Published March 13, 2018

Paul's Epistle
"Fullness Of Time"

Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman...."

What's so significant about that one expression, "the fullness of time?" Isn't that an odd expression? A dictionary of English language idioms says, "If something happens in the fullness of time, it will happen when the time is right and appropriate."

So with this verse in Galatians, Paul is telling us that Jesus, born in "the fullness of time," was born when the time was both right and appropriate. Why was this so?

Well, first of all, it was right and appropriate because God had said it would happen. He even gave the prophet Daniel a timeline for when Christ would come. Although there are differing interpretations of this, Dr. Charles Stanley says Daniel's well-known "70 weeks" prophecy – actually 70 "weeks of years," or 490 years total – began the clock running with a decree from Artaxerxes in 458 BC to rebuild Jerusalem, something accomplished by Ezra and Nehemiah. That was the first seven "weeks," or 49 years. Then there would, according to the prophecy, be 62 more "weeks" – 434 years – until the appearance and the anointing of the Messiah.

That would bring us (there was no "zero" year) to 26 AD. What happened then? Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus' ministry began and he was publicly recognized as the Messiah. The date is confirmed by the fact that Luke 3:1 tells us Jesus was baptized during the "fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Ceasar." Since he began his rule in 11 AD, the 15th year would be 26 AD. It was the "fullness of time." (Daniel's 70th week is still future.)

It was also the right time for Christ to come because world conditions were right. The Romans ruled from Iran in the East to Britain in the West – the largest area they would ever control. This meant good Roman roads to transport the Gospel message. The empire was, overall, peaceful. "Koine" (or common) Greek, the language in which the New Testament was compiled, was spoken or at least understood everywhere. Roman influence was rising while Jewish influence was declining, reflecting dying Jacob's prophecy that Shiloh (the Messiah) would come when the scepter was departed from Judah (Gen. 49:10.) Commentator Matthew Henry notes that the first taxing made in Judea (Luke 2:1 KJV) was "the first badge of their servitude; therefore Shiloh must come..."

What's more, prophetic passages in Daniel, Malachi, Zechariah, Haggai and the Psalms all indicated Messiah would have to come when the Temple was standing in Jerusalem. Jesus had to come when He did because less than four decades after His crucifixion the Temple was destroyed (70 AD) by the Romans. He came at the right time – in the "fullness of time."

Now, because He came at the right time the first time, we can have every confidence that He will return, as promised and prophesied, at the right time – at the fullness of time. Paul tells us that in "the fullness of the times" Christ will "gather together in one all things...both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him." (Ephesians 1:10.) We don't know when that will be, of course, but we do know that it will be at exactly the right time in world history. We know that because we have faith and confidence in the God Who made that promise that He would return.

But there is an application here for us, too, in our everyday lives.

We are impatient people. We hate to stand in long checkout lines. We hate talking on the phone and being placed on hold. We hate sitting in a traffic jam, barely moving. And (oh, oh) we hate (is that the right word?) asking God for something and then not seeing any immediate results.

But Scripture reminds us many times that we are to "wait on the Lord." We wouldn't have to be encouraged to wait if God always answered immediately. Sometimes He does. But not usually. Why? Because the time isn't right. He can view all of time – start to finish – and knows exactly what time is best for things to happen – for prayers to be answered. After all, as Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us, "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven..." And that certainly includes God's purposes.

The Whisnants had a very popular song called "A Greater Yes" from songwriter Marcia Henry that says it well:

     You pray in faith, and wait for God to move.
     Time passes and you wonder
     Did He hear me when I called?
     Should I even have prayed that prayer at all?

     There comes a time when childlike faith must graduate to trust.
     Trials come and you're convinced you're on your own.
     The teacher's often silent during the hardest test.
     But He'll answer when it's time with what is best.

And the lyric bridge in the song says it all:

     Sometimes God will answer – just like we prayed.
     Then other times, what's on His mind
     Is a better plan, another way, a greater yes.

God's silence does not necessarily mean "no." Usually it means, "Wait — the time isn't yet right for your answer."

I'm sure you can look back at some of the major things God has done in your life – things that came not when you wanted it or not when you expected it. It happened, instead, how the Lord wanted it, and when He wanted it. And you can probably see how, in retrospect, it was so much better that way.

And that's the way He'll work with and for you through every new problem, every new prayer concern, every new need that you bring to Him. But He wants you to trust Him that He will answer when the time is right – in the fullness of time.

- Paul Heil

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