Death’s end

Mick Stevens in the February 26th New Yorker:

(#1) The Grim Reaper reaped

I was immediately reminded of the 5th verse of the Isaac Watts 1707 hymn text “Lo! what a glorious sight appears”, which is set as the 3rd verse of the Sacred Harp song Promised Day (#409 in the 1991 Denson Revision of the book):


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.

That is, through the sacrifice of his death and the miracle of his resurrection, Jesus Christ redeems the world and affords life eternal; death in this world leads to the splendor of life in the hereafter.

The Watts text, with its orginal punctuation (altered in the SH):

1 Lo! what a glorious sight appears
To our believing eyes!
The earth and sea are passed away,
And the old rolling skies.

2 From the third heav’n, where God resides,
That holy, happy place,
The new Jerusalem comes down,
Adorned with shining grace.

3 Attending angels shout for joy,
And the bright armies sing-
“Mortals, behold the sacred seat
Of your descending King.

4 “The God of glory down to men
Removes his blest abode;
Men, the dear objects of his grace,
And he the loving God.

5 “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.”

6 How long, dear Savior! O how long
Shall this bright hour delay?
Fly swifter round, ye wheels of time,
And bring the welcome day.

Promised Day uses Watts’s verses 6, 4, and 5, in that order. Two other SH songs extract text from Watts’s hymn:

SH299 New Jerusalem (music in my 11/29/11 posting “Borrowing texts”) uses verses 1  and 2

SH155 Northfeld (music in my 11/29/11 posting “Rudolph in Northfield”) uses verses 6 and 2; in Palo Alto we round these out with verse 5, the “death itself shall die” verse (written in by hand in our books)

In still another sense of death dying, several tv shows — Torchwood and Supernatural, in particular — have played with the fantasy of a world in which no one dies, so people just accumulate. Be careful what you wish for.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: