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 GLADIATOR 

Theme: 
The general who became a slave; A slave who became a gladiator; 
A gladiator who defied an emperor. Jesus Christ (the general) who became a bondservant (Philippians 2:5-11); A bondservant who became the swordsman (the word "Gladiator" means swordsman); A swordsman who 
destroyed the anti-Christ.

The Book of Revelation pictures a life and death struggle between Christ and the anti-Christ for the hearts of men. The movie Gladiator depicts the same story, with Maximus being the Christ and Commodus, the anti-christ.

Insights:

In the title scene, the word "Gladiator" appears in black and white lettering. The music playing is entitled Progeny (offspring). This sets the theme for the entire movie. Who is the true son and heir?

The movie begins in a wheat field. Wheat is a universal symbol of fertility and harvest. Because wheat is sown, grown, and harvested, it also signifies the cycle of birth, life, and death as well as rebirth. In Christianity it symbolizes the Resurrection of Christ. This film, therefore, begins with eternal life.

A bird captures his eye; the Creator in tune with His creatures.

Germania

Note the color shift as the film moves to Germania. The words that appear are central to the movie theme. "One last stronghold remains, then peace throughout the Empire." The last stronghold is death (Revelation 20:14). The entire movie is symbolic of the last great battle against death and the anti-Christ.

As Maximus walks among his men, the love and respect they have for him is obvious. He also loves them deeply as evidenced by his words to Quintas, "The catapults are okay". It is his men that are his top priority. He would sacrifice himself for them, and they know it.

He always picks up dirt before the sword. This is a symbolic act of his being tied to the earth (farmer). It is also significant because the word "humility" comes from humus, the earth.

The Battle

At the start of the battle, Maximus tells one of his commanders,   "At my command, unleash Hell!" He holds the keys to death and Hades (Revelation 1:18). War is a picture of Hell. The dismemberment of bodies is significant because of man being created in the image of God.

The headless horseman in the opening scene signifies all the deaths to come: deaths in battle, murder of Marcus Aurelius, death of Praetorian guards, the murder of his wife and son, death in Zucchabar, death in the Coliseum, death of the Senator, death of Cicero, death of the gladiators, death of Proximo, death of Commodus. This is contrasted with the eternal life of Maximus shown at the beginning and end of movie.

 At the start of the battle, Maximus utters a significant quote, "Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity," (Hebrews 2:11-16).  Fearless of death, he leads the charge, yelling for his men to hold the line and stay as one. Here is the importance of unity in overcoming the enemy.

He wins the battle and yet remains the humble servant, honoring Caesar, helping him on his horse.

In a moving scene that was filmed, but not included in the movie, Maximus walks among his men who are wounded. Their agony is his agony. He washes his hands of blood (washing of hands is symbolic of innocence), telling Quintas that dirt washes off easier. He would rather be at home harvesting his crops.

Conversation with Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius asks Maximus, " What is Rome?" His response is, " The light". Maximus has never been to Rome (signifying his innocence), and therefore, does not know what it has become. The fragile dream that was once Rome (Genesis 1&2 pre-fall) is gone.  It has become corrupt. The emperor has one more duty to ask of Maximus.  He asks him to become the Protector of Rome. Maximus will, on the death of Marcus Aurelius, be empowered to one end alone.  He must end the corruption and return the power to the people (to set hearts of men free and bring in the grand restoration). Commodus must not rule, for he is immoral.

Marcus Aurelius asks Maximus to tell him about his home. Maximus's description of his home is a description of Eden. His home is in the middle of a rich fertile garden," a simple place, really". He had to leave his home to fight for Rome. Christ left his home to fight for the hearts of men on earth.

 

Murder of Marcus Aurelius

Ambition and jealousy drive Commodus to patricide, a depiction of Lucifer's betrayal of the Father's heart (Isaiah 14:12-15).

Execution of Maximus

Maximus is taken to a battlefield to be executed by Praetorian guards. The scene shows a human skull in the forefront, symbolic of Golgotha, the place where Christ was crucified (Golgotha means the place of the skull). Maximus is to receive an ignominious death surrounded by Roman soldiers. To the entire "world", he is dead. Up to this point, he is a loyal and humble servant /son of the emperor. Now when he returns to Rome, it will be as an avenger, full of wrath; hence, the two comings of Jesus Christ.

Thunder and lightning = the wrath of God.  Color shifts as he leaves Germania .

Spain

Maximus returns to his home, his Eden, his garden that he planted to find it all destroyed. His wife and son have been brutally murdered by Commodus's Praetorian guards (dark angels). Eden means, "delight". It was God's delight, a place created for His children. The scorched earth here is a picture of the fallen world.

The most moving scene is Maximus's discovery of his wife and son. As the music plays Sorrow, he looks at a wife ravaged (symbolizing heavenly woman, Israel, and the church) and a son crucified. There was a scene in Maximus's journey home that was filmed, but omitted from the final cut. In it Maximus sees in his spirit the death of his son.  He grasps for him and then in agony looks at the mark upon his palm. In this scene one gets a glimpse of what the cross did to the heart of God.

Maximus, the general, now becomes Maximus, the slave.

Zucchabar

Zucchabar is a picture of Hades. It is a desert, dry, arid, lifeless. It is the complete opposite of Maximus's home in Spain (Eden). Men who were given dominion over animals (Genesis 1&2) are now worthless and are often fed to the animals. Even the animals are sterile (camels). There is no reproduction, no life in Zucchabar, only death. Zucchabar is a province of Rome, demonstrating that the depravity and corruption of Rome (fallen world) has now reached its most remote parts. When depravity reaches this extent, all the people want is debauched entertainment.

