Do you believe in the devil? If so, what do you think about him? Or what fables have you heard about him? I’ve always wondered where the image of a little red guy with a greasy mustache, pointy tail and a pitchfork came from. There really aren’t many details about him in the Bible that tell us who he is other than a fallen angel, thief, prince of darkness, father of lies, and deceiver. Jesus said the devil only aims to do three things: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Peter warned us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8
M. Night Shyamalan uses that verse from Peter as a springboard to tell a story about sinners and their fate. Although it’s fantasy, there are some truths in the movie, truths that won’t leave me alone today.
Five random (or not so random) people get stuck in an elevator in a really tall office building in Philadelphia. They’ve come from different backgrounds, came to the building each for their own reason. When the elevator gets stuck, two security guards notice, call for the repairman, and begin watching the goings on over the security camera monitor. Unfortunately, although they can say things to the people over a radio, they can’t hear anything when the people answer back. Something’s wrong with the audio…of course. While waiting for the repairman, which seems to take forever, the lights in the elevator flicker and go off. When they come back on, someone’s been hurt and is bleeding. The people each look at one another incredulously. Who did it?? One of the guards, an Hispanic gentleman, told the other one that his mother used to tell a story of the Devil gathering the damned while they were still on earth to punish them here before they went to hell, called “The Devil’s Meeting.” The other guard and detective there to investigate scoff and call for the repairman again. The lights go out again, we hear scuffling, exclamations and glass breaking and this time when they come back on one of the guys is dead, brutally murdered with a shard of broken mirror. Things get creepier and yuckier from that point on as one by one the people are viciously killed and the survivors are left wondering which of the others is the culprit.
There is much more that happens and other characters involved in the story but in the end the two left in the elevator are advised by the detective who’s beginning to believe the Hispanic guard’s story, that they should own up to the bad things they’ve done, take responsibility for their choices. The last guy alive does this while face to face with the one who we find out was really the Devil and because of that gets out alive and the Devil leaves. When he confesses what his sin was, we find out that he just happens to be the guy who, years earlier, was the driver in a hit and run that left the detective without his wife and infant son. The detective, after experiencing and watching all that had happened in the elevator, decides to forgive him.
I wanted to stand up at the end of the movie and tell everyone else in there, “Hold up! That’s a step in the right direction but that’s not the whole story!” It’s definitely important for us to own up to our sins and admit we’ve done wrong. That’s one step closer to hope. It’s also good to forgive! But to really escape hell and the devil’s intent to destroy us, we need to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Someone can confess, “Yes, I did it. I’m the one who crashed my car and accidentally killed someone.” But then someone has to be punished, has to pay for the crime. Admitting is good but it doesn’t fully get us off the hook. Jesus took the lashings, the mocking, the hatred, the pain, the despisement so we wouldn’t have to. If we accept what he did for us and trust in Him, then the Devil can’t lay a hand on us. We belong to Jesus. He bought us and our “soul safety” with his own blood.
This morning as we sang songs at church about Jesus and how He rescued sinners, how He was the ransom from heaven, I couldn’t get the image of those frantic people stuck in the elevator, at the whim of Satan who was delighting in terrifying and torturing them. They didn’t know any better. They had done bad things, but we all have done bad things. They weren’t the only five people who needed to be in that elevator if that’s the criteria. Every one of us would have to face him if it weren’t for Jesus.
At one point in the movie, when there are still a few survivors, the lights begin to flicker again, they start to hyperventilate in panic, and the detective shouts over the radio “Hold your cell phones up for light! Don’t let it get dark!!” Once the lights went out completely they all knew what would happen. Death.
Even though this movie was just someone’s imaginative, although dark and morbid, idea, it did remind me of what we’ve been saved from. It also motivates me to pray more for opportunities to tell people they don’t have to face that fate. I don’t believe people will get stuck in an elevator with the devil, but if they haven’t received Jesus’ sacrifice for their sins, for the wrong things they’ve done, by the time the lights go out in their life they will face him and it will be horrifying and terrible. Knowing that, shouldn’t we be trying harder?? Shouldn’t we be holding up our lights to give them a chance, to give them time to realize there’s a way to live in hope, to be free, to be saved? Shouldn’t we care more? Shouldn’t we be making sure people don’t just take one step toward Jesus, but get all the way into his saving, loving, and forgiving arms?
We have to show them how to step closer to Jesus so they don’t have to be afraid of the devil.