Posted by: rcottrill | October 7, 2013

When They Ring the Golden Bells

Words: Daniel (or Dion) de Marbelle (b. July 4, 1818; d. Dec, 18, 1903)
Music: Daniel de Marbelle

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This 1887 gospel song is a poetic expression of the believer’s comforting anticipation of heaven. There is little depth to it. (Possibly one reason it has been recorded by so many secular artists looking for something “religious” to include in their repertoires.)

The most interesting thing about the song is its author. No other hymn writer I know of can claim such a remarkably varied and unusual life–an exciting life, but with a somewhat sad ending. The Wordwise Hymns link will tell you a little. But you’ll get much more on the Cyber Hymnal biographical note here.

When I read of Mr. de Marbelle’s connection with Buffalo Bill Cody, I contacted the museum that houses most memorabilia of the latter man. They sent me a raft of material, and some of the note in the Cyber Hymnal is information I forwarded there from the Cody museum.

As to the titular “golden bells,” mentioned six times in the song (including the three refrains), no mention is made in Scripture of the ringing of golden bells in heaven to welcome the saints to glory. I suspect the notion comes from the ringing of church bells, here on earth, to mark a death. Perhaps Mr. de Marbelle imagined this being echoed in heaven by appropriately golden bells.

We do know the heavenly city contains a great deal of gold. The metal is mentioned many times in the book of Revelation (e.g. Rev. 21:18, 21), but no bells, golden or otherwise. The only mention of golden bells in all the Word of God occurs in the book of Exodus. There were bells made of gold sewn around the border of the high priest’s robe (Exod. 28:31-35; 39:35).

One further point of interest. CH-3 contains the lines, “Nevermore with anguish laden, / We shall reach that lovely aiden.” But what is an “aiden”? Did the poet mean Eden? It’s true that Paradise will be Eden-like in a number of ways. (I see that the Cyber Hymnal actually changes the word to Eden.) But it seemed like a weak gimmick to make up a word to rhyme with “laden” in the line before. Then, I checked the Hebrew word translated Eden in the Bible. Guess what? It’s pronounced ayden. So possibly Daniel de Marbelle knew what he was doing.

A brief review of what is said about heaven in this song shows that it accords with Scripture, even though the thoughts are far from profound.

CH-1. We are reminded that heaven is a “sweet forever,” an eternal dwelling place, fittingly occupied by “the immortals.” We reach it by “faith’s decree,” which is perhaps: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

The refrain describes our entry into heaven as “the glory hallelujah Jubilee.” The year of Jubilee, under the Law of Israel, called for the freeing of slaves (Lev. 25:40-41). In a similar way, heaven will be our final deliverance from the trials and burdens of this life.

CH-2. “We shall know no sin or sorrow / In that haven of tomorrow.” God the Father will wipe every tear from our eyes, by His “sweet caressing,” a phrase bespeaking gentle kindness and mercy (Rev. 21:4). And Scripture declares that nothing which relates to sin or Satan will ever enter the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 20:10; 21:8, 27).

CH-3. Believers will graduate to our eternal home “when our days shall know their number.” That is, in God’s appointed time. And “nevermore with anguish laden, / We shall reach that lovely aiden [or Eden].” Our heavenly home is referred to as Paradise several times in the Bible (cf. Lk. 23:43; II Cor. 12:4). It’s a Persian word that describes a lovely park or garden, and God’s Word tells us that the tree of life that bloomed in Eden will be found there (Rev. 2:7).

CH-1) There’s a land beyond the river,
That we call the sweet forever,
And we only reach that shore by faith’s decree;
One by one we’ll gain the portals,
There to dwell with the immortals,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

Don’t you hear the bells now ringing?
Don’t you hear the angels singing?
’Tis the glory hallelujah Jubilee.
In that far off sweet forever,
Just beyond the shining river,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

CH-2) We shall know no sin or sorrow,
In that haven of tomorrow,
When our barque shall sail beyond the silver sea;
We shall only know the blessing
Of our Father’s sweet caressing,
When they ring the golden bells for you and me.

Questions:
1) Other than being with Christ, what is it about our heavenly home that you most look forward to?

2) Since you aren’t in heaven yet, what do you believe is God’s purpose it leaving you where you are for now?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. I look forward to seeing my Savior face to face and really knowing Him.

    I had not heard this song before today, when I heard it on Family Radio. I looked it up on the internet, listened to a version of it by the Florida Boys, read the Cyberhymnal history of the author, and landed here.

    No theological depth (I agree) was what I needed today. My 94yo mother passed into Glory four days ago. This song was just what I needed to lift my spirits. Thanks for mentioning it here.

    My purpose on this earth is to bring glory and praise to God in heaven. Golden bells or no golden bells, I can’t wait to pass through those pearly gates!

    • Thanks for your kind note, and I’m glad the song was a blessing. When I’m critical of some songs as being doctrinally shallow, or overly repetitive, I’m not for a moment suggesting they can’t still be a blessing. They are to me. But I also think it’s important for God’s people to think about what they’re singing, and to appreciate the wonderful depth of truth in many of our hymns.

      We know there is “joy in the presence of the angels” when a sinner repents (Lk. 15:10). I suspect there is likewise a great celebration when one of God’s people is welcomed Home–as you say, “golden bells or no golden bells.” May the Lord comfort you in your loss. The saints of God never part forever. There’s a great reunion day up ahead!


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