Since this Grace Notes is going to be available very close to the end of October, I thought that a little Halloween theme might be something interesting. One of my favorite “spooky” movies is the 1984 Ghostbusters. This movie does not take place during Halloween, which while it is a great movie, including that holiday would have made it even better, in my opinion. Nonetheless, the notion of being able to defeat, capture, and contain malevolent supernatural creatures (as well as mega-marshmallow manifestations) appealed to my younger self. That and nostalgia keep me a fan.
While there are many scenes that I enjoy, one scene always stood out. Before sunrise, the ECTO-1 (the coolest car in the world) can be seen driving over one of New York’s bridges. Inside, after completing a job, Dan Ackroyd’s Ray Stanz and Ernie Hudson’s Winston Zeddemore are trying to figure out why the Ghostbusters have been so busy. The topic of “the end of the world” comes up, and a verse from Revelation is quoted. The two then surmise that prophecies might be fulfilled, and there is an ominous change to the tone of the movie. Because the world “ending” seems like a very difficult time, the radio is turned on to drown out their own thoughts during the rest of the ride back to headquarters.
This scene always gave me chills, and it is still powerful, but as a student of scripture, I do need to make some addendums to this scene. We need to look at a fuller picture of scripture, not just one verse from Revelation. First, the line in the movie is quoted as Revelation 7:12, but it is actually 6:12 (oops!). The text is then quoted mostly correctly: the sixth seal is opened, there is an earthquake, the sun turns black, and the moon turns red. In scripture, this is followed up with other descriptions of incredible things to happen during the end times, and explanations that the people living during this time will hide in fear, which is a similar sentiment to what the Ghostbusters think they might be facing.
Now, there is nothing in this chapter of Revelation about the rising of the dead. In fact, the saints here are given white robes and told to wait a little longer. The two Ghostbusters, however, added some words in about the dead rising from their graves. The words they inferred were part of Revelation may have come from an Old Testament prophet, but I think it actually came from Paul in one of his letters. Either option might be correct. Ezekiel and Daniel both prophesy the eventual resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 is what I believe they were recalling, which is where Paul gives one of his best explanations on the resurrection in the end times. Unfortunately, what the movies gets very wrong are the implications for the dead raising from their graves.
In this section of the letter to Corinth, Paul is addressing questions about how it will “work.” We find here a word of good news:
What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15: 50-52)
What Paul sometimes describes as “new bodies” will be us at the time of the resurrection of the saints, bodies beyond illness, weakness, and death. This is a gift available to all those who follow Jesus the Christ. This is unfortunately NOT properly conveyed in the movie. The raising of the dead is a reason to rejoice and thank God that we are loved.
For practical purposes, there is nothing “spooky” about what will eventually happen during the actual end times, when the kingdom of God is fully revealed. The rising of the dead is part of Christ's promise, and it's good news. It might work fine for a movie, but in our life, we really do need to be careful about adding or subtracting words from scripture. That can change our understanding of God’s word in ways that are at best pointlessly wrong, and at worst, our meaning can be dangerously incorrect. Particularly when it comes to spooky end times prophecies, let us make sure we do our homework and check things out, but don’t be afraid to enjoy a classic movie either!
Vicar Matt Milbrodt