Coping With “Permadeath” in the Real World (Revelation 21-22)

These are the times that try the soul, as unspeakable tragedies rock our news headlines and each of us look for answers, justice, comfort, or simply a measure of hope that these harsh reminders of the delicate nature of life will result in something positive… somehow, some way.  The unexpected passing of Chadwick Boseman is yet another painful reminder of the exceptionally short gift of life, and that even the best of us eventually will leave us. I am very poorly qualified to provide any of these things, but I feel compelled to share a few thoughts that are stuck in my head.  Remaining sensitive to these very real and painful experiences that impact us each differently requires a column that will be much lower key than usual.  Death is one of the most challenging words in any language to read or write because of the serious connotations that exist, and I will not take this subject lightly.


A rising trend in the world of gaming is the existence of “Permadeath”, a state in which the player character is permanently and irrevocably gone.  While the game may permit the player to continue, the participant must choose an entirely new protagonist to carry on the campaign.  No cheap continue screen or mission reload to pretend that this never happened…no, just as in our real world, death in these instances is final.  Some of the more popular titles to use of this are Fire Emblem, State of Decay, and X-Com.  Many other titles offer hardcore “permadeath” options, providing players with the ultimate challenge of defeating the game with only one life.  So why this fascination with playing a game without the ability to respawn or at the very least reload an earlier save and try again?


As we increase our technology and capabilities we grow more and more frustrated as a society with our inability to halt the steady march of our inescapable enemy, death.  Scientifically we can do and create so many wondrous things as our capabilities grow by the day, but we still cannot add one minute to our pre-determined life span.  And just like the unending, mindless march of a horde of zombies in our video games and non-interactive media, death continues to bear down on each of us without discrimination.  The good, the bad, the famous, the anonymous… we all have an appointment we are not permitted to be late for, and none of our toys or our tech can do more than delay the inevitable.


I find that this grim acceptance of our fate powers our fascination with the undead, as it gives us a more tangible adversary to paint our frustrations on.  In a strange way a zombie humanizes death, giving it a face that we can fight against even with our knowledge that resistance will ultimately prove futile.  And in these tales of an undead apocalypse, whether gaming or non-interactive media,  the characters are all equalized by their common enemy regardless of their previous societal standing.  Money, power, background, and fame are as useless as the celluloid a movie is printed on as life is reduced in complexity to the simple desire to survive another day.


Scripture is not silent on the topic of death.  As a matter of fact, it is one of the most consistent themes layered throughout the text.  Starting with Genesis 4 there is scarcely a chapter within the Bible that does not include this in concept or in actuality.  The severing of a life here on earth was never the design for any of us, and as we see in Genesis 3:19 it was a result of the choice Adam made to disobey God in the garden that this process entered our reality.

Genesis 3:19 Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”

Romans 6:23 illustrates it quite clearly by stating that the wages of sin is death, and Romans 5:12 narrows it down further by stating that death entered the world through one man’s sin.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

Death is unnatural for us to consider because we weren’t designed for it.  Our bodies were engineered for constant regeneration, but this miracle has been sabotaged by the presence of sin that has brought death into the machine that is our bodies.  Our railing against the slow stalking menace of death is natural and expected.

Many kind-hearted believers have attempted to comfort me during times of loss over the years with Scriptures that are meant to encourage, but honestly ring a bit hollow when you are the one doing the mourning.  I am aware that the death of a saint is precious to the Lord (Psalm 116:15), and that He is in control of all things, with a date and time for our departure already determined before we even take the stage for the first time (Hebrews 9:27).  I can’t say that those thoughts are always tremendously comforting, and to be honest we should never accept death as anything less than how God views it: an outcome of sin that was never meant to exist, and as such is marked for a final judgment of its own.

1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 

The Apostle Paul describes death quite succinctly in 1 Cor. 15:26… Our final enemy.  A boss fight with no cheat codes that can seemingly enter the game at will.  Yet this same Paul in Philippians 1:21-23 did not view this enemy like the relentless Nemesis from Resident Evil plaguing him throughout his life journey, but rather as a necessary separation from those he would leave behind so he could begin his eternal life with the Lord beyond death’s grasp.  This was not a fatalistic view, even in the light of his statement “to live is Christ and to die is gain”, because he clearly demonstrated that he understood the impact his departure would have on those he would leave behind, and as they still had need of him he was satisfied to remain here on earth until his time was truly up.

Philippians 1:21-23  For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

As hard as it is to accept the finality of death as it relates to us remaining on this plane of existence, the truth is every day we are here is a gift meant to be used, as Paul demonstrates to us here…to build up others and prepare them for both this life and its continuation on the other side of the looking glass.  Paul could hold death in such a view because he exhausted himself daily in his endeavor to share the life and message of Jesus, holding at its core the beautiful truth in 1 Thess. 4:13-14 that reanimation and final victory over death awaits each of us who have chosen Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14  But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.

Death is our enemy, and it is right that we should mourn the evil it afflicts upon our world and our loved ones.  And because the hourglass for not only ourselves but all those around us is perpetually decreasing in volume, we are compelled to use each day and hour wisely… to care enough to share God and His love liberally with all, allowing our life to reach its fullest potential by following His plan for our lives.  “Permadeath” can only be avoided by bringing those we meet into contact with the One who described Himself as the way, the truth, and the LIFE (John 14:6).  Our world has reached the point of obsession with the dead coming back to life… it is high time we show them that the dead WILL walk the earth again (Revelation 21 and 22).  But this time there will be no more death (Revelation 21:4), the tree of life will be opened for our access once and for all (Revelation 22:2 and 22:14), and all are invited to the party (Revelation 22:17).  All that’s left to do is to extend the invitation to everyone you know and in so doing rob death of one more eternal victim at a time.  That is how we can claim victory here and in the life to come as well as wipe that smug grin off of death’s face.

I don’t know when or how the final number will be called for you or me… but we should all intend to spend each day as if it is our final opportunity to reach a loved one, a stranger, an enemy, or anyone in between with the good news… that we can enjoy eternal life with all those who have already placed their lives back into the hands of our Creator.


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