News Flash Extra: February 2004

That Movie

Okay, I'm going to add my comments to those of everybody else on the internet and in the Press!! It seems I have to - I am being bombarded day and night by people looking for opinions. I don't consider my "opinion" to be any more special or informed than any other person, but here goes:

I have not seen this film (it has not yet been shown to the general public). I have seen the trailer and I have read many reviews, both by Christians (for and against) and in the media. Putting all those together, I want to enter into a question and answer session in an attempt to explore this issue.

I do NOT intend to offer some kind of black and white "answer" to it all. Nobody can do that. However, I do want to raise some pertinent doubts that should be in our minds.

The movie, which was funded and produced by Mel Gibson as a personal religious project, is due to be released on February 25th, Ash Wednesday.

1. Why has this movie become such big news?

The professing Church (such as it is) has been preaching restoration and social change for many years, believing that eventually there will be a "mighty move of God" that will see "millions converted" and the Church restored to the kind of power and influence that.... well, that it's never really had, unless you count the religious empires of previous centuries that were not really Christian in the full sense of the word.

However, the bible predicts increasing lawlessness in the run-up to the end of the age, not obedience. Rather than a change in human hearts leading to widespread conversion, the bible says that "wickedness shall increase" and when the Lord comes "shall he find faith on the earth?" Implied answer - NO.

Apostasy (that is, a falling away from the faith on a large scale) is what the bible tells us will happen in the last days. (2 Thess 2:3) There is NO biblical warrant for a massive restoration, global revival, awakening or a renewal of spiritual purity - or any of the mighty moves of God that modern-day prophets speak of.

So, when the prophecies keep failing, and the predicted new waves do not arrive, and people grow restive and demand results, along comes a film that seems to offer the magic key to success. You can see how it would be welcomed with open arms.

Thus we witness the spectacle of ministries and churches (such as the success-driven Saddleback Church of Rick Warren) block-booking cinemas and putting their whole weight behind the film's publicity drive.

You can hardly move for advertisements, reviews and exhortations to "see this film if it's the last thing you do".

A Few Quotes
  • I have no doubt that the movie will be one of the greatest evangelistic tools in modern day history. I think people will go to it and then flood into the churches seeking to know the deeper implications of this movie. - Ed Young Jr., Pastor, Dallas-Area Fellowship Church
  • Without question, this is the finest work that has ever been done on this subject. -Pat Robertson
  • No film in my lifetime has the potential of impacting more people with the world's greatest story than 'The Passion'. It could be Hollywood's finest achievement to date. -Tim LaHaye
  • I believe The Passion of The Christ may well be one of the most powerful evangelistic tools of the last 100 years, because you have never seen the story of Jesus portrayed this vividly before. - Greg Laurie, Harvest Crusades
  • I am praying that Mel Gibson's movie will have a powerful impact on our culture and that it will appeal to millions of movie lovers who are starving for a glimmer of honesty regarding the miraculous and life-changing story of the One who died for everyone, no matter their religious heritage, station in life, sexual preference or skin color. (From Falwell Confidential, Sept 24, 2003) -Dr. Jerry Falwell, The Liberty Channel
  • The Passion will stun audiences and create an incredible appetite for people to know more about Jesus. I urge Christians to invite their spiritually seeking friends to see this movie with them. -Lee Strobel, Former Atheist & Author "The Case for Christ" & "The Case for Faith"
  • This movie could have a profound spiritual effect on millions of people. -Paul Crouch, Jr., Trinity Broadcasting Network
  • [The film] will probably be recognized as the best religious film ever made. -Thomas Dillon, President, Thomas Aquinas College
  • It is my belief that if we could understand what Jesus Christ did for us and we could follow his example of love and forgiveness, there would not be hatred or violence in the world. This film will help to make that possible. ... I am confident that it will change for the better everyone who sees it, both Christians and non-Christians alike. It will bring people closer to God, and closer to one another. -Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, The Vatican, Worldwide Prefect of the Clergy
  • The impact of this movie will be immeasurable. -Mark Mittelberg, Author, "Building a Contagious Christian"
  • The Passion of Christ" will create massive repercussions in every genre of social experience. The stage is being set for historical harvest. The beginning of the breakthrough from modern contemporary methods of outreach has begun. Chad Taylor

Has this movie become more popular than Jesus Himself? It would appear so.

Billy Graham praised it. Mission America Coalition plans to use the movie for evangelism. Campus Crusade is promoting it. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in southern California purchased 18,000 tickets. The Evangelical Free Church of Naperville, Illinois, purchased more than 1,000. Two members of Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, Illinois, have offered to buy out two screenings of the movie at a local theater. Morris Chapman, president of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention said, “I don't know of anything since the Billy Graham crusades that has had the potential of touching so many lives.”  [David Cloud]

In a message issued from "Center for Reclaiming America", Dr. James Kennedy - a popular and highly-respected television preacher said this:

"The Passion of the Christ" is the most intense and moving film I have ever seen. I have no doubt that many lives will be changed as a result of seeing it.

I cannot recall a movie in my lifetime that has precipitated greater anticipation or created more of a stir than this film. Unlike some, I find listening to the discussions and debate surrounding it exciting, because I believe "The Passion of the Christ" has the potential to stir a mighty rebirth of spirituality that I pray will sweep over our nation and the world!

