The Last Enemy

>>>spoilers for Harry Potter<<<

Someday, you are going to die.

It is a scientifically proven, indisputable fact, and nothing can change it.

Does this worry you?

Are you afraid of death?

Perhaps you, like so many others, wish to cheat death. The fact that you will rise again to another, better life is not enough for you. No, you must cling to the things of this life and avoid the things of the next.

Or maybe you don’t believe there is another life and have determine to evade death, in one way or another. You intend to live a (very) long, profitable life, and when you die, “live” on through your works. (If this is you, then note well: this article is addressed primarily to Christians, and you will probably not agree with a lot of things I say, which is all right with me. I welcome disagreement and discussion.)

Or, perhaps, you have turned to…shall we say…more questionable routes. You have made Horcruxes, maybe, killed someone innocent and tore your soul and hid it somewhere. Or you’ve found that stone that can bring back the dead and are seeking to unite it with others of its kind so as to become truly the master of death.

Okay, okay, just joking. That was (obviously) from Harry Potter, but it was on purpose, since this article is mainly about him. It is not a treatise for you to read the books or watch the movies (although I’d love it if you did), but it is important for you to understand some basic plot points in order to understand my point. If you haven’t read or watched Deathly Hallows yet, but want to, STOP right here. If you have or you don’t plan to (hint: you should plan to), then read on for a quick summary of the Horcruxes and Hallows.

Long story short, this guy named Tom Riddle (aka Lord Voldemort) decides he never wants to die. He has no qualms about going to extreme lengths to live forever, and consequently, he murders six people. In this world, murder splits the soul, and so he takes the torn bits of his soul and hides them in ordinary objects, which he then hides. These are called Horcruxes, and since seven is the most powerfully magical number, he makes six. 6 Horcruxes + 1 Tom = 7 pieces of soul.

Strike one. Because he actually made 7 Horcruxes (for those counting along, 7 + 1 ≠ 7). The thing is, when he was rising to great, dark, and terrible power, he heard part of a prophecy claiming that a boy born at the end of July (and fulfilling a few other requirements, as specified in the prophecy) would have the power to vanquish him. He tries to murder a baby fulfilling this, but fails because of the boy’s mother’s sacrifice (more on this later), and escapes, barely alive (but not dead – because of the Horcruxes) and having accidentally made the boy his seventh Horcrux.

The boy, named (surprise!) Harry Potter, goes on to escape Voldemort several more times. When he’s fourteen, he unwillingly participates in a rebirthing ceremony, bringing Voldemort back to full life with Harry’s own blood.

Strike two, Riddle, because since Harry’s mum died to save him, he is protected by her sacrifice – and now so are you, because you have his blood in you, but that bit of soul attached to Harry, the bit you don’t know about, is not.

From here on, it gets a bit crazy (just kidding – it was crazy from the beginning). Voldemort, power-hungry and obsessed with killing Harry (who keeps on escaping), decides, for a variety of reasons we don’t have time to get into here, that he needs the most powerful wand in existence. Known as the Elder Wand, it reputedly cannot be beaten in a duel. What he doesn’t know is that it’s one of a set of powerful magical artifacts (the Deathly Hallows), which, according to legend, offer the owner of all three mastery of death. Harry knows this but does not act on it at first, choosing instead to chase down Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

Meanwhile, Voldemort has one of his alleged followers murder Harry’s mentor Dumbledore, the current possessor of the Elder Wand (strike three – that “follower” hasn’t been on your side for a long while, Tom). Voldemort then claims the wand and sets out to kill Harry.

Harry, however, has been hunting Horcruxes. He and his friends have destroyed most of them and he’s just learned that he is the unwilling seventh. In a sacrificial, beautiful moment, he gives himself up to the Dark Lord. But the Killing Curse doesn’t work as it should (a side effect of Harry’s blood in Voldemort’s veins), instead killing the bit of Riddle’s soul that was attached to Harry. Harry is offered a choice and decides to return to life. With the help of his friends, he destroys the last Horcrux and squares off in a duel with Voldemort.

Thought that was weird? It’s about to get weirder. Voldemort, realizing that he is not the true master of the Elder Wand since he didn’t personally murder Dumbledore (you have to overcome the previous owner in order to be the rightful owner of this wand), kills his “follower.” Strike four (normal baseball rules don’t apply to wizards). Before this double agent finished off Dumbledore (who willingly and purposely was killed), Dumbledore had been voluntarily disarmed by someone else. And then – get this – Harry had disarmed this other guy later in the story. So Harry is the true master of the Elder Wand, and he ends up defeating Voldemort because of it. (They duel. Harry disarms Voldemort at the same time Voldemort tries to kill Harry. Voldemort’s curse rebounds, killing himself instead of Harry, and the Elder Wand flies to Harry’s hand.) Then, now the owner of all three Hallows (long story – I’ll explain later), he refrains from uniting them. In his recognition of the futility of seeking immortality and his knowledge that the man who does not fear death is truly death’s master, he is death’s master. And so we close.

