Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending

Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending


The Second Coming of Christ (called the Parousia) is one of the main themes of the New Testament and yet one can hardly find a song about it fit for Christian worship. Thankfully, Charles Wesley gave us such a song in this hymn.

The hymn begins with the archaic word, “Lo!” this is equivalent to the contemporary “Look!” It’s intended to get our attention and as we hear the congregation singing it, our minds should heed the command and pay attention to what we are saying.

Hymn then opens with a picture of Christ descending from the clouds – an image taken from Daniel 7:13 and refracted through Mark 13:26 (and its parallels) and Revelation 1:7. This one is simultaneously the one slain for sinners and God Himself. But notice that He does not come alone; rather, He comes with thousand upon thousands of saints as His attendants. The New Testament picture of the Parousia is not Christ returning alone, but accompanied by the redeemed (1 Thess. 3:13, Rev. 19:14). In a real way, the return of Christ is also the return of the Christians.

The second stanza looks at the coming of Christ as from the perspective of the unbeliever – the one who was slain now coming as conqueror. Though it is debatable whether the weeping of Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7 is one of repentance or mere fear, it is true regardless that when Christ returns His enemies will cry out in despair (Rev. 6:16-17).

Stanza three, then, looks at the Parousia from the perspective of the redeemed – it brings the final consummation of their long awaited redemption! When Christ appears in the air, His people will be resurrected and meet with Him so as to accompany Him in His return. The fifth line, “Alleluia! Alleluia!” contrasts sharply with the fifth line of the prior stanza, “Deeply wailing, deeply wailing.” This verse ends with a command to “See,” which reminds us of the opening of the hymn with “Lo!”

The final stanza brings the hymn to a close with a series of imperatives. First, to all to adore the coming Christ; then to Christ Himself to take the power and glory, claim His kingdom, and come quickly.


The three main devices of English poetry are meter, rhyme, and imagery.

The meter of this hymn is remarkably regular. This itself is significant because it allows the congregation to easily stay together as they sing.

The lines alternate having either 8 or 7 syllables and they are consistently trochaic – meaning that each line begins with a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed. Because this is so regular, they hymn has a DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da rhythm. In contrast to iambic meter (which is dum-DA dum-DA etc.), trochaic meter is less lighthearted and more somber – a fitting meter for a hymn about Christ appearing “in solemn pomp.”

Like the meter, the rhyme scheme of this hymn is absolutely regular: a-b-a-b-x-b. The only line that doesn’t rhyme is line 5 of each stanza. The regular rhyme scheme helps the hymn stick in our memories so that we are able to sing them more confidently and think about them even without our hymnal in front of us.

As far as imagery goes – this hymn is fairly restrained. Every image that is used is drawn directly from Scripture and presented in a straightforward manner. In an area in which there is so much speculation (eschatology), this restrained imagery helps the singers focus on the truths of Scripture and not speculate about unknowns.


In our hymnals, this song is set to the tune “Regent Square.” You are all familiar with this already, as it is the tune to “Angels from the Realm’s of Glory.” It is interesting (and appropriate!) that the same tune is used for two hymns about the comings of Christ. Musicologists Drake and Munson say this about “Regent Square”:

The tune has two basic rhythmic patterns, evident in the first two measures.

The tune bounces athletically across the octave, repeating these two rhythmic ideas throughout.

What makes the hymn and tune so memorable is, predictably, its reprise. The reprise builds sequentially by repeating rhythm 2 twice, the second time higher than the first, and then climaxing on a high E while returning to rhythm 1 to conclude. This quickly building reprise, with its climbing trajectory and relatively high final note (a high B-flat is by no means the middle of a congregation’s range) make the declarative ending of the hymn so powerful.


Overall, this is a wonderful hymn that deserves to be known and sung by Christian congregations. It is particularly helpful in that it addresses a key area of Christian doctrine often overlooked in our singing – the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let us learn this song, sing it, and await His coming!


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