+ +Coming to a theatre near you: The Salvation Message.

I believe we've been given a special gift with this movie--a powerful resource that can be used to transform our fallen society and ultimately redirect a culture that has lost its moral compass. But it will only happen if the faith-filled believers of our nation embrace this film and make it their own. That is why I am urging everyone in our online family to promote this film and use it creatively as a dynamic outreach tool to evangelize our neighborhoods, communities, and our nation.

D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., Founder

When Jesus was on earth, his message delivered in Person was rejected even by His own people, and has been unpopular ever since. Now we are to believe that a movie adaption of the events will do what God Himself could not do, in saving the world. Yet if men and women were unwilling to accept the Son of God and His teachings when He came to earth in human form, and have persecuted each and every group that faithfully preached the gospel since then, why should they change their minds when they see part of His life on screen?

Nonetheless, the Church believes the film will "generate a tidal wave of interest in Jesus", taking for granted that this "interest" will be godly, well-informed, properly-directed, and fruitful. So the marketing machine has swung into action:

  • Churches are buying advance tickets by the busload.
  • Outreach, the Christian company that is marketing the film, sees it as a teaching tool.
  • 250,000 videos with posters and other promotional materials have been distributed to an evangelical audience.
  • Selected churches have been given what was called a training session on how to use The Passion — a special preopening on how to handle the movie.
  • Hundreds of churches were linked via satellite and encouraged by Gibson to spread the word.

You can't blame people for trying, and I think their zeal is commendable, BUT I believe their attempts are misguided and could lead to a disaster rather than a blessing - see my conclusions below.

2. What is the Movie like?

Mel Gibson: "It's very violent and if you don't like it, don't go, you know?" (interview by ABC) . Mel Gibson is famous for his roles in R-rated films such as Braveheart and Lethal Weapon . In fact, “The Passion of the Christ” is R-rated for violence. (Great news if you want to take the kids, then!)

"The Passion of the Christ is messy. From Jesus' violent arrest to his flogging and crucifixion, almost every scene is marked by callous cruelty and bloodshed. Jesus' bruised right eye swells shut. Deep lacerations criss-cross his flesh. It's very visceral and very difficult to watch. ...How much blood and violence are necessary, I found myself wondering, for the crucifixion story to be authentic? Does Gibson's R-rated account rank among the most faithful Jesus films ever? Or is it simply riding the current wave of "reality" programming? Is it brutally honest, or just brutal?" [Bruce N. Fisk]

Those who have been invited to previews all comment on the level of gore, and say that two hours of almost unrelieved torture, blood and cruelty is hard to take. To create an emotional impact, it may be necessary to show the actual mechanics of a crucifixion with all the blood and horror and pain, but I wonder if it's necessary to the message of salvation?

Beatings, whippings, floggings and the Crucifixion, are shown in close-up with frequent slow motion shots to ensure that no detail escapes us. We see a cat-o-nine tails rip repeatedly into Jesus's flesh as His body is torn and battered to a bleeding pulp; He stumbles, falls and is beaten many times during His long, slow crawl towards His crucifixion; and the agony of the Crucifixion is graphically and excruciatingly portrayed. (Daily Telegraph UK Newspaper)

Would Jesus want His suffering to be publicly perpetuated in this way? Does God want us to focus on the torture and death of His Son, rather than take hope from the new life of the Resurrection - which is only shown in glimpses in the final scenes of the movie.

While Catholics display in their churches crucifixes and graphic paintings of the Crucifixion, we Protestants display the empty Cross which speaks of victory over death, and the glory of the Resurrected Lord. THAT, rather than the pain and suffering of the Cross, is the hope of our salvation.

Dr David Elcott, the director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, attended a screening of the film in Chicago. His reaction to it was, "with the exception of Jesus, Mary and Mary Magdalene, everyone is evil, everyone is nefarious, diabolical. It was like watching The Exorcist".

By the way, Mary Magdalane is played by Monica Bellucci, an Italian sex symbol, and the Virgin Mary is played by a Romanian actress, Maia Morgenstern.

Although the film will not be shown in Britain for at least six weeks, a few British reporters have previewed it. One report in the newspaper "Sunday Telegraph" (Focus: February 15th) said the following:

Prof Pawlikowski, who is the president of the International Council for Christians and Jews, saw the film at the Willowcreek, one of a new breed of "mega churches", which is based in Chicago. The Passion was shown on two giant screens in the sanctuary of the church to an audience of about 4,000 people. He believes The Passion is a product of personal piety rather than anti-Semitism. He is, nonetheless, scathing about its depiction of the Jewish people and about the "gratuitous" violence.

"The fundamental problem with the film is that it depicts the Jews as the people primarily responsible for Christ's death," he said. "The film conjures up an image of a bloodthirsty cabal who hound Jesus and effectively blackmail Pilate into authorising his crucifixion. That is not an accurate reflection of what happened. At the same time, the movie has gore from beginning to end."

The Catholic theologian also takes issue with the portrayal of Pilate: "In this film it has no basis in fact. In reality he was a tyrant who ultimately had to be removed from power by Rome."

