Update on Mel Gibson’s Upcoming “Resurrection” Film

Update on Mel Gibson’s Upcoming “Resurrection” Film May 22, 2023

Empty Tomb With Shroud And Crucifixion At Sunrise – Resurrection

Mel Gibson is still working on a sequel to his blockbuster film of 2004, “The Passion of the Christ.” This sequel is entitled “The Passion of Christ: Resurrection.” This title suggests the film will be about Jesus’ resurrection and perhaps some of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances recorded in the New Testament gospels, of which there are nine or ten.

Not so! The film’s title seems misleading because Gibson has made it clear that this followup movie will “focus” on the time between Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, when the church says his soul descended into Hell.

I think this film will be a disappointment to many non-Catholic Christians, if not most of them. Why? The New Testament’s focus on the aftermath of Jesus’ death is his resurrection from the dead. As I have stated multiple times on my blog and mentioned in my books, the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not only the foundation of Christianity, but without it there never would have been any Christianity. Just read the book of Acts. It has about 22 or 23 evangelistic messages, some of them being condensed speeches, in which Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the primary element in many of them. And none of them say anything about what happened to Jesus between his death and resurrection.

I saw “The Passion of the Christ” the day it was released in movie theaters. The last scene in that film was unique, I thought, and inspiring. There were a few seconds of complete darkness on the screen. Then there was a grinding noise which characterized the stone being rolled away from the entrance to the tomb wherein Jesus’ deceased body had been laid. The camera was stationed inside the tomb, at the back of it. The darkness is vanquished as sunlight is seen entering the tomb through its entrance. The backside of actor Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus, is then seen walking toward the tomb entrance, presumably to exit the tomb. The film then ends.

As I walked out of the theater that evening, I thought Gibson purposely intended that last scene as a suggestion that if this film was successful he would do a sequel, it being about Jesus’ resurrection. That does not seem to have been the case. Regardless, the film was very controversial, mostly due to its violence and the negative portrayal of Jewish leadership of the Sanhedrin (Council) which condemned Jesus.

Generally, I think most Christians who watched “The Passion of the Christ” appreciated it. It certainly was graphic in depicting Jesus’ gruesome suffering by being scourged and then nailed to the cross. But I think Gibson was pretty accurate about those things. However, he had some scenes in the film that were sourced from the written visions of the Roman Catholic mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824). Although creative, scholars generally were critical of these portions of the film.

When I walked out of the theater after watching “The Passion,” I immediately thought about how I had already written material on Jesus’ resurrection. It was 50 pages in my book The Gospels Interwoven. So, I decided I would discontinue what I was working on in my writings and write a screenplay on Jesus’ resurrection. Yet, I knew nothing about screenwriting. So, I took a six-month course on it, read about a dozen books about it, and wrote the screenplay based on my The Gospels Interwoven, endorsed by Billy Graham, plus I did a lot more research. I tried to shop this script around in Hollywood. I met Gibson’s screenwriter for that film–Benedict Fitzgerald. He read my script, liked it, and was recommending it. Gibson’s agent, Ed Limato, phoned me about it. But all he cared about was me producing a film and hiring Jim Caviezel, who he also represented. After a few months, I got nowhere and I gave up.

Mel Gibson’s sequel is written by him and his friend Randall Wallace of Braveheart fame. Gibson has revealed that it will be based a lot on visions of Roman Catholics Anne Catherine Emmerich and Mary of Jesus of Agreda (1602-1665), with the focus being on Jesus’ descent into Hell. It is being reported that the film will display the “Harrowing of Hell,” in which Jesus tears down walls and declares war against the devil. If this is the case, this film will not be biblically-based.

I believe that during the history of Christianity, there has been much unnecessary speculation, imagination, and just plain disinformation about what happened to the soul of Jesus between the time of his death on the cross on Friday and his literal, bodily resurrection from the dead in the tomb on early Sunday morning. Indeed, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, as Christian tradition relates and the New Testament states numerous times. Those few New Testament texts which say Jesus was raised from the dead “after three days” (Mark 8.31) or after “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12.40) are, according to biblical scholars, Semitic idioms meaning “third day.” Proof of this is found in Matthew 27.63-64 and comparing Esther 4.16 with 5.1.

I believe in the Apostles Creed, although it was not created by Jesus’ apostles. But I believe in its original draft. I think it is unfortunate that the clause, “he descended into hell,” was added later. For one thing, it was not important. For another, it opened the door for all kinds of speculation.

