George A. Romero’s film, The Night of the Living Dead, tells the story of siblings Johnny and Barbra who drive to rural Pennsylvania to visit the grave of their father. There they encounter zombies and retreat to a farmhouse where they try to fight off the flesh-hungry living dead. Fear intensifies when they realize the walking dead are spreading throughout the United States.
Zombies are empty shells who move about and react as if they have souls, but they don’t. Romero may have constructed his concept of soulless creatures from the superstitious religions of Haiti, but the concept can be traced back to one of the earliest literary works known to man, the Epic of Gilgamesh of the early Mesopotamians. In this epic the goddess Ishtar promises to “knock down the Gates of the Netherworld and let the dead go up to eat the living.”
Christian theology teaches that God exists in three persons. We refer to this as the trinity. Because man is created in God’s image, he too was created with three parts: a body, soul and spirit.
Man’s body is the physical part of humanity that we can see, where man’s soul reveals his identity. He knows who he is and therefore fulfills his role. The spirit is that part of man that gives him a consciousness of God.
When man was living in the garden created for him by God, he was told he could eat from any tree but the one in the center of the garden. This tree represented man’s dependence upon God. Adam and Eve resented the tree and declared their independence from God by deliberately disobeying him. As a result, death revealed itself in man’s spirit or consciousness. Man’s desire to have fellowship with God evaporated causing him to hide from Him.
When man’s soul died his thinking became futile, and although he claimed to be wise, he became a fool and exchanged the glory of God for images made to look like animals (Romans 1:21-23). Under the strain of years of sin, man’s body also died. Were it not for Jesus, all men would experience an eternal death of the body, soul and spirit.
There was no other solution for man’s rebellion except to offer a sinless sacrifice to satisfy the perfect justice of God the Father. The only person qualified to do that was Jesus, the Son of God. He was incarnated as a human to save mankind. He is “faithful and just to forgive their sins and purify them from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Until we ask God to replace our rebellious spirit with a spirit of obedience, we remain spiritual zombies.
When Christ saves us, he restores us in reverse order. First, we experience a restoration of our spirit and are justified through the blood of Christ. We are made aware of the existence of God and realize we can have a relationship with Him. God then restores our souls through sanctification. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Finally, the body is restored through resurrection. The old body will decay but those living in Christ will receive a new body. “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4).
John 10:10 tells us there is always hope in Christ, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.”