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.
After all, in these final chapters there is a gathering of the “saints,” a great feast, new songs of praise, and even a final wedding. Frodo and Sam even receive crowns on their heads.
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.
And that message, perhaps more than ever, is needed in a world haunted by the coronavirus.
So, let us be eschatological Christians. 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.