Maximus, the slave, now becomes Maximus, the gladiator. He removes his SPQR tattoo because the evil Commodus is now the god of Rome. SPQR stands for Senatus Populusque Romanus, the motto of the original government of and by the Senate and the Roman people.

It is important to keep in mind during the arena scenes in Zucchabar that this is a depiction of Hades. The figures that Maximus faces in the arena fight scenes are all covered in grotesque masks or skins. These clearly represent demons.

Several scenes that were made, but not included in the final cut, are key to this understanding: 

Christians are kept in pens waiting their fate in the arena.
Christians, including a young child, are fed to the lions.
A grotesque figure named Pluto (screenplay) comes out at the end of the fights and stabs all the fallen men.  Pluto is god of the underworld.
Proximo tells Maximus not to butcher, but rather to entertain.  This Maximus cannot do, for he is putting demons to death; hence his fury and his question to spectators, "Are you not entertained?"

He enters Zucchabar alone and leaves with a group of well-trained men (Ephesians 4:8-10). He receives a breastplate (a mantel) from Proximo to be the best gladiator. Proximo refers to Rome as the great whore (Revelation 17).

Rome

Commodus enters Rome as the conquering hero. Note the similar atmosphere to Nazi Germany. Hans Zimmer created Wagnerian music for this scene. The people and Senate dislike him, but are powerless as long as he controls the Praetorian guards. To win the "love" of the people, he gives them the amusement of death. Commodus is more and more perverted showing the progression of sin.

Unmasking of Maximus

This is the most important scene in the movie. So far, his identity has been concealed to all but a few loyal men. He puts on a helmet with the mask for the first time. Notice all the others with him have on similar outfits, chain mail and helmets with faces exposed. Only Maximus has the breastplate and mask. He takes total authority over the gladiators and again commands unity. In the battle he alone gets on the white horse and raises the sword (Revelation 19:11-19). Removing his helmet and revealing his identity is symbolic of the revelation (unveiling) of Jesus Christ. "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, Commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions." He is the loyal servant of the true Emperor Marcus Aurelius, father of a murdered son, and husband of a murdered wife.  He will have his vengeance.

Every eye in the arena is fixed on him (Revelation 1:7). His friend Juba tells Maximus, " You have a great name.  He (Commodus) must first kill your name before he kills you". The name of Jesus Christ is the name above all names (Philippians 2: 9-11).

Maximus tells Cicero, "Tell the men their general lives!"  Cicero is a picture of the faithful servants of Christ throughout the ages. When the master returns, he is ready and well prepared. He has kept the things (statues) of His master, obeys without question, and willingly sacrifices his life.

Commodus and Senator Falco uncover the plot to free Maximus. Now Commodus's perversion with his sister reaches its climax. He tells Lucilla that she will love him and bear his pure seed. He has usurped their father's throne, and now he proclaims that he and his progeny will reign for 1,000 years. This is a very symbolic statement. It is as if Commodus (the anti-Christ) is asserting that he and his offspring will reign during the millennial kingdom (Revelation 22:1-10) rather than the Christ and his saints (Revelation 2:26).

 

Maximus and Commodus in the Arena

Commodus, a symbol of both Cain and Judas, calls Maximus "brother" and kisses him before he stabs him. As they rise to the Coliseum floor the music and lighting are very symbolic. Commodus, a true picture of the anti-Christ, is dressed all in white, as if he were the pure one, the true son and heir.  

Maximus kills Commodus, orders his men freed, and the Senator reinstated. "These were the last wishes of Marcus Aurelius." He tells Lucilla that Lucius is safe. Lucilla and Lucius mean "light". He has brought freedom and light.

Juba buries his statues; Maximus no longer needs them.  He is with his family, a beautiful picture of eternal life in Christ. Juba is dressed in his African clothes; he is free and going home. The music playing is entitled Now We Are Free.

Light reflecting over the water at the end of the movie is like the river of life (Revelation 22:1&2). The glory has returned.

Additional Insights:

The Breastplates

The Breastplates of both Maximus and Commodus are significant.

Maximus receives his from Proximo. When he receives it, it has two winged figures on it. In Rome, you can see that a large tree and two horses have been added. The horses are symbolic for his wife and son. You can tell this by what he tells Lucius. The second time in the arena his wife and son have been added. At the end when he confronts Commodus, an angel with a laurel wreath has been added.

Commodus black breastplate is the same as his white one at the end of the movie. It has a chariot driver chasing a female figure with wings. Above these figures is a male with arms outstretched, looking very much like the upper part of a man being crucified.

There are many points of contrast between Maximus as a type of Christ and Commodus as a type of anti-Christ:

                     Commodus

                    Maximus

Ungodly, wicked Godly, devout
Proud Humble
Self exaltation Humble obedience
Dark Light
Disloyal Loyal
Perversion with sister Purity with wife
Caesar Slave
Fearful Brave
Follower with Falco and sister Leader
Lonely Loved
Coward Hero
Foolish Wise
Kills Father Honors ancestors
Tries to buy love Receives love
Brutal Kind
Fallen Adam: murderer, incestuous True Adam: farmer, dominion over animals
Desires grandeur Desires simplicity
People he touches change for evil People he touches change for good
Sacrifices others Self sacrifice
When asked to do duty said, "Yes," but did not do it. When asked to do duty said, "No," but did it
Merciless Merciful
Dishonorable Honorable
Scorned Exalted

Scriptures: 
                Revelation                
                Daniel 7, 8, and 11           

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