Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King;
He the theme of heaven’s praises,
Robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness,
Now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended;
Took on flesh to ransom us.
Come behold the wondrous mystery:
He the perfect Son of Man;
In His living, in His suffering,
Never trace nor stain of sin.
See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man;
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand.
Come behold the wondrous mystery:
Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners,
Hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption,
See the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory –
Grace unmeasured, love untold!
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him;
Praise the Lord; He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance,
How unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected,
As we will be when he comes.
Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:26, 1 Pet. 1:12
Mal. 4:2, Luke 1:78-79
Ps. 103:20-21, 148:2, Isa. 6:1-4
John 1:14, Phil. 2:7-8, Heb. 2:14
Col. 1:13
John 1:4-9
Phil. 2:6-8
Mark 10:45, Heb. 2:14
Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:26, 1 Pet. 1:12
John 1:51, Heb. 4:15
Heb. 4:15, 1 Pet. 1:19
Rom. 5:12-21, 1 Cor. 15:45
Luke 19:10, John 3:17
Luke 24:44, 2 Cor. 1:20
Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:26, 1 Pet. 1:12
Acts 5:30
2 Cor. 5:21
Col. 1:13-15
Rom. 8:32
Acts 2:23, 4:27-28, Eph. 1:10, 3:1-12
Heb. 2:10
Eph. 2:4-7
Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:26, 1 Pet. 1:12
Acts 3:15
Acts 2:24
Matt. 28:6
1 Cor. 15:20-23
Heb. 6:19
Rom. 1:4
Phil. 3:20-21


The main theme of this hymn is the mystery of Christ. Throughout the New Testament, the person and work of Christ are called a mystery – that is, something that was hidden but now revealed (Rom. 16:25, Eph. 3:6, Col. 1:26, 1 Pet. 1:12). Each stanza of the hymn begins with a double command, “Come, behold,” beckoning us to come and see (in the eyes of our mind) the mystery of Christ. The idea of “beholding” Christ is repeated in line 7 of verse 1, line 5 of verse 2, and lines 5-6 of verse 3 as we are commanded to look to “Christ who condescended” and see “the true and better Adam,” “the price of our redemption,” and “the Father’s plan unfold.”

The progression of thought throughout this hymn is clear and constitutes one of its best qualities. Each verse progresses along the historia salutis (history of salvation):

Verse 1: The birth of Christ

Verse 2: The life of Christ

Verse 3: The death of Christ

Verse 4: The resurrection of Christ

Much could be said about each verse of this hymn because, as all good songs should, this hymn rewards extended contemplation (i.e. study). Verse 1 is all about the mystery of the incarnation – that the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, took to Himself a true human nature. The mystery of the incarnation manifested in the contrasts in this verse: The king is robed in frail humanity, the light of life has come in darkness.

Verse 2 focuses on the life of Christ. Theologically, it focuses on the active obedience of Christ to the Father’s will. He, as the perfect Son of Man, succeeded where first man failed. He is the true and better Adam and where the first Adam brought sin, condemnation, and death, the last Adam brings righteousness, justification, and life. In the words of this hymn, he saves the “hell-bound man.”

Verse 3 then moves to the passive obedience of Christ, His suffering and death. The dominant image in this verse is one of atonement. Christ is the lamb slain in the stead of ruined sinners, He is the price given for our redemption. In contrast to much modern theology which denigrates the sovereignty of God, this hymn presents even the suffering and death of the Father’s only-begotten son as the unfolding of His plan. This reflects the clear teaching in Scripture that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

Verse 4 continues the forward movement and centers on the resurrection of Christ. The first quatrain reflects the teaching of the Apostolic proclamation:

Slain by death, the God of life;

and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. (Acts 3:15)

But no grave could e’er restrain Him

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24)

The final quatrain moves to the significance of the resurrection as the inauguration of the new creation – it is the foretaste of our hope. This language reflects the biblical language of Christ’s resurrection being the “firstfruits” (1 Cor. 15:23).

Overall, this hymn presents the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in compelling and clear language which thoughtfully reflects the teaching of Scripture.

