THE FULNESS OF THE TIME
The first seven verses of Galatians 4 tell us some interesting things about the birth of Christ, the age of the human race and the complexity of God's Son who was born of a woman and born under the law of Moses. We will center our thoughts around the words in verse 4, “When the fulness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.” Some thinkers raise the question, "Did Jesus come too soon? That's a good question. Was humanity intellectually ready and morally prepared for teh first coing of Christ? Some say He came too soon to teach mankind that all nations should unite in in one great brotherhood, one great family reconciled to God by the death of Jesus Christ. This was God's plan to bring peace to the earth. Jesus taught that God sent Him to make of both Jew and Gentile one new man in Christ. Apparently, mankind was not ready for such an exaled idea, and for the most part the human race has rejected it. In spite of these considerations the Bible says, "When the time had fully come God sent forth His Son." Whatever may be the opinion of scholars, historians, philosophers and moralists, the right time for Jesus to be born was 2,000 years ago. The first century of our era was the ideal time for Christ to come, the best time. He did not come before His time nor behind His time. He was punctual to the very hour of His birth. Christ had to be born in the first century A.D. for several important reasons.
The first reason is that Jehovah God pre-arramged history for the coming of His Son.
Revelation 13:8 states that Christ, the Lamb of God, was slain from the foundation of the world. At the creation of the universe God had determined to send Christ to die and suffer for the entire human race and nail the sins of the human race to His cross. The fulness of the time was the time appointed in the counsels of the Father. Christ appeared when intellectual, moral and religious circumstances were so prepared that the most a lasting impression could be produced on mankind. The truth of the matter is that Christ could not appear in any other nation or any other time in history. It is clear that human history has been arranged by God. Man's attempt to write the history of mankind by a study of the rocks is futile. God has pre-arranged history, and those pre-arrangements are carefully recorded in the Bible. The reservoir of time had to be filled with the inflowing of age after age, and when it was full to the brim the Son of God was born. He came exactly at the right time in human history. The fulness of the time was the first century of our era which Western civilization recognizes as beginning with the birth of Christ. It may have begun 4-6 years earlier than our calendar recongizes, but teh first century A.D. was the fulness of time mentioned in Holy Scripture.
The first thing that identifies the first century A.D. as the fulness of time is Old Testament prophecies. There were several prophecies that pointed exactly to the time of Christ's birth. I will mention two of them which pinpointed the exact time in history that God would send forth His Son. One of those prophecies is Daniel 2:44: "In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed." It is interesting that Jesus saidd, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of god is at hand"(Mark 1:15). That was a direct reference to Daniel 2:44. Jesus meant by these words that the kingdom predicted by Daniel was near or close at hand. In other words the kingdom Daniel predicted was about to be establilshed on this earth. In Daniel's prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia had a terrible dream in which he saw a gigantic image with a head of gold, a chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bthights of bronze, its legs of iron, and it feet partly of iron and clay. Daniel explained to the king that this was a prediction that four world kingdoms were to appear on earth in successive order. The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar's own Babylonian Empire. It was followed by the Medo-Persian Empire wich in turn was succeeded by theGreek world Empire of Alexander the Great. The fourth kingdom was the Roman Empire of the Caesars which began in 44 B.C. and ended in 476 A.D. All history books verify the existence of these four world empires. This was part of God's pre-arrangement of human history. This clearly predicted that in the days of the kings of this fourth kingdom God would set up His kingdom on the earth. If this would not happen at this exact time, then Bible prophecy would fail, but it did not fail. When the Roman Empire began in 44 B.C., the fulness of the time had almost aarrived. 44 years later it did arrive with the birth of Christ. History had been carefully pre-arranged by God so that none could misunderstand. If Jewish schloars will examine this prophecy of Daniel, it will lead them to Christ their Messiah, who established the KIngdom of God on earth fifty days a f ter His His resurrection. The kingdom of God in Daniel's prophecy is another term for the Christian religion which has now been extended to most every nation on earth.
I will mention one more prophecy of Daniel that informed Israel the exact time their Messiah would appear. Daniel 2:29 says, "Know therefore and understand that from the going forth of the command to resotre and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be 69 weeks." Israel was informed to know this and understand it. So it is undersatandable. That command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem is in the book of Ezra 7:13. It was uttered about 450 B.C. 69 weeks is only a litte over one year, and their Messiah did not appear in the days of Ezra. As in other prophecies a day stands for a year. If Jewish scholars reject this necessary implication, they must reject Daniel's
prophecy or simply refuse to believe it. The 69 weeks were not literal weeks but weeks of years. Clearly a day stands for a year. This a prophecy for both Jews and Gentiles that within 485 years from the time Ezra the Messiah Prince, would appear on earth. These two prophecies are prfound and amazing prophecies and present absolut proof as to the exact time God would send forth His divine Son to save the world.