Father Alexander Sherbrooke, a Catholic priest who was among a select audience of 25 who viewed the film at the Lord Mayor's residence in Dublin in December, is one of only a handful of Britons to have seen the film. He disputes the notion that this "thought-provoking and deeply spiritual film" is anti-Semitic, and insists that the Romans are the "real bad guys".

"You have to remember that when the anti-Semitic brigade are getting on their bandwagon they forget the Gospel is not a Mills & Boon novel," said Fr Sherbrooke. "It is not Gone With the Wind film stuff. Scripturally the film is very accurate. I think it is as it was. It is not anti-Semitic and it could have been much more if he [Gibson] had been less cautious."

He added: "It is violent and does not leave much to the imagination. They were violent times and violent people."

Fr Sherbrooke said that he thought the film would not provoke the same sort of reaction in Britain as it had elsewhere. "You have to remember that in Hollywood you have a very strong Jewish and Scientology lobby who do not like anything that is obviously Catholic. Here we are so secular we don't bother what you do as long as you don't start judging 'me and my lifestyle'."

Rabbi David Sandmel, however, one of only a handful of Jews to have seen the film after a Christian friend invited him to a private screening in Chicago, likened the film to a crude medieval mystery play. He said that Gibson's decision to include the testimony of two nuns who claimed to have visions, Mary of Agreda (1602-1665) and Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824), compounded the film's weaknesses.

He said: "The film is littered with historical inaccuracies. The scene where Jesus is thrown from a bridge shortly after his arrest may be a powerful one but it is not backed up by anything in the Gospels. A subsequent scene in which Pilate's wife hands Mary some towels so that she can mop up Christ's blood following a particular brutal beating is also based on hints rather than hard facts."

Nonetheless, those who have seen the film say that it is stunning, very moving and an intense emotional experience from which they take a long time to recover. The depictions of Jesus and his family, and the events of those days, are shown in such a way as to bring them alive in a way that has rarely happened on screen.

Dr Gary Hearon, the executive director of Dallas Baptist Church and one of the film's most vocal supporters, accepts that there are scenes in the film that are not in the Gospel, but insists there is nothing in the film that would be out of place in the accounts.

He said:

"I think it may be the greatest evangelical tool in the 2,000-year history of the church. Mel Gibson has produced what I would judge to be a film which is authentic and faithful to scripture. ... You do not just watch a film like this, you experience it. I did not enjoy it; I was enraptured by it. After watching the film I needed 30 minutes to debrief and get some closure."

3. What about the accusations of anti-semitism?

"Religious scholars who have read the script believe that it leans too heavily on an 18th-century book of Catholic mysticism that paints Jews in a particularly harsh light. The book, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by St Anne Catherine Emmerich, suggests that Jews organised "blood money" for the Crucifixion - paying people to clamour for Jesus's death to sway Pontius Pilate - and that His cross was constructed on the orders of the Jewish high priest.

They fear that the film will be a modern version of traditional Passion plays, which in medieval times popularised the doctrine of Jews as "Christ-killers". Passion plays were often performed during Lent, and were accused of prompting pogroms against Jewish communities in Christian Europe. " (Daily Telegraph Newspaper, UK)

This point is well made. It is a fact that Gibson, as an unreformed Catholic, would still hold to the old RC viewpoint on Judaism, which led amongst other things to the Vatican turning a blind eye during the Holocaust.

But overall, I think the cries of "anti-semitism" are probably a distraction from the main concerns (for a Christian) about this film. Gibson himself seems eager to distance himself from the accusation that he portrays Jews unfairly, and has been seeking ways to soften the blow.

It's also hard to see how any accurate portrayal of the crucifixion could paint the Jews in a completely positive light, and we should not be scared off by the predictable rantings of certain Jewish or interfaith action groups. We should remember that much of the movie world is peopled by Jews who have vested interests.

4. Is it true that Mel Gibson is a catholic?

Mel Gibson is not a member of the normal Roman Catholic Church. He is a "Traditionalist Catholic" -- a member of a "traditional" Roman Catholic sect attending a chapel called The Holy Family in Malibu, California. His group belongs to a loosely interconnected group of dissidents who hold to pre-Vatican II procedures. He rejects the Second Vatican Council which modernised the Roman Catholic Church and only attends Mass in Latin.

Mel Gibson attended Mass every morning during the filming of "The Passion" in order to stay "squeaky clean". While I applaud his desire for purity, attending Mass is not the biblical way of finding nor maintaining it.

Gibson recently funded the construction of The Holy Family chapel after his church in the San Gabriel Valley was taken over by the Society of Saint Pius X. A group of congregants, including the Gibson family, left in protest. He built the large Traditionalist church in California with no ties to any Catholic diocese. Rituals at this church, it is said, have a degree of secrecy not found in mainstream Christian religions. New York Times Reporter Christopher Nixon needed to obtain permission from a church elder--a role not regularly filled in the genuine Catholic faith--before attending a Sunday service. He was understandably asked to refrain from talking to anyone while the Mass progressed. Suggesting a near cultist sequestration he was also informed that anyone seen conversing with him "will not be welcome back at our church again."

Yes, Mel Gibson truly is more Catholic than the Pope!

