The Fullness Of Time
We, when we were children, we’re in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Jews, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons.
Galatians 4: 3-5
The promise of the Messiah had been given many times by many prophets for over two thousand years, but for generations He didn’t appear. People longed for Him to come, but God refused to be hurried. Then, when the moment was right, Christ stepped out of eternity into time to pay the ultimate price to rescue us.
Why did He appear at that precise moment and at that particular place? We don’t know the mind of God, but when we look at the vast sweep of history, we’d notice some amazing “coincidences” in first-century Palestine. We can identify three factors as CPR: communication, Pax Romana, and roads.
Communication: Until the Roman Empire conquered virtually all the known world, people existed in local tribes and roaming bands of hunter-gatherers. Rome stamped its image on every culture under its banner, and two languages, Latin and Greek, became the lingua franc-as (“common languages”) of the empire.
Pax Romana (“the Roman peace”): Rome’s military victories were won because the Romans had superior armor, weapons, tactics, and leaders. As new lands were conquered, fighting ceased and peace spread throughout the land.
Roads: Trade and commerce thrived in the Roman Empire, at least partly because the Romans built the most extensive and finest transportation system the world had ever seen- and would see for the next fifteen hundred years. Roman roads are still used today in parts of the ancient empire.
Christ came, lived, and died at a time and place where the gospel message could explode across miles and cultures to reach every person. He could have come at anytime, but from a historical point of view, few other periods have offered as many advantages for the spread of the gospel.
A pregnant virgin gave birth to the promised Son of God at a time when the world was pregnant with possibilities.
A few days ago, we celebrated Christmas, the first coming of Christ. Of course, that wasn’t the beginning of the relationship between God and humanity. Actually the very beginning of the existence of humans began with a relationship with God for Genesis tells us the incredible story of the creation of humans. Everything that was made, Colossians says, was made by Christ and without Him, nothing was made. The Gospel of John tells us that before all things, the Word(Christ) was and is eternally existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Genesis tells us that in creation, God spoke and everything came into being until He came to the creation of humans. We read that God scooped up a handful of clay and formed Adam in the image of Himself. The God who had given life to the living creatures by His spoken word did with that handful of clay an incredible thing; He breathed into that clay life, His own Spirit and man became a living soul.
“ then the Lord God formed [that is, created the body of] man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being [an individual complete in body and spirit].”
And every evening God came down to the Garden and fellowshipped with Adam and Eve until that day when they broke relationship with God by their sin. The rest of the story that of God working to restore the relationship. We read that He made a covering of skins for Adam and Eve and even in their judgement, He gave grace. As the human race grew and multiplied, the work of sin and the devil pressed them farther and farther away from God until they began to practice such evil that God sent the flood to wipe them off the face of the earth. Many would view this as merciless but the Bible tells us that Noah preached for 120 years the message of repentance before the flood came. Because Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, he and his family were spared. It wasn’t long after getting off the Ark that sin began to once again control humans. But Go didn’t give up and so He found a man by the name of Abraham who believed in Him. Abraham is known as the “Father of Faith,” but even he succumbed to sin. Following him was Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel who found themselves enslaved by the Egyptians. As they cried out to God for deliverance, He sent Moses to bring them our of slavery and into the Promised Land. Although God provided for them and cared for them in incredible ways, gave them visible proof of His presence through the cloud and fire, we read that again and again the power of sin moved them to rebel against Him. Moving into the Promised Land, they had great victories and yet frequently sin reared it’s head and separated them from God. The Books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles records the repeated pattern of the people of Israel following God, turning away from God and worshipping idols, finding themselves under the bondage of cruel masters, repenting of their sins, God sending a deliverer, and the pattern repeating itself over and over until finally their rebellion and resistance against God became so atrocious that He allowed the Assyrians to invade the land and scatter the Israelites. Again, finding themselves in captivity, they cried out to God and in His grace He moved on the king to allow them to return and rebuild Jerusalem. It was short lived as they forgot God and became subjects of the empire of Rome.
In Genesis, God had promised that He would once and forever break the power of sin and the influence and control of the devil.
“And I will put enmity (open hostility)Between you and the woman,And between your seed (offspring) and her Seed;He shall [fatally] bruise your head,And you shall [only] bruise His heel.”
