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How bad will this day of wrath be? How bad? It has been immortalized not only in the Word of God, but in song. The Song of Death. It is a hymn that written long ago in the history of the church. It is believed that this hymn has been translated into more languages than any other hymn ever written in the history of the world. And it is based on Zephaniah 1:14-18.
This hymn has been sung in Eastern Orthodox churches, Anglican, Protestant, and even in Catholic church up until the 1970s, but they stopped using it. Across the spectrum of churches we have this ancient hymn that describes the wrath of God. This hymn has 19 verses, though they are relatively short. It began as a poem, then became a chant, then a hymn. Have you heard of the Dies Irae? (DE-ez EAR-ay) It means “The Day of Wrath” in Latin. You may not recognize the name, but I promise you have heard the music and probably the lyrics in Latin.
Some of the most famous musicians in the history of the world have composed music for this piece. Mozart wrote one of the most recognized. And the music with or even without the words has so been a part of our history that it is written into movies and plays at dramatic points where evil is being confronted or the death of a character is near. And what astonishes me, though it probably shouldn’t, is that most people do not even know the significance when they hear the music or the words being chanted or sung. You have heard this tune if you have watched Star Wars, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Lord of the Rings, and many more.
When we neglect church history we lose sight of these things that have been passed down through the church for generation after generation to remind us of the truth of God’s Word and the link we as the people of God share even with those in Judah who were about to be judged! For each of us there will be a day of death, but for those who repent of their sin and trust Christ, the Day of Wrath will never come!
Listen then to this truly historic hymn, the Dies Irae:
1 Day of wrath! O day of mourning! See fulfilled the prophets’ warning, Heaven and earth in ashes burning!
2 Oh, what fear man’s bosom rendeth, when from heaven the Judge descendeth, on whose sentence all dependeth.
3 Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth; through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth; all before the throne it bringeth.
4 Death is struck, and nature quaking, all creation is awaking, to its Judge an answer making.
5 Lo! The book, exactly worded, wherein all hath been recorded: thence shall judgment be awarded.
6 When the Judge his seat attaineth, and each hidden deed arraigneth, nothing unavenged remaineth.
7 What shall I, frail man, be pleading? Who for me be interceding, when the just are mercy needing?
8 King of Majesty tremendous, who dost free salvation send us, Fount of pity, then befriend us!
9 Think, good Jesus, my salvation cost thy wondrous Incarnation; leave me not to reprobation!
10 Faint and weary, thou hast sought me, on the cross of suffering bought me, shall such grace be vainly brought me?
11 Righteous Judge! For sin’s pollution grant thy gift of absolution, ere the day of retribution.
12 Guilty, now I pour my moaning, all my shame with anguish owning; spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!
13 Thou the sinful woman savedst; thou the dying thief forgavest; and to me a hope vouchsafest.
14 Worthless are my prayers and sighing, yet, good Lord, in grace complying, rescue me from fires undying!
15 With thy favored sheep O place me; nor among the goats abase me; but to thy right hand upraise me.
16 While the wicked are confounded, doomed to flames of woe unbounded call me with thy saints surrounded.
17 Low I kneel, with heart submission, see, like ashes, my contrition; help me in my last condition.
18 Ah! that day of tears and mourning! From the dust of earth returning, man for judgment must prepare him; Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!
19 Lord, all pitying, Jesus blest, grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.
The terrors of judgment suffering the wrath of God for sin cannot be comprehended rightly apart from an understanding of the absolute holiness and righteousness of God. We have offended God with our sin and unless we turn in repentance from sin to Christ in faith we will suffer this day of wrath. The world knows it! The world has been warned. So has the church. Are you ready? Are you ready for the day of wrath? Only those found, whose life is hidden with God in Christ will be able to stand at that day.
Follow this link for a short video tracing the history of this hymn in music and movies: Exit Music by Tom Allen