Rumours are circulating, and despite official denials do appear to be founded on fact, that Gibson based his movie on a book by an ecstatic mystic nun called Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 - 1824). This lady was a visionary and stigmatic (which means the marks of the crucifixion physically appeared on her body). In a review for the book we read:

Sister Emmerich's account of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, while faithful to the Bible, is heart-rending, edifying and surprising-because of its intimate detail. Based on the visions of this great mystic, The Dolorous Passion recounts in incredible detail the horrendous sufferings undergone by our Saviour in His (it would seem) superhumanly heroic act of Redemption. Illuminating in its description of Mary's participation in the sufferings of her Son, this book gives the reader a poignant understanding of why Our Lady is sometimes called our "Co-Redemptrix." The Dolorous Passion is a singular book that conveys a lasting impression of the terrible agony of Our Lord's sufferings for us. Here is a book that will melt a heart of stone!

Preceding The Dolorous Passion in this edition is a short life of the remarkable Sister Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 - 1824), a mystic, stigmatist and visionary. Toward the end of her life, she bore the wounds of Christ, ate no food save Communion, and was in ecstasy a great deal of the time. It was during these ecstasies that she witnessed in vision the details of Our Lord's life which are recorded in this book.

5. So what if The Passion is Catholic. Isn't that just as Christian?

Unfortunately for the many who make no distinctions in doctrine, the Catholic system is a work-based religion that leads people into bondage rather than freedom from sin. It is a law-based religion that replaces the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, and his glorious Resurrection, with a never-ending cycle of self-effort and ritual, with no real hope of reward. Even the promise of a heavenly rest is taken from Catholics, who are not assured of going to Heaven when they die.

Many Catholics are devout, honest in their beliefs, and very well-meaning (and I have nothing personal against individual Catholics, especially those who are straining to "attain salvation", rather, I pity them and pray for them that they find the truth). But that does not change the facts of the Catholic dogma, which can never lead to salvation if followed as the Vatican requires. Catholics may get genuinely saved DESPITE the teaching of their Church, but not BECAUSE of it!

So, the fact that this film is universally acceptable to the Catholic Church as well as all Protestant denominations (and indeed some people of other religions and the secular world) does not give much cause for confidence. I would not condemn it on those grounds alone, but it is a point worth considering.

I suspect that the spirit behind the movie is one of ecumenism rather than simple biblical truth. The aim some have in mind is visible church unity - eradicating the boundaries between biblical truth (that saves) and works-based "religion" that is close to Christianity in tradition and ritual but not truly biblical.

Why is it important to stand for the exact biblical truth, and oppose perverted gospels (as thousands of martyrs have done down the centuries)? Simply because it is ONLY the full, unadulterated gospel message without additions, subtractions and mixture that saves a person from sin and brings that person to glory!

Here what one By Bruce N. Fisk wrote on Beliefnet:

The Passion of the Christ is also very Catholic. The storyline borrows bits from each of the four Gospels (with nods toward Matthew and John), but it is also steeped in church tradition and guided by images and symbols long cherished by Catholic worshipers. Jesus stumbles three times on his way to Golgotha, in keeping with the traditional Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The legendary Veronica of Station Six steps forward to wipe Jesus' bloodied face, only to find his image perfectly imprinted on her cloth. And Mary is highly visible and central to the story — a much stronger figure than the two-dimensional, inconsequential Mary of so much Protestant piety. John calls Mary his mother, if I heard correctly, even before Jesus suggests the idea (John 19:27), and Jesus, while praying, self-identifies as "the son of your handmaid" (cf. Psm 86:16; 116:16). At the cross, Mary murmurs "my son, let me die with you" and later cradles her son's dead body, Pietà-like, while gazing into the camera, as if to assure us that all will be well.

Will those who view the film be more open to Catholic doctrine, subliminally taking in the emphasis on Mary (not to mention Magdalene, the focus of much occult and esoteric literature!) and perhaps seeking help afterwards from what they perceive to be "The Church" - the local Catholic Cathedral or Priest. Maybe, but that is not even my main concern, as you will see if you read on.

6. Isn't this film an accurate portrayal of the gospel story?

Like Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, the film occasionally loses its footing. Why, for example, would Jesus be forced to carry a whole cross while his two rebel counterparts bear only their horizontal beams? Why would Jesus engage Pilate in Latin instead of Greek? (Fluent Latin wasn't common among Galileans in the 1st century.) Similarly, why does Greek disappear from Pilate's tri-lingual inscription naming Jesus King of the Jews? In each case, sacred memory trumps historical plausibility. [Bruce Fisk]

So much for the loud claims of "historical accuracy" and "careful adherence to the gospels".

Jesus and the disciples spoke Greek or Aramaic and Hebrew; so did most of the crowd. The only reason for the inaccurate use of LATIN (and not even first-century Latin) as the language spoken throughout (forcing subtitles onto everyone, even those too young or uneducated to read) is because of the traditionalist Catholic sect to which Mel Gibson belongs, which believes in the use of Latin as the sacred religious language in which the Church must practise all her rituals. Even the modern-day Roman Catholic Church has abandoned that belief, but not Gibson.

