Christian Symbolism

The Matrix Revolutions

Matrix photo

In The Matrix Revolutions, the final battle between good and evil plays itself out. Although the third film of the trilogy seems preoccupied with being an action film, Christian symbolism continues to be a very strong thread tightly woven into the plot. Those searching for elements of truth from these films will find much to discover here.


Revolution or Revolution?

One question that comes to mind about this film is the meaning of the title. Is it revolutions, as in the French Revolution - a change in or overthrow of the current ruling class? Or is it revolutions, as in a complete rotation - to come full circle and return to the position from which you started? I believe it is both, and that both are representative of the victory of Christ on the cross.

First, there is the obvious revolution in which the citizens of Zion strive to overthrow the tyranny of the machines. They are like the Israelites, the "chosen" people, for no one could be freed from the Matrix unless they were selected and given the opportunity by someone from outside the Matrix (just as Neo was chosen by Morpheus). Their desire is not just to end the war between themselves and the machines. They desire for all humans to be free from bondage, to free their bodies from the pods and free their minds from enslavement within the Matrix. We were also slaves at one time - slaves to sin. Our sinful nature kept us under the dominion of Satan. On our own, there was little chance of escape (a few Israelites, through the old testament law, made it). Through the sacrifice of Christ, the tyranny of our sinful nature was overthrown and we could once again be at peace with God. In the same way, Neo is the vessel which breaks the bonds of enslavement to the Matrix. Notice how, like Christ, Neo willingly offers himself as a sacrifice in order to restore peace between man and machine. Notice how Neo allows Smith to imprint him. He becomes Smith, just as Christ "became" sin on our behalf: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24)

The end of the movie also suggests having come full circle as the Matrix is restored and everything appears to be exactly as it was when the first film began. However, it is only an appearance of sameness, for a great change has indeed taken place that is as subtle as it is powerful. For one, the Zionites are no longer at war. More importantly, all of humanity, not just the people of Zion, have benefited from Neo's sacrifice. Those still plugged in did not suddenly become unplugged (imagine the shock), but instead have been given a choice. They can, if they wish, leave the Matrix and their pod to become a citizen of Zion. It is this choice that is the central and foremost theme of the film series, and the primary difference between man and machine: freedom means the ability to choose. Similarly, humanity came full circle at the crucifixion of Christ. Did the world appear drastically different after his crucifixion and resurrection? Not at all, contrary to expectations. The world appeared exactly the same, and for most the event went unnoticed. However, a great change had taken place. We were restored to our original state as typified by Adam and Eve before the fall - sinless and therefore at peace with the almighty God. We are no longer his enemies. We are no longer helplessly bound to sin. We can choose, choose to deny our sinful nature and enter the kingdom of God as one of his children by accepting the redemption found in Christ. And most importantly, this choice is extended to all people, not just the Israelites.  

Good Nature Verses Sinful Nature

On one level, I believe the Architect and the Oracle may be two sides of a single nature. As programs, they may serve to function as the mind and heart of a single consciousness, that consciousness being the AI (the Deus Ex Machina). The Architect (father of the Matrix), whose actions are cold and calculating, dictated by logic and reason, represents the mind. To the Architect, everything must make sense. The "equation" must be balanced. Life must be predictable, each event determining all that follow like dominoes falling one after another. On the other hand, the Oracle (mother of the Matrix) represents intuition, irrational thought, emotion, and spontaneity. The Oracle is all about choice. Choice, or decisions, require the option to step outside of reason and perform an illogical act. In the words of the Architect (Reloaded), "the problem is choice...the onset of an emotion, designed specifically to overwhelm logic and reason." To the Oracle, life is full of change, chaos, unpredictability; imbalance as it were. The oracle is the AI's attempt to mirror the illogical side of human nature.

Matrix photo Then, we have Neo and Agent Smith. On one level Christ and Anti-Christ, on another level a single nature once again divided into two equal but opposite forces. Both pieces of a larger whole; two subprograms battling for control of the mother program, two "children" of the Oracle. Neo represents the good nature of the Oracle, that which desires to do what is right. Even Agent Smith describes him this way during the interrogation scene in the first film: "...but I believe you wish to do the right thing." Notice how Neo always places the needs of others before his own needs. Smith, on the other hand, represents the evil nature of the Oracle, driven by greed and the thirst for power. Observe how Smith is the model of wanton selfishness; it's all about him.

One cannot exist without the other. Choice demands the existence of both. You cannot choose to do good unless there is an opposing option to perform evil. Each defines the other. The Oracle was clear about this in referring to Neo: "He is you. Your opposite, your negative, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out." The Oracle acted like a conscience, trying to guide the good nature (Neo) in the right direction while at the same time trying to resist or suppress the evil nature (Smith). Notice how the battle between these natures is fought until, at the bottom of the impact crater, the three eventually merge together when the Smith/Oracle entity imprints Neo. United at last, the battle ends and we see the Oracle, the symbol of the heart and choice, is all that remains. She is once again whole. This time, goodness has triumphed over evil. The Architect refers to this battle of the two natures at the end when he says, " You've played a very dangerous game." Also Neo, "Choice. The problem is choice." By introducing choice, the Oracle introduced the potential for evil to triumph over good. 

