“Forever with the Lord”

“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17)

     INTRO.:  A hymn which emphasizes our hope of either being raised from the dead or being changed from mortality to immortality to meet the Lord in the air and then to be with Him forever is “Forever with the Lord.”  The text was written by James Montgomery (1771-1854).  It first appeared in his Poet’s Portfolio of 1835.  Nethymnal (Cyberhymnal), apparently following the example of some hymnbook, sets it to a tune (Terra Beata) by Franklin L. Sheppard, who suggested that it was perhaps a traditional English melody which he unconsciously remembered from childhood and later arranged in his Alleluia of 1915 for his friend Maltbie D. Babcock’s hymn “This Is My Father’s World.”  Nethymnal lists an alternate tune (Nearer Home), composed, possibly for Phoebe Cary’s hymn “One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” by Isaac B. Woodbury in 1852 and harmonized by Arthur S. Sullivan in 1874.  Why anyone would want to take Sheppard’s lovely melody for “This Is My Father’s World” and use it with another hymn, even as good as this one, is completely beyond me.  When I was looking over Montgomery’s hymn, it made me think of a tune (Haynes Street) that I devised several years ago for another hymn but that fits both the words and, in my estimation, the sentiment of “Forever with the Lord” perfectly.

     The song mentions several aspects involved with being with the Lord for all eternity.

I. Stanza 1 talks about immortality
“’Forever with the Lord!’
Amen, so let it be!
Life from His death is in that word;
’Tis immortality.
Here in the body pent,
Absent from Him I roam,
Yet nightly pitch my moving tent
A day’s march nearer home.”
 A. What God grants in the final resurrection at Christ’s coming is immortality: 1 Cor. 15:50-54
 B. Mortality means being present in the body but absent from the Lord: 2 Cor. 5:1-8
 C. Yet, each day that we live on earth, we are a day near our salvation: Rom. 13:11

II. Stanza 2 talks about the Father’s house
“My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul, how near
At times to faith’s foreseeing eye
Thy golden gates appear!
Ah! then my spirit faints
To reach the land I love,
The bright inheritance of saints,
Jerusalem above.”
 A. Jesus describes heaven as the Father’s house where there are many mansions or dwelling places: Jn. 14:1-3
 B. This place is pictured as having gates of pearl and a street of gold: Rev. 21:10—21
 C. As Jerusalem was the city in Israel where God’s presence dwelt, so heaven is referred to as the Jerusalem above: Gal. 4:26

III. Stanza 3 talks about the Lord’s presence
“I hear at morn and even,
At noon and midnight hour,
The choral harmonies of Heaven
Earth’s Babel tongues o’erpower;
Then, then I feel that He,
Remembered or forgot,
The Lord, is never far from me,
Though I perceive Him not.”
 A. The ear of faith can hear the choral harmonies of heaven: Rev. 5:8-10
 B. These harmonies remind us that the Lord is never far from us, even as He promised: Matt. 28:20
 C. This fellowship is a foretaste of the eternal presence of the Lord in the New Jerusalem: Rev. 21:1-3

IV. Stanza 4 talks about God’s grace
“‘Forever with the Lord!’ 
Forever in His will,
The promise of that faithful word,
Lord, here in me fulfill.
With Thee at my right hand,
Then I shall never fail;
Uphold me, Lord, and I shall stand,
Through grace I will prevail.”
 A. To receive God’s grace with the hope of heaven, we must determine to do His will: Matt. 7:21
 B. When we do this, we can know that He is at our right hand: Ps. 16:8
 C. Thus, we can know that shall prevail through His grace to receive the inheritance of the saints: Acts 20:32

V. Stanza 5 talks about death
“So when my latest breath
Breaks through the veil of pain,
By death I shall escape from death,
And life eternal gain.
That resurrection word,
That shout of victory:
Once more, ‘Forever with the Lord!’ 
Amen, so let it be!”
 A. Death is the appointed time when our latest breath will break through the veil of pain: Heb. 9:27
 B. However, it is by physical death in Christ that we can escape from the second death: Rev. 20:14-15
 C. But death is not the end; we shall hear the resurrection word: Jn. 5:28-29

     CONCL.:  This is a hymn which to my knowledge has never appeared in any of our books.  Therefore, it is likely not very familiar to most of us.  However, it has a very comforting message to the child of God.  And I would hope that my tune would add to the sense of peacefulness and assurance conveyed by the words.  Certainly, it is the ultimate desire of every Christian to be “Forever With the Lord.”


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