In the first drafts of the film, seen in preview last year, subtitles were not even used which, Gibson said, focused attention on the action rather than the words. How very like the Catholic Church, to obscure the words by putting them into dead languages, thus leaving people only emotive images on which to base their faith. To show people the Cross without explaining its significance is hardly "the Salvation Message" as described above by James Kennedy, because the Cross is "to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor 1:23)

There are other departures from the bible:

"Gibson's film contains errors when judged by the biblical account. For example, after Christ's arrest and as He is being escorted to the high priest's residence, He is beaten, knocked down, and thrown off a bridge. After Christ is whipped, Mary gets down on her knees and wipes up the blood. Mary is shown assisting Jesus on the way to the cross, with Jesus telling her, “Behold I make all things new.” " [David Cloud]

Gibson's dependence on the visions of mystics - which has led to these insertions in the film - was misguided, and an indication of the state of his personal beliefs.

7. If people get saved as a result, isn't that the main thing?

If any person is truly saved as a result of this film, that is a cause for rejoicing. "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." Luke 15:10

But we must understand that not everything that affects people spiritually, is from God.

It's going to be hard to criticise a film that appears to be, or is in actual fact, "saving souls". But we should not be afraid to ask questions. We should not give blanket acceptance to anything, simply because in the short term some people might get saved. There is a longer-term view to be taken, a broader horizon to scan for the real truth in these matters. What is the aim, where is it leading, what is likely to be the result? These are the questions we should be asking.

We must also remember that there is a tendency today to justify anything that is produced or suggested - regardless of its doctrinal stand or origins - on the grounds that "it might save souls". Indeed, most fraudulent ministries and organisations, and the entire false revival protect themselves from enquiry using this very claim.

My reply to that is, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." Matt 12:30. And: "false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." Matt 24:24-25

In other words, if a religious work - even one that appears on the surface to be "christian" - is not ordained by God, not truly biblical in origin and not raised up and achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it stands little chance of being a blessing to the unsaved. It may even be a false path leading to deception in the long term.

8. But most people are moved to tears by the film: doesn't that prove it is effective?

To continue the thought from above, will people be truly saved, or will they just have a moving emotional experience?

Gibson said. "I want to inspire and make people feel." He's certainly achieved that. He has created a film that is moving and heart-rending. Who would NOT be moved to tears, seeing a loving and gracious Person like Jesus rejected, whipped and crucified? Movie-goers are bound to feel sad, guilty, stunned and even shocked - but are any of these feelings true repentance and will they lead to accepting the Risen Christ by faith?

So much of the entertainment-gospel presented in churches today aims at "experiences" rather than soundly-based and informed decisions. You might as well go along to a Mystery Play, or do the Stations of the Cross this Easter - would that experience be any more conducive to conversion?

Here is a good point to remind readers that "Passion Plays" at Easter time are nothing new, and nor is the kind of graphic, realistic, real-life portrayal of the crucifixion."The Oberammergau Passion Play of the Suffering, Death and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ" performed live in the village of Oberammergau, Germany, has been running once a decade since their village ancestors made a vow in 1633 to mount a play about the suffering, dying and resurrection of Christ as a way to ward off the Black Plague.

Over the centuries, the play grew from a devotional exercise performed in the graveyard of the parish church into a massive production requiring an elaborate, state-of-the-art support system. Just last year, the town spent more than $7 million for improvements to the stage.

A reviewer says that "The realistic gore and horror of the crucifixion came close to being unbearable -- and therefore utterly fascinating." Is it the right approach to aim at "fascination" or feelings of horror engendered by these spectacles?

Dr Gary Hearon said above, "You do not just watch a film like this, you experience it." But I question whether a feeling or an experience is the same thing as conversion.

Another writer (afterwards identified to be a Catholic apologist) says: "From the gripping opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, ... until the final scene in the empty tomb, this was not simply a movie; it was an encounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced. "The Passion" evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children."

Is a moving experience enough? While the birth of your first child is undoubtedly a life-changing experience, should it have anything in common with a spiritual awakening? You could argue that true faith will follow, as people are shepherded into churches afterwards. Yes, maybe - but how many really sound churches do you know? How many churches these days are capable of leading folks into a genuine faith? On the other hand, there are all too many who will cater for people's "felt needs" and desire for psychological counselling, music, miracles and every kind of thrill.

This harvest of thousands of interested new converts is very tempting, for those ministries who are looking to build up their numbers, success-rating and bank accounts rather than preach the gospel. We have to be realistic about these things.

9. But it's about the cross of Jesus - how can that be wrong?

We are not saved by HOW Jesus suffered, but WHY He suffered.

The real truth lies not in how MUCH blood he spilt, nor in the manner of the shedding of blood, but in the FACT of its being shed at all. One drop would have been as sufficient for salvation, for if Jesus had been executed (for example) by a firing squad, then His death for us would still have opened the Way to reconciliation with the Father.

It seems to me that the reason for dwelling for so long, and in so much gory detail, on the sufferings and death of Jesus, is just that same mistaken emotional attachment to pain that the Catholic mystics have evidenced for centuries. (Would this film be so popular if it were about His life and teachings, instead of His death, I wonder!)

The words of an Easter hymn come strongly to mind:

The Head that once was crowned with thorns Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns the mighty Victor's brow.
The highest place that heaven affords Is His, is His by right,
The King of kings and Lord of lords, and heaven's eternal Light;

Is Jesus honoured, or the Father pleased when we look again and again - and in terrible detail - at how the Son of God actually suffered? Is the historical FACT of it not enough? Is there anything to be gained by "experiencing" the Crucifixion, except the stimulation of FEELINGS, which don't amount to a spiritual change at all. And, if FAITH is what pleases God, how is He pleased by anything that is created by, or depends on, a visual stimulus like this?

