Lost and Christian Eschatology

I just now got to watch the series finale of Lost. Wow.

Beware, if you want to get into the show, or have not finished I MIGHT SPOIL THINGS FOR YOU SO STOP READING AND GO WATCH LOST.

Words cannot describe how much I appreciate everything that has happened in the series. Truly, I don’t even know how or why the show ended the way it did, but it has nothing but my absolute gratitude.

I started watching lost in college with some friends, primarily my buddy Chuck.

I remember that the first season of Lost caught my attention like nothing I had ever seen before. Before Lost, i dabbled here and there with tv shows, mostly watching sitcoms and avoiding serious commitments. Lost was special. Lost is special.

I watched the series finale and the last 15-20 minutes so moved me that I had to pause it several times throughout to regain composure. This show has had its ups and downs, but it was well worth it, given the end. I’ve never been so frustrated and yet satisfied with a television show in my life.

I stopped watching at the end of Season 3 for about 6 months. well season four had begun airing, but when they killed my favorite character, Charlie, I was distraught.

But I loved it in the end. After months of being cajoled and peer pressured I was back for the ride.

So, now let’s get to the finale, and what I think it means.

I do not attempt to reconcile anything, or develop an elaborate theory or everything on the show. I can only say what I think happened, and why I appreciated it.

Some of my friends complained, others rejoiced. I was strangely silent, but happy.

So, in the finale, the Island survives, Hurley makes a new way of life on the island with Ben Linus at his side, Jack dies where he woke up on the island. And what the island is was never answered.

Desmond says that none of it matters, but he’s never been the voice of reason on the show. His special ability was to be able to traverse both worlds at the same time. However, that’s his limited understanding of the nature of things. I think both worlds matter, and that in the end, both were true. PLaying a spin off of a popular theory it wasn’t the island that was a type of limbo/purgatory, but the sideways universe opened up by the atomic bomb is their purgatory/limbo until the end.

Whether the island was a purgatory or not is unimportant to me, because that was never really the question. The show was not about the island, but about people. It was never about whether the island was heaven or hell or purgatory or anything else. I think the creators of the show knew that when they dropped all our questions. and instead focused on characters.

Anyone who didn’t see this coming, why the heck not? It has always been about characters. Sure, there were mysteries along the way to entice us, but every season, they kept coming back to characters. I think they had revealed their hand to me with the smoke monster becoming a real character, and then the introduction of the man in black. By the end of the second/third to last episode, i was joyful to be along for the ride on a show that wasn’t going to end neatly, and be forgettable.

I didn’t for a moment feel cheated by the final episode, I felt like they resovled it the right way. They dropped the Widmore conspiracy theory, they dropped the dharma conspiracy theories, and instead did what great literature does, they surprised us.

The final episode of Lost is to me a parable of new creation in the Christian eschatological sense. You see, Jack was really on the island, and he really died there. But he was really alive in that church as well. The thing is, the characters know more or less what they’re getting themselves into when they step into that church, and it’s not bad.

Whatever it is, it’s an unknown that nevertheless comforts us. We rejoice at seeing Locke and Ben Linus making peace. Everything is real, too, they’re not disembodied spirits playing in the clouds, they’re real, and everything was real.

This is Christianity’s big secret.

That the end of things is not an unprecedented event, but it is. It’s not that these characters are all ghosts, the surgery wasn’t a fake, it’s that things begin to make sense. And in the end it isn’t even whether the island lives or dies that is important, it’s the depth of relationship among the people, it’s John Locke and Ben Linus meeting again, and being able to forgive each other. It’s Jack becoming a man of reason, and faith.

If we see the final scene as something unprecedented rather than as heaven or afterlife, it changes everything. It’s not that the church is a rapture machine, taking them away. It gives them to each other again. Christian Shepard tells us this when he says they created it so they could find each other. Ben doesn’t move on because of Alex and Rosseau, but he can clearly move on when he desires. He’s not outside forever, maybe not even for long, but his redemption is waiting on Danielle and Alex.

As for the losties, maybe they went back to the island, maybe not. It’s not important. What is important is that it’s both a remembering, and a moving on.

What is important is the redemptions that happened.

I think The Christian end is a lot like this.

Suddenly things make sense, Juliet and Sawyer, Jack and Kate, Charlie and Claire. Things click as if for the first time. But it’s good, very good. Sayyid and Shannon, this is what the show has always been about. It’s been about these people who were lost, first in their lives as Jacob told us, his candidates were people who had nothing going for them in life outside the island, and then with each other. These people had the strength and courage to live together, and when the did, they surely did not die alone.

