One of the first fantasy novels I read was ‘The Sword of Shannara’ by
Terry Brooks. It’s now a classic, and it introduced me to the marvelous
capabilities of SF fiction to ask truly difficult questions about
meaning and the human experience.
The protagonist, Shea, is a pure-hearted young man without any real
combat acumen, magical powers or wisdom. In fantasy lit, that pretty
much makes him useless. But the secret of the whole book is that Shea’s
innocence is actually what makes him so special. The fantastical world
is under threat by the evil Warlock Lord, who is said to be vulnerable
only to the Sword of Shannara (stay with me here). No one knows what the
sword does, only that Shea is destined to use it against the villain.
At the end of the book, Shea finally claims the sword from its ancient
hiding spot and holds it aloft in his hands expecting something
miraculous. Instead, he experiences something horrendous.
The Sword’s secret power is the power to reveal evil. Because Shea
was among the most innocent people to ever live, he is able to withstand
the sword’s awful judgment. Barely. Coming face to face with his own
imperfections, deviance, and sin nearly cripples the hero but he is
finally purified and goes off to defeat the Warlock Lord. That battle,
incidentally, consists simply of Shea touching the villain with the
sword, and watching as the Warlock Lord is obliterated by the truth of
his wicked nature.
When we come face to face with Christ at the end, for the final
judgment, I can’t help but feel that it will be something akin to the
Sword of Shannara. We will, for the first time ever, be unable to hide
our sin, justify our sin, or compare our relative sinlessness to someone
more wicked than we are. We’ll just be standing there, before God,
ashamed. I suspect that those moments—whether seconds or centuries—will
be singularly painful, unpleasant, and inescapable. Sin is serious
business, and there’s no way to avoid giving an account for who we are
and how we’ve lived at the end. That judgment will be the final
purification, the final rectification during which time our sinful
nature will be completely burned off, judged, and removed forever.
Thank God for grace!