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October 2, 2007 / beidson

Beulah Land: Southern Gospel Eschatology For Rock Stars, Rappers, and Everyone Else

Growing up in South Georgia provided me a multitude of unique experiences that many people will never share. One such experience has been a part of the SGA funeral subculture for years, at least for as long as I’ve been attending funerals (and I’m 30 years old). There is a Southern Gospel song titled Buelah Land (a.k.a. “Buelar Land”) which I have heard sung at many funerals, a favorite among older crowds, often provoking bitter-sweet tears from loved ones, as well as those who can’t help but get emotional over Southern Gospel songs about death, heaven, golden shores, and eternal smorgasboards.

I wouldn’t expect any younger people to have heard the song, much less like it, as it is a bit on the “twangy” side, and doesn’t have much of a beat (though there may be a group of teens of which I’m unaware who have this song downloaded on their iPods). And I doubt any rock bands or rappers or pop stars will ever cover this song. But there is much to be said about the hope presented in the lyrics, the hope that a heavenly city is awaiting our arrival in the near future. For those of you who are not familiar with the song, here are the lyrics:

I’m kind of homesick for a country to which

I’ve never been before.

No sad goodbyes will there be spoken

and time won’t matter anymore.

Beulah Land I’m longing for you,

and someday on thee I’ll stand.

There my home shall be eternal.

In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land.

I’m looking now across that river,

to where my faith will end in sight.

There’s just a few more days of labor,

then I will take my heavenly flight.

Beulah Land I’m longing for you,

and someday on thee I’ll stand.

There my home shall be eternal.

In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land.

In Beulah Land, Sweet Beulah land.

This song offers hope to citizens of Planet Earth: all who come to Christ may escape the wrath of God and dwell with him forever. They do not need to fear unemployment or natural disasters or physical threats or cancer or God; Christ is King over all the earth, and has brought an end to sin and death, and will soon put his feet down on the neck of his enemies. He has made it possible for God’s enemies to be God’s people, for those who are destined to hell to dwell in heaven with God. He will reign in righteousness, and will redeem us from the grave, and give life to our bodies again. For those who hope in Christ, it is not odd to be homesick for Buelah Land.

The author of Hebrews reminds us that in Christ we have come, not to Mt. Sinai (as did Moses and the exiles), but to Mt. Zion, “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn (Christ) who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (12:22-24).

Though I’m not a fan of the song, I’m a big fan of Buelah Land. By the blood of Jesus Christ I have become a citizen of the New Jerusalem. This brings me hope when I’m behind my desk everyday, fighting doubt and discouragement, and warring against desires to be esteemed in the eyes of others. This is a city made for rock stars and rappers and whores and pimps and all those who confess their guilt before God and cry out for mercy and rejoice in his grace. That includes the honor student too, who knows he is not righteous apart from Christ. This is the city I long for, a place far better than Valdosta, GA (and many would agree with me about this).

Maybe a rock star or rapper or boy band will never cover this song, but the reality to which it speaks will be broadcast eternally before the eyes of all creatures. Many who hate Christ or are indifferent toward his sacrificial death will soon believe the words of this funeral favorite. And those who have hated their life on this earth for the sake of Jesus Christ and his gospel will be singing a new song in heaven in the presence of their Redeemer and King.

As Paul said, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:18-21).

My treasure is not on this earth; he is in heaven. Therefore, I will live my life in Valdosta, GA with a view to the Last Day, when I will stand before Christ in “Beulah Land” and worship the one who ransomed me from the grave and gave me a home in the heavenly city. I hope former rock stars and rappers will be at my funeral, saying to themselves, “I’m right behind you Ben. Buelah Land, here I come.”

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