October 17

Cash’s Take on Apocalypse: The Man Comes Around

“Voices calling, voices crying.
Some are born and some are dying.
It’s alpha and omega’s kingdom come.”


To those who may not be familiar with the lyrics used in The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash based it on the last book of the Bible called Revelations or sometimes referred to as the Apocalypse. The book’s main theme is the coming of Jesus as the rightful ruler and king on earth. For reasons only known to Cash, he did not name Jesus but only addressed him as “The Man” and “The Alpha and Omega.”

Upon hearing this from the “Man in Black” of country music history, my curiosity gets piqued on the theology of Johnny Cash.  Nevertheless, as I am neither an eyewitness to his religious life and have only heard or read about his professions of faith, it is best to not make assumptions on Cash’s interpretation of the Apocalypse. We would leave that department to you, our readers. Feel free to have your thoughts and opinions expressed in the comments below.

To Christians, Cash’s description is not a complicated imagery. In fact, to his credit, he did a fantastic job portraying various scenarios using few words and only within a four-minute song. He did a recitation of two from the four horsemen described in the Apocalypse as opening and closing acts. In between, Cash had the judgment scene, the Armageddon (meaning the last battle between good and evil), the preparation of the saints (represented by the virgins, line 2, verse 4 of the song), the tribulation years when suffering was at its severest (symbolized by the “In measured hundredweight and penny pound” line). With the exception of “angels singing,” Cash brilliantly inserted and arranged other references to Jesus words (listed below) to the totality of the song.

Then the father hen will call his chickens home.

It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Still, let us not forget that there many non-Christians or those that do not identify with any faith who also enjoy this song of Cash. To them, the wordings were mysterious like the “Man in Black” they have followed all these years. If it were true that Johnny Cash converted to faith prior to his demise, I wonder how they might react knowing that their star tricked them into “reading” the Bible through this song.


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