Coldplay's 42: Those Who are Dead are Not Dead...

A Christian Interacts with Viva La Vida, Or Death and All His Friends

Fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams chuckle when we hear the number 42.

In Adams’ Galaxy, a group of hyper-intelligent pan-dimensional beings demand to learn the answer to the Ultimate Question of “Life, the Universe, and Everything” from the supercomputer, Deep Thought. It takes Deep Thought 7½ million years to compute and check the answer, which turns out to be…


But, ironically, even though the answer is found, the question for the answer was still no known! Deep Thought designs another computer (which happens to be the planet Earth) in order to discover “The Ultimate Question.” It will take another 10 million years to do the calculations to find that! But unfortunately, five minutes before finding the "Ultimate Question," the Earth is destroyed by the Vogons in order to make way for a new Hyperspace Bypass. Ain’t that a bummer?

So, Coldplay’s Chris Martin titled this song "42," which may indicate that he's writing about ultimate questions of life. And interestingly, those questions have something to do with death and heaven.

The song starts out with a melancholy piano backed by orchestra as Martin sings,
Those who are dead are not dead
They're just living in my head
And since I fell for that spell
I am living there as well

Time is so short
And I'm sure
There must be something more

It seems that the character has died and has discovered that death is not the end of existence. People continue to live in some sort of immaterial existence – “they're just living in my head.” And since the singer has also “fell for that spell” of death, he is “there as well.”

Many of the young people who listen to Coldplay feel so young and invincible, and are so caught up in pursuing immediate pleasures, that they rarely contemplate what is sung here: “Time is so short / And I'm sure / There must be something more.” Yes, life is short… and then what? Isn’t there something more? Isn't it fascinating that Chris Martin is asking this question? Will it help his audience to stop for a moment and ask the same?

Then, the song suddenly shifts moods to a driving rock song, where another person sings to the person from the somber section:
You thought you might be a ghost!
You thought you might be a ghost!
You didn't get to heaven but you made it close
You didn't get to heaven but you made it close

The character is informed that his spirit is in some in-between place – he’s not a ghost, but he’s not in heaven either. He didn’t quite make it to that destination (though he did make it close!).

And so the song shifts again to the sad refrain,
Those who are dead are not dead
They're just living in my head
And just trails off.

This is intriguing – No resolution to the tension; no sense that there is victory. Just the resignation of being not dead, yet not alive either. Sad.

When it comes to matters of life, death, and the afterlife, many people are confused. And like the supercomputer Deep Thought, they do not have the answer, and they do not even know how to ask the right question. I understand why; after all, nobody has actually died and come back to explain what happens on the other side, right?

Well, yes…
Matter of fact, somebody has.

One of the most captivating things about Jesus Christ is that he is the one person who has done so, and he has done so in order that we can understand why we die, what the ultimate questions of life are, and what the ultimate answers to those questions are. And the answer is not, alas, 42.

Jesus reveals the mysterious. And here is what the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus reveals:

About death, Jesus reveals that there is indeed “life after death.” And – get this – there is “life after life after death.”

Jesus died but he was raised from the dead. He was the vanguard, the pioneer, the “firstfruits” of a harvest of others who will also resurrect from the dead. Those who “belong to Christ” (in other words, those who have given their lives over to Christ as their Lord) will be raised from the dead.
“Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… But in this order: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23)

But what's in between the time of death and resurrection? Are you a ghost? Do you go to heaven? And if so, how do you get into heaven? I’d hate to only “make it close!”

What the Bible reveals is that there is a place for our disembodied selves between death and resurrection. This is what many Christians call “heaven.” But because of this, many Christians get confused about the afterlife. Since they call this place “heaven,” they assume that this is the ultimate destination for Christians. They think that the ultimate goal is the make it to heaven.

Actually, this in-between death and resurrection place is what theologians call the “Intermediate State.” “Heaven,” by definition, is the dwelling place of God, and when Christians die, they are blessed to be with God in heaven. But that is not the ultimate destination - we were not created to live in heaven; we were created to live on earth. Far too many Christians say that "Heaven is my true home;" but, if we are biblical, we understand that "heaven" is God's home, and earth is our home.

