It’s a hopeful declaration: the Lord is come! But is the song “Joy to the World” based in the Bible at all?

I’m going through well-known Christmas carols to see how they line up with the Bible. “O Holy Night” turned out to be pretty biblical. “We Three Kings” has some problems.

Now let’s see if “Joy to the World” lines up to the Word of God . . . and if it should even be considered a Christmas song at all.why-joy-to-the-world-shouldnt-be-a-christmas-carol-second-coming

Joy to the World

Joy to the world! The Lord is come;

Indeed, the Lord Jesus Christ has come to earth once already (Lk 2:11), and in Him we rejoice (Php 4:4; 1 Th 5:16).

Let earth receive her King.

Jesus is the Christ, or Messiah (God-anointed royalty). In First Samuel, Saul and David are anointed by God to lead and deliver Israel. Jesus, a descendant of David (Mt 1:1), is the true Messiah anointed by God to rule over all (Php 2:10–11) and save the lost (Ac 13:38).

Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room,

It should be our hope that every heart receive the King, but it is God, not we, who prepares hearts for Jesus (Gal 4:6; Eph 3:14-17).

And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and heav’n and nature sing.

We know that “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1).

This verse seems to be appropriate for the birth of Jesus, but the next three verses list many things that clearly did not take place when Jesus arrived as a child.

Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns;
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

The Bible does call for man and nature to rejoice at the coming of God in Psalm 98. This, however is not in response to the birth of Jesus. It’s in response to the Lord’s arrival to judge the earth in righteousness (Ps 98:9). When Jesus came the first time, He did not arrive to condemn the world (John 3:17), but we do know that He will one day judge all men (John 25–29).

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

After the birth of Jesus, sin and sorrows persisted. In fact, the apostles predicted that things would get worse in this area. Paul says that the apostasy will precede the day of the Lord (2 Thess 3), and that all who desire to live godly lives will be persecuted (1 Ti 3:12). Peter warns that false teachers will arise (2 Pt 2:1–3).

Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

I grew up on an acre of woods in North Carolina. There were thorns (brier patches) all over the place. I’m pretty sure the thorns didn’t go away when Jesus was born.

Actually, the thorns and the curse are direct references to the curse in Genesis. When Adam sins, God curses the ground, causing it to bring forth thorns and thistles–making farm labor more difficult (Gn 3:17–18). This earth is broken, and that didn’t change with the birth of Christ.

In fact, all creation still groans in anticipation of the glory to come (Ro 8:19–22). John says that there will no longer be any cursed thing in the New Jerusalem (Rev 22:3), but we certainly haven’t seen such events take place since Jesus’ birth.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, and wonders of His love.

This clearly hasn’t entirely come to pass yet. When Jesus ascended, He told His disciples to preach the good news to all nations (Mt 28:19; Mk 15:16). People of many nations have been saved, but we still have yet to see all nations display the glories of His righteousness (or justice).

Read Isaiah 60.  This is a beautiful vision of Jerusalem glorified. People of all nations approach the holy city, whose ruler is the Lord. And He says, “Then all your people will be righteous; they will possess the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Is 60:21).

Conclusion: biblical, but not about Jesus’ birth

“Joy to the World” is about the second coming of Jesus, and its claims are rather easily backed by Scripture. Jesus’ first coming made a second coming possible: that indeed give us cause to rejoice. However, if we sing these lyrics in reference to His birth alone, they’ll seem more like wishful thinking than joyous anticipation

So enjoy singing this hymn, and don’t only think of it as a Christmas song. Sing it any time of the year.

You’ll probably get a few raised eyebrows for listening to “Christmas music” out of season. But that’s a great opportunity to tell them how you’re looking forward to Jesus’ return . . . and share “the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love.”

Learn about other Christmas hymns