Ultimate Prison Break?

File this in the category: better late than never.

SPOILER ALERT: The following blog is about the final episode of the popular TV series Prison Break. Though the series ended some time ago, you might have it on DVD. Stop now or you’ll know how it ends.  That’s what we call LOVE…

I was a fan. I loved the show. My wife found it too intense. That’s like saying “that dessert is too rich for my tastes.” Quit talking nonsense!

The series followed the adventures of two good guys, brothers Michael and Lincoln, as they broke out of a series of prisons and tried to vindicate their good names. Along the way, they met an assortment of bad guys, crooked politicians, and a homicidal mother. Good times.

Here comes the spoiler…

As the series closed in on its fourth-season finale, we saw the key character, Michael, bleeding from the nose with increasing frequency. Something brain-related and ultimately fatal.

When I saw the final episode, I wanted to write a post, but completely forgot about it. A glimpse of the DVD’s at Target the other day jogged my sagging memory. So here I am.

If you want to see how it all ended, watch this:

The final scene reveals that the main character, Michael Scofield — the good guy we’ve come to admire and love — has died.  His tombstone is visited by his young son, his wife, his brother, and two friends. In the background, a song plays: “Lay it Down Slow.”

Okay, here’s where the spiritual thing comes in for me. THIS IS A GNOSTIC MESSAGE.

The series is called PRISON BREAK… It teaches this philosophy: this life is a prison, and death is the final break. Notice that, in the final scene, when the loved ones gather [presumably for the first time] at Michael’s grave, NO ONE CRIES. Neither the wife, nor the son, nor the brother, nor the friends. Also notice that they embrace, and celebrate their love for each other and Michael. All of this is well and good, but I think the producers were sending a deeper message. I found it tremendously sad and troubling.

Here is the message: Death is a liberation; the ultimate “prison break.” It is nothing to grieve. It is nothing to be sad over. Michael — and anyone who dies — is released from the shackles of this life.  This message is nearly Christian, but so far off as to be… uh… heretical.

The early gnostics taught that humans were pure spirits trapped in impure bodies. Our material (made of matter) essence was evil; our bodies were evil, and constituted a prison for our immaterial (non-matter, pure) souls. One day, we will die and our soul will be free to join “all that is.” Do not grieve death, for it is a liberation. That is the gnostic idea, and that is the idea glorified in the final episode of Prison Break.

[By the way, you will find modern gnostic philosophy in religious groups with the latinized form of gnostic in their name: scientia… hence, Scientology, Christian Science, and Religious Science — this was rejected as unbiblical by the early church, and rightly so.]

Scripture has a different idea.

This life, while not perfect, is not a prison either.  Life is a beautiful gift. It is precious. It is sacred. It is something to be cherished and embraced. We choose life, even when it is difficult or inconvenient or painful. Life is good. In Christ, it is abundant.

Scripture celebrates life:

My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; 2 For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you. 3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, 4 And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones. 9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:1-10, NKJV).

Long life is a gift from God. It is not a punishment. It is not something to be “escaped.” It is not a prison. That’s not to deny that life at times can be unbearably sad and difficult. But nothing diminishes the essential sacredness of every human life.

We sorrow over death, even though that sorrow is mitigated by hope.

Death does not have the final say. Yes, we grieve the death of a loved one.  But, for the child of God, death has lost its sting. It is simply our mode of transportation to our eternal home.  In that we rejoice.

But we do not rejoice in such a way as to minimize the value of life. Death is always a tragedy, the final kicking and screaming of our race’s Fall. It is a release, but not in a gnostic sense. Not in any dualistic sense. Because, even in our eternal state, we will still be clothed in a body; a finite body fit for heaven.  We will not merge into an infinity. We will not enlarge to cosmic proportions. We will not absorb into all that is.  We will not be released from the “confines” of a body; we will be outfitted with a glorious body like that of our resurrected Savior. And in that we will be supremely satisfied, and equipped to enjoy the bliss of heaven and pleasures evermore.

I was sad when Michael Scofield died. I was even sadder that his loved ones saw no reason to grieve. Life is more valuable than that. Life is more sacred.

Even when it’s tough, life is good.

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5 thoughts on “Ultimate Prison Break?

  1. Thanks for modeling ‘critical enjoyment’ Bill. That it’s okay to enjoy a show on TV, but that it’s not okay to disconnect that part of our brains that think critically. I was always taught that any book, movie or show is communicating an underlying message, and that it’s important to identify and verbalize that message so it can be evaluated and agreed/disagreed with. Your post is the perfect ‘case-in-point.’ Great catch on the underlying message.

    Josh

  2. Bill…

    The scary part is that these “popular” gnostic influences seem to find their way into our churches in the most benign of intentions. For example, could not — maybe? — Jesus have actually been alluding to reincarnation when he described salvation in terms of “born again”? The Apostle Paul debunks such notions as the preexistence of the human soul — reincarnation — in 1 Cor 15:46.

    Or: The historical Jesus was not fully God: that is to say his human nature and divine nature were actually two separate individuals or persons, because materialism is the impure/imperfect and immaterialism is the pure/perfect (i.e., Plutonic dualism as described in Plato’s “Timaeus”). Again, 1 Corinthians 15 is Paul’s “apology” for literal resurrection as opposed to the gnostic conceptions stemming from Plutonic dualism, which find literal, physical resurrection unto eternal life as ridiculous (Acts 17:32)…

    It’s all scary, because these ancient concepts wend their way into our modern, present day culture in the most subtle of ways (as you point out through popular entertainment), and these misconceptions however innocuous can undermine any believer’s understanding of the truth in God’s word.

    Grace,
    Joe

  3. I found out this past hunting season that I am painfully out of shape. Sure, I knew that I was, but now I really know. Chasing elk across a mountainous hillside at 6800 feet I came REALLY close to blowing a gasket — twice. So there is a pattern and that makes it more real. The punding headache was simply blinding — lasted a few days. The runaway heart-rate was bad, but the fact that breathing as hard and fast as I could — yet things would not get any better — was adding to the fact that I was already scared. Yep, tough guy here was getting ready to pop out deep in the woods to be get eaten by coyotes/wolves.

    I was thinking about my wife and teen still at home left with a couple of problems to resolve without me to do the guy stuff that’s still my responsibility. Even though I am totally trusting in the Lord to handle the BIG issues in my life now and the Life to Come, I was aware of one thing that has been haunting me since: I am a Sinner and, even though the Lord loves me Huge — death is just a heartbeat away and I am not off the hook for what I deserve. And dying absolutely SUCKS.

    I am not afraid of being dead and the aftermath of that for me. There is nothing that I can do that is so bad as to overwhelm or overpower the infinite Virtue of the God Man, Messiah. However, I still GOTTA DIE. And that can be crazy rough.

    Bill, I gotta confess — even though I do know my Bible — I can’t quite get my head around the fact that the Lord REALLY loves us and REALLY forgives us, but we still aren’t free from these damned Wages of Sin, the cartainty of death and the agonizing process of dying.

    Help me figure that out, bro. I gotta feeling that this is one of those enigmas.

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