Now, after all the years of sacrifice of lambs and the cycles of righteousness and sin, God sent His only begotten Son into the world in His final act of redemption. Multiple prophecies given to those longing for God to intervene and dwell once again among men, told in explicit detail this incredible work of grace. Old Testament prophets described One who would make His appearance as a baby born of a virgin in the little town of Bethlehem. They told of His suffering as the Savior who bore the punishment of sin upon Himself. They told of His death and resurrection on the third day. They told of Him establishing His kingdom, first in the hearts of humanity and then upon the earth and finally in eternity in the new heavens and new earth. They told of the imprisonment of the devil and the banishment of evil forever. They told of the eternal era where the inflictions and curse brought upon humanity by sin would cease in the city where no light was needed.
And on that night in Bethlehem, a tiny baby was born in due season. We don’t know why it was that time, but how thankful we are that it was for God chose in that moment to complete His redemption of people.
You may say that the world is still under the oppression of sin and you would be correct. But every person who surrenders their heart to Christ receives the liberation from the power of sin. They are liberated from the slavery to the devil and the world and they are free because of the Son of God.
“So if the Son makes you free, then you are unquestionably free.”
In the first coming of Jesus the Messiah, many who had once looked and longed for His coming lost their anticipation. False messiahs had come on the scene and the disillusioned no longer really believed. Oh to be sure, they would say they believed but in their unbelief they created a magical image of what they wished the Messiah to be. Their image was more of a political warrior who would deliver them from the oppression of Rome. Forgotten was the more important deliverance from the power of sin. A little baby born in a stable and growing up in a carpenter’s house in Nazareth didn’t fit their imagination of a messiah. Even John the Baptist had to be refocused on the mission of the Messiah. He was looking for a judge and not a savior. The disciples were often astonished as they watched Christ work and though they were given revelations about Him, when He didn’t act like they thought He should, they found themselves doubting.
The Old Testament prophets in their visions and revelation blurred the timeline between the first coming and the second. And the people wanted to skip past the suffering Redeemer and get to the coming King. I think that today we are more focused on the Savior than we are the coming King.
Like the people of the day when Jesus came the first time, we can find ourselves so engrossed in life that we forget to look up. Even the early Christians had to be reminded of the promise of the Second Coming.
We don’t know the time nor the hour of the coming of the Lord, but we do know that as surely as He came the first time, He’s coming again. Jesus Himself taught us to be ready for that moment.
“So be alert [give strict attention, be cautious and active in faith], for you do not know which day [whether near or far] your Lord is coming. But understand this: If the head of the house had known what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore, you [who follow Me] must also be ready; because the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”
Matthew 24: 42-44
And Paul reminds us that that event is closer than we think:
“ Now as to the times and dates, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know perfectly well that the day of the [return of the] Lord is coming just as a thief [comes unexpectedly and suddenly] in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety [all is well and secure!]” then [in a moment unforeseen] destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains on a woman with child, and they will absolutely not escape [for there will be no way to escape the judgment of the Lord]. But you, believers, [all you who believe in Christ as Savior and acknowledge Him as God’s Son] are not in spiritual darkness [nor held by its power], that the day [of judgment] would overtake you [by surprise] like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We do not belong to the night nor to darkness. So then let us not sleep [in spiritual indifference] as the rest [of the world does], but let us keep wide awake [alert and cautious] and let us be sober [self-controlled, calm, and wise].”
1 Thessalonians 5:2-6
As we end a year and face a new one, let us become more aware that though we don’t know exactly when, we do know that we are nearer the coming of Christ than ever before. As we view all the troubles in the world, let us hear the words of Christ:
“Then Jesus told them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be violent earthquakes, and in various places famines and [deadly and devastating] pestilences (plagues, epidemics); and there will be terrible sights and great signs from heaven. “There will be signs (attesting miracles) in the sun and moon and stars; and on the earth [there will be] distress anguish among nations, in perplexity at the roaring tossing of the sea and the waves, people fainting from fear and expectation of the [dreadful] things coming on the world; for the [very] powers of the heavens will be shaken. Now when these things begin to occur, stand tall and lift up your heads [in joy], because [suffering ends as] your redemption is drawing near.”
Luke 21:10-11, 25-26, 28
Dr. John Thompson