Posted by: rcottrill | February 20, 2013

Beautiful Isle of Somewhere

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)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Jessie Pounds and John Fearis)
The Cyber Hymnal

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.

Somewhere, somewhere,
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!
Land of the true, where we live anew,
Beautiful Isle of Somewhere!

Questions:
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?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (Jessie Pounds and John Fearis)
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. This was one of my grandmother’s favorite songs that she sang to me when I was little so it has a special place in my heart. Most people will tell you that they at least hope to go to heaven when they die. They think if they somehow are magically “good enough” they will arrive there. They have no clue as to God’s plan of salvation or judgment and avoid any mention of it. They also believe it does not matter what your religion is – they all have good in them and each going by his own path will eventually arrive at the same destination. In their estimation, heaven has only to do with them and God has nothing to say about it (if they even believe in God at all).

    One of my favorite hymns is not really about heaven per se. It is about Jesus’ coming from heaven for the first and second tiome. It is called “One Day”.

    • Thanks for your note, and I agree with what you’re saying. Just as so many are prone to create a “God” of their own liking, so they imagine a heaven that appeals to them. But if we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God (and I do) this kind of human invention will not fly. The Lord Jesus declared, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). And the apostles preached that His is the only name by which we can find salvation (Acts 4:12). All roads may have led to Rome, as the old saying goes, but not all roads lead to heaven.

      I too love Dr. Chapman’s hymn One Day. We sing it in our church, and may well do so this Easter time, because of how clearly it teaches the meaning of Christ’s coming and what followed. If you want to check out what I’ve posted on the hymn, you can do so here. God bless.


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