Fullness of Time
“When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son.” (Galatians 4:4)
What does the phrase, “fullness of the time” refer to? God in His wisdom knew before the heavens and earth were created that man would be a sinful being. Without God's Spirit in him, man would be utterly incapable of remaining sinless. The Savior would be the atoning sacrifice that would pay for the sins of the world. It was a foregone conclusion that some day—in the fullness of time—Jesus would be sent to the world to die for the sins of mankind, because only Jesus Christ, the creator of all things, was worthy to pay the price of all sin and iniquity. How is that possible? The answer is that he who creates something is always worth more than that which he gave rise to. Just as an artist is worth more than the picture he has painted, Jesus is greater than all of the combined creation. So God knew before the beginning that it would become necessary to send a Savior who would atone for the sins of man that he might be delivered from the penalty of sin.
“…the Lamb [Jesus Christ] slain from the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
When we look at the meaning of the Scriptural phrase, the fullness of time, we have come to the incomparable day in the Plan of God, the fulcrum—the pivotal point—upon which all other events revolve. Jesus, Immanuel (God with us) - the Son of God, was born into our human realm. We are being delivered from this evil world—which was God’s Plan from the very beginning. We are being redeemed as the literal Children of God—embraced into true son-ship (as Jesus is the Son) in the very Family of God.
God brought about the fulfillment of all the messianic prophecies of Jesus’ first coming – because only God knows the end from the beginning. He ordained from the beginning – before man was created, exactly when Christ would be born, at the right place and the right time – in "the fullness of time."
Many people in the world read this verse to mean that history and culture had come to the point where the Gospel could finally be preached, received, accepted, and dispersed throughout all nations by the masses. They believe that somehow God in all His power and wisdom was somehow subject to the whiles of mankind. They think, ‘horrors,’ Jesus had to come as a Jew in order to be at the right place at the right time.
That is not what this term “fullness of the time was come” or “the time was fully come” is speaking about. It was not that circumstances were finally ideal for the Messiah to come on the scene. Yes, God builds on the foundation He has laid in previous ages, but “fully come,” refers to the fact that a major pivotal part of God’s Plan and timing had not yet been given to mankind prior to Jesus’ first coming. God knew the timing and steps He would take utterly from the foundation of the world. This verse declares that God the Father sent His Son as planned from before the foundation of the earth. The fullness of time is about Jesus Christ, the Savior, being sent to redeem man.
“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption [son-ship, fully children of God].” (Galatians 4:5)
The subject of the fullness of time encompasses the entire role of Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. In today’s sermon we will touch on the timing of Christ’s fulfillment and placement in the overall Plan of God.
We need to be careful not to confuse two very similar sounding steps or dispensations in the Plan of God given in the Scriptures. The fullness of time [singular], as was mentioned, takes place at the very middle time-frame of God’s Plan, while the fullness of times (plural) takes place at the time of the end of this earth with the coming of the new heavens and new earth (2Peter 3:11-13).
“In the dispensation of the fullness of times (pl.) He [God the Father] might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him.” (Ephesians 1:10)
What does Paul mean by "the fullness of the times (pl.)"? Paul is speaking collectively of all the different steps that God utilizes in His Plan for the salvation of mankind. Paul is assuring us that God will bring His Plan of redemption to its ultimate fruition and conclusion "in the fullness of the times." Paul has told us in the opening verse of Ephesians that God has an eternal Plan. Here he is telling us when and under what circumstances God's Plan on earth will be brought to completion.
Paul uses very similar phrases to describe both Jesus' first coming, and the completion of the Plan of God on earth. In Galatians 4:4 Paul says, "when the fullness of the time (sing.) had come" (a very similar phrase but entirely different).
Jesus Christ was sent the first time at the perfect, decisive moment of God’s Plan – in the “fullness of time (sing.),” – and now Paul tells us here that "in the dispensation of the “fullness of times (pl.)" (verse 10) God the Father might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him:
Paul is very precise here in distinguishing between the “fullness of time (sing.),” and the “fullness of times (pl.).” The first has to do with Christ coming in the flesh and establishing the New Covenant for His Church and the world tomorrow. The second phrase has to do with the final step and ultimate fulfillment of His Plan – the fruit that comes from the work of God (John 6:29) in bringing many sons to glory.
The "dispensation of the “fullness of time" encompasses the first coming of Jesus, born to a woman. The dispensation of the “fullness of times” is the yet future administration in which everything will come under the spiritual purview and rule of Jesus Christ. That final step in the Plan of God will not be complete until the conclusion of the Great White Throne Judgment. Then, Jesus will deliver the entire creation from the bondage of sin and corruption.
When God speaks of these times – it behooves us to be able to distinguish between the two – otherwise God would not have gone to the trouble of mentioning them in the context of His Plan for mankind!
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