The Walking Dead
Zombie movies and TV shows seem to be all the rage now. It seems everywhere you look Hollywood is dishing up more zombie-themed shows. Now this is not exactly a genre I am too thrilled about, but it nonetheless has one redeeming feature: it perfectly illustrates an important biblical truth.
Yep, you heard me right. The Bible actually talks about zombies – well, more or less. If we define a zombie as one dictionary does, then it fits pretty well into the biblical view. A zombie is “the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose”.
That about sums things up. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:1: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins”. The walking dead, in other words. Physically alive but spiritually dead. That is God’s diagnosis of the unregenerate.
They are not just folks in need of moral reformation or some spiritual tinkering; they are dead people who need to be resurrected. This is just one rather stark description of those who are not right with God. The Bible offers plenty of other quite devastating views of our condition as unsaved sinners. Here are a few others:
Isaiah 64:6 – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
John 3:18 – Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
John 5:24 – I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Acts 26:17-18 – I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.
Romans 1:21 – For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 5:10 – For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Ephesians 5:8 – For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Colossians 1:21 – Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
These and other texts do not paint a very pretty picture of mankind apart from God. Indeed, they present a pretty ugly and horrific view of who we are and what we are like apart from new life in Christ. But let’s go back to the Eph 2:1 passage for a bit more detail.
James Montgomery Boice says this about the passage: “Paul uses strong, active words here. Although spiritually dead, the sinner follows the ways of the world and of the devil and spends his time gratifying the cravings of his sinful nature. Some years ago I heard John H. Gerstner compare this to what horror stories call a zombie. For the benefit of those who do not read such literature, a zombie is a person who has died but who is nevertheless up walking around.
“To make matters even more gruesome, the body is not only dead, but decaying, putrifying. It is the most disgusting thing many people can imagine. But that is what Paul says the human condition is before God. In their opposition to God, men and women are walking corpses. They are the living dead. Gerstner said, ‘They are an offense to God’s nostrils. These decaying spiritual corpses stink’.”
Bryan Chapell puts it this way: “This picture of our pre-Christian state is devastating to any suggestion that we possess the ability to act or believe in such a way as to save ourselves. Our practice is simply to live in accord with the nature we inherit with the rest of the world that is at odds with the holy ways of God. The consequence is that we cannot have a living union with him. By nature and practice we are spiritually lifeless. Our status before God is that of dead people. Nothing convinces me more of the need for the sovereign initiative of a loving God in my salvation than this assessment in Scripture of my total inability to save myself. The dead cannot save themselves.”
Verses 1-3 of ch. 2 make it quite clear what our overall condition is apart from Christ. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains why this is so important: “The apostle’s case is that we shall never have an adequate conception of the greatness of this salvation unless we realize something at any rate of what we were before this mighty power took hold of us, unless we realize what we would still be if God had not intervened in our lives and had rescued us. In other words, we must realize the depth of sin, what sin really means, and what it has done to the human race.”
And that points out one of the major shortcomings in the church today. Our churches are so very weak because our gospel is so very weak. And our gospel is so very weak because we think we can give people just the good news without first giving them the very necessary bad news. Until people understand their fallen and lost condition, they will never appreciate the need of a saviour. Most of the great preachers and teachers understood this truth, and their remarks are well worth citing here:
“Formulas don’t convert people; slick slogans and cute phrases are no substitute for hard spiritual truth. In our well intentioned effort to reach unsaved masses, we often make the gospel message itself sound easy, nonthreatening, a painless answer to all of life’s ills. We portray a loving God who forgives all and asks nothing in return. Now, that may tickle the ears of this pleasure seeking generation however this is nothing less than heresy. We must challenge presuppositions, not only of society as a whole but of the evangelical subculture as well. The gospel of Jesus Christ must be the bad news of the conviction of sin before it can be the Good News of redemption. The truth is revealed in God’s Holy Word; life can be lived only in absolute and disciplined submission to its authority.” Charles Colson
”I do not believe that any man can preach the gospel who does not preach the law. The law is the needle, and you cannot draw the silken thread of the gospel through a man’s heart unless you first send the needle of the law to make way for it. If men do not understand the law, they will not feel that they are sinners. And if they are not consciously sinners, they will never value the sin offering. There is no healing a man till the law has wounded him, no making him alive till the law has slain him.” C.H. Spurgeon
“There is plenty of good news in the Bible, but there is never any flattery or back scratching. Seen one way, the Bible is a book of doom. It condemns all men as sinners and declares that the soul that sinneth shall die. Always it pronounces sentence against society before it offers mercy; and if we will not own the validity of the sentence we cannot admit the need for mercy.” A.W. Tozer
These great truths must again be proclaimed boldly and unashamedly. People are not just in a bad way or in a bit of a spiritual bother. They are dead men walking, alienated from a holy and righteous God. Until they come alive in Christ they remain zombies.
They may move and walk and talk, but they really are lifeless until they get reconciled with the source of life. We are not just experiencing the night of the living dead, but the day as well. Just as Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead physically, so he can raise us from the dead, spiritually. Both are miraculous events, and both desperately needed.