Dying-Rising Heroes and How Satan Is Deceiving the World
Some years ago, I heard a sermon by Pastor Manuel Sylva in which he described how all great fiction is merely the retelling of the true story of the battle between Christ and Satan. He offered several examples in which God’s kingdom warring against Satan’s kingdom could be seen copied thematically in print and movies.
Over the years, I have noticed this to be true and have been struck by how many times the story of our dying-rising Savior is depicted in fictional characters.
I’ve cobbled together a short (and very much incomplete) list of major movies in which the hero dies and rises again in order to save the day. In some cases, other similarities occur, such as the need to eliminate the taint of evil (carnal nature), the power of love winning the day over selfishness, or sacrificial service overcoming evil.
However, the cinematic hero doesn’t truly represent Christ, nor God’s methods of love, as he or she invariably uses Satan’s methods of force to overcome their enemies – usually killing them. But it remains interesting to note how deeply in the consciousness of humanity this theme runs, that people across generations and cultures so resonate with this concept that it is used over and over again in fiction.
I believe this is because, on some level, our hearts and minds are aware of the larger reality and are seeking for insight into the truth – that there is a true battle between God’s principles of love and Satan’s principles of me-first. But again, as the success of these fictional accounts attest, humanity appears to prefer Satan’s version of a savior.
Here is a brief review of some of the blockbusters that have included a dying-rising savior:
- Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – Spock
- Spock, a half-human, half non-human from the “heavens” (the planet Vulcan), sacrifices himself because of brotherly love for Captain Kirk and the rest of the crew. As Spock makes his self-sacrifice at the end of the previous movie, The Wrath of Khan, he recites a Vulcan proverb: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” He arises to life in The Search for Spock.
- The Matrix – Neo
- Humanity is at war with loveless sentient machines that have created a virtual world into which almost all human beings are “plugged.” (Think “darkness covers the people;” in other words, there is a reality behind the scenes that most people never see or consider, a reality in which good and evil forces are fighting each other.) Our hero, Neo, wakes up from the virtual world and discovers the reality behind the fake one. When his friend is taken captive and tortured, Neo re-enters the virtual world to save him. In his battle with the evil forces, Neo dies, but the love of his girlfriend (named Trinity) reaches him; his heart starts again, and he arises with new powers capable of destroying the enemy agents.
- The Lord of the Rings – Gandalf
- Gandalf is initially known as Gandalf the Grey, a wizard who was considered the least of all wizards. Yet he is known in many Middle Earth countries by many names. In the movie, Gandalf dies in his battle with evil and rises from the dead as Gandalf the White, also known as the White Rider, who becomes the leader of the wizards and leads the forces of good in their battle against evil.
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Godzilla
- You might not think that a monster movie would have a dying-rising savior theme in it, but you would be wrong. In this movie, the environmentalist agenda is advanced heavily; humans are an infection to the earth and are bringing climate change that is destroying the earth. The Titans – of which Godzilla is one – are in deep sleep in various parts of the planet and serve as “nature’s” balancing force. When people push the globe to the point of destruction, the Titans rise to destroy them and their evil industry in order to reset nature and save the earth. But in this movie, there is a three-headed dragon that is not from our planet; it fell from the heavens. This dragon-monster does not want to save the earth but destroy it. Godzilla fights the dragon and dies, but then, through the self-sacrifice of others, receives life-giving radiation that resurrects him, and he goes on to destroy the dragon and save the planet.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Optimus Prime
- In this movie, just as in reality, both the “savior” and the “enemy” are not from earth but are from the “heavens.” Transformers are lifeforms from a faraway planet that has been destroyed during a war between good and evil forces. The two factions have now brought this war to earth. The good Transformers are known as Autobots, while the bad ones are appropriately called Decepticons. Our Autobot hero Optimus Prime dies and rises again to defeat the Decepticons.
- Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – Harry Potter
- Arguably the most successful of all these stories is Harry Potter. The success of this book-turned-movie franchise has made the author, J.K. Rowling, one of the richest women in the world. The series is reported to have made over $25 billion dollars across its seven books and eight movies. The hero, Harry, loses his “loving and sacrificing” parents when he is born. He is raised by “earthly” relatives who are self-centered. Eventually, he goes to Hogwarts school for the magically gifted and makes close friends. Throughout the story, he is confronted with a variety of challenges and evils, to which Harry consistently demonstrates integrity, loyalty, and a willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends. In the final book/movie, Harry discovers that he carries a piece of the evil within him and realizes that he must die in order to destroy the evil and save his friends. Harry willingly sacrifices his life, and it briefly appears that the evil wins, but Harry arises from the dead to destroy evil and save the day.
