Sunday, June 17, 2012

The fullness of time.

In his letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul affirms that the Son of God came to this earth at just the right time in the divine scheme of things. He expresses the thought like this: But when the (fullness of time had come), God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive a... Adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5, ESV) If God can't-- or doesn't-- tell time, what in world did Paul mean?

For centuries this time had been in preparation and various elements had contributed to it. The Old Testament Scriptures (with scores of prophecies regarding the Messiah) had prepared the way.

This phrase (the fullness of time had come) is only used once in scripture in specific reference to the birth of Christ. "Fullness of time" has a certain poetic ring, doesn't it? But what does it mean, exactly? It carries with it the idea of the perfect ending of an entire era. The end of the old covenant of the law and the start of a covenant of grace. “That he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:5).

In Ephesians 1:9,10, Paul tells us that in Christ, God is "making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose.... as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV)"

What is meant by this "fulness of the time?" It is the great framework of redemptive history, the fulfillment of the time in an absolute sense. The time the old covenant was coming to a conclusion with Christ's advent. Everything changes with Christ individual lives, in a redemptive-historical sense. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

There's a whole new world--a whole new creation--that comes into existence in Christ, and all those who are united with Christ are contained within it. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It's the dawning of a new day: not a day just like the one it follows, but a day that transforms everything... who saved us and called us to a holy calling which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel... (2 Timothy 1:9,10)

... in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior... (Titus 1:2,3)

Christ's birth, death, and resurrection was the center point of human history. The fullness of time had come, so Christ came to complete one era and usher in the new one of grace.