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Zombies and the Undead

April 12, 2019

It seems like we just about make it away from gruesome and grotesque stories about the living dead– and then they almost seem to be given a new life… if you can say that.

The trope is quite common now: living corpses, reanimated, walking among us. Similar, perhaps, to college students before coffee, first thing in the morning– but messier. Falling apart. Half rotted, but still up and moving around. They were dead– now, they are “undead.” This is to say, they’re not really alive, but they’re not dead. It’s like they are alive– but they are degraded, and if anything, they are a threat to the living.

I was thinking about that, when I was out by a graveyard today, doing a graveside. At the funeral I had just done, one of the texts that we had read was from 1 Thessalonians 4, where Paul talks about the hope that we have, for those who have died in the faith. Most relevant for my present thoughts is verse 16: “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Thinking of that text in a graveyard with an overactive imagination, I imagined people coming up out of those graves. And I started to chide myself, but then I thought a little bit further on that subject.

Biblical Christianity looks forward to the resurrection of the body. We aren’t looking forward to eternity with Jesus in some spiritual realm, living a purely spiritual existence. We are looking forward to a day when Jesus brings us back up from the dead. Unlike the whole zombie trope, though, when we are brought up out of the grave, it won’t be as shuffling, half-rotted corpses. The whole zombie trope is the evil mirror image of the hope we have.

Rather, we are looking forward to being resurrected and transformed. Our mortal bodies will be clothed in immortality, and we will go on to a life with God that is finally how we were meant to be. We will be finally fixed up– not just in our souls, but our bodies as well. God is the ultimate fixer, and Jesus died to redeem all that we are, so that all that we are can be healed, forgiven, and made new.

On that day, we won’t be “undead,” being sort of like living, but degraded. Rather, we will be the mirror opposite of that: we will be “unfallen,” being sort of like we had been when we were alive in this fallen world and state, but fixed and upgraded. All of our hopes, all of our drives, all of our personality traits that most matter; whatever gifts we might have had, these will be working better than ever before as they were meant to be. All of our hurts, all of our failures, all of our shortcomings; the things that kept us back, and the things we did that we hated about ourselves, and that hurt other people– these will finally be gone and replaced with new, transformed, healthy life.

What will this look like? What will living like this feel like? I don’t fully know. John didn’t fully know what that will be like– but we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

What I do know, is that I live in hope that one day, I will be alive in ways I can’t even dream of now– because Jesus died and rose again for me. On that day, I will probably look back on this life that I live, and I will think of it as having been like walking as a zombie– a lot like being alive, but not quite fully together.

Until that day, we know that there is daily life in Jesus. Stop off by a cemetery, and imagine what it might be like, for renewed people to be coming up out of their graves: not a rising tide of horrible ghouls, but a shining, glorious moment as the saints who have been saved by Jesus are finally raised to life, and brought fully into the presence of the Lord.