Raya and the Final Gospel

As a Southern California resident, it’s been over a year since i got to enjoy a movie theater experience. Until this past weekend.

My wife said, “Let’s go see the new Disney movie, Raya and the Last Dragon.”

I was desirous for an actual date night after a year of essentially none. So i said, “Absolutely! Plus, it’ll save us ten dollars compared to purchasing ‘early access’ on Disney+.”

It was a beautiful movie. Visually. Musically. Even thematically.

I was almost brought to tears on several occasions.

If you haven’t already seen it, i highly recommend this movie.

This blog is focused on love. And when i see something in the culture at large that highlights love and unity or other Christian themes, i feel compelled to point it out. Raya was full of many such themes. However, due to time, i want to focus this post on the content of the title.

I fully believe that creativity exists to bring glory to God. I believe this is why God gave us the ability to create. It’s one of the proofs that we are made in His image. The first verse of the Bible states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As such, the Gospel and Christian theology appear in shadow form in every story you encounter–whether written in a book or projected on a screen.

This is why this post is titled “Raya and the Final Gospel.” This movie paints a clear picture of the Gospel. The message that Jesus Christ sacrificed His life on the cross, taking our place so that we could be reunited in fellowship with Him for eternity.

But why is it the final Gospel?

What is the definition of “final”?

1a: not to be altered or undone
// all sales are final
b: of or relating to a concluding court action or proceeding
// final decree
2: coming at the end being the last in a series, process, or progress
// the final chapter
// final exams
3: of or relating to the ultimate purpose or result of a process
// our final goal
// the final product

“final,” adjective. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/final

This post will break down this definition as it relates to Raya and the Last Dragon.

Since it is a brand new film, this post will avoid specific details. However, i hope what i write encourages you to see it so that you are left more in awe of our glorious God as a result.

The Gospel is “not to be altered or undone”

This post’s title does not mean that the movie offers a new, final understanding of the Gospel. To say it did would be heresy of the highest order.

There are no Bible verses that say it explicitly, but Jesus is the final revelation from God. Hebrews 1:1-3 says it most clearly:

Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

God’s final revelation was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The only thing remaining for God to do is to send Jesus Christ to earth to gather us to Himself. (For more Scriptural proof of this concept, check out Luke 24:25-27, 44; John 5:39; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; 2 Corinthians 1:18-20; Galatians 1:8-9; Colossians 1:15-23, 2:4-10.)

As such, the “Final Gospel” that Raya illustrates is the Gospel that is already perfect. It needs no addition or alteration. Jesus lived a perfect life, He died, He was buried, and He rose again three days later–according to the Scriptures.

There is a part of the Gospel that is “coming at the end”

We live our lives in fallen human bodies. Every day we struggle with sin. Every day we are tempted in multiple ways. Every day we fail to glorify God as well as we should.

Even as Christians, we are not now what we will be. Salvation has a past, present, and future aspect. Jesus died on the cross in the past. We believe in Him and are promised eternal life (presently). And we will experience eternal life (fully) when death has been defeated after Jesus returns.

Raya was broken into these three aspects, emphasizing the hope of future glorification. It started with a shot of the present. Then it went back in time (past) and told the history of the world’s struggle all the way up to its “solution.” The “solution” was short-lived, though, as the problem came back to enslave humanity again. Then the movie jumped back to the present (6 years after the “solution” was undone), which led all the way up to the future glorification.

This is similar to biblical history. The world was plunged into sin and death by Adam and Eve. After 6,000 years or so, Jesus died on the cross and rose again, breaking the power of sin and death–eternally. However, what have we seen over the last 2,000 years? Sin and death continue to dominate the world. This is because the 2,000 years since Jesus’ death and resurrection have been part of the last seven years (symbolically) of world history. He can return at any time and glorify us with Him.

The Gospel has an “ultimate purpose or result of a process”

However, as Christians, if we leave the Gospel message there–“Christ died for my sins so I can go to heaven when I die”–we are being dishonest. The Gospel is so much more than that. Yes, Christ died for my sins. But He also died for the sins of all those who have never believed in Him.

It might be tempting to say, “So and so hurt me, and for that reason, they don’t deserve to hear the Gospel,” but that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that God preached the first Gospel message (cf. Genesis 3:15) to the individuals responsible for plunging the world into the destruction and curse we see around us every day. Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:43-45a

This is key. Ultimately, this is what is required for the struggle in Raya to end. Raya’s eyes are set on gathering power to fix the world. The dragon wants to constantly give gifts (grace).

We don’t typically feel it necessary to extend grace to others. We’d rather dominate them and say they owe us. However, the Gospel message isn’t about me. It’s about God reconciling the world to Himself (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). If God is reconciling the world to Himself, then a natural extension of this is that those reconciled to God will also be reconciled to one another. Isaiah saw this as a future reality:

On that day Israel will form a triple alliance with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing within the land. The LORD of Hosts will bless them, saying, “Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance are blessed.”

Isaiah 19:24-25

Egypt had enslaved Israel. Assyria had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel about 700 years later. In so doing, it had almost wiped out the southern kingdom of Judah as well. In other words, these were terrible nations–enemies of Israel. But in God’s scheme of salvation, there is reconciliation between former enemies.

Raya and the Last Dragon is a clear picture of the whole Gospel. It highlights truths in the basic Gospel message. It emphasizes the fact that the end is near. And it shows the absolute importance of reconciliation among the people of God (cf. John 13:35).

If you haven’t seen it, i highly recommend it!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Sola Scriptura
Sola Gratia
Sola Fide
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.

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