One day, those who trust in Christ and his grace of redemption and restoration will experience something truly remarkable: Their disembodied selves will reunite with their bodies and these bodies (yes, the bodies we are in now), will be raised from the dead. The dwelling place for these restored, glorified bodies will not be heaven but earth. God will restore the earth to its original intended existence – absent of sin and decay.

The Bible does not end with us being whisked up into heaven to be with God for all eternity; it ends with God coming down to dwell with us humans on earth for all eternity!
“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”(Revelation 21:2-4)

N. T. Wright, in his must-read new book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, writes,
“The early Christian future hope centered firmly on resurrection. The first Christians did not simply believe in life after death; they virtually never spoke simply of going to heaven when they died. (As I have often said… heaven is important but it’s not the end of the world.) When they did speak of heaven as a postmortem destination, they seemed to regard this heavenly life as a temporary stage on the way to the eventual resurrection of the body… The early Christians hold firmly to a two-step belief about the future: first, death and whatever lies immediately beyond; second, a new bodily existence in a newly remade world. (p. 41)
“[Resurrection] was, in other words, life after life after death.” (p. 151)

Those who are dead are not dead...
If they belong to Christ, they are living in the intermediate state with Jesus
And that’s not the end of the story...
They will one day be resurrected from the dead and live on a restored earth, with heaven and earth no longer being two separate dimensions, for God will be with us and we will be his people.

You see, when we get our eschatology right, we are on the proper route to answer the ultimate questions of life, the universe, and everything. The ultimate questions are (I'm borrowing here from Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton's excellent book, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview):
(1) "Who am I?" Or, what is the nature, task, and purpose of human beings?
(2) "Where am I?" Or, what is the nature of the world and universe I live in?
(3) "What's wrong?" Or, what is the basic problem or obstacle that keeps me from attaining fulfillment? In other words, how do I understand evil? and
(4) "What is the remedy?" Or, how is it possible to overcome this hindrance to my fulfillment? In other words, how do I find salvation? (p. 35)

And the answers, in my short form, are:
(1) You are a person created by a personal, loving God, and in the image of that triune, relational God. The image of God in you gives you purpose and meaning, as you fulfill what it means to reflect God. The purpose for every human is what is called the "Cultural Mandate," to take the raw materials that God has given and continue the creative work of creating culture, working for the good of all other creatures, and reflecting the good creativity of the God who made us.
(2) You live in the cosmos that God created and deemed to be "very good."
(3) But this cosmos has been severely damaged by the rebellion of those created in God's image. Work has been frustrated; our calling to create culture is severely marred by our selfishness and evil desires.
(4) The remedy is found in the person of Jesus Christ, who redeems humans back to the fullness of the image of God, and thus restores the creation that he loves. As we follow Jesus, working out our salvation, we are able to cooperate with God in the redemption of all things.
Death and all of his friends will not have the final say. Those created in the image of God are redeemed, they will be resurrected, and they will live for eternity on a restored earth. All things will one day be put to rights. This is the Christian hope.

And in the meantime, we can participate with God as he is actively bringing redemption to this fallen cosmos. This is the Christian meaning of life.


Great Googly Moogly! said...

Excellent post, Bob! And let's not forget that even now God dwells with His people in His Spirit by dwelling in them through the fullfillment of "Immanuel" (God With Us) in Christ!

"The Bible does not end with us being whisked up into heaven to be with God for all eternity; it ends with God coming down to dwell with us humans on earth for all eternity!"

Very well said. Thanks for your continued reminder of these glorious truths...even though they come in the context of Coldplay! :-)


Bob Robinson said...

quite a coldplay convert yet, ggm?

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Not yet...but they're growing on me. :-)


Steve said...

bob--glad I stumbled on your series of posts on Coldplay. Don't know if you saw this, but I've posted a few on these over the last year as well.

You can get a list of them here:

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