We live during an interim on God’s calendar, a defined but unknown period of time that began with a significant event and that will end when Jesus comes again. This is the period of God’s conquests, which began when Jesus was enthroned at God’s right hand in heaven and will continue until the last enemy, death, has been destroyed (Psalm 110:1). It is simultaneously the period of heaven’s reception of Jesus, which will end with the redemptive restoration of all things spoken by the ancient prophets (Acts 3:20-21). In both respects, we live between the Already and the Not Yet.
Because the exact time of the End is unknown, we fully engage the world in which we live. But because the End can arrive any day, we hold all earthly things lightly rather than tightly. Paul once expressed it like this: “This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:29-31, ESV).
God calls us out of the world to go back into the world for the sake of the world. We believers are God’s salt-and-light brigade, not his society of separated hermits. But we are like firefighters in the station house — sleeping, working, eating, yet ready every moment to respond immediately to the call. This does not mean that we live inauthentic lives, merely going through the motions with our minds and hearts elsewhere. It does mean that every earthly circumstance, relationship and event is transitory, and that we keep that in mind lest we become so attached to anything that leaving it when the time comes causes unbearable pain. Nothing here is permanent. Nothing now is ultimate. Yet, for God’s sake, every occasion is significant and every person is important.