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HYMN 258 Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

Matt. 24:30, Rev. 5:11-13

Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788) Tune: Thomas Olivers (1725-1799)

Last Judgment by Michelangelo Sistine Chapel

1. Lo! he comes with clouds descending, Once for favored sinners slain; Thousand, thousand saints attending Swell the triumph of his train. Alleluia! Alleluia! God appears on earth to reign.

2. Ev'ry eye shall now behold him, Robed in dreadful majesty; Those who set at naught and sold him, Pierced, and nailed him to the tree, Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, Shall the true Messiah see.

3. Ev'ry island, sea, and mountain, Heav'n and earth, shall flee away; All who hate him must, confounded, Hear the trump proclaim the day: Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment, come away!

4. Now Redemption, long expected, See in solemn pomp appear! All his saints, by man rejected, Now shall meet him in the air. Alleluia! Alleluia! See the day of God appear!

5. Yea, amen! let all adore thee, High on thine eternal throne; Savior, take the pow'r and glory, Claim the kingdom for thine own. O come quickly, O come quickly; Alleluia! come, Lord, come.

MEDITATION This is one of those big honking hymns that organists love and choirs and congregations enjoy singing with all the stops pulled out. The text is grand and the tune, of which there are about three in common use, cries out for a big arrangement, trumpets, kettle drums, and a high descant in the last stanza.

The title of the hymn in Wesley’s publication was changed from "Thy Kingdom Come” to “The Second Advent.” If we think of the Lord’s Prayer in connection with Advent, especially the Second Advent, it clarifies what we are praying for when the petition “Thy Kingdom Come” trips off our tongues.

Illustration of 2nd Petition in Luther's Catechism

Sometime the fullness of that petition strikes me as I am praying it. Do I really want that? For Christ to descend from the clouds to begin his reign here? How will the world be judged? I have a good idea about how everyone else should be judged, but how will I be judged? That is what I am praying for in that petition, really.

Luther says in his explanation of this petition that “The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayers, but we pray in this petition that it will also come among us.” The next question is How is this done? The answer is clear. “Whenever God breaks and hinders every evil scheme and will—as are present in the will of the devil, the world and our flesh—that would not allow us to hallow God’s name and would prevent the coming of his kingdom, and instead whenever God strengthens us and keeps us steadfast in his word and in faith until the end of our lives. This is God’s gracious and good will.”

So even if we expect and pray for a final coming of the kingdom and judgment, which we do believe, in the meantime, Luther is clear we cannot hasten it. He teaches that the kingdom is coming when God hinders evil schemes and wills. Evil powers want to prevent the coming of God’s kingdom. Anything that does not allow us to worship and hold God’s name holy we must stand up against and fight. The interesting thing here is that God strengthens us so we can remain steadfast and oppose the powers of the devil and his evil. God works through us to effect his will.

This means that we must speak the truth to each other and the powers that be. Evil can do terrible things to those who speak and do the truth, but in the end evil does not win. It can frustrate the truth, but ultimately when we speak the truth it will out. And the kingdom will be nearer than it was before. I pray for the strength to remain steadfast in God's word until the end of my life. So the kingdom will also come to me.

Charles Wesley

HYMN INFO There is some suggestion that Wesley adapted this hymn from that by another writer, John Cennick. Charles Wesley, a good friend of Cennick, took the original and made this version. In 1758 Wesley published it in his collection Hymns of Intercession for all Mankind which contained forty hymns. It kept being edited and revised. In 1862, Lord Selbourne took the current first stanza, which had been the fourth stanza in Wesley’s publication, and made it the first.

The hymn, with the tune Helmsly, has been named among the most popular English hymns inn the world. Olivers is said to have heard the tune being sung on the street and used it to set the Wesley text. He had been a a shoemaker when he heard George Whitefield preaching and had a complete change of life. A friend and colleague of the Wesleys, he assisted John as an evangelist and co-worker with him.

LINKS Cambridge Singers

Plymouth Church in Lincoln, Nebraska

Litchfield Cathedral Choir

Richard Jensen—more mellow contemporary sound

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