By John Greco
Just when it seemed that their chapter in the great story was coming to a close, Frodo and Samwise are rescued from Mount Doom by the eagles and taken to the safety of Ithilien. Waking up days later in what must have seemed like heaven compared to the vile and jagged landscape of Mordor, Sam says, “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
I may lose some fantasy-geek credibility with this confession, but I must admit I read The Lord of the Rings only after seeing the films. So, years ago, when I first watched The Return of the King, the third installment in the trilogy, I actually didn’t know if Frodo and Sam were going to make it out of Mordor alive. They could die, I thought. And if they had given their lives to rescue the world from evil, it would have been a picture of the gospel. On Good Friday, Jesus willingly laid down His life to save the world from the curse of sin.
But the gospel story doesn’t end in death. On the other side of the cross, there is an empty tomb. As Mary and the other women puzzled about the missing body of Jesus, Luke tells us two angels—men in dazzling clothes—appeared and asked, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?… He is not here, but he has risen!” (Luke 24:5–6). Of course, these female disciples of Jesus were shocked by this declaration, but the news was even better than they could have imagined: the empty tomb was still only the beginning of the end of the gospel story.
The apostle Paul tells us that the garden tomb will not be the only empty one. Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection of the dead that will take place at the end of history (1 Corinthians 15:20–23). And in the book of Revelation, John tells us that on that day, “Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away” (21:4). Swords will be turned into plows, wolves and lambs will live together, and the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth (Isaiah 2:4; 11:6; Habakkuk 2:14). Indeed, all things will be made new (Matthew 19:28; Revelation 21:5). Just as Samwise guessed, everything sad is now coming untrue.
Written by John Greco
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