The common view among Christians about the question, What happens to people after they die?, is that when Christians die, their immortal souls go to heaven to enjoy conscious bliss. That clearly was not what the early Christians believed. The classic book to read on this is Alan Segal’s A History of the Afterlife in Western Civilization. He very convincingly shows that by about the third century CE, both Jews and Christians had been influenced by neo-Platonic categories by believing the soul is immortal and that at death it goes to heaven. That is certainly not in the Bible’s Old Testament. And I argue that it is not in the New Testament either, since I believe 1 Corinthians 5.1-8 and Philippians 1.21-23 are generally misunderstood. That is, they do not say the souls of saints go to heaven at death.

The Old Testament is very clear in saying repeatedly that when all people die their unconscious souls immediately go down to Sheol, inside the earth. Now, the Old Testament has a few verses which indicate there will be a resurrection of all people and then a judgment. But the New Testament informs even more about this. However, the Old Testament informs much about the intermediate state–the time between death and resurrection/judgment–whereas the New Testament does not.

What is Sheol? It is “the place of the dead” or “the underworld.” The Bible clearly states that it is located deep inside the earth (e.g., Matthew 12.40; Ephesians 4.9). The Greeks called it “Hades.” The word hades appears often in the Greek New Testament and is sometimes translated “hell/Hell” in English Bibles. Thus, Sheol in the Old Testament, which is mentioned 67 times, refers to same thing as Hades in the New Testament. And the Old Testament says human souls in Sheol are unconscious, as if asleep. In fact, both Old and New Testaments use the word “sleep” or “asleep” often to refer to when a person dies and the state of their soul after that.

For example, Jesus told his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him” (John 11.11 NRSV). The disciples didn’t understand. So, Jesus explained plainly, “Lazarus is dead” (v. 14). They then went to Bethany where Lazarus lived, and Jesus raised him from the dead (vv. 43-44). Thus, Jesus employed the expression “fallen asleep” as a euphemism for death. This happens often in the Old Testament.

I believe Martin Luther was right in explaining the intermediate state by comparing it to human sleep. He said an alarm clock waking us up in the morning will be like souls in Sheol/Hades being asleep and then being awakened at the sound of the heavenly trumpet on the day of resurrection (1 Corinthians 15.51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4.15-17).

That is why we have the expression about death, “God rest his/her soul.” This condition of rest, meant presumably like sleep, depicts death most vividly at the conclusion of the book of Daniel. The angel tells Daniel, “But you, go your way and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days” (Daniel 12.13). The word “rest,” here, refers to Daniel’s death, when his soul will “rest” in an unconscious state. The word “rise” refers to Daniel’s yet future resurrection. And the word “reward” indicates what the risen Daniel will then receive at the judgment for his righteous deeds done on earth.

So, I think many biblical texts make it clear about the intermediate state, and it must have been no different for Jesus. That is, when he died, his soul did the same thing that the soul of every human being has done after physical death–Jesus’ soul descended to Sheol to remain there unconscious.

Now, I know that there are a few texts in the New Testament that seem to indicate otherwise, such as 1 Peter 3.19. Gibson likely will depend on this biblical text, as it is traditionally translated, for some of the scenes he will have in this film. But I do not think 1 Peter 3.19 is usually translated properly, and I have a whole chapter on this in a future book.

The NRSV says of Jesus in 1 Peter 3.18, as do many other English Bible versions do, “He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” So far, so good.

But then 1 Peter 3.19-20 says, “in which also he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is eight persons, were saved through water.” I think the first clause–“he went and made proclamation to the spirits in prison” (cf. 1 Peter 4.6)–is translated incorrectly. Instead, I believe, as do some scholars, that what Peter meant was that in the days just before the flood, Noah proclaimed a message to people about God’s impending judgment due to the widespread corruption of sin. And Peter meant by “spirits in prison” the spirits of those people who had drowned in the flood because they had been disobedient to God. Accordingly, Peter says nothing about what Jesus’ soul was doing in Sheol/Hades between the time of his death on Friday afternoon and his resurrection from the dead Sunday morning, about 38 hours later.

No date has been given for when Mel Gibson’s Resurrection sequel film will be released. But there is reasonable expectation that it will be on Easter next year because that will be the 20th anniversary year of “The Passion of the Christ.”

In conclusion, I expect much of Gibson’s Resurrection film will be fiction and thus not based on the Bible. And I suspect that such a film will cause Bible-believing Christians to desire a good film about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances recorded in the New Testament gospels and putting these scenes in chronological order. That is where I think the focus should be, and that’s what my screenplay is about. Who knows; maybe Gibson’s sequel film will make my script more appealing and thus get made into a film!

See past Zarley blog posts about this sequel film:

Mel Gibson and Randall Wallace Are Making a Film on Jesus’ Resurrection

Gibson-Wallace Planned Film on Jesus’ Resurrection



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