In my opinion, some of the most overlooked portions of the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy are the chapters right after the final battle in The Return of the King. In these chapters, Tolkien expresses a vision for cosmic renewal that closely mimics the one laid down in the biblical accounts themselves. In Rev 21:5 we read, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’” God has declared that one day he will set all things right. Likewise, at the end of The Return of the King, Tolkien describes how evil has been vanquished and all things set right.
This sentiment is best captured by one of Sam’s statements, which is one of my favorite in the entire story. After the ring is destroyed at Mount Doom, Sam wakes up from his sleep surprised he is alive and surprised to see Gandalf. Then he says, “Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
This statement is quite profound because it is different than asking whether good things are going to come true. Rather, it asking whether sad things are going to come untrue. Thus, Sam’s statement, like Christian eschatology, recognizes that there is currently something very wrong with the world. It is a place that is filled with sadness. Cursed by sin. Groaning as it awaits its redemption. And in the final consummation, those sad things will be made untrue. The curse will be rolled back. The world will be changed.
We are reminded by Sam’s statement about the whole point of eschatology. Eschatology is not so much about millennial positions or the structure of Revelation, but is primarily about the problem of evil and how that problem will be solved. Eschatology is about how one deals with the sad things in the world. In this sense, then, everyone has an eschatology. The believer, the atheist, the agnostic, the Hindu—everyone has to give an account for how evil is going to be dealt with. The question isn’t whether people have an eschatology, but whether it is a compelling and coherent eschatology.
And the Christian worldview, I believe, has a compelling and coherent eschatology. It can explain why the world is the way it is (the Fall), it can provide a definition of evil (violation of God’s law), and it can provide a real hope for the future (God will destroy evil and set all things right).
For this reason, eschatology is not a topic that should be reserved for theologians or scholars. It is a topic for every Christian, and, for that matter, every person. We all live in a dark world. And there is no message more relevant to those living in a dark world than a message about how that world will one day be changed.
So, let us be eschatological preachers. Not in an effort to win debates about which millennial view is correct, but in an effort to proclaim hope to a world that desperately needs it.
Ian Jude Connell says
The laziness when it comes to eschatology that is so pervasive in Christianity today is very concerning. its seems like even getting someone to spend a minute in pensive thought about vital topics like justification, or sanctification is like pulling teeth, let alone getting one to think through the different millennial views or the different approaches to interpretation, preterism, historicism etc.
You said it exactly right, everyone does have an eschatology. Atheists take a more postmillennial view of things,in the sense that they think that through natural processes things will get better and better.
So we too should have an eschatology( a Biblically informed one), the very existence of the book of Revelation demands it.
I wish there was a bigger push for understanding about these tough areas in Christianity.
Thank you for his post, and for your books, I’ve devoured your two most recent ones.
Michael Kruger says
Thanks, Ian. I appreciate your feedback and thoughts on this.
Love your posts Dr. Kruger!
Christians can be labelled weak for not being able to handle this harsh world. The assumption is that because of a belief in a redeemer God & His wonderful promises we are not strong. This is true to a point but you also would be labelled crazy if you rejected a helping hand when it was there to assist. God offers a way of escape from something terrible, immeasurably terrible. Not only that, Salvation is full & free,there are no half measures with God.
Could the same be said of all those that seek to win a lottery in order to make life happier, should they too be labelled weak as they seek transitory wealth. What of those that receive a donated organ or surgery. For me the only difference is between what you can & can’t see & what God offers is incomparable & everlasting.
The sheer volume of the armies in unison is an incredible sight with Lord of the rings; the scale is huge in comparison to Hollywood crime fighters. Humble people win the day, imperfect & weak. Multiply Lord of the Rings into all the Nations of the world throughout the ages of time & we get a bit closer to the gospel story…
Thanks again too for this blog, I like the way it gets me thinking & learning portions about the canon.
a few more thoughts, I like the point about of what is primarily important…
Christ is coming again as He said he would, the lasting hope of all who believe, like Abraham.
The secondary things like the differences of interpretation as to how it will come to pass become a bit more intellectual & challenging for the mind, wonderful as teaching can be at times revealing the significance of various symbols & practises that bring greater depths of meaning to a passage that may have its roots & connections in the OT.
Both speak to the heart by the influence of the Spirit but how easy it can be to lose focus in debate, finding the balance is like a lovely piece of music that engages in a meaningful way.
How do you think the renewed earth is going to be? (I know it is a very open ended question, but I used to always think of fuzzy images in a sort of different world with people smiling, but I feel its more of a culturally conditioned thing to see heaven/renewed earth as)