The One Ring

the one ringOver the holidays I’ve gotten back into the JRR Tolkien spirit by watching the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movie series again. As usual, I find rich metaphors in Tolkien’s writing…and hope you’ll indulge my sharing some with you…

The One Ring is the central theme (in some ways the central character) of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Tolkien has left us much to ponder on deeper meanings of the One Ring.  Many have observed The Ring as a metaphor for sin, and I agree…but I also see something more.

The ring is inherently evil, corrupting the heart of not only those who bear it, but also those in close proximity. The ring has great power, but only to destroy, not to create or improve.  The ring is addictive…only two bearers ever gave it up willingly and they with great difficulty.

So far so good…the sin metaphor holds up…but let’s dig deeper.

We are also told that all of Sauron’s power is bound up in the ring and that so long as the ring exists Sauron cannot be completely destroyed. So we see that the ring is more than sin…it is also the power of sin…and the basis for satan’s power.

Of all the objects Tolkien could have chosen as a token of Sauron’s power, he chose a ring. Throughout history and even today, a ring represents covenant relationship.  A wedding ring is more than a piece of jewelry…it represents the marriage relationship.  Historically, signet rings were given to trusted advisors of kings, giving the ring-bearer the full authority of the king.  Rings are also used to signify membership to elite groups, such as fraternities, alumni associations, sports teams, or secret societies.

In LOTR, Sauron gave rings to nine kings of men. The rings gave the men power and authority.  However, Sauron deceived them by making another ring that bound the power of their rings to himself.

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

The rings granted covenant authority while also binding in covenant. The ring-bearers did have power, but they were also enslaved…deceptively enslaved.  The One Ring, forged in secret, bound them to the lord of the rings.

The One Ring is the covenant forged in deception.

Through this story, Tolkien has wonderfully illustrated an oft-overlooked biblical truth. Mankind’s problem with sin runs much deeper than the accumulation of individual battles with personal sin.  It is an inherited relationship with the kingdom of darkness.

Much as the One Ring gave Sauron power over Middle Earth, similarly Adam’s covenant with darkness has given satan dominion over the earth. Much as Sauron’s power could only be destroyed by melting the ring, similarly satan’s power can only be destroyed by dissolving mankind’s covenant with evil.

Therefore thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
I will make justice the measuring line
And righteousness the level;
Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies
And the waters will overflow the secret place.
Your covenant with death will be canceled,
And your pact with Sheol will not stand…” (Isaiah 28:16-18)

It is for this purpose that Jesus became a man and suffered death on the cross. Jesus came to redeem us from Adam’s covenant with the kingdom of darkness…to cause that covenant to be dissolved.

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Much as Frodo traveled to the heart of Mordor to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom, similarly Jesus entered Sheol to redeem us from Adam’s covenant with the kingdom of darkness. Much as the destruction of the ring ushered in the return of the king of Gondor, in redeeming us from the kingdom of darkness, Jesus also cut a new covenant by which we can become heirs of His kingdom.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

The time in which we now live is between the Advents of Christ. Jesus has come to redeem us from the power of sin and to deliver us into His kingdom.  He has not yet returned to claim His inheritance and dominion over all the earth.  During this age, His work is activated by mankind on an individual basis.  We can either accept His redemption and deliverance, or we can remain enslaved to the kingdom of darkness.  The choice is ours.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

We can remain enslaved to the kingdom of darkness or we can choose to become heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We can be ruled by sin and death or we can choose life through the righteousness of Christ.

The choice is ours.

What is your choice?


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