From the Shelf 1: A Thief in the Night


I’ve been sorting out my bookshelves. How should one arrange them? A library cleaner caused some frustrated amusement during the lockdown by re-arranging all the books by height order. The librarians will have fun re-ordering when they return. So how should I do mine? History books by period, Christian books by theme. I have a shelf on apologetics, another on the charismatic gifts, another on Christian living. You get the idea. Whilst arranging the Second Coming shelf, an older tome’s bookmark slipped out. I buy many second-hand books, and often lack the time to read them, despite my best intentions.

This bookmark was an evangelistic invitation to watch a film- A Thief in the Night (‘In Full Colour’, if you weren’t already tempted). Produced by Donald W. Thompson in 1972, this American movie depicted life during the Great Tribulation, those final years of antichrist’s reign just preceding the real Christ’s return. A whole genre of cinema developed in the following years, including A Distant Thunder (1978), Image of the Beast (1981), and The Prodigal Planet (1983). I watched it recently with friends in Lancaster. It was wonderfully dated, with those dreadful shirtwaist dresses, handlebar moustaches, cashmere pullovers and giddy hairstyles. The colour, which the leaflet implies is cutting-edge, is poor by our standards and the jaunty angle shots and sudden camera zooms lock it firmly in that decade. It’s hard to believe that it was released 48 years ago. Seventies’ evangelicals consequently became more interested in world events in the light of biblical prophecy and it proved a useful evangelistic tool. My mother watched it around 1980 and, though unconverted, described it as terrifying (evidently not terrifying enough).

Dated though the production might now appear, and open to question some of its eschatological interpretation, its message is more relevant today than then. Christ’s spectacular invasion of our planet is 48 years closer to happening than it was when those cool kids of Iowa filmed themselves being bitten by snakes and running from antichrist’s secret police. The film is a little corny, but its message is sound: Jesus Christ is coming back- we must be ready.

You can watch the orginal trailer below.