In addition to prophecxy the Bible reveals the fulness of the time was a perod fixed in the counsel of God with reference to the development of the human race. Christ was not to appear until the human race had grown up and had reached a certain state of development and progress. Bible scholars and Bible students have long referred to the Patriarchal age of history(Adam to Moses) as the moonlight age of the world. The Jewish age from Moses to Christ has been called the starlight age of the worl becasue of an increase in the knowledge given in that period of time. Morevoer the Christian age of he world has been called the sunlight age of the world because Christ has given the world all knowledge that pertains unto life and godliness. Hence, it was not the best or right time to come from Adam to Moses or from Moes to Christ. The human race had not d eveloped sufficiently to appreciate the exalted teachings of Christ, the Divine Son of God. Our text describes the lack of development the Jews had made liing under
the law of Moses. Galatians 4:1-3 says, "Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child , does not differ at all from a slave , though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we(that is Jews} were children in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time came God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born undeer the law." In the same vein of thought Moses was just a school master to bring Jews to Christ. The Jews were living a a childood state of religious knowledge under the law of Moses. Since the coming of Christ, the human race now lives in adulthood of religious knowledge because of the Christian religion.
What is Paul saing here? The Jewish people who lived under the law of Moses are compared to a child whose father died and left him a great inheritance. But he was so young child was no better off than a slave, for he had no control over his wealth. He was under gurdians and tutors till he reached the age responsibility. People who lived under the Jewish religion were in a childdhood state of development relilgiously and morally. They had not made much development. They knew little about God and had no desire to live the way God wanted them to live. Hence, the Jewish age was not a fit time for Jesus to come. They weren't ready for the law of Moses, much less the law of Christ. Their Messiah appeared at the very end of the Jewish age and lived under that law, and history testifies to what they did to Him. If Jews, even with God's law, were in a childhood state of development, how much more were the gentiles who had no written law from God. It can be said that they were in an infantile state of development religiously and morally. Paul said of the gentiles in Romans 1:20-23, "Although they knew God, they did not worship HIm as God,nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise they became fools and changed the glory of he incorruptible God into an image..." All history before the time of Christ was a childhood or infantile period. The ancient history of the Jews and gentiles was only a preparation for the coming of Christ. They were like a child under guardians. Whatever religion God gave them was a childhood state of religion. The coming of Christ was the turning point in history, the end of the old world and the beginning of the new world. It was the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood. Christ did not come until the human race had grown up and was ready to receive Him. No time before the first century was a fit time for christ to come. For some four to six tkhousand years a fair trial had b een given to all other ideas and schemes of life: education, culure, philosophy, civilization, patriarchal religion and Jewish religion. All had done their utmost for mankind. Yet knowledge of the one true God of mankind was almost lost among the gentiles, and true religion all but died among he Jews. Both Jews gentiles were failures, and the word of God summed up all the pre-Christian world with these words, "All have sinned and come short of he glory of God." It was time for Jesus Christ to come.
I will mention one other unique characteristic which earmarked the first century as he fulness of the time. It was a time when the world was comparatively at peace. What an appropriate time for the Prince of peace to make His appearance. The world was, to a ggeat extent under he domination and rule of the Roman Empire. Communications between different parts of the world were then more rapid and secure than they had been in any former period. As a result te gospel could be more easily propagated. Rome had built g reat roads and all went to Rome, and these were the means by which the gospel was to cover all parts of he world. Furhermore, there was one common language in most of the world. Greek was spoken and understood among a considerable portion of the nations of the world. For that very reason the New Testament was written in Greek, the common language of the day. At no perod before had there been so extensive a use of the same language. Gospel preachers could preach anywhere in the Roman Empire in the same language, and they did so. Gospel preachers cannot do that today. There is no universally understood and spoken language in the 21st century. We have no reason to believe that such a thingwill ever prevail again. What a wonderful time the first centuary A.D. was to introduce Chjrist and His religion to the world. So it was that the coming of Christ and C Christianity was prepared by the Jewish religion, by Greek culture and by Roman conquest. It all came together some 2,000 years ago in themost famous of all centuries, the first century of our era.