12th April 2024

Now above the sky he’s King.

Many of us sang those words recently on Easter Day – the climax of one of the best-known of the Easter hymns: Jesus Christ is risen today with its repeated Alleluias.

Really? Above the sky? Then in a few days on Ascension Day we will celebrate Christ’s ascension to heaven. Also above the sky?

The hymn was originally translated from the Latin in the early 18th century, by the little-known Lyra Davidica, but the last verse with those words was added by Charles Wesley some years later.

In an age when many of us have flown, if not above the sky, then high into it, and astronauts have been even higher; when we know so much about the vastness of the universe, the idea of heaven being ‘above the sky’ makes nonsense. Equally strange are those artists’ depictions of the Ascension with a pair of feet protruding beneath a fluffy cloud.

So where is heaven? That’s a question that has exercised some theologians for a very long time. Of course we think of things or places that are higher – up there – as superior to those which are down below. So the imagery is understandable. But surely heaven is not a physical place like the moon or the stars. I find it more helpful to think of it as a state of being. What about you?

Incidentally I was pleased to see that the compilers of Baptist Praise and Worship in 1991 changed that line to read Now above all powers he’s King.


David T Roberts