This is a song about Armageddon, Judgment Day and also refers to Christ’s Second Coming. (Hebrews 9:27) It is filled with Biblical references and scripture, especially from Revelation. Johnny’s brother Jack died young from a horrible accident and envisioned angels before he passed on. Johnny never forgot this and undoubtedly incorporated this experience and much more into this song. [Johnny’s father blamed him for his brother’s tragic death even though it was not his fault. This haunted his tormented soul for the rest of his life, leading to his bittersweet temperament, his often sad countenance, and his dressing in black. That horrible accident where his brother was cut in two in a saw mill was the tragedy behind his genius]. This was recorded on his last album in 2002 with the same name.
Johnny led a checkered life, spotted with rebellion. Many think his use of the scripture “it is hard to kick against the pricks,” refers to his own life. The song bears his signature sound of a train chugging down the railroad tracks, a sound referred to often by those in prison, since it is the only sound of freedom heard from inside the walls. How amazing that his last work was such a song. It is a very haunting melody with a melancholy spirit. I believe that it reveals where his heart was at when he approached his own day of reckoning. He had a clear view of God’s judgment upon all men, and that he himself was fast approaching the finish line. He certainly knew the Gospel, and realized that Christ’s shed blood on Calvary covers all who truly repent and are born from above. He was looking in the right direction prior to his death. If you ponder over it, Johnny Cash was a unique figure in that he was loved by prison inmates, all kinds of sinners, hippies, politicians, war veterans, everyday nondescript folks like you and me, conservatives, liberals, and everyone else in between. I really cannot say that about a whole lot of people, can you? Blessings, Pastor Steve
The song was inspired by a dream Cash had about Queen Elizabeth II in which the queen compared Cash to “a thorn tree in a whirlwind.” Haunted by the dream, Cash became curious if the phrase was a biblical reference and eventually found a similar phrase in the Book of Job.
Acts 4:12 King James Version (KJV)
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.