I remember seeing one of the versions of Night of the Living Dead when I was younger, one in which they used a discarded and forgotten military chemical experiment as the plot device which caused the dead to rise and begin chomping on the living. It caused me to be sufficiently creeped out, as you would expect, but mostly thinking about the idea of death not being final… in a bad way. Part of this was due to how they extrapolated the idea in this particular remake of the classic zombie genre: a man is killed at the initial release of the chemical, yet wakes up later as if only wounded, only to discover that he was, in fact, dead, but hit with the chemical so early that he had not yet been reduced to one of the mindless shambling hoard. He made the decision to end the experience (I can’t say commit suicide since he was technically already dead) while he still had the ability to think rationally by taking off his wedding ring and climbing into a crematorium oven and cranking it up. Yikes!
As much as I had wrestled with the natural inclination to avoid death, the idea that I could be brought back to life in such a mindless and wicked state until my body could be disassembled sufficiently was more disturbing than the obvious “Don’t let them get me!” intended to be elicited by such simple horror plots.
Similarly, I’ve always enjoyed the many renditions extrapolated from the vampire mythology in which is explored living forever from an often more elegant deathlessness, some stories more horrific and gory than others.
But it’s occurred to me over time that in our natural fear of death, we always seek to avoid it and its effects—aging, pain, genetic flaws, addiction, etc.—at any cost. Hollywood is a particularly low hanging fruit here. The number of ways and amount of money poured into efforts to push off the effects of death, until the final unavoidable death, are seemingly endless. How many ways and in how many places can one get plastic surgery?
But it seems clearest to me in the storytelling. We want eternal life. We want it so bad, we will imagine it into existence in umpteen ways, pleasuring ourselves with fantastical ideas about how we could perpetuate our lives if it were up to us. Zombies, ghouls, vampires, magical spells, medical treatments, merging one’s consciousness with robotics or computers, previously unknown strange or alien substances, aliens, superheroes, time travel, cloning, you name it… the list goes on and on.
And no matter how hard we try, if our imagined version of eternal life doesn’t end in some tragedy—usually involving violence, gore and terrible evil—taken to its conclusion, we quickly see that existence as boring in the extreme. Endless days in which we get to investigate the deepest depths of our hedonistic desires leads to a vast gray purgatory of inescapable misery. To get a sense of this, visited from a number of angles, read or watch the movies based upon Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat.
We want eternal life, but what we always end up creating is endless emptiness. Even using our fallen imaginations, we quickly see that such an existence would eventually become an inescapable hell—and probably sooner rather than later. Rod Serling examined this in an episode of his hit TV series The Twilight Zone in the 1960s. I was a big fan of that series because it did a phenomenal job of examining the human condition—our fallen condition.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jer 17:9
The only Source of pure and good and righteous eternal life is the One against Whom our sinful hearts fight––the Author of our faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. And we do it every week. We want eternal life our way, as though we were ordering it up for a personal experience in a virtual reality. But all our best efforts end one way: death, wickedness and suffering. Our version always sucks.
The best fairy stories we read are based on a hope that comes from outside of us. They are based on He Who is the author and measure of all goodness, being Himself perfect goodness and graciousness and love. So we tangle against Him because we don’t like it when we don’t have a say in how things go.
And yet, while all of human history is filled with sinners telling God to pound sand if He won’t capitulate to their broken wants, God sent His only begotten Son to die for us. He became man that He might become our sin and take our sin to death on a cross for us.
And our Old Adam scoffs within us at that image. It’s just not good enough for him.
But Christ is just that—not only was His death and resurrection for our salvation good enough, it was entirely sufficient to save us sinners, even while our sinful hearts reject him. It’s beyond imagining. God’s ever loving kind nature is so broad and so deep that we cannot fathom it. The Old Adam and Eve in us hate Him and fight against Him all our lives.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:21-25
And yet our ongoing rebellion does not stop Him. God does not forsake us. Instead, in order that we might be saved, he forsakes His own Son!
Our best stories which stand the test of time echo that sacrifice and love and recognize its necessity. We sinners are in constant deep need. And He stays with us, even to the end of the age. He invites us whose fallen hearts despise Him to join Him at His Supper, that we might eat of His flesh and drink His blood and have eternal life.
“Christ’s flesh and blood is light that the darkness cannot comprehend.”
And it’s not the dark, shadowy endless life we envision in our fallen storytelling—for we are drinking blood and eating flesh that even we recognize in some of our undead tales vanquish such darkness and restore our flesh, even better than what it was before. Holy water destroys vampires exposed to it.
Christ’s flesh and blood is light that the darkness cannot comprehend.
And our Lord Jesus Christ and His sacrifice are preached into our ears for the forgiveness of sins. Our Creator is at peace with His creation—that is, you—through His Son. And while we stray and struggle and continue in sin, He yet died for us, and He reminds us of that every week, and feeds us with the only thing that can perfectly redeem us, though no effort of our own—Himself.
Thanks be to God that our salvation is not only not dependent on our works, neither is it dependent on our imaginations. We need not shamble across the hopeless void of our own creation. Christ died for the sins of the world. If you are a sinner, you are died for. Believe it!
And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness – Romans 4:5