"LO! WHAT A GLORIOUS SIGHT APPEARS"
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth…" (Rev. 21:1)
INTRO.: A hymn which seeks to help our minds picture what the Scriptures say about the new heaven and new earth is "Lo! What a Glorious Sight Appears." The text was written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748). All sources but one say that it was first published in six stanzas as a paraphrase of Rev. 21:1-4 in his 1707 Hymns and Spiritual Songs. One source gives the date of 1745. It did appear in the Scottish Paraphrases of 1751 with several alterations and an additional stanza. The tune (Crediton) used in some books was adapted from Thomas Clark (1775-1859). Other tunes have been used, but the one (Northfield) in our books was composed by Jeremiah Ingalls (1764-1828). It is dated 1805 and was probably first published in his Christian Harmony of that year, which also contained the first publication of the anonymous hymn and tune, "I Love Thee, I Love Thee." Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Lo, What a Glorious Sight Appears" 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 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson; and the 1978 Hymns of Praise edited by Reuel Lemmons. Today it may be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand. The Good Old Songs, a 1913 book edited by C. H. Cayce for the Primitive Baptists, using the Ingalls tune, inexplicably makes stanza 6 beginning "How long, dear Savior, O, how long" as number 1, with a few alterations ("That bright hour" and "The promised day") and makes stanzas 1 through 5 as stanzas 2 through 6.
The song points our thoughts forward to the second coming of Christ when time will end and our eternity will begin.
I. Stanza 1 refers to the earth and sea passing away
"Lo! what a glorious sight appears To our believing eyes!
The earth and sea are passed away, And the old rolling skies."
(Scottish paraphrase: "Lo! what a glorious sight appears To our admiring eyes!
The former seas have passed away, The former earth and skies.")
A. It will be a glorious sight to our eyes because, as was true of Christ’s judgment upon the persecutors, so when He comes in final
judgment "every eye will see Him": Rev. 1:7
B. The earth with the sea and all that is in them will be burned up: 2 Pet. 3:10
C. Even the old rolling skies, the physical heavens, will grow old and perish: Heb. 1:10-12
II. Stanza 2 refers to the new Jerusalem
"From the third heaven, where God resides, That holy, happy place,
The new Jerusalem comes down, Adorned with shining grace."
A. The third heaven refers to the dwelling place of God: 2 Cor. 12:2
B. "The new Jerusalem" draws upon the Old Testament picture of Jerusalem as God’s chosen city among His covenant people Israel to identify the heavenly city which is above: Gal. 4:26
C. John saw this new Jerusalem coming down because the vision which he received was sent to him out of heaven: Rev. 21:2
III. Stanza 3 refers to the attending angels
"Attending angels shout for joy, And the bright armies sing–
‘Mortals, behold the sacred seat Of your descending King."
A. When Jesus comes, all His holy angels will be with Him: Matt. 25:31
B. These bright armies even now sing around the throne of God in heaven: Rev. 5:11-12
C. Then, mortals can behold the sacred seat because they will be in the very presence of God Himself: Rev. 21:22-23
IV. Stanza 4 refers to the presence of God
"’The God of glory down to men Removes His blest abode–
Men, the dear objects of His grace, And He the loving God."
(Scottish paraphrase: "The God of glory down to men Removes His blest abode;
He dwells with men; His people they, And He His people’s God.")
A. God removes His blest abode in that no longer will mankind be separated from the presence of God by time and space, but the tabernacle or dwelling of God will be with men: Rev. 21:3
B. Of course, this blessing will be only for those who are the dear objects of His grace, having been saved by grace through faith: Eph. 2:8-9
C. But for these, the final fulfillment of that promise will be realized which began by His grace here on earth that we shall be His people and He our God: 2 Cor. 6:16-18
V. Stanza 5 refers to the wiping away of all tears
"’His own soft hand shall wipe the tears From every weeping eye,
And pains and groans and griefs and fears And death itself shall die.’"
(Scottish paraphrase: "His gracious hand shall wipe the tear From every weeping eye;
And pains and groans and griefs and fears And death itself shall die.")
A. God promises that in the New Jerusalem He shall wipe away all tears: Rev. 21:4
B. All the pains, groans, griefs, and fears will cease from which those who die in the Lord have found rest: Rev. 14:13
C. Even death itself shall die, because death will be the last enemy that Christ will put under His feet at His coming: 1 Cor. 15:24-26
VI. Stanza 6 refers to the desire of the righteous for this day
"How long, dear Savior, O how long Shall this bright hour delay?
Fly swifter round, ye wheels of time, And bring the welcome day."
A. As the martyrs under the altar asked concerning God’s judgment on their persecutors, we today also look forward to Christ’s return and cry, "How long?": Rev. 6:9-10
B. As John called upon the Lord to come quickly in bringing that judgment on the persecutors, we the righteous even now may pray, "Lord, quickly come": Rev. 22:20-21
C. Thus, we look forward to that welcome day when we shall be forever with the Lord: 1 Thess. 4:16-17
CONCL.: The additional stanza found in the Scottish Paraphrases, which seems intended to make a personal application of the thoughts of the song to us, reads as follows:
"O may we stand before the Lamb, When earth and seas are fled,
And hear the Judge pronounce our name With blessings on our head!"
Watts uses present tense language to describe figuratively the scene of Christ’s return as if we were actually there, seeing it right now. Surely, when it comes, whether we are alive at His coming or are among those raised from the dead, we shall be able to say, "Lo! What a Glorious Sight Appears."