Monday, June 28, 2010

"He The Pearly Gates Will Open"

“Songs My Father Sang”

He The Pearly Gates Will Open

(Photo: Swedes and Norwegians! Front left: Uncle Berner and his brother, my dad, Arne. Back left: Harriet, the Swede, married to Berner; Grandma Thomassen and Alice Thomassen, my mother)

The other day on Facebook I asked: “Norwegian or Swedish?” That was asked in fun because my dad was born in Norway and all of the Thomassen/Larsen side (my mother) is Norwegian. Dad’s brother, Berner, married Harriet, a Swede! Well, there were questions about that! A Swede in our family? Well, 55+ years later Uncle Berner and Aunt Harriet are going strong! And, besides that, my brothers and I love our half-Swedish, half-Norwegian cousins!                                              

He The Pearly Gates Will Open was one of Arne Thomassen’s favorite songs! And he sang it in Norwegian! I heard him sing it many times in both English and Norwegian. Now I wish I had learned it in his native language. He sang it in church, as well as in the nursing home where he was a chaplain for 17 years after he retired from pastoring.  Dad also made a tape of it and it was played at the funeral of his dear friend, Orville Carlson.

This song is often thought of as dealing with the Christian’s expectation of a home in heaven. That is true….but it is actually a song about God’s saving grace in the life of one who have gone away from God.

After you read the hymn story and study the text, you will see it is a story of God’s love, redemption and forgiveness. These things God does for us qualify us for that home in heaven.

He The Pearly Gates Will Open

Text: Fredrick A. Blom (1867-1927).
Translation from Swedish: Nathaniel Carlson (1879-1957), circa 1935.
Music: Alfred Dulin Olsen (1894-1960?); arranged by Elsie R. Ahlwen, (1905- 1986)

1. Love divine, so great and wondrous,
Deep and mighty, pure, sublime!
Coming from the heart of Jesus,
Just the same through tests of time.


He the pearly gates will open,
So that I may enter in;
For He purchased my redemption
And forgave me all my sin.

2. Like a dove when hunted, frightened,
As a wounded fawn was I;
Brokenhearted, yet He healed me,
He will heed the sinner’s cry.

3. Love divine, so great and wondrous,
All my sins He then forgave!
I will sing His praise forever,
For His blood, His power to save.

4. In life’s eventide, at twilight,
At His door I’ll knock and wait;
By the precious love of Jesus
I shall enter Heaven’s gate.

Text: written by Fredrick A. Blom (1867-1927). Born in Sweden, he came to the United States in the 1890’s and joined the Salvation Army in Chicago. he attended North Park College and Seminary, then served as a minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church until 1915. “Through various circumstances, Mr. Blom fell into deep sin and eventually spent time in prison. He explained, ‘I drifted from God…and became embittered with myself and the world, and not the least with ministers who looked on me with suspicion because I was a member of the Socialist Party.’” Sometime later he was restored in his fellowship with God at a Salvation Army meeting and once again resumes a pastorate in Pennsylvania before returning to Sweden.

“It is generally believed that Blom wrote the text for these verses either in prison or shortly after his spiritual restoration. The words no doubt reflect his backslidden condition, especially verses two and three, as well as the joy of his renewed fellowship with the Lord.”  (Kenneth W. Osbeck. 101 More Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1985, 118-119.)

Translation: The text was translated from Swedish to English by Nathaniel Carlson (1879-1957), circa 1935. Carlson was a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church and the author of many hymns and translations.

Music: Alfred Dulin Olsen (1894-1960?); arranged by Elsie R. Ahlwen, (1905- 1986) Elsie was also born in Sweden, came to the United States as a young woman, studied at Moody Bible Institute and became a full-time evangelist in reaching the Swedish immigrant population in the Chicago area. “The Swedish words for the refrain, “Han skall oppna parleporten,” ("He the pearly gates will open”) had been known by Miss Ashlwen for some time, and she often sang them to her own melody in the evangelistic ministry. The music for the refrain was written by Alfred Dulin Olsen.

One day while conducting a service in Chicago, Miss Ahlwen was approached by an elderly man who presenter her with the words for the four stanzas, which had previously been written by Fredrick Blom following his backslidden and spiritual renewal experience. Upon completion of the music for the entire text, the hymn came to be the popular theme song of Elsie Ahlwen’s ministry.” (Osbeck, 119)

A number of years later, she married Daniel A. Sundeen a businessman. Upon the sudden death of her husband, she penned these words, “It is difficult to see beyond the bend of the road where your loved one disappeared. But how good it is to know that, when My Lord calls me, the Pearly Gates will open—not because of my worthiness, but because He purchased my salvation.” (Osbeck, 119)

Text study:

Verse two could easily be Blom’s own story: “Like a dove when hunted, frightened, As a wounded fawn was I.” When he cried out to God, “love divine so great and wondrous” filled his life. Blom also says that he was “brokenhearted, yet He healed me.”

We know that Blom’s alienated relationship with God was restored because in verse three he proclaims that “All my sins He then forgave! I will sing His praise forever, For His blood, His power to save.”

Related scriptures texts:

2 Corinthians 5:1-2 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Revelation 21:21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.

Revelation 22:14 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.


Elayn Alterman said...

Heaven gets sweeter and sweeter every day! I have heard this song in SWEDISH and in English many times. It is a blessing to walk the journey of life with Jesus holding my hand and to know that many friends and family have finished the earthly race and are basking in the presence of the Lord. Thanks for bringing this forward, Roger, and the GREAT PIX as well.

Ferree Bowman Hardy said...

I found this blog by searching for info on this hymn. Thank you for chronicling these beautiful tributes to God's faithfulness. God bless you.

Radio W1KI said...

This hymn is also available on YouTube in the Dutch language. It is a very pretty version.

Wayne Irwin
Ocala, Florida

Anonymous said...

In the original song it is 5 verses, the original verse 3, translated to English is:


This makes the connection to Fred's own story even stronger, from the early partin Sweden when his father died, through the hard night when his first wife died, with a new born baby, in 1900 through the hard years in 1910-1915

Mats Ahlgren, Sweden

Music2theWorld said...

Thank, Mats, for the original 3rd verse. That does really help us understand the author's heart and makes his testimony all the more clear. I appreciated your sharing this with me. This was on of my dad's favorite songs.

Anonymous said...

This song is still very popular in Sweden. On one Tvshow from Skansen in Stockholm this summer, it was sung by the whole audience, approx 25 000 persons. It is also the most wanted hymn when singers perform in front of "non religious" audience.

Kind regards