Is it any surprise that Neo is part program? More likely, Neo is the body of some ordinary human whose mind was imprinted with the "good nature" subprogram of the Oracle early on, just as the agents were able to take control of any body plugged into the system. The "Neo subprogram" was necessary for the system to work, as explained by the Architect: "Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of the Matrix." It needed to be imprinted on a human for the same reason Christ needed to be human - it was the only way for the sacrifice to work at the end, allowing good to have victory over evil. Christ was part God, part man. Neo is part machine, part man. Here is further evidence for my analysis.

1. Consider the following dialogue between Neo and the Oracle:
      Oracle: I told you before. No one can see beyond a choice they don't understand, and I mean no one.
      Neo: What choice?
      Oracle: It doesn't matter. It's my choice. I have my mind to make, same as you have yours.
Then again:
     Neo: Who decided it wasn't time?
     Oracle: You know who. *She points at the Temet Nosce sign above the door*
     Neo: I did. *Oracle nods*
The Oracle can't see beyond Neo's choice because it really IS her choice, as Neo is a part of her nature. The second conversation sure has the tone of a conscience speaking to itself.

2. Agent Smith referred to the Oracle as "Mom". His maniacal laughter after imprinting the Oracle could be his realizing in a moment of irony that, in a sense, he and the Oracle had always been one and the same.

3. In Reloaded, the Architect tells Neo that he must "return to the Source, allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program."

Matrix photo Each of us, like the Oracle, have two natures that are waging war with one another over control of our hearts. "For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19) Our good nature, bolstered by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the result of allowing Christ to rule our hearts. It is the source of love. It cherishes life. It always seeks to do the right thing, and places the needs of others as first priority. Our sinful nature, however, is ruled by selfishness and pride. When we allow Satan to rule our hearts, the result is hatred, bitterness, and envy. Our sinful nature seeks to destroy life. One of our two natures will eventually win. Through Christ, we can allow the power of the almighty God to conquer our evil nature and free us from the power of sin.

The Source

The Source is symbolic of God, the source of all light and life. Neo was able to tap into the energy of the Source to perform "miraculous" works, such as when he stopped the sentinels at the end of Reloaded. The Oracle confirmed this ability:

Neo: Tell me how I stopped four sentinels by thinking it. Tell me just what the hell is happening to me.
Oracle: The power of the One extends beyond this world. It reaches from here all the way back to where it came from.
Neo: Where?
Oracle: The Source.

As the Son of God, Christ could also tap into a source of power beyond the world we perceive and perform miraculous works, such as the ability to perform wondrous healings, cast out demons, etc. He often did things that could not be explained.

Matrix photoThe Source was located in the machine city. Notice how the machine city is characterized by light, an abundance of brilliant, blinding light. Just as the Matrix is a symbol of this world, the machine world is a symbol of the kingdom of God. Heaven, the dwelling place of the source of light which is God. This is why Neo could not go to the Source until he was ready. He had a mission that needed to be completed first. Instead, he found himself in the Train Station, a place halfway between the Matrix and the machine city. The Train Station represents Limbo (note the anagram for "Mobil"), a "waiting room" between Heaven and Earth where those who have passed from this world lay "sleeping" until the great day of Christ's return. Notice how Neo was sleeping, as in a coma, while he was in the Train Station. In like manner, Christ could not ascend into Heaven until he had completed his mission here on Earth. For both, this mission was to make the ultimate sacrifice. Christ on the cross said, "It is finished." The Deus Ex Machina, following the death of Neo, said, "It is done."

The Deus Ex Machina (DEM), the face of the AI, is symbolic of the "face of God." Similar to the burning bush for Moses, it is a visual manifestation of God that permits direct physical interaction. Consider the literary definition of this term:

DEUS EX MACHINA (from Greek theos apo mechanes): An unrealistic or unexpected intervention to rescue the protagonists or resolve the conflict. The term means "The god out of the machine," and refers to stage machinery.
Matrix photo Matrix photo

The Wachowski's choice of name for this entity in the film further supports the interpretation of the Source as being symbolic for God. If you look at the image, you will see the "halo" around the DEM that is suggestive of imagery contained in early religious paintings to portray holiness. One could also argue that it could be symbolic of the crown of thorns, again making a connection between the DEM and God.

The Heavenly Realms

Consider the scene where Neo and Trinity are traveling in the Logos towards the machine city, and Neo is attacked by a sentinel that seems to "pass through" the ship as some form of energy. A possible interpretation of the parallels here is that the sentinels represent the dark forces of the spiritual realm: "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against...the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:12, 16)

I think we saw a "flaming arrow". Neo (as Christ figure), blinded to the physical world, is now more sensitive to the "spiritual realms" and thus more susceptible to attack from this direction. Notice how he is surrounded by darkness in this scene, suggestive of the "dark world".

A Promise Made

At the end of the film, we observe a colorful sunrise within the matrix. This is a first; the matrix has never been host to such use of color. The event is therefore of great significance. The designer of the sunrise, Sati, claims it to be a tribute to Neo. This scene transpires after Neo's sacrifice and immediately after the Architect has made his promise of peace. The sunrise is symbolic of the rainbow, a sign of God's covenant to never again destroy the Earth with a flood. The Architect, spokesman for the machine city, has promised not to destroy Zion and to allow the human race to coexist peacefully. (Credit is given to Zeo for discovering this symbolism.)