By Russ Ramsey
Portable theology. That’s what they used to call hymns. Some of the great old hymns unpack, line by line, profound doctrinal truths. They hold together, and often something is severely lost if the music leader decides to skip, say, the third stanza. That stanza might have developed or clarified the second stanza in such a way that now gives the fourth stanza its punch.
Many great hymns exist to develop and articulate complex, wonderful biblical truths so that the person singing might benefit from those truths passing over their own lips in the context of worship. The last line of “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” gives us a beautiful example of a profound biblical truth worth committing to memory and reciting regularly: “By Thine all-sufficient merit / Raise us to Thy glorious throne.” So much of the gospel is in this line.
In both the Old Testament and New, God tells His people they are part of His kingdom—heirs even. Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand. Revelation 5:10 says, “You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.” This doctrine of the kingdom of God emphasizes two things concerning God’s people: 1. Our citizenship lies with God for all eternity, and 2. This is not because of anything we have done, but is the result of the redeeming work of Christ on our behalf.
We are not saved by our own merits; they are woefully insufficient when it comes to meeting God’s standard of righteousness. It is only by Christ’s all-sufficient merit—His perfect record of righteousness—that we are raised to new life.
What are we raised for? Life as heirs with Christ in His eternal kingdom. When He raises us by His all-sufficient merit, it is not to a place of servitude. It is to His eternal presence where He is enthroned as the King of all creation forever.
Scripture assures us, “if we die with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…” (2Timothy 2:11–12). There will come a time when “the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed” (1Corinthians 15:52). These are staggering truths, impossible for any of us to imagine in full. And yet, this is the promise for all believers—that we will be raised to Christ’s eternal throne.
When we sing that line in the hymn, we get to rehearse the vital truth that comforts us in our inability to imagine how glorious our eternity with Him will be. We get to confess the reason why we can believe it: it will only be by His all-sufficient merit. Though we see through a glass darkly, we can rest in that.