Overnight sensation Oliver Anthony has refined and amplified the message that propelled him to instant stardom.
In the protest anthem “Rich Men North of Richmond,” which became a viral hit immediately following its Aug. 8 debut on YouTube and has surpassed 38 million views as of Thursday afternoon, Anthony sounded a note of despair over corrupt politicians and the plight of the working class.
Amid the pain in his powerful voice, however, careful listeners detected an intense longing for something transcendent.
On Wednesday night, Anthony hinted at the direction this longing has taken him. Performing in front of hometown fans at the North Street Press Club in Farmville, Virginia, Anthony opened the concert by reading Revelation 21:1-8.
The man with the most popular song in the world on iTunes made no lengthy introduction. Instead, he sat on a stool with his guitar, opened the Bible and began reading.
No doubt the audience heard echoes of “Rich Men North of Richmond” in Revelation 21:8:
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
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It is increasingly clear that Anthony intends to unite his working-class clarion call with an invitation to seek Christ.
In fact, one senses that he chose Revelation 21:1-8 for this reason. Consider, for instance, Revelation 21:4:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
On Tuesday evening, Anthony released a new song, “I Want to Go Home.” Less than 48 hours later, the video had 2.6 million views on YouTube.
Going “home” refers to heaven. Indeed, a sampling of the song’s lyrics will remind the reader of Revelation 21:4:
Son, we’re on the brink of the next world war
And I don’t think nobody’s prayin’ no more
And I ain’t sayin’ I know it for sure
I’m just down on my knees
Beggin’, Lord, take me home
I wanna go home
If possible, Anthony’s voice cries out with more pain in this new song than in “Rich Men North of Richmond.” Mixed with the pain, however, one hears a longing for reunion with God.
Perhaps it is no accident that in Farmville on Wednesday, after reading Revelation 21:1-8, Anthony opened the concert with “I Want to Go Home.”
Either way, a special voice has come to us from the Virginia Piedmont.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.