By the Sea of Crystal

Full Text

1 By the sea of crystal saints in glory stand,
myriads in number, drawn from every land.
Robed in white apparel, washed in Jesus' blood,
they now reign in heaven with the Lamb of God.

2 Out of tribulation, death, and Satan's hand,
they have been translated at the Lord's command.
In their hands they're holding palms of victory.
Hark! the jubilant chorus shouts triumphantly:

3 "Unto God Almighty, sitting on the throne,
and the Lamb, victorious, be the praise alone."
God has wrought salvation; he did wondrous things.
Who shall not extol thee, holy King of kings!

Author: William Kuipers

Born: 1883, Rochester, New York. Died: 1933, Passaic, New Jersey. Buried: Restlawn Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kuipers emigrated from Friesland, Holland, to America, in the late 1880s, graduated from Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church. He served at the Second Christian Reformed Church of Fremont, Michigan (1914-19); Christian Reformed churches in Oakland, Michigan (1919-23); Dennis Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1923-27); and Summer Street, Passaic, New Jersey (1927-33). He wrote a number of poems, hymns, and psalm versifications.  Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: By the sea of crystal
Title: By the Sea of Crystal
Author: William Kuipers (1933)
Meter: D
Copyright: © 1976 Faith Alive Christian Resources


Scripture References:
st. 1 = Rev. 4:6
st. 2 = Rev. 7:9
st. 3 = Rev. 7:10-17

Once, after hearing Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance" march, William Kuipers (PHH 87) decided to write a new hymn text that could be sung to it. At the time the march was associated with the patriotic hymn "Land of Hope and Glory." Kuipers wrote this text late in 1932 while he was pastor of the Summer Street Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Passaic, New Jersey. He submitted it to Henry J. Kuiper, editor of the Christian Reformed Church weekly, The Banner, and a member of the committee preparing the 1934 Psalter Hymnal, which was the first denominational collection including hymns (the CRC had previously sung only psalms in worship).

Because Elgar's music was under copyright, The Banner held a contest to find a new tune for Kuipers's text. The magazine received 150 tune entries and recognized first, second, and third places, as well as six honorable mentions. First prize of $10 was awarded to Siebolt H. Frieswyk of Whitinsville, Massachusetts, and his tune was published with Kuipers's text in The Banner, May 5, 1933. However, an honorable-mention winner by John Vanderhoven was chosen as the setting for this text when the new Psalter Hymnal was printed in 1934. That association of text and tune has been continued in each of the following editions of the Psalter Hymnal. Because it was used as a theme Song for the Back to God Hour broadcasts, this hymn became well known to a whole generation of radio listeners in the 1950s and 60s.

The text's theme is drawn from John's vision of the saints in glory singing one of their great doxologies (Rev. 7:9-17). The initial reference to the "sea of crystal" is from Revelation 4:6–"Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal." And the final (rhetorical) reference to the "King of kings" (st. 3) comes from Revelation 17:14.

Liturgical Use:
Worship that focuses on the praise of God in glory; funerals; stanza 3 as a doxology.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



John (born Johann Ludwig) Vanderhoven (b. Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 1887; d. Grand Rapids, MI, 1974) immigrated to the United States in 1912 and worked at various vocations. He concluded his career as owner of the Sterling Sponge and Chamois Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan (1951-1962). Vanderhov…

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