For O'Grady's rescue operation, timing was of the essence. Planes had to leave from different places and go into Bosnia at the same time. So the helicopters from the Kearsarge circled over the Adriatic Sea for 45 minutes until the other planes arrived from elsewhere (Time, June 19, 1995, p. 25).
O'Grady also needed to be ready at the right time. He could not see the planes when they met each other, but he was ready to meet the Marine helicopters when they landed. It only took him a few seconds to get on board. If he had been off somewhere else wandering around and not paying attention, his rescue would have been much more difficult.
Timing is important for us in our daily lives. Missing an appointment is not a pleasant experience. When I was a college student in California, I did miss an appointment. I was practicing the piano at my parents' home and received a phone call informing me that I was supposed to be on the platform to speak at a student worship service held in a chapel on campus. The program had already started. I told the person calling to have the students sing some more songs and I would be there right away.
I jumped in my '67 Saab, but it wouldn't start! So I ran down the street, through a trail in the woods, and up across campus. When I arrived, flustered and sweaty, the students were leaving the chapel. They had given up on me. They had been in the right place at the right time, but I had not. I was so upset with my car that I got it running and promptly sold it.
Christ keeps His appointments. "For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Rom 5:6). The "right time" was the time of the Passover festival. Christ was symbolized by the Passover lamb, so He was slain at Passover when the lamb was slain (Jn 19:14). He also rose from the dead as the "first fruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Cor 15:20) at the right time: on the day after the Sabbath following Passover, when an Israelite priest offered a first fruits offering to God (Lev 23:11).
The Holy Spirit keeps His appointments. He came upon Christ's followers with mighty power so that there was a great "harvest" of conversions on the festival day of Pentecost (Acts 2), which celebrated the beginning of the wheat harvest (Lev 23:16-20).
Christ's death and resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit happened on the days when the sanctuary festivals that pointed forward to these events took place. In each case a sanctuary symbol and the historical event that it predicted came together on the same day.
In each case the historical event began something that continued after that. Christ's death made provision for our ongoing atonement. When He was raised from the dead He continued to live. The Spirit poured out at Pentecost did not come to visit for only one day; He came to stay, beginning an era in which God's people are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:13)
What about the judgment that is represented by the cleansing of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement? In light of the way in which Passover, the wave sheaf, and Pentecost were fulfilled, we could expect the Day of Atonement judgment to come or at least begin on the tenth day of the seventh month, when the Day of Atonement was observed at the sanctuary. If so, can we know the year in which this would happen?
In the next chapters we will answer the question of the year. But before we put forth the effort to get into that, we can ask: So what? What difference does it make whether we know the time of the judgment or not? Christ told us to live godly lives in preparation for His return any time (Matt 24:42). So why should we know when the judgment begins?
The short answer to this question is: So that we might participate in the judgment event. God told the Israelites exactly when the Day of Atonement began so that they could be ready for it:
Now, the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall deny yourselves... and you shall do no work during that entire day; for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the Lord your God... It shall be to you a sabbath of complete rest, and you shall deny yourselves; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening you shall keep your sabbath (Lev 23:27, 28, 32).
This passage from Leviticus 23 focuses on what the Israelites were to be doing when the high priest was in the sanctuary, making atonement on their behalf. They were to acknowledge what was being done for them by practicing self-denial (fasting, etc.) and by not working. If they did not have this experience of humbling themselves before God and concentrating on what He was doing for them, they would lose the benefit of atonement.
The Israelites had an appointment with God on the Day of Atonement. They needed to know when the day began so that their experience would be appropriate for what was happening. Nobody could see the high priest when he was in the sanctuary cleansing the most holy place and the holy place (Lev 16:17). But the Israelites knew when to practice self-denial and to abstain from work because God told them: from the evening of the ninth day of the seventh month to the evening of the tenth day (Lev 23:27, 32).
The ancient Israelites were to participate in the Day of Atonement at a particular time when the high priest was cleansing the sanctuary on their behalf. This indicates that people who live at the time of God's judgment should also participate in the event when Christ, our High Priest, cleanses God's heavenly sanctuary. If so, how can we know when to have this experience? Just as the Israelites could not take their cues by physically watching their high priest, so we cannot literally see what Christ is doing in the heavenly sanctuary.
We can only know when God's judgment begins if He tells us the date. God controls the timing.