“Where the Gates Swing Outward Never”

"And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day, for there shall be no night there" (Rev. 21.25)

     INTRO.: A song which talks about the gates of the city which shall not be shut at all by day is "Where The Gates Swing Outward Never" (#214 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #421 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written and the tune was composed both by Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (1856-1932). Born in Iowa and eventually settling in Chicago, IL, he was a popular hymnwriter with the publishing firm of Homer Rodeheaver, and in all edited some thirty-five gospel songbooks, producing both words and music for many hymns and often providing tunes for texts by others. Some of hiss widely-used songs include "I Stand Amazed," "He Lifted Me," "More Like The Master," "I Will Not Forget Thee," and "Send The Light." Probably Gabriel’s most famous is "O That Will Be Glory." However, many of his songs which are now forgotten in general are still known and used among churches of Christ, probably as a result of his helping to edit The New Christian Hymn Book with T. B. Larimore for the Gospel Advocate Company in 1907.

     "Where The Gates Swing Outward Never" was first published in Victory Songs compiled in 1920 by Rodeheaver and Gabriel. Among songbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it appeared in the 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 both edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 (Church) Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song focuses our attention on the gates of the heavenly city which is our hope.

I. Stanza 1 pictures the heavenly city as a place of glory
"Just a few more days to be filled with praise, And to tell the old, old story;
Then, when twilight falls, and my Savior calls, I shall go to Him in glory."
 A. As long as our lives continue here on earth, and short they are, they should be filled with praise: Heb. 13.15
 B. Then the fact that day begins to end as twilight falls is used as a picture to say in like manner life begins to end as the Savior calls us to leave this life in death: Heb. 9.27
 C. But it is then that we can begin to realize the hope of going to be with Him in glory: Ps. 73.24

II. Stanza 2 pictures the heavenly city as the end of the journey
"Just a few more years with their toils and tears, And the journey will be ended;
Then I’ll be with Him, where the tide of time With eternity is blended."
 A. As our lives continue here on earth, while filled with praise, they will also have their share of toils and tears, but soon the journey will be ended: Ps. 90.10
 B. Then, after that, we shall be with Christ: Phil. 1.23
 C. And it will be "where the tide of time with eternity is blended" because we shall eventually be granted eternal life: Matt. 25.46

III. Stanza 3 pictures the heavenly city as a place of joy
"Though the hills be steep and the valleys deep, With no flowers my way adorning;
Though the night be lone and my rest a stone, Joy awaits me in the morning."
 A. The toil and tears of this life are pictured as a journey through steep hills and deep valleys often with little to bring pleasant
feelings: Job. 14.1
 B. The lack of spiritual comfort in this life is likened to the time when Jacob was fleeing and had to use a stone for his pillow: Gen. 28.10-11
 C. But all of the unpleasantness and lack of comfort that we may experience in this life will be worth it because joy awaits us in the morning: Ps. 30.5

IV. Stanza 4 pictures the heavenly city as the place where we shall see Christ
"What a joy ’twill be when I wake to see Him for whom my heart is burning!
Nevermore to sigh, nevermore to die–For that day my heart is yearning."
 A. When we wake to see Him for whom our hearts are burning will be the final resurrection: 1 Thess. 4.16-17
 B. And in that eternal home which we shall inhabit following the resurrection, there will be nothing to cause sighing or dying: Rev. 21.4
 C. Therefore, throughout our lives on earth our hearts should be yearning for that day: 2 Pet. 3.10-13

     CONCL.: The chorus then reminds us of that time when we shall exchange our cross for a starry crown and reign forever with Jesus.
"I’ll exchange my cross for a starry crown, Where the gates swing outward never;
At His feet I’ll lay every burden down, And with Jesus reign forever."
Ellis J. Crum in Sacred Selections made some alterations in the chorus which Shepard and Stevens have followed in Hymns for Worship but which I believe are totally unnecessary. "Starry crown" is replaced by "shining crown." Crum changed any mention of stars in our crowns for all hymns, but I do not know exactly why. I did hear someone else object to the hymn, "Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown," on the basis that he had heard a Baptist preacher use the hymn to teach the impossibility of apostasy, saying that once people are saved, even if they go back into sin they will still receive a crown but just not have any stars in it.  However, the idea of "stars" in our crown has traditionally been a poetic way of referring to people whom we teach and lead to Christ. Furthermore, my dictionary lists "shining" as a synonym for "starry," so it appears that Crum really accomplished nothing by his change. Also, "reign forever" is replaced by "live forever." Again, Crum eliminated any mention of our reigning with Christ in heaven for all hymns. I assume that this concept was somehow likely thought to teach  premillennialism.  However, Rev. 22.1-5 plainly shows that in the new heaven and new earth, where the pure river of water of life flows and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, His servants shall serve Him, "And they shall reign forever and ever." Was John promoting premillennialism? I think not. Some have even questioned the very idea that "the gates swing outward never," saying that this phrase is never found in the Bible and asking what it means. It appears merely to be the poet’s way of expressing the idea that the gates will never be shut by day because there will be no night in that city. We can discuss and even debate the words and phrases that we have to use in our finite language to describe the infinite beauty of the eternal home, and certainly we should reject any false concepts. But we would better spend our time centering our thoughts and preparing our lives for that great city "Where The Gates Swing Outward Never."


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