In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the mythical land of Gondor is overrun by the orcs of Mordor. Aragorn must realize his true identity and purpose as the King of Men, in order that the final battle against evil can be won.
The roots of Tolkien’s plot of a returning king who destroys evil and restores peace to the world is taken from Jesus Christ’s words spoken to his followers. On several occasions he had told them that he would return when the time was right. They expected it to be soon, but it has now been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus left the Earth. Jesus had a job for his followers to do before he returned.
Most Jews were bitterly disappointed by Jesus. The Messiah they wanted would conquer their enemies, and restore national prominence to Israel. The prophets had spoken of the Messiah as a coming king to rule over Israel’s enemies. Five hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Zechariah had written:
This is what the Lord Almighty says…I am returning to Mount Zion, and I will live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain. (Zechariah 8:2a, 3 NLT)
After Jesus’ resurrection, he spent 40 days with his disciples, teaching them what they would need to know to carry on his message in a hostile world. During this time, he reiterated to them that he would someday return to set up his kingdom, just as the prophets had promised. What he didn’t tell them was when. Jesus did say that although no man would know the day or the hour of his return, that there would be signs when that event was drawing near. One sign would be the return of the Jews to their homeland of Israel.
As Jesus left the Earth after those 40 days, he was lifted up into the clouds. As the disciples were gazing up at what must have been an incredible sight, some angels appeared and began speaking to them. They told the disciples:
Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return! (Acts 1:11, NLT)
And, we are still waiting. Peter said that “in the last days” people would give up on the idea of Jesus returning. Yet, events in the world, particularly Jerusalem and the Middle East, seem to be moving towards a conclusion that only the Creator will be able to resolve. Scripture tells us that when the Jews see Jesus returning in the clouds, they will recognize their tragic mistake of rejecting him, and weep bitterly:
They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grive bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died. (Zechariah 12:10, NLT)
In Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, the apostle John summarizes the cataclysmic events that will culminate in Jesus’ return. Turmoil in Jerusalem will bring the world to the brink of destruction. The world will be hopeless without God’s intervention.
Those who oppose Jesus at his return will be terrified. Those who have trusted in him will be looking for him with joy and anticipation. And, prior to his return, they will be taken up to meet him in the clouds. Are we nearing the day when the return of the real King will occur?