Messiah – Season One
Produced by Michael Petroni, Mark Burnett, and Roma Downey
Featuring Mehdi Dehbi, Michelle Monaghan, Tomer Sisley, and John Ortiz
Netflix, 2020, Ten episodes
A fellow-blogger recently re-blogged a cautionary post about a new Netflix series called, “Messiah.” Curious, I did a little digging and discovered the new series is about the rise of the end-times messiah, er, or is it the end-times anti-Christ? I’m not big into eschatology, but decided I would give this new series a spin. My wife and I watched the ten episodes of the series in successive evenings, an anomaly when it comes to me and television. The summary below by necessity leaves out a lot of details.
Plot (spoiler alert)
A young man (Dehbi) miraculously brings peace to war-torn Syria and then treks to Israel with his growing group of followers. On the steps leading to Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the enigmatic al-Masih (“the Messiah”) announces he is going to usher in an era of peace into the world. The CIA becomes concerned about this religious rabble rouser and a top agent, Eva Geller (Monaghan), begins to investigate. Al-Masih next shows up in Texas, seemingly saving a church from a tornado. The pastor (Ortiz) is convinced the reticent al-Masih is the second coming of Jesus. Seekers from across the nation flock to Texas to get a glimpse of the messiah. Pastor Felix leads al-Masih and a caravan of credulous followers to Washington D.C.. Al-Masih subsequently shocks the city and the nation when he seemingly walks on top of the water of the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Monument. The President of the U.S. consults with al-Masih who advises him to withdraw all military personnel throughout the world as part of the new era of peace. CIA agent, Geller, isn’t buying al-Masih’s schtick. She discovers he is actually an Iranian named Payam Golshiri, whose dossier includes an apprenticeship as a magician, studying in college under an anarchist professor, and being treated at a psychiatric facility for a “messiah complex.”
Just when al-Masih is to appear on national television, he is abducted by a Shin Bet (Israeli internal intelligence) agent (Sisley). Simultaneously, a White House official who fears the President is falling under al-Masih’s spell leaks the CIA’s classified dossier on Payam Golshiri to the media. Feeling he’s been duped, the disillusioned pastor Felix returns to Texas and burns down his church. The plane bringing al-Masih to Jerusalem crashes, but the enigmatic young man “miraculously” survives. Viewers are left to wonder whether al-Masih is the genuine Messiah, the anti-Christ, or a self-deluded megalomaniac. The cliff-hanging ending is served up as incentive to watch a (possible) second season.
Christians who know their Bibles will know right away that the al-Masih character has no connection with the Scripture prophecies regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ:
“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” – Matthew 24:27
We know that the Bible foretells the coming of the anti-Christ at the end times, but many do not know that Islam also teaches the coming of al-Masih ad-Dajjal, a false messiah who will eventually be defeated by Jesus Christ. This series seems to incorporate elements from both the Bible and Quran regarding the anti-Christ.
There was some initial concern among both Christians and Muslims as to the identity of the mysterious al-Masih character. The show’s producers and Netfilx were banking on the uncertainty to generate interest. Some Muslims jumped the gun and mounted a petition calling for subscribers to boycott Netflix for its provocative “anti-Islamic propaganda.” After watching the series, it’s clear the show’s creators don’t intend for the al-Masih character to be Jesus Christ returned because it’s revealed that he’s actually Iranian Payam Golshiri with an unflattering past. So the question is whether he’s the anti-Christ or a mentally-unbalanced imposter. The show is interesting because it does demonstrate how the anti-Christ could possibly rise up and gain the allegiance of people worldwide, including both nominal (c)hristians and Muslims.
I don’t think Gospel Christians need to be overly alarmed by this series, but we should be discerning. One of the producers, Roma Downey, is a Roman Catholic New-Ager who, with her husband, Mark Burnett, has given us such Biblically-challenged television series as “Touched by an Angel,” “The Bible,” and “A.D.” We definitely shouldn’t be getting our theology from Downey and must remain ever-cautious and discerning, but we can view this series strictly as entertainment material and, yes, even use it as an opportunity to evangelize. Our unbelieving oldest son who lives here in town would not be caught dead reading the Bible, but he’s expressed interest in watching “Messiah.” We’ve already had a few discussions with him about the series and the coming anti-Christ.