September 15, 2010


 THE OTHER DAY MY WIFE AND I SAW A FLOCK OF GEESE LAND IN A LITTLE ?pond. I wish we would have had a high-tech camera with us, allowing for slow-motion recording. It was a tight landing for these big birds (as the pond was really small), but they all made it down, doing the right thing, in the appropriate sequence—at the right time.
Timing is crucial in so many situations. Just imagine a pilot hitting the landing gear button on an Airbus A380 at an altitude of 35,000 feet (c. 10,700 m.), going at full speed; or a bridegroom saying “I do” at the wrong moment; or a firefighter shouting “jump” while the safety net is not yet in place.
God’s timing has always been impeccable. Jesus came—just at the right moment (Gal. 4:4), at the time that the prophets had indicated. As a matter of fact, time was important to the New Testament writers. They took pains to posit the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. They employed fulfillment formulas to emphasize that He truly was the long-awaited Messiah.1 A careful reading of the Gospels tells us that these timing statements cluster around two key events: the birth and the death of Jesus.2
2010 1531 page31Avid Bible readers will immediately recognize the importance of the second cluster. The death of Jesus, the Christ, was not like any other death. Yes, thousands of people had been crucified before, experiencing agonizing pain. But it was the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36; Rev. 5:6; 7:14; etc.) that was the fulfillment of the antitypical ritual system. To put it less theologically: the innocent had to die for the guilty, at the right time, so that the guilty receive a second chance at life—life everlasting.
Jesus Himself was time-conscious. No, not necessarily as a slave to the iCal or Outlook calendar on His smartphone. Rather, as He journeyed toward Jerusalem after three years of ministering to the Jewish nation, He knew that the hour had come (cf. Mark 14:41)—it was crunch time.
As He dies on the cross the earth shakes, the Temple curtain is ripped through from top to bottom. It is the right moment—the crossroad for humanity—and since then all other events can be described as only “sideshows.”
God’s timing is still impeccable. He is ready to let the universe know that “it is finished.” While waiting for His church to get her act together, He is willing to hang on a bit longer so that more will hear the good news (2 Peter 3:9).
As I catch the excitement of the early church describing the coming, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, I wonder about my sense of timing. Am I still excited about God’s time and timing? Has the “blessed hope” turned a bit stale, and is prophetic interpretation just another thing Adventists talk about?
Then I remember the wonder of the flock of geese landing in that little pond, and it suddenly hits me that they did not only fly in formation but also seemed to land in formation. Timing affected their community—and timing transforms ours as well. God’s timing, that is. 
1See, for example, Matt. 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 27:9; John 12:38—which make reference to specific prophets. Others were not so particular about their footnoting (e.g., Matt. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 21:4; 26:56; Luke 4:21; 18:31; 22:37; 24:44; etc.). However, all agreed that this was the right moment.
2This reflection piece grew out of an academic paper presented at a workshop on ritual in Judaism and early Christianity, held at the University of Helsinki, Finland. Compare Gerald A. Klingbeil, “‘Of Clocks and Calendars’: The Cohesive Function of Time in Biblical Ritual,” Biblische Zeitschrift, forthcoming.
Gerald A. Klingbeil is an associate editor of the Adventist Review.