It’s not the Island which constituted their lostness, but themselves. All these characters began to experience what Charlie called “Love.” He had passed out on the plane, about to die and he caught a glimpse, but it didn’t make sense until he had the others. The thing of it is, the redemption of one depends on the redemption of all.

Ben Linus gave up everything he had for the island, watched his daughter die for the island, and it was all wrong. He stayed because he had to make amends, but they’re given a third way. Everyone is given a third way. There may be two worlds after the nuclear bomb, but they’re given a third way, a new option, something more. And this is the surprising truth of the Christian message too. We all have a third way, a way we can’t possibly imagine, but a way that comes to us and will make itself known to us in time. The Christian end, the resurrection of the body is a lot like this last scene from Lost.

John Locke and Ben Linus meet up outside the church, and Ben apologizes to Locke, and Locke forgives him, but it’s not trite. It’s full of meaning, and it’s a chance for both of them to be set at peace and earnestly desire the good of the other. They have no misaligned intentions, they understand each other, face to face, they get it, and they forgive each other.

And then comes an even more surprising twist, the empty coffin. At first a source of frustration to all of us, a source of confusion. We want the coffin to have a body. After seeing Christian Shepard on the beach, we wanted him to be dead. When we wasn’t there, I wanted him to be the monster.

We never know what became of the body that disappeared on the island, but it doesn’t matter. The story of a man coming to terms with his father, and himself has happened here, and in the end, he’s both a man of science and a man of faith. The coffin overwhelms him, connecting him to everything that has transpired, and it’s all real, “everything that happened, happened” as Kate tells us and Christian Shepard reminds us. Everything is real. They’re all real, nothing was a dream, or a fantasy.

It’s not just a purely sentimental “let’s all go to heaven/the afterlife” scene. It was profoundly redemptive, stretching back the entire story by pulling Rose, Bernard Boone and Shannon in. Everything was being redeemed and reconciled. Whatever the nature of reality, it’s all real. Christian Shepard is really back from the dead and Jack is really alive. Resurrection has played an integral part in the story from day one, and they’re all dead, but not necessarily at this moment.

Just like real life, we don’t have all the answers, but we have each other. About halfway through this last season I stopped caring about answers, and puzzles, and started caring about the story. Sure some sci-fi aficionados did not have a theory of everything to make everything fit and solve all of the mysteries, but again, that’s ok.

Back on the island we see that Jack has become a man of faith, and has sacrificed himself to be of use to his friends and their escape back to life off the island. Everything happened, yet, it was all leading up to this one moment, where when everything is peeled away, what matters most is the story, what matters most is people.

The End surprised me, but it also inspired me. Needless to say, in my very strange emotional state, a friend contacted me yesterday in the afternoon, a friend who I had been having problems with. In the fallout of Lost, we made up with each other, and decided the mysteries of who did what and why were ultimately unimportant.

That’s half the fun of what the Christian hope is. We will all have to forgive one another, and it will be glorious, holy, redemptive, real. Everyone will remember everything, but it won’t matter in the way that it used to because it has been set right.

In conclusion, for those of you who don’t like my long posts, here are three things LOST has in common with Christianity.

1. Redemption is real and embodied.
All the characters in the church had died in their sideways world lives, but the stories were not exactly running side by side as much as had moments of parallel and cross with each other. Regardless, like Christian faith, the redemption was real, it really happened, it was less of an escape and more of a fulfillment.

2. Forgiveness is real, and not trite.
The scene between Ben Linus and John Locke was one of the best I’ve seen in the entire show. This is what I think part of the meaning of salvation is. We will have to confront our oppressors, our murderers, and our assailants, but we will also desire to forgive them. Not out of pure sentiment, but out of a newfound understanding of the nature of things. In the end what matters is what has always mattered, people.

3. The “next life” is a mystery that we cannot possibly fully grasp.
This was the most clever part. The losties meet in a church with many faith symbols, but it looks like a catholic church in many other ways. Whatever they got off to, they were funally found in and with one another. All the sins that had passed between them no longer mattered. Boone and Locke, Jack and Sawyer, it was all being redeemed, and in their life together, they had overcome both themselves, and the world. “No One does it alone.”

For Christians, the end is less about figuring out how many crowns and berries you get to have, and more about looking like Christ and being drawn up into the Trinity. Like LOST, the thing was less about tallies, and more about redemption.

I wept like a child, like someone having regained an old friend, and in the end, later that day, I did.

That’s my two cents, brothah.

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