“WHEN WE ALL GET TO HEAVEN”
Wayne S. Walker
“When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all of them in that day” (2 Thess. 1:10)
INTRO.: A song which points us to that day when Christ shall come to be glorified in His saints and we receive our eternal reward “When We All Get to Heaven” (#194 in Hymns for Worship Revised, and #358 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (1851-1920). A schoolteacher who became a partial invalid after one of her students hit her in the back with a heavy slate, she became a prolific gospel song text author and gave us such favorites as “Sunshine in My Soul,” “More About Jesus,” “Stepping in the Light,” and “Who Will Follow Jesus.” The tune (Heaven) was composed by Emily Divine (Mrs. J. G.) Wilson, who was born in Philadelphia, PA, on May 24, 1865, the daughter of John and Sarah Lees Divine. Her father was a native of Ireland, and her mother of England.
In 1887, Emily Divine was married to John G. Wilson, a Methodist preacher who served as district superintendent of the Philadelphia Conference. Both of them were well-known at Ocean Grove, NJ, where they regularly attended summer assemblies. Mrs. Hewitt also regularly attended the Methodist camp meetings at Ocean Grove with Mrs. Wilson, and their mutual interest apparently resulted in their collaboration on writing this hymn. Sometimes Mrs. Wilson is identified as the author. She may have edited Mrs. Hewitt’s words to fit the music and/or perhaps added the chorus, but this attribution is probably simply an error as she was primarily a musician.
The song first appeared in Pentecostal Praises, compiled at Philadelphia in 1898 by William James Kirkpatrick (1838-1921) and Henry Lake Gilmour (1836-1920), and published by the Hall-Mack Co. Kirkpatrick provided many tunes for gospel songs, including Fanny Crosby’s “He Hideth My Soul” and “Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It.” Gilmour is best known as the author of “The Haven of Rest.” It was said of Mrs. Wilson that her musical ability was a great contribution to the work of the local church and that she was beloved by the congregations where she attended. At the time of his death on Aug. 2, 1933, her husband was minister at the Wharton Memorial Methodist church in Philadelphia, and she later died in Philadelphia on June 23, 1942.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church for use in churches of Christ, “When We All Get to Heaven” has appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1959 Majestic Hymnal No. 2 and the 1978 Hymns of Praise both edited by Reuel Lemmons; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by R. C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. N. Slater; the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by T. S. Teddlie; 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 A. H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by F. M. McCann; the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by J. P. Wiegand; and the 2009 Favorite Songs of the Church and the 2010 Songs for Worship and Praise both edited by R. J. Taylor Jr., in addition to Hymns for Worship and Sacred Selections.
The song suggests several things that we must do in order to be ready to get to heaven.
I. In stanza 1 we learn that we must remember that Jesus is preparing for us a place
“Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace.
In the mansions bright and blessed
He’ll prepare for us a place.”
A. We should sing the love of Jesus as the one who gave Himself for us: Eph. 5:2
B. We should also sing His mercy and His grace as that by which we are saved: Eph. 2:4-5
C. The reason for this singing is that He promised His disciples that He was going to the Father’s house to prepare for us as place and that someday He would come again to receive us unto Himself: Jn. 14:1-3
II. In stanza 2 we learn that we must not let the clouds that overspread the sky hinder us
“While we walk the pilgrim pathway,
Clouds will overspread the sky;
But when traveling days are over,
Not a shadow, not a sigh.”
A. We should remember that we are but pilgrims and strangers on earth: 1 Pet. 2:11
B. We should also remember that sometimes the sky may be overspread with clouds, which represent the things on earth that may cause suffering: 1 Pet. 3:12-13
C. However, even though we may suffer in this life, when traveling days are over, there will be neither a shadow nor a sigh because our afflictions are light and temporary in comparison to the eternal weight of glory: 2 Cor. 4:16-18
III. In stanza 3 we learn that we must be faithful in our lives and service before the Lord
“Let us then be true and faithful,
Trusting, serving every day;
Just one glimpse of Him in glory
Will the toils of life repay.”
A. Only those who are faithful until death are told that they will receive the crown of life that the Lord has for those who love Him: Rev. 2:10
B. And those who are faithful will be trusting and serving every day: Lk. 9:23
C. The motivation that helps to keep us faithful is the hope for that time when all our toils will be repaid by even just one glimpse of Him in glory: 1 Jn. 3:1-3
IV. In stanza 4 we learn that we must keep going on toward the goal
“Onward to the prize before us!
Soon His beauty we’ll behold;
Soon the pearly gates will open;
We shall tread the streets of gold.”
A. While we have many spiritual blessings on this earth, the reward of heaven is not attained in this life, so we must press on to receive it: Phil. 3:13-14
B. Thus we can have the expectation that soon His beauty we’ll behold because at death we depart to be with Christ: Phil. 1:23
C. And then after judgment we can enter through the pearly gates to walk the street of gold: Rev. 21:21
CONCL.: The chorus expresses the joy that we shall experienced when we do attain this goal.
“When we all get to heaven,
What a day of rejoicing that will be!
When we all see Jesus,
We’ll sing and shout the victory!”
Through the years, objections to this song have been heard from some who say that not all who sing the song will actually get to heaven. In fact, the editor of Sacred Selections even changed it to read, “When the saved get to heaven.” However, certainly all who are faithful will achieve that goal, so with this understanding there should be no problem in our singing, “When We All Get To Heaven.”
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