Time, Death, and The Inevitable
By Anthony Casperson
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Doctor Strange. (I don’t mean to overdo this, but my theonerd brain is stimulated to think about these types of things when I watch movies.)
Marvel’s newest movie in their shared cinematic universe, Doctor Strange, has been out for just about a week now. While I sat in the theater, I began to see a few themes weave their way throughout the film. And I’m not even talking about the MCU’s introduction to magical forces on earth.
But the one theme that really stood out for me was the concept of time. This might be partially on account of the fact that we are introduced to the Time Gem, the fifth of the six infinity stones that need to be discovered before the next Avenger’s movie. However, the filmmakers really ran with that idea for their story.
The concept and mention of time is repeated multiple times throughout the movie. We have a collection of watches shown early in the movie. One of which becomes broken and symbolizes Strange’s own brokenness. The doctor even begins writing an email saying, “I’m writing to you one last time” and the camera hovers over those words just a little bit too long to not be intentional.
Dr Strange’s teacher, the Ancient One, reminds him that it took many years of study and practice to attain his precision in his medical abilities, so it will take time for him to learn the magic. And his teacher even gives him a test that has a deadline of about 30 minutes. And this is all before the good doctor even lays his hands on the Time Gem in the Eye of Agamotto.
In the film, time starts out sounding like some sort of enemy that must be overcome in order to truly live. The inevitability of the destruction that time brings must be undone. However, by the end of the film, time becomes less scary. And this is tied closely to death. The acceptance of death begins the upward turn to the finale.
Immortality becomes less of an ideal as it begins to take on a role of imprisoning into darkness those who try to attain it. Again, in the final battle of the film, immortality is shown to be a prison as Dr. Strange uses the Time Gem with a magical aura that looks very similar to a watch (even focusing over his left wrist). Time becomes a hero.
And while, as a follower of Jesus, I agree that time is not an enemy of ours, I have to disagree about the view of death and immortality that is presented in the film.
Death is not a natural part of life. It’s the ultimate expression of our slavery to sin. Death is not natural. That’s part of the reason why human beings fight so hard to stay alive. We weren’t meant to die. We were created for eternity. But it was because of the sin of our first parents that death entered the world (Rom. 5:12).
And because of that, God had to send Jesus in order to free us from our eternal attachment to sin. It’s so that we can live eternally free of our bondage to sin. Immortality isn’t something to be feared. It’s not a prison. At least not to those who accept the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Those who don’t are subjected to eternal condemnation, pain, darkness, and separation from any goodness that emanates from God. But those who come into right relationship with Jesus will have immortality better than anything we can ever imagine.
We have a wrong view of life in the eternal state. It’s not sitting on clouds with harps. That would be a prison. It’s not even an endless church service. When we are in the fullness of the Kingdom of God, we will have the opportunity to grow in our relationship with God far beyond that which we can currently in our sinful bodies. It’ll be growing and learning about the infinite God for every day after tomorrow.
That’s not a prison. It’s not something to be stopped. Immortality is a gift that keeps on giving. One where every day brings on a new adventure. A new story to tell. And that’s what we as humans were made for.