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Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers

A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing – TLH Hymn 72, WS 703, LSB 515

“It’s late.” As children, we didn’t like to hear those words. It meant that it was time for bed and whatever we still wanted to do would have to wait until the next day. As adults, we don’t always like to hear those words either. “It’s late. Your youth is past. Your strength is fading away.” We realize that at some point there won’t be a next day for us.

But as children of God, the lateness of the hour doesn’t need to bother us. The hymn writer and director of music at the cathedral church in Bremen, Germany, Laurentius Laurenti (1660-1722) penned these famous lines: Rejoice, rejoice, believers, / And let your lights appear! / The evening is advancing, / And darker night is near. For us Christians, the later the hour the better, because it means that our heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, is closer than ever to His reappearing! The apostle Paul wrote: it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11 CSB).

The Bridegroom is arising, / And soon He draweth nigh; / Up, pray and watch and wrestle! / At midnight comes the cry. Like the ten virgins in the parable (see Matthew 25:1-13) who waited late into the night for the arrival of the bridegroom, we wait, pray, watch, and wrestle, and then our Savior returns in all His glory!

When He comes, your place at the heavenly banquet table will be ready and waiting for you. At the Judgment you will rise up to meet Him and as heirs of His salvation you will receive the full measure of your inheritance. Go meet Him as He cometh, / With hallelujahs clear. / The marriage-feast is waiting, / The gates wide open stand; / Up, up, ye heirs of glory; / The Bridegroom is at hand! Of course, it’s not as if we deserve a place at this heavenly feast. If you were to count up your misdeeds in the light of God’s holy commands, you would find so many that they could not even be numbered. Yet Christ was numbered with the transgressors in our place, and while we were still sinners He died for us. At the Judgment we can then rise to meet Him with confidence, knowing all has been made ready for us to enjoy eternal life.

As the days of this present world grind on in pain and sorrow it seems like we might never make it to the end. This world, however, is passing away and will be replaced by something far better. The third verse of our hymn describes this waiting time and the assurance of glory at the last: Ye saints, who here in patience / Your cross and suff’rings bore, / Shall live and reign forever / When sorrow is no more. / Around the throne of glory / The Lamb ye shall behold; / In triumph cast before Him / Your diadems of gold! Away then with fear and sadness, our heavenly future awaits!

The hymn closes with a prayer for Jesus’ return. Bring on the Judgment! We stand confidently in the shadow of our Savior’s cross and in the morning glow of His empty tomb. Thus with hearts and hands uplifted, / We plead, O Lord, to see / The day of earth’s redemption, / That brings us unto Thee! / Amen.

David Schaller is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.