Well, we just got through the scariest part of Fall—yes, Stewardship season is now past (when we get after our church members for money), but I’m actually referring to Halloween. So to keep the scary feelings our Trunk or Treats and Harvest Festivals brought on while we munch on all of our children’s candy (don’t tell my kids, please), why not accompany this time of year with some songs about a scary subject—the Apocalypse! Yes, nothing says “family friendly entertainment” like bowls of wrath, beasts with ten horns and Babylon’s whore.
BUT, if we take the word ‘apocalypse’ away from some modern corruptions and bring it back to its original meaning in Greek, we see that it means a “revealing,” (hence, ‘Revelation’–leave the ‘s’ off please), a peering behind the curtain of this world into the heavenly realm. Apocalyptic literature in the Bible doesn’t have to be so scary when we understand the genre and the meaning behind it—God wins in the end; God will come back to right the wrongs, wipe the tears, and defeat Death once and for all.
So, here’s an Apocalypse Mix that offers several different takes and perspectives on “The End of the World as We Know It:”
“The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash–A pretty literal take on Revelation, but we would expect nothing less from the Man in Black.
“Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum)” by Anberlin–Another fairly literal take on Revelation, but focusing more on the good God will work from the bad: “What tragedy may bring, whatever may fall, at the end of the world, you’ll still belong.”
“The Blues” by Switchfoot–Asking “is there any honest song to sing besides these blues?,” hoping that “the world caves in” and the “sky falls down and the hungry and poor and deserted are found.”
“John Saw that Number” by Neko Case–A foot-stomping, tambourine-shaking rollick about John’s revelatory vision: “God told the angel ‘Go see about John.’ So he flew from the pit, with the moon ‘round his waist, gathered wind in his fists, and the stars ‘round his wrists, cryin’ ‘Holy, holy to the Lord.”
“The Revelator” by Angels and Airwaves–The end is not necessarily the end: “As you pray for the end to come, all you’ll get is a marching line. As you wait for the hounds of hell, you’ll be in for a big surprise. ‘Cause the end, it will never come, but we’re in for a few hard times. And we’ll get knocked up down and done, but the truth is were still alive.”
“Beautiful Dawn” by The Wailin’ Jennys–Eschatological hope for new day dawning: “Take me to the breaking of a beautiful dawn, take me to the place where we come from, take me to the end so I can see the start, there’s only one way to mend a broken heart.”
“After the Storm” by Mumford & Sons–Calls to mind the dreams of the prophets and the final scene of Revelation: “There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears, and love will not break your heart but dismiss your fears, get over your hill and see what you’ll find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”
“Reggabilly Hill” by Jimmy Buffett–Seems even the old ex-altarboy-turned-pirate has some apocalyptic visions as he looks (way) past forty: “The ones who had it all and the ones who’d made a name, were walkin’ side by side with the naked and the lame. Hungry little children ate until they had their fill, then they tumbled through the clover down on Reggabilly Hill.”
“Thin Blue Flame” by Josh Ritter–An apocalyptic song of epic proportions, the first five minutes are devoted to what’s wrong with the world, culminating in the cry “And this whole thing is headed for a terrible wreck, and like good tragedy that’s what we expect.” But then five more minutes of hope, where “heaven’s so big there ain’t no need to look up,” and “all wrongs forgotten and all vengeance made right, the suffering verbs put to sleep in the night.” (I could devote a whole article to the lyrical brilliance of this song—it’s as if Ray Bradbury re-wrote Revelation along with Bob Dylan). Check out the amazing live version below, click here for the album version.
For more happy Apocalyptic listening, I consulted author David Dark, whose book Everyday Apocalypse inspired a lot of my re-thinking on apocalyptic. Some of his more recent apocalyptic songs: ”Justified & Ancient (Stand by the Jams),” “We Used to Wait,” “Reckoner,” “Mattresses Underwater” “Put the Message in the Box”