In the Fullness of Time
We have all experienced that embarrassing moment when company has arrived and we had forgotten entirely about their visit. It was either misplaced on the calendar or the husband forgot to mention to his wife, “My brother and sister-in-law were coming by later today.” We encounter those awkward moments where we are trying to figure out in our heads – what are we going to eat – are they leaving or staying the night – or is there clean sheets on the guest bed? While we may eventually “spill the beans,” the pressure to admit the truth will often succumb to an already awkward situation. This scene depicted is embarrassing and no matter our company’s reassurance, we will remember this occasion for the rest of our lives.
When we begin to contemplate all of the areas where man continually falls short; it is so wonderful to know that God is not like men. The words of Isaiah resound in contrast to man’s feeble minds and failures –
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts (55:8-9).
The failures of men are evident every day, but when one begins to look at God’s creation he finds that nothing was left to chance or left behind. God from His infinite wisdom was able to create all things precisely as He had predetermined. Our God is not only able to create all living creatures, big and small, but He sustains every life. There is nothing beyond His control and oversight.
Our God has always had a plan and never once has man, in all our wickedness or failures, been able to thwart the scheme of God’s redemption. When Adam and Eve sinned and were cast from the garden, God was there and set into action His plan for man’s salvation. This plan is manifested throughout the Old Testament, beginning with God’s promises to Abraham, and coming to a conclusion with the years between the testaments. In these years of silence, God had begun to prepare mankind for His Son and also fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies concerning secular kingdoms. The images of the book of Daniel would become the future reality during these years of silence (Daniel 2:31-45; 7-8). In one of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, there was an image that would represent the coming kingdoms of men. It was the fourth kingdom, Rome, that God promised, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed..” (Daniel 2:44a). This verse demonstrates the preparation of God not only in the revealing of His plan through the Old Testament prophets, but its fulfillment through the hands of man in history. Why is this an important verse in understanding the story of the Bible?
In the book of Galatians, Paul confronted those who were teaching a false “gospel” and warned the brethren to not follow their schemes. He then devoted much of his writing in defense of the gospel delivered through faith in Jesus Christ. In the middle of his defense, Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law” (Galatians 4:4). The time of Jesus’ arrival on earth was not happenstance, nor was it something that God had not fully prepared for. It occurred precisely according to His divine plan.
In the wake of Adam and Eve’s sin, God promised the serpent that One would bruise him on the head, and he would bruise Him on His heel (Genesis 3:15). The One who was born of a woman and brought this deliverance to mankind is Jesus (Galatians 4:4; Hebrews 2:14). God also promised Abraham that through his seed every nation would be blessed, and again the fulfillment of this promise is the “One” born under the Law, Jesus (Galatians 3:16; 4:4). Finally, God did this at the “fullness of time;” which means, it occurred precisely according to His divine plan.
The point we often overlook in this verse is its connection with secular history. God was not only preparing the Jews for their Messiah, but rather God was preparing the world for its Savior. In the kingdoms of men, prior to Jesus’ arrival, many contributions were being made that enabled the gospel to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). The Greek civilization had made many contributions to the ancient world, but one that assisted in the progression of the gospel was a “universal language.” When Jesus commanded His disciples to preach the gospel to the world, they were able through the common tongue, Koine Greek.
The Roman civilization is also remembered for its many contributions to ancient history, but it also played a huge role in the advancement of the gospel. The Roman Empire had brought to the entire world “universal law” and a sense of unity. While there may have been pockets of dissension, the majority experienced peace and prosperity. This peace enabled the gospel to be taught in cities throughout the Empire without being persecuted, at least in its infancy. The Roman Empire also made a huge contribution in the building of Roman roads. These pathways throughout the known world were used primarily for the Roman armies to travel, but were also known to have been used in the preaching of the Gospel.
It was in this world, prepared for a Savior that God sent forth His Son in the fullness of time. God did not forget an appointment, and have to reschedule His arrival, but sent Jesus at the precise moment in history that was perfectly ripe for His introduction. While we may continue to make mistakes and fail to adequately schedule every meeting, what a tremendous comfort we gain in the fact that our God does not make the same mistakes. Our God has done everything perfectly, so that we can be saved for all eternity. May God bless us with the wisdom to see His greatness and to be humbled by His providence in our lives.