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Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson
Note: In the Second World War, Peterson served as an Air Force pilot. Afterward, he attended Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, also working for a time on their radio staff. He soon established a reputation for producing sound and singable Christian music, and he went on doing so through the latter part of the twentieth century. Even into his eighties, he continued to write music. His biography is entitled The Miracle Goes On. The present song was published in 1957. I recall singing it with a Bible college choral in the 1960’s.
Surely one of the most difficult parts of being a medical doctor is having to be the bearer of bad news. To have to say to a patient that his condition is serious–perhaps even that it’s expected to be terminal. Nobody likes being the one to announce unpleasant tidings of impending pain or loss. On a much more mundane matter, this may even give the weatherman qualms at times! How much more delightful to have good news to share–about some positive gain.
Nearly one hundred times the writers of the New Testament tell us they are presenting good news, usually calling it “the gospel.” This translates the Greek word evangelion, from which we get English words such as evangelical, and evangelist. The gospel the early church believed on and preached is the good news that through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ individuals can have their sins forgiven and be granted the gift of eternal life.
“I declare to you the gospel,” says Paul, “that Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:1, 3). And “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).
There is also a term used in the four Gospels which is related to the above, but which emphasizes a particular dimension of it. When the Lord Jesus began His earthly ministry, we read that He “went about…preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23). The gospel of the kingdom was the good news that Israel’s Messiah had come to establish His kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth.
However, the Bible says, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (Jn. 1:11). Instead of accepting His rule, the people cried, “Away with him! Crucify Him!…We have no king but Caesar!” (Jn. 19:15). Yet because we believe the Lord Jesus Christ, risen and glorified, and is coming back again, to set up His kingdom (Acts 1:11). Christians everywhere continue to pray: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).
Jesus Himself prophesied that in the last days:
“This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the word as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come….And they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:14, 30).
Thus, the good news includes not only the fact that there is salvation through faith in Christ and His work on the cross, but that He will one day return to reign in power and glory over the kingdoms of earth. Jesus is coming again.
One who firmly believed that was John Willard Peterson, who wrote over a thousand hymns, and some thirty-five sacred cantatas. Heaven Came Down; Surely Goodness and Mercy; It Took a Miracle; and many more songs came from his pen. In 1957, thinking of the good news of Christ’s return, Peterson wrote both words and music of Jesus Is Coming Again, for a choir magazine he edited and published called The Songster. The hymn says:
1) Marvelous message we bring,
Glorious carol we sing,
Wonderful word of the King–
Jesus is coming again!”
That is the future dimension of the evangelion, the great good news of Christ’s glorious return to reign. The final stanza of the song pictures believers “standing before Him at last,” with the crowns that were awarded them for at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10). These we will cast before the Lord, in recognition that any success we’ve had is all because of His wonderful grace. (Note the “whenever” at the beginning of vs. 9. This seems to be a ceremony that will be repeated over and over.)
“Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders [representatives, I believe, of the church of Jesus Christ] fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: ‘You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created’” (Rev. 4:9-11).
1) Why is the news of Christ’s return a “marvelous message” to you personally?
2) What obligations does this place upon the children of God in the meantime?