WHEN THE ROLL IS CALLED UP YONDER
Words and Music by James M. Black, 1856–1938
For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:15)
The calm assurance of a future heavenly home is one of the greatest blessings for every Christian. It has been said that only those with an absolute confidence in their hereafter truly know to live victoriously in this life. Having a personal relationship with Christ means that we need have no fear that we will not hear “the trumpet call of God,” whether we are still alive or asleep in Jesus.
James M. Black was an active Methodist layman, a music teacher, and a composer and publisher of numerous gospel songs. He related this experience:
While a teacher in the Sunday school and president of a young people’s society, I one day met a girl, 14 years old, poorly clad and a child of a drunkard. She accepted my invitation to attend the Sunday school and join the young people’s society. One evening at a consecration meeting, when members answered the roll call by repeating Scripture texts, she failed to respond. I spoke of what a sad thing it would be when our names are called from the Lamb’s Book of Life, if one of us should be absent. When I reached my home, my wife saw that I was deeply troubled. Then the words in the first stanza came to me in full. In fifteen minutes more, I had composed the other two verses. Going to the piano, I played the music just as it is found today in the hymnbooks.
The subsequent death of the missing girl from pneumonia, after an illness of just 10 days, furnished the dramatic finale to this account and gives a poignancy to the “roll call” song. Since its publication in 1894, this simply worded gospel song with its rather ordinary music has captured the hearts of innumerable believers. These sincere expressions have provided Christians with a singable vehicle of praise for the glorious future that still awaits them.
When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more, and the morning breaks eternal bright and fair— When the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
On that bright and cloudless morning when the dead in Christ shall rise and the glory of His resurrection share— When the chosen ones shall gather to their home beyond the skies, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
Let us labor for the Master from the dawn till setting sun. Let us talk of all His wondrous love and care; then when all of life is over and our work on earth is done, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there.
Chorus: When the roll is called up yonder, when the roll is called up yonder, when the roll is called up yonder—when the roll is call up yonder I’ll be there.
For Today: John 6:40; 1 Corinthians 15:40–42; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
Give God praise for the certainty about your eternal destiny that you as a child of God enjoy. Live this day in that confidence.
Osbeck, K. W.
- And this is the will of him that sent me, that every man which seeth the Son, and believeth in him, should have everlasting life: and I will raise them up at the last day. John 6:40
- There are also heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies: but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. These is another glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, and is raised in incorruption. 1 Corinthians 15:40–42
- I would not brethren, have you ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus is dead, and is risen, even so them which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him. For this say we unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which live, and are remaining in the coming of the Lord, shall not prevent them which sleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the voice of an Archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then shall we which live and remain, be caught up with them also in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore, comfort yourselves one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18