over the Hilltop, Room at the Cross for You, Suppertime, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, and Follow Me. Stanphill said […]


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