Volume 11, Issue 5: Eschaton
O'er All Victorious
Jack Van Deventer
"A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing.” So wrote Martin Luther in the midst of a fierce struggle against the corruptions within the Roman Catholic Church. Luther was unwavering in his assurance that “He [God] must win the battle:” “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, we will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”
The victory theme in historic Christian music is rooted in the recognition of God’s sovereignty: “This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget, That though the wrong seems oft so strong God is the Ruler yet. This is my Father’s world! The battle is not done; Jesus who died shall be satisfied, And earth and heav’n be one.” God’s will shall be “done on earth as it is in heaven” in the unfolding of His perfect plan for saving the world.
God’s sovereignty and the certainty of His redemptive victory are inseparable themes in Scripture and are reflected in the great hymns of the Church: “Come, Thou Almighty King, Help us Thy name to sing, Help us to praise: Father, all glorious, O’er all victorious, Come and reign over us, Ancient of Days.”
Historically the Church has recognized in song that God’s reign from heaven brings triumph over all the earth. In the hymn “Blessed be the Name” we sing “All praise to Him who reigns above In majesty supreme, Who gave His Son for man to die, That He might man redeem.” And later, “His name shall be the Counselor, The Mighty Prince of Peace, Of all earth’s kingdoms Conqueror, whose reign shall never cease. Blessed be the name. . . .”
Christ’s victory overwhelms His enemies. He came to save the elect, which ultimately means He came to save “the world.” His victory song is such that all rivals are silenced. “Crown Him with many crowns, The Lamb upon His throne: Hark! how the heav’nly anthem drowns All music but its own! Awake, my soul, and sing Of Him who died for thee, And hail Him as thy matchless King Through all eternity.”
Christ’s victory is comprehensive. The progressive redemptive victory will not cease until the last enemy, death, is defeated. “Crown Him the Lord of life: Who triumphed o’er the grave, Who rose victorious to the strife For those He came to save; His glories now we sing, Who died and rose on high, Who died eternal life to bring And lives that death may die.”
In these present and temporary days of moral and doctrinal decline, the Church has strayed from the great hymns of the faith. However, at Christmas time traditional hymns are resurrected and the victory songs of God are sung once more. In “Joy to the World” we sing of Christ, the Second Adam, and the reversal of the curse: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found. . .”. This song affirms the theme of the comprehensive nature of God’s redemptive work: “He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of His righteousness, And wonders of His love, And wonders of His love. . .”.
In conceding doctrines of defeat, there are pastors who reject the concept of a divinely-ordained golden age on earth. Yet, strangely, their congregations will sing Christmas carols such as “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” which affirm a future redeemed world: “For lo, the days are hast’ning on, By prophet bards foretold, When with the ever-circling years Comes round the age of gold; When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world give back the song Which now the angels sing.”
Where do pessimists go to find Christmas carols that fit their doctrines? How can they sing “O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant?” Those who believe that Satan rules the world had better scratch “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” off their list, too: “Come, Desire of Nations, come! Fix in us Thy humble home: Rise, the woman’s conq’ring seed, Bruise in us the serpent’s head. Adam’s likeness now efface, Stamp Thine image in its place: Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in They love.”
The woman’s conquering seed? Bruise the serpent’s head? Here again we see, preserved in music, victorious doctrines the Church has long held. The curse is reversed in Christ, who will restore the nations and fulfill the Great Commission through His conquering gospel.
It is a glorious thing to worship a conquering God Whose plan of redemption is comprehensive. What a privilege to sing His praises in the victorious hymns of the historic church. An even greater blessing is to sing the same victory themes from the Psalms. Without a doubt, the Church has a long way to go in establishing a godly musical heritage, sound doctrine and holiness must come first, but we can rest assured that His beautiful anthem will drown all music but its own.