On 4th December 1963 the Blackburn family were in the final throes of packing to go from Childers to Stanthorpe. We were well organised - everything was being carefully packed, labelled, catalogued. The removalists were due the next day.
At about 8.30am the mail came. It included the October 26 issue of Christianity Today, a fortnightly periodical from U.S.A. I had no time to read it, but, to relieve the pressures, flipped over to the "What if..." cartoon which was a regular feature. It showed a man with a prophecy chart looking over his shoulder at three angels blowing their trumpets. The caption - "You're early!" That raised a chuckle.
Then, at 9.00am the doorbell rang. It was the removalists - a day early! Suddenly, our priorities radically changed. Much of our careful labelling, packing and cataloguing went by the board! I still recall our typewriter getting tucked in near the top of the load - no box, no label!
We have just celebrated Christmas - that important time when the Word of God became a human being and pitched his tent among us (John 1.12). He came "to save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1.21). He lived in this world, in our history. He was put to death on a cross. He died for our sins. On the third day he rose again! He is alive!
The time of his first coming - the incarnation - introduced the Day of salvation. There is good news. The Lord has come. All people are called to repent and believe the good news. As the Te Deum Laudamus put it, "Thou didst open the Kingdom of heaven to all believers."
But Jesus also spoke about his second coming. It will be personal and visible (Acts 1.11). In contrast to the humility of his first coming, it will be with power and great glory (Matthew 24.30). It will be sudden and unexpected (vv.36-44; 25.13). It will bring the present gospel era to a close and will lead to the final Day of judgment (25.31-46).
We live "between the times" - between the time of his two comings. We live in the gospel era. As the Apostle Paul put it, "Listen! This is the hour to receive God's favour; today is the day to be saved!" (2 Corinthians 6.2b).
The early Christians lived with this awareness of the Lord's imminent return. One of their watchwords recorded for us by Paul was "Marana tha - Our Lord, come!" (1 Corinthians 16.22b), words echoed in the second last verse of the Bible, "So be it. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22.20b).
The promised Return of the Lord is not a threat, but our fervent hope. It does, however, remind us that we don't have forever to do the work he has given us. Jesus said, "How happy that servant is if his master finds him doing this when he comes home!" (Matthew 24.46).
As we live "between the times" - and as that Day draws closer - we need to be looking at our priorities and asking, what does our Lord mean us to do?
© Peter J. Blackburn, January 1992