"A city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11.10)
INTRO.: A song which emphasizes the wonder of that city whose builder is God is "Wonderful City" (#250 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #380 in Sacred Selections for the Church). In most books that I have been able to check, the author’s name is left blank. Some books list the author as C. D. Williams, who is universally identified as the composer. However, others give the author’s name as James Rowe (1865-1933). He was a prolific hymn-text writer whose best-known lyric is probably "Love Lifted Me." I have not been able to locate any information on C. D. Williams, other than that he was born in 1881 and was obviously living in the early twentieth century since he copyrighted the song in 1923.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in 1938 Spiritual Melodies and the 1943 Standard Gospel Songs both edited by Tillit Teddlie; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal and the 1960 Hymnal both edited by Marion Davis; the 1952 Hymns of Praise and Devotion edited by Will W. Slater; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch. Today, it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church edited by Alton Howard; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song identifies several appealing aspects of the home awaiting us in heaven.
I. According to stanza 1, it is a place where there are mansions of glory
"Over the river, shining forever, There is a city, I know.
Wonderful story! mansions of glory Waiting for pilgrims below."
A. This home is over the river, language drawn from the picture of Israel crossing over Jordan into the promised land and alluding to death as a river which we must cross over before entering our eternal rest: Josh. 3.1-17
B. In it are mansions, or dwelling places, of glory which Jesus has gone to prepare: Jn. 14.1-3
C. Because as Christians our citizenship is there, and not on this earth, we look upon ourselves as pilgrims below: Phil. 3.20-21, 1 Pet. 2.11-12
II. According to stanza 2, it is a place where the saints of all ages will find peace
"Home of the sages, saints of the ages, Martyrs and angels of light;
Free of all sadness, city of gladness, Always so peaceful and bright!"
A. When the Lord returns, He will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus; the dead saints will be raised and the living saints will be changed and caught up with them in the clouds for an eternal reunion of all God’s people: 1 Cor. 15.50-55, 1 Thes. 4.13-17
B. The "martyrs" are apparently those who willingly gave their lives for their faith, and they will be there too, along with the angels: Rev. 2.13, 6.9-11
C. And everyone there will find that it is free of all sadness, with nothing but gladness where all is peaceful and bright because the glory of God and the Lamb will illuminate it: Rev. 21.22-24
III. According to stanza 3, it is a place where there will be no sorrow in the presence of the Savior
"Hasten tomorrow, end of all sorrow, When this glad home I shall see;
When with my Savior, happy forever, Resting above I shall be."
A. While we recognize that as long as God allows the earth to stand and we have life, there is work for us to do, the time when we shall enter that heavenly city is one which the faithful Christian would like to hasten: 2 Pet. 3.10-14
B. One reason is that it will bring the end of all sorrow and everything that causes sorrow: Rev. 21.1-4
C. But most importantly, we should want to go there because we shall be forever in eternal life with the Savior whom we shall see as He is, resting in His divine presence: 1 Jn. 2.25, 3.1-3; Rev. 14.13
CONCL.: The chorus refers to this
"Wonderful city, beautiful city, Built without hands by our King;
Marvelous city, glorious city, Where we forever shall sing."
Although none of us has ever seen it and thus have no personal knowledge of it, yet from everything that has been revealed about it in the scriptures, even in the highly figurative language that is used, we can certainly conclude that we should have a great desire and should prepare ourselves carefully by following God’s plan to go to that "Wonderful City."