All these are questions, it seems to me, that Christians should ask before being bowled over by the hype.

If we are wary of the ecstasies of a mystic like Teresa of Avlia (and if not, we should be) who supposedly levitated before the Crucifix and had pseudo-erotic encounters in visions with this man she saw on the Cross, then why are we eager to introduce whole audiences of gullible people to the same experience?

The pivotal experience of Teresa's life consisted of repeated encounters with a smiling angel which plunged a spear repeatedly through her heart, penetrating into her bowels and arousing a divine ecstasy. This is not unlike the mystical encounters reported in many of the revival churches - will the result of the movie will be even more of the same?

There's nothing easier than putting on a show and drumming up emotion. As a youngster I was taken (as a tourist) to see the yearly pilgrimage to Gt. Walsingham with their bare feet, incense, robes, statues and pious chanting. I could easily have been moved, and awed by the gorgeously decorated Chapel - but would this have been a true knowledge of God, or just an "experience"?

Emotions, feelings, sensations - and all the SENSES - are not very helpful when it comes to spiritual matters. They are far from dependable. They often get in the way and make it harder to know the truth. Even worse, our feelings are very open to manipulation, by both men and the devil.

So, presenting the way of salvation to people is not a matter of arousing their sympathies nor playing on their emotions, but appealing to their spirits with words of truth, in the power of God.

"faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Rom 10:17

I fear that people who are deeply moved by the film, and spiritually hungry, will go off in search of more substance, but be incorporated into churches as believers purely on the basis of their initial experience, thereafter to struggle with sin and feelings of inadequacy, always trying their best to reach an unattainable spiritual goal.

This is not an outcome to be desired - better that people start from cold, than be lukewarm all the rest of their lives. Better to be antagonistic to the gospel, and then be profoundly challenged and changed by God, than to receive an inoculation against the truth. Better to be openly secular, than nominally Christian but without benefit of true faith!

10. Aren't those who oppose the film merely motivated by a critical spirit?

I think we have to brace ourselves for a level of antagonism unequalled since the early days of the "Toronto Blessing" in the 90's. It takes a non-christian to point out the problem:

Dr David Elcott, the director of inter-religious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said he was worried that American evangelicals were being encouraged to fall in behind the film: "The problem is that anyone who does not buy into the Gospel according to Mel ends up being part of the evil force in the world."

Any opposition is going to be misconstrued. A Vatican spokesman spelt this out in a few words: "...if they're critical of the film, they would be critical of the Gospel." (Archbishop John Foley, President, Pontifical Council for Social Communications, The Vatican.)

Opposing things like the revival was difficult enough, but at least it was quite easy to point out the unscriptural practises and false doctrines. Here, we have a film that portrays the real events of the Crucifixion, with the avowed aim of spreading the Christian faith. Opposing THAT (especially once the movie opens, and people's reactions are reported) is going to be nigh on impossible.

But this is something I have been expecting and writing about for many years. I have often said that a deception so near to the truth, that it it nearly impossible to oppose, would catch many off guard. NOW is the time to find your feet on the Rock, or drift out to sea on the tide.

I think it is highly likely that two processes will go hand in hand, from Easter onwards: the rush into a Global Harvest that is in fact mistaken and wrongly-founded; and an absolute and vicious rejection of anybody who opposes it. Indeed, you are likely to be called an "antichrist" as I already am, because to oppose this film is tantamount to opposing the Son of God Himself. If you plan to oppose this movie - please be warned of the kickback.

I can write these comments on my website because I have nothing to lose. I do not seek a "reputation", nor popularity, money or fame. My aim is merely to speak out what I believe God is wanting you to hear. But there are so many who have reputations to protect, financial rewards in being popular, ministry materials to market, Boards of Trustees to satisfy, and co-workers with whom they must stay in agreement. Many will hold back their criticisms for fear of being "over-critical". Others will be fearful of disagreeing with their peer-group because, after all, "UNITY" is the thing these days. Disagree, and you're OUT.

But the saddest thing of all is to see ministries that formerly perceived falsehood throwing their weight behind the film's publicity, because they haven't thought it through. Somehow, they have missed the point of all the Lord has been saying for fifteen years!

Is the opinion of men now more important and reliable than the leading of the Holy Spirit? Are we now "men-pleasers?" The Kennedy organisation who sent out the advertisement mentioned above, on having some of the film's shortcomings pointed out to them said this: "with the words spoken by many men of God like Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Lee Strobel, Robert Schuller and the list goes on with a host of who's who names in the Christian world, who pre-viewed the film. Surely, these people would have given us a heads-up if there were any issues like those named in the review."

What makes them think that an apostate like Robert Schuller (see this link about him) would be able to know anything genuine from the Lord? Trusting such men is to lean on a broken reed! But many will take their word for it.

Yet again, as so often during these testing years, the sifting bowl is brought out, the sieves of deception appear, and we are made to be sifted. This time the holes in the sieve are so tiny that only the very finest grain will make it through - and that condition does NOT depend on our ability or knowledge or even our faith, but our adherence to God's will and to his truth, before everything else. (Certainly, if the Great Harvest has become your goal, I fear for your experience in this sifting.)