You’re probably totally confused at this point (as you should be, since I left out several important details and put events out of chronological order). That’s okay, since I’ll touch on the critical things later. One-sentence summary of the entire series: Harry Potter, a wizard, recognizes that there are things worse than death and that death’s true master is the one who does not fear it, and so willingly sacrifices himself for wizardkind, enabling him (by a strange magical power) to save everyone from Voldemort, an evil wizard who believes that death is to be feared above all things and that love is weak and foolish.

Moving on.

In another, perhaps more familiar, story, a woman and a man, tempted by a serpent, eat a forbidden fruit and destroy their perfect world. So enters sin and, as a consequence, death (Romans 6:23a).

4,000 or so years later, God himself deigns to be born as a human, suffer persecution, willingly die, and then rise again so that all people who believe in Him can share in His resurrection (Romans 6:23b). One-sentence summary: Jesus Christ, true God and true man, recognizes that there are things worse than death and that death’s true master is the one who overcomes it, and so willingly sacrifices Himself for all people, enabling him (by a deeper magic from before the dawn of time) to save everyone who believe in him from Satan, an evil demon who believes that everyone should be eternally damned and loves no one.

Sound familiar?

I thought so.

You see, J.K. Rowling wasn’t just writing fiction when she penned her Harry Potter series. She was writing a powerful metaphor (or simile, or allegory, or applicable story, if you like) of Christ’s love for us. Don’t get me wrong: Harry is not Christ. Harry is like Christ. As 1 John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay our lives down for our brothers and sisters.”

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, dying when we deserved to. I looked up sacrifice in the dictionary and turned up this: “sacrifice – the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a more desirable claim.” Well, I think one’s own life is definitely “prized or desirable,” and the lives of many others combined being “more desirable” to Jesus (and, incidentally, Harry) is a mark of true selflessness. Jesus was – and is – the only true Master of death.

There’s this legend in the Harry Potter books about the unbeatable Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Invisibility Cloak. The idea is (in case you’ve forgotten) that if you can manage to become the rightful owner of all three, you will become invulnerable and immortal – the master of death.

The thing is, Jesus crushes this idea. He is unbeatable, He can call back the dead, and He can (presumably) become invisible – He is the joining of the Hallows. And yet He chooses not to remain immortal and invulnerable, but to give himself over to torture and crucifixion. (Somehow that doesn’t scream master of death, you know?)

But He returns from death! He comes back! His heart beats, and death no longer has dominion over Him, and in the end He will truly destroy death. In giving up His unconquerable, everlasting nature, He became the Master of death.

Someone else did that too. Someone named Harry Potter.

He had owned the Invisibility Cloak since he was eleven (at this point, he’s seventeen). He’d recently inherited the Resurrection Stone. And he either knew or was about to discover that he was the real owner of the Elder Wand.

He could have united them all. He could have become the master of Death, the immortal, invulnerable, omnipotent wizard of legend.

Instead, he gave himself up to die, not knowing that he might come back, not aware that he could not die yet. He willingly sacrificed himself. And when he came back, as of course he did, he did not grab his chance and unite the Hallows. Instead, he dropped and purposely lost the Stone and buried the Wand, keeping only the Cloak for his own use.

He gave up his chances of being unbeatable and met death willingly, and in doing so, he mastered death.

As N.D. Wilson says, “Love burns hotter than justice, and its roar is thunder.” Substitute “death” for “justice” (I don’t think Nate will mind) and we have a pretty neat summary of both Jesus’ and Harry’s sacrifices.

But, unfortunately, that’s not a very good summary of what we do every day. As Albus Dumbledore would say, we humans have a knack of choosing the things that are worst for us, and it’s only when we don’t – when, like Harry, we choose to sacrifice ourselves, or even just something important to us – that we can master anything, whether a difficult piano scale, a tricky relationship, or even death.

1 Corinthians 15:26, Andrew Peterson’s song “His Heart Beats,” and James and Lily Potter’s grave all tell us that the last enemy to be destroyed is death. And it will be. Because when Christ returns, we will rise again in new bodies and death will be no more. In the end, death is the last enemy, and it is destroyed.

But Harry Potter didn’t destroy death, not that way. He died and came back, and later in time, other people died, and the cycle of life and death went on. His death didn’t guarantee anyone everlasting life.

And yet he conquered – destroyed, if you like – death, in his own way. He met death with fear, yes, but he overcame that fear because his love was even greater. He met death with a goal and an acceptance. As Beedle the Bard says, “he greeted Death as an old friend, and went with him gladly, and, equals, they departed this life.”

Equals.

Gladly.

No fear.

Love.

Let this, then, be our vision. Let us, like Harry, let our love overcome our fear. Let us be true masters of death, ready for it when it comes, accepting it as a friend. After all, since death is but the gate to heaven, why should we fear it? Let us come to terms with it in this life so that we will welcome it gladly when it comes, whether we want it just then or not, and then enter into new life with Christ Jesus.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying we should seek death out. No way. This is not about suicide.

This is about readiness. This is about respect. This is about truth, and beauty, and goodness. This is about peace and love.

This is about sacrifice and the One who did it ultimately for us so that we could join him.

So let us master our own last enemy, death, in our own lives, so that we can meet the one true Master of death with gladness.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death, and the one who does not fear death is truly death’s master.

And the One who overcame death is death’s Lord and Master forever.

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

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