To the Christian, all this should come as no surprise. Satan has been working to counterfeit the truth about God and the mission of Christ from the beginning. Throughout history, he has attempted to cast himself in the role of God or Jesus. Throughout the religions of the world, he has portrayed himself as the dying-rising savior/god while always using his methods of force, coercion, and infliction of punishment for disobedience – despite the appearance of his self-sacrificial dying and heroic rising. As I read in a book some time ago, a demon will tell you nine truths to get you to believe one lie.
The Gods of Imposed Law
Now, let’s explore this short (and very much incomplete) list of false gods from various ancient societies that are portrayed as having died and risen again:
- Baal was the son of El (i.e., El-ohim or El-Shaddai) and was the god of weather. Often called “Almighty” and “Lord of the Earth,” Baal was the god who brought rain, thunder, and lightning; he fertilized the earth, controlled the sun, and brought the harvest. Baal fought the great serpent leviathan as well as battled against Mot, the god of death. And most amazing of all, it was taught that Baal died in his battle with Mot and was resurrected from the dead to bring life to the earth. Still, Baal required appeasement or payment in order to not punish the disobedient; he used power and might to defeat his enemies.
- Quetzalcoatl was a Mesoamerican god of the Aztecs portrayed as a feathered serpent or dragon. He was the god of knowledge (consider the flying serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil). Quetzalcoatl was born of a virgin and was viewed as the creator of humankind. He was called the god of the morning star or “lord of the star of the dawn.” In the Bible, Jesus is called the bright and morning star (2 Peter 1:19), while Satan in Isaiah 14:12 is referred to as the son of the morning or dawn. Some versions of the Quetzalcoatl story have him as both the god of the morning and evening stars; thus, he represents both death and resurrection. He is said to have descended to the underworld and given his blood to the bones of the dead, thus giving life to people today.
- Osiris was a god of fertility and the underworld among the ancient Egyptians. He was killed by the god Seth but was resurrected to rule the underworld as judge.
Satan has been counterfeiting the work of Christ since his rebellion began. Throughout history, he has presented to humans false gods who die and rise again. Today, especially through modern media, he is setting up the world to be deceived. The evil one presents modern “heroes” who die and rise again – but who always end up using Satan’s methods to win, usually using force to overcome and kill their enemies.
Even though we’ve been told in Scripture “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty,” the entire world is being trained to look for a savior who will come back to destroy his enemies by might, by using His power to kill (Zechariah 4:6 NIV).
Indeed, Islam waits for the Mahdi, the twelfth Imam, who they believe will return to punish and kill all the enemies of Allah. Some sects of Islam even believe that Jesus is this Mahdi.
William Wagner, senior professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary and author of the book, How Islam Plans to Change the World, states, “Satan always tries to duplicate everything that God does, and I believe he has created his own eschatology that is somewhat similar to that of Christianity, but false enough to where it is apparent that it is not the truth.”
Wagner is correct. As described above, Satan has been working throughout history to counterfeit Christ, to present Jesus to humans as a being who has the character, attributes, and methods of Satan. Again, the central attributes that differentiate God from Satan are truth, love, freedom – versus lies, selfishness, and coercion.
Jesus warned that at the end of time, “False christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible” (Matthew 24:24 NIV84). A false messiah will come claiming to have died and risen again to save us – but he will then use force and coercion, threatening to kill all those who don’t worship him. Sadly, many Christians believe in just such a god, one who is coming with a “rod of iron” to punish the nations. They are expecting and will gladly receive this false christ.
But we need not be deceived. We can easily tell the difference between our true Creator God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and all the false gods who share similarities. How so? The false gods operate on human imposed law, which means they act judicially; their form of “justice” is to inflict pain, suffering, and death as punishment upon those who don’t obey them.
Jesus, our Creator and Savior, built the universe, and His laws are the protocols upon which reality is constructed to operate. Humankind is out of harmony with God’s design and exists in a terminal state. Jesus came and died to cure the condition, to be our remedy. Thus, our true dying-rising Savior does not use His power to inflict pain, suffering, and death but rather to heal, deliver, and save. God is not the source of inflicted pain, suffering, and death; rather, He provides eternal life as a gift for all who will accept it. Death doesn’t come out from God – but from unremedied sin: “Those who sow to the carnal nature from that nature reap destruction” (Galatians 6:8). “Sin when full grown brings forth death” (James 1:15).
So I invite you to reject all the false dying-rising saviors and embrace the only true Savior, our Creator and Healer: Jesus Christ.