11. So, what do you think will come of this?

I believe God has had enough with this apostasy, and is gearing up to judgement. BUT - God's judgement on wayward man often takes the form of allowing him to have precisely what he most desires.

In the past we have seen evangelistic campaigns come and go, each one being trumpeted as the "greatest evangelistic event of the century" that will "lead to millions being saved" - and what came of them? Nothing!

Over the past years, we have heard time and time again from the so-called "prophets" that a massive new wave would come, that people would be falling down in the streets to worship God, that stadiums would be filled with worshippers and that whole towns would give themselves over to God. And what has actually happened? Nothing!

Since at least 1993 we have been bombarded with promises that the "spiritual anointing" being released into the churches would result in a physical manifestation of the Glory of God, and the birth of a whole new Superchurch capable of converting the world - people who were actually perfected, glorified and immune from harm, spiritual leaders with the wisdom and power to rule the nations!

And what have we seen, apart from a few carefully orchestrated scatterings of plastic gold dust and "feathers", - nothing!

But this is not because the devil is incapable of achieving these supernatural signs and wonders, oh no. It's because of the love and tender-heartedness and patience, and grace of God!! God has been unwilling to take off His hand and permit such events to take place in fulness, because He knew that thousands would be deceived, without hope of restoration:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

I am particularly struck by the line that I've emphasised above. I hardly dare even suggest this, and I may well be far off the mark, but in my heart I am struck that what the Apostate Church is about to do, using this film, is to publicly "crucify again to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame".

Please reflect that what we have here is NOT actually the Son of God dying, but actors playing a part. This is merely a film. From the way people are talking, you'd think Jesus was dying all over again for us, this time in theatres. In fact, this is how it's being seen by some of the "Prophets".


In the Spirit, I sensed the same angels who could have been called to rescue Jesus at His crucifixion were now being given permission to attend it.. in theaters! ... I saw the heavens open over theaters and dreams and visions were being poured out without measure that would change lives, families and generations forever! Sleep would escape many, being replaced by visitations of conviction, angels and Jesus Himself appearing to confirm His resurrection. The scripture, "And if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto Me." was being activated, as every person in every theater was being given in the Spirit a "front row seat!" Every one would have a "front row seat" at the very foot of the cross - where the ground is all level!


Isn't it ironic that those who rejected and mocked Jesus and all that He stood for showed up to see Heaven's best performance of the love of God! ... As I was pondering why so few believers showed up near to the cross, I sensed the Lord saying. "My crucifixion was for sinners. I used their hardened hearts to cause them to show up to watch me die for them and "it worked!" "Sinners had the best seats in the house at My crucifixion! That's the way it was supposed to be!"

When God Incarnate died on that Cross for us, did he realise that eventually we would turn it into a theatre show and people would buy front-row seats to watch his agony? I shudder with shame!

I sense the Lord saying. "I am first beginning to visit the movie industry with My crucifixion. [except that it is NOT the crucifixion of Jesus, but actors] But soon you will begin to see My Resurrection Power come through movie screens world wide.... Mel Gibson is My Apostle, "John the Beloved" of Hollywood ...   I am beginning to lay a new foundation built upon the Apostles and Prophets to build Me a House in theatres beginning in Hollywood!  On Holy ground I will build a House of Refuge for My gifted chosen people there!   I sense Jesus calling forth His Hollywood disciples and commanding them.... "Build Me a House in a Theatre!"

In the Spirit I saw the wonder working power in just one drop of Jesus' blood in "The Passion of the Christ" penetrating right through theatre screens [except that it is NOT really the blood of Jesus, but just a movie] staining seats, sinners and saints and many were seeing it as though it was in "3-D" Technicolor!"  Major deliverances were taking place as conviction ran into the aisles and between rows of seats, as the blood of Jesus seemingly ran down off of the screens and into the audiences.

"The Holy Spirit is going to begin falling upon secular movies magnifying truth and righteousness to overcome the evil in them with good. Even the lost attending the most degrading movies will come away with such emptiness because of My convicting presence that will begin to reside inside of theatres around the world!  Many theatres will be redeemed into My Kingdom to display My Glory in the arts."

Just when we thought for sure that God would never allow us to put Him in a box, He puts Himself in one to be found by many!  When you put God in a box in Hollywood, you end up with a "box office" hit!

Previously, I said that the bible did not foretell any kind of global restoration to obedience and purity, nor a Global Harvest of the Righteous before the return of the Lord. No. BUT - at the same time, there WILL BE an increase in "spiritual hunger" and seeking after the supernatural, and a FALSE gospel being preached around the world. For this reason, Jesus warned us, above all to TAKE HEED that you be not deceived.

There WILL be events that appear to be a revival, and a harvest. Nothing less would lead to the global influence of the superchurch (Harlot) of the Last Days, a superchurch that works alongside with, and incorporates, all the worst of the previous Harlot (Rome) but in a new and terrible form.

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;2 Thess 2:3

As James Kennedy stated above "this film has the potential to stir a mighty rebirth of spirituality that will sweep over our nation and the world!" And I agree that it does have that potential - the only difference between this evangelistic outreach and those preceding it is: will God ALLOW it to be as effective as its backers would like? Will God PERMIT this film to be "effective in the rebirth of spirituality that will sweep the earth".

