Apocalyptic songs were rarely recorded because of their dreadful messages. Yet, here’s a song compilation by several country artists warmly welcoming a theme as cold as the world’s end. By the way, that’s not a patronizing statement. I think the following songs are great not because of the artists’ musical reputation, but for the tracks’ strong contents.
The arrangement is in the order of the events as recorded by the Apostle John from the last book in the Bible- Revelations.
The Man Comes Around –Johnny Cash
Consistent to his “Man in Black” identity, Johnny Cash never left the dark side of this world. He, instead, brought them to light through their inclusion in one of his late albums, America IV.
Each of Cash’s songs was distinct, but none caused much of a stir in religious blogospheres than The Man Comes Around. Surely the song would have been given a pass if it were a random Hollywood singer. Not for Johnny Cash though. As a long time churchgoer with a degree in Biblical studies, religious conservatives won’t cut him some slack. And yes, you read those right, folks! In Cash’s later years, he and his wife June Carter studied theology.
So what’s wrong with The Man Comes Around? Cash employed more his being an artist than a theologian. For those who are familiar with their bibles, the bulk of the song’s content was borrowed from the horse riders in the Revelation book. But contrary to what most have thought, the song wasn’t pertaining to Christ’ Second Coming. Cash’s highlight was the rider of the pale horse who comes to earth as the Grim Reaper. Don’t care? That’s fine. Not everyone wants to go nit-picky over details in a song. But for those who are just that meticulous, be my guess and read on.
Back to Cash, the track was a mixed-bag of his loose interpretation of the Scripture plus elements from his own dream. In the linear notes, Cash mentioned the inspiration for The Man Comes Around. He said that it was from a dream of walking the Buckingham Palace. The reigning Queen Elizabeth looked up and told Cash how he’s like a thorn tree in a whirlwind.
Seven years passed and that line never left Cash until it grew into a song. Sadly, that man who came around offers nothing of hope, only misery.
The Great Speckled Bird – Roy Acuff
Based on Jeremiah 12:9, The Great Speckled Bird in its immediate context, pertains to ancient Israel. They were God’s chosen people; appointed to reflect his glory through righteous living. As we’ve already known from history, their relationship with God was a cycle of sin, repentance, and restoration. Allured by the merry-making and unrestrained life of their neighboring countries, Israel abandoned God. Hence, they met a bitter end. God, in his mercy, promised redemption. That promised, however, extended to all of earth’s inhabitants.
The Church as the Great Speckled Bird
Skipping the theological bits so as not to bore you, Christ’s Church became spiritual Israel. But like ancient Israel, the Church has continually flirted with darkness. What’s more saddening is the fact that the Church has allowed evil to infiltrate and molest her children. As a result, Christians compromised and lived a double-life. And in order to silence their consciences, they’ve accepted false teachers and prophets to speak ear-tickling teachings in their midst. Hence, a reading of verse 8 states,
“My inheritance has become to me like a lion in the forest; she has roared against me; therefore I have come to hate her.”
The apostasy we’re currently experiencing in churches has not yet reached the prophesied “falling away.” May God have mercy on us all.
Author’s Note: This article’s divided into two parts. To read the rest of the commentaries about apocalyptic songs, just click on the “Apocalyptic songs” tag below.
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