Another strong point of the hymn is the fitting use of various titles for Christ. He is called the King, the light of life, the Son of Man, the true and better Adam, the Lord, the Lamb, and the God of life. Moreover, these titles are not randomly strewn about, but used intentionally in fitting contexts. For example, when speaking of Christ hanging on the tree in verse 3, the hymn uses the title “Lamb,” bringing into view the sacrificial nature of Christ’s atoning death – He is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

A potential deficiency in this hymn is that it stops at the resurrection of Christ with a brief mention of His coming at the end of the final verse. A more full orbed account of the history of salvation would include the consummation of all things. Therefore, I tentatively suggest this as a final verse for the hymn:

Come behold the wondrous mystery,

Sinless reigning with the king,

Free from all the devil’s temptings,

Glorified humanity.

All our striving, all our struggling,

Now has reached its final end;

Free to worship without hindrance,

Endless joy at his right hand.

This final verse, then, unpacks the last line of verse 4, “As we will be when He comes.” The mystery we are beckoned to behold in this verse is “glorified humanity,” resurrected and reigning with Christ. The verse ends with an inclusio of worship, harkening back to the line 3 of verse 1, that Christ was the theme of heaven’s praises. This final verse then, ends with a view of a glorified humanity worshiping Him in endless joy.

One point is necessary in order to make good sense of this hymn and that is the frequent omission of the copula (the verb “to be”) for poetic reasons. For example, in line 2 of verse 1, it reads “He the theme of heaven’s praises.” If we were to write that out fully in prose, it should be “He is the theme of heaven’s praises” or even, “He who is the theme of heaven’s praises.” This is a fairly common poetic device and does not detract from the clarity of the meaning too much (as it would, for example, if other verbs besides the copula had to be inferred).


Each stanza of this hymn is composed of two quatrains, each themselves composed of two sets of lines, the first 8 syllables and the second 7. We express all this in the simple formula: 87.87 D.

The hymn is written in a fairly consistent trochaic meter (accented-unaccented, v-/) and the first word of each line is emphasized. This fits with the content of the lyrics as the first word of most poetic lines is the key verb (e.g. come, see, look, etc.) or adverb (e.g. now, never).

There is enjambment between lines 7 and 8 of verse 2:

Christ the great and sure fulfillment

Of the law; in Him we stand.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason for enjambment here and so it makes for a slightly awkward two lines because there is a pause between the end of line 7 and the beginning of line 8 during which the thought expressed is hanging unfinished.

As far as the poetics go, this hymn has no consistent rhyme scheme. Occasionally, there are pairs of rhyming lines, for example, lines 1 and 4 of verse 1, lines 6 and 8 of verse 2, lines 1 and 4 of verse 3, and lines 6 and 8 of verse 3. The lack of a consistent rhyme scheme does not automatically rule out this hymn from being sung, but it does make it harder for congregations to commit this hymn to memory – which is the ideal.

Overall, the poetics of this hymn do not work against the content of the lyrics but only occasionally assist them. In my opinion, the largest lack is a consistent rhyme scheme that would greatly assist memorability.


The tune of this hymn, also written by Matt Papa, Matt Boswell, and Michael Bleecker, is singable, memorable, and suitable to the content. In short, it’s a good tune. Written in four part harmony, congregations who are able will benefit from singing together in differing parts.

The tune alternates between two eighth notes and two quarter notes, with each line ending on a half note. This gives the tune enough variety to make it interesting but does not hamper the singability with complex syncopation.

This tune, like so many good hymn tunes, is written in barform: A, A, B, A’. The opening line begins on Mi (G#) and ends on Re (F#) and is repeated in line 2. Line three also opens on Mi, but ascends to La (C#) at the end. The final line repeats the beginning from lines 1-2 but modifies the ending slightly so that we reach resolution by ending on Do (E).


“Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” is a modern hymn that stands head and shoulders above most contemporary Christian songs. It’s evident structure, theological reflection, and Scriptural emphasis commend it as a hymn which congregations would do well to consider adding to their repertoire.


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