The word is so recent that chances are you will not find it in any hard-copy dictionary. The “unofficial” term was coined a few years ago by David Kendall, a Canadian who belongs to a select group of people around the world who have adopted an intriguing hobby: the study and collection of information about the national anthems of the nations of the world. Being an enthusiastic anthematologist myself, it is not difficult for me to envision how rewarding this activity can be.
For one, I love music, history, and geography, and anthematology seems to connect the three of them with a golden thread. Second, specifically regarding music, national anthems are among the most sublime expressions of this unique form of art, instantly connecting listeners with a broad range of memories, associations, and emotions.
National anthems seem to be also a paradigm of all that is optimistic about our world. If you confine yourself to the messages of their lyrics, you cannot help becoming quite confident about the future of humankind. In national anthems there are neither failures, nor losses, nor corruption, nor dictatorships. On the contrary, every nation seems to be a winner, a triumphant paragon of success, beauty, and bliss. Most national anthems proclaim the end of strife and war, lasting victory over enemies, the supreme rule of liberty, and the establishment of an enduring peace for all their citizens.
Above all, national anthems usually imply the existence of an enduring rule that extends indefinitely into the future. As far as I know, no national anthem ever entertains the possibility that the nation it showcases may experience an abrupt end (which, however, as history shows, is often the case).
In Heaven we will all sing the same tune.
All of the above has prompted me to wonder if, as heirs to the kingdom of heaven, we will also own a national anthem. And in case we do, what melody would it boast? And what is equally important, which lyrics would that anthem proclaim to the universe?
National anthems can be classified in different ways. A very broad division usually classifies their music in epic marches (as in the case of most Latin American, some Middle East, and northern African countries); Western hymns (many western Europe, Oceania, and sub-Saharan African countries), and folk-oriented songs (most Asian and a few African countries).
1 Regarding their lyrics, their classification is also varied.
Now, when the
content of their lyrics is considered, it is difficult not to see a seeming pattern. In fact, generally speaking, it can be said that while many nations devote their anthems to remembering past wrongs and destruction and victory over their enemies and oppressors (what I call the reactive approach), others just confine themselves to singing praises to the leader, the beauties of the land, and the virtues of the people (the proactive approach). Still others make the most of their inspiring tunes to promise allegiance and to pledge support to a country they treat almost as a living being.
Once more, I cannot help but wonder what the lyrics of our anthem will be in heaven. Are we going to sing
reactively, proactively, or both? Or will we rather devote our highest expression of praise to the One who has made the whole journey—and the reward itself—meaningful and worthwhile?
Apparently there will be a little bit of each: “The cross of Christ will be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity. In Christ glorified they [the redeemed] will behold Christ crucified.”
2 Thus, Jesus will be the One linking and giving meaning to our anthem, which will sing of the victories won, the bliss awaiting us, and will renew our pledge to the one who made it all possible.3
Which is the best national anthem? “The best answer to what the ‘best’ national anthem is, of course, is the one held most dear by the listener.”
4 In this world each one of us has learned—either by birth or upbringing—to relate to an anthem that stands for a land we hold dear to our hearts. But in heaven, we will all sing the same tune.
Revelation 7 introduces us to “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (verse 9, NKJV).5 They are “crying out with a loud voice” to God and to the Lamb (verse 10, NKJV). Likewise, as Revelation 4 and 5 point out, the redeemed will be joined in their song by the holy angels.
6 And while the heavenly anthem is “a new song” that only the redeemed can sing (Rev. 14:3), it is our privilege to “go forward together to reach the great reward and join the song of the redeemed.” Because “if we ever sing the praises of God in heaven, we must first sing them here.”7
Now, how can we accomplish it?
In this world, national anthems can sometimes lead to comical misunderstandings. A few years ago, the Chinese soccer team was playing the Greek team in Athens. Suddenly, the music blared, and the Greek crowd rose and stood in respectful silence, assuming it was the Chinese anthem. The Chinese players also stood to attention, thinking it was the national anthem of Greece. A few seconds later, however, the whole audience found out they were listening, in fact, to a toothpaste commercial!
8 In our spiritual life we need to be sure we do not make the same mistake.
No national anthem is an isolated piece of music, devoid of any kind of connection to the country represented. On the contrary, it is often deeply intertwined with the history and the geography of the land. Likewise, the national anthem of heaven, that future “song of the redeemed,” is also steeped in the history (from eternity to eternity) and the geography (the whole universe) of the plan of redemption. What could be better as future citizens of that glorious land than beginning right now to get acquainted with the Word, where this story is superbly told? Because as Ellen White puts it, “the theme of redemption . . . will be the science and the song of the redeemed throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.” Thus, she asks, “Is it not worthy of careful thought and study now?”
Faith can be the present tool that allows us to start enjoying that heavenly melody, for “faith sees the robe and crown prepared for the overcomer, and hears the song of the redeemed.”
While we do not know for sure what kind of anthem we will sing in heaven, by faith we can anticipate we will. And it is our joyous privilege to start right now warming up our voices for the soon-to-come celestial performance.