If so, as I sense He might, (and I may be wrong) then we are in for a very rough ride indeed. If God takes His loving hand off, and retreats from the professing Church far enough to allow them to get their way, then we will see a Great Delusion arising as a result.

Are you ready to take a decision and to walk in a way that will change your life forever? Are you ready to walk away from the crowds, to enter the narrow path, to be alone and rejected, to be one of the few? If you stand against this film and the events that will follow, you may feel very isolated indeed, with terrible pressures being brought to bear, to make you change your mind. You may waver, you may begin to doubt, you may feel a spiritual presence coming over you that predisposes you to change your mind. But if you love the Lord truly - stand firm!

The movie Mel Gibson has made, as a personal devotional exercise, is well-intentioned and I pray Mel Gibson and the actors will find the Lord in truth. But he's unwittingly created a vehicle for a much greater agenda! For every individual who views the film and is led to think seriously about the Christian message, I praise God. But where does that leave the thousands who will have their interest diverted into a religion that is NOT capable of saving them? Should we not be concerned about the potential for deception on a huge scale?

This may just be the vehicle satan has been looking for to present an ALTERNATIVE that is so close to Jesus Christ the Son of God that most people cannot tell the difference. This may be a very useful tool in setting up an ALTERNATIVE "church".

There are hints going around that "appearances" may accompany the viewing of "The Passion" and if this happens, how many will be deceived? In an atmosphere of intensity such as a movie theatre, a vision or appearance would be spiritual dynamite, and the news would travel around the world instantly, causing much more interest than the appearances at Medjugorge or Fatima.

This Easter may be the point of no return for many.

The "prophecies" are pouring in, to prepare people to accept the release of "The Passion" as another great move of God.

Don Franklin in January said that Mel Gibson was a "worldwide evangelist" and God's mighty man of valour - and that we are not to criticise him because of what he will accomplish for God "He will bring literally millions to the Cross." and "This man is an evangelist for me. This man is a Billy Graham for me. This man is a current generation leader, saith God."

Don's wife, Bonnie Franklin added her word, as follows:

So I would say this day to embrace your brother of the Catholic faith, of the Catholic denomination, for he shall bring more to the Kingdom of God in one day than you will bring to the Kingdom of God in a lifetime. No, not a thousand, no, not ten thousand, but a hundred thousand in a day! I said, a hundred thousand in a day, and when the souls are counted up it shall be into the millions that are brought into the Kingdom for such a time as this, for such a time as this.

So, yea, you shall see the Kingdom of God grow and the Kingdom of God change, but you shall also see the kingdoms on this earth change as many, many souls are turned to the heart of their God and their hearts are changed. And I saw in my spirit that in the future days there will be great gatherings of people coming together in one accord praising and worshipping God. People of every walk of life, of every denomination, nation and tongue, they will come together as a family all birthed into the kingdom of God during one event, the showing of The Passion.

Kim Clement on TBN in January said that astounding things are planned for this coming Easter.

And then he said this - the Spirit of the Lord said, "There is a resurrection day coming over this Easter. This will be, the Easter that is coming now will be one of the greatest Easters this nation has ever celebrated. Why? Because there will be a resurrection of the dead, speaking spiritually of revelation that has died, of prophetic words that have died and been buried in the ground. "This Easter," says the Spirit of the Lord, "Not only will I bring your greatest enemy out, but I will also bring about a severe judgment against the powers and the principalities that have come against my servants, against my people. There shall be a judgment," says the Lord.

Chad Taylor, of the Prophetic network "Consuming Fire" predicts a breakaway from traditional methods of evangelism, and new ministries "defined by a different paradigm".

"The Passion of Christ" which will create massive repercussions in every genre of social experience. The stage is being set for historical harvest. The beginning of the breakthrough from modern contemporary methods of outreach has begun. We are caught between paradigms as the church suddenly sees its future.

In this sudden series of breakthroughs what will emerge from the shock and awe of it will be and army of new and fresh ministries that are not shaped by modern thinking and influence. They will be defined by a different paradigm and a different glory. They will view the world through "different eyes" so to speak. When the disciples came down from the Mt. of transfiguration they saw the world - ministry, differently. The pecking order of contemporary religion will not effect [sic] this new breed. They will be the "untouchables" untouched by the hands of traditionalists.

Traditional doctrine and evangelism (having "failed" to produce the Global Harvest that these men predict) must be consigned to the scrap heap and replaced by exciting new methods - such as visual and aural stimulation - to achieve the desired result.

But the danger in abandoning the classic biblical truths, and seeking after a worldwide spiritual awakening, is that sooner or later God Himself will reach the limit of His patience and give men exactly what they have been looking for. It will become a snare both to the leaders and to those who follow in their footsteps.

Let's not crucify the Lord Jesus over and over again (as the Catholics do in their Mass, in an attempt to perpetuate his Sacrifice) but see Jesus the LORD in GLORY which is how he appears to us today - Risen, Glorified and Triumphant! No human being can possibly portray the reality of this:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last," ... Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. (Rev 1:10-18)


Looking for earlier News Flash reports, but unable to find them?
See this page for a list of ARCHIVED PREVIOUS REPORTS

© 2004 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/  This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information.   One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.