1] Often times Christians speak about our life on earth as being a time between the first and second comings of Christ. He came first into the world as a baby, lived a human life, and was executed as a criminal, only to rise from the dead. He ascended to heaven and promised to return to earth at the time of the judgement day. Our life on earth is thus always between the first and second comings of Christ, we live in His presence and between His presence.
2] The Evangelist Matthew in his Gospel also presents us a view of the Messiah in which at the beginning of the Gospel we are told Jesus is God with us (Matthew 1:23) and at the end of Gospel (Matthew 28:20) we are told He is with us always to the close of the age. The entire Gospel is written as if between the presence of God in the incarnation of Christ and His ascension into heaven and promise that He is with us always.
In Matthew 1:1-16 we read the Genealogy of Jesus Christ. We realize all these generations, no matter how great these people are in Israel’s history, have passed away. None of them represents the abiding presence of God in the world. In contrast to the generations is Emmanuel, God with us. God’s presence with us continues forever in Christ, and is not completely dependent on any one generation. Each generation passes away but the Word of God lives forever.
“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matthew 1:23)
Matthew’s Gospel moves quickly from Christ’s birth to His temptation as an adult by Satan. Satan tempts Christ with the claim that Satan himself has the power to give Christ all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Jesus rejects the offer and the claim. Christ in fact will wrest any such power from Satan through His own death on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead.
Again, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8 -9)
We see in Matthew’s Gospel it is Christ’s willingness to reject Satan’s offer and to reject the satanic ideas of power and glory which will lead to Christ’s receiving the glory of God. Christ’s life witnesses to the power and glory of God which is so different than worldly ideas of power. So on Palm Sunday , Christ our king, rides humbly on a donkey into Jerusalem. A few days later, Christ dies on the Cross as the King of Glory.
Then we come to the concluding words of Matthew’s Gospel:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:16 -20)
St. Matthew begins his Gospel narrative telling us that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. He ends his Gospel by having Jesus proclaim that He (Jesus) is with us always even to the end of the age. We live in this presence of Christ even though we live between Christ’s two comings to earth.
3] Liturgically we show our life between the incarnation and the second coming in the church by the way the icons are arranged and by our receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in this time between the two comings – between the Icon of the Theotokos and the Icon of Christ which show us His incarnation and first coming, and His coming again in His Kingdom.