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The time of the elves is over

“For Sauron will have dominion over all life on this Earth, even until the ending of the world. The time of the elves is over. Do we leave Middle-Earth to this fate? Do we let them stand alone?”

– Galadriel, Lord of the Rings

There comes a moment in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings when the Elvish leadership recognizes they can no longer restrain the growth of evil. The conversation moments before between Elrond and his daughter Arwen makes clear that the elves understand all too well the curse of immortality lived out in a fallen world:

Elrond: “Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn (Arwen’s lover of the race of men) will die. And there will be no comfort for you. No comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death. An image of the splendor of the kings of men in glory, undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt. As night falling winter has come without a star. Here you will dwell, bound to your grief, under the fading trees, until all the world has changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.”

Evil is a subject that our postmodern world is ill-equipped to understand, let alone deal with. That is why evil is growing stronger. Worse, it seems the more “educated” we are, the less likely we will understand the nature and power of evil. Our most educated imagine that racism, sexism or a disproportionate number of blacks in major universities is unrestrained evil. In that sense, quite an education lies ahead of us.

Our modern world has seen outbreaks of evil. Stalin, Hitler, Mao – all were men who perpetrated great evil among their own people, and against humanity in general. Each did so to make the world a better place. (Please reread this last sentence until you comprehend what it means.) Yet such outbreaks of evil have always been restrained and eventually overcome, albeit at a tremendous cost in human suffering.

In popular culture, men and women are not alone, but are from time to time assisted against evil and personal catastrophe by spiritual beings who can and do assume human form. Both popular culture and the Bible refer to these being as angels. There are problems, to be sure. Angels are often represented as female, perhaps because our culture still associates the feminine with nurturing and comfort. Yet the Bible describes angels as “ministering spirits” (Heb 1:14) sent to help mankind, although it more often depicts them as masculine, and organized militarily. “But the angel of the kingdom of Persia put himself against me for 21 days; but Michael, one of the chief angels, came to my help” (Daniel 10:13).

So today I find myself wondering: Will God’s angelic army always be around to restrain evil? Or will they, like Tolkien’s Elves, someday depart? And if they do, what will happen to humanity? The book of Revelation describes a time when evil is unrestrained on the Earth:

The Beast had a loud mouth, boastful and blasphemous. It could do anything it wanted for 42 months. It yelled blasphemies against God, blasphemed his Name, blasphemed his Church, especially those already dwelling with God in Heaven. It was permitted to make war on God’s holy people and conquer them. It held absolute sway over all tribes and peoples, tongues and races. Everyone on earth whose name was not written from the world’s foundation in the slaughtered Lamb’s Book of Life will worship the Beast.

– Rev. 13:5-8

The age of the elves and the angels is perilously close to an end. You may know it as the “age of grace” or the Church age. When that time comes, God’s restraint of and patience with evil will finally have become exhausted. When confronted with God’s demands for righteous leadership, a world that can agree on nothing else will suddenly agree on one thing: Jesus is not going to assume any throne on this earth.

I saw the Beast and, assembled with him, earth’s kings and their armies, ready to make war against the One on the horse and his army. The Beast was taken, and with him, his puppet, the False Prophet, who used signs to dazzle and deceive those who had taken the mark of the Beast and worshiped his image. They were thrown alive, those two, into Lake of Fire and Brimstone. The rest were killed by the sword of the One on the horse, the sword that comes from his mouth. All the birds held a feast on their flesh.

– Rev. 19:17-21

God intends to restore humanity to its pre-fallen condition. To do so requires the permanent destruction of evil and its adherents, lest eternity become corrupted and turn into hell for all. The age of the elves is nearly over.