Fullness of Time
“What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons [and daughters], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4: 1 – 7 NIV)
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.” (Ephesians 1: 7 – 10 NIV)
In the scriptures quoted above I see three completions of the concept “fullness of time:”
First - The proper time in history set by God for the most effective propagation of the Gospel of Christ:
“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.” (Luke 2: 1 – 4 NIV)Jesus came at the time when the Roman world occupied the Mediterranean basin and extended to Britain. The business language throughout the Roman world and understood by most was Greek. We find that the New Testament was written in Greek. Paul preached and extended the gospel from Antioch into Europe and eventually personally went to Rome effectively solidifying the gospel message as a message to both Jews and Gentiles. The purposes and plans of God by fully revealing Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ, came at a time when the communication, travel, and business transactions best allowed the gospel message to spread.
“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
Second - The fulfillment of the time set for the Jews to repent:
Without going into great detail, Jesus came and began His ministry when He was baptized by John the Baptist at the beginning of the last `week’ of Daniel’s prophecy. His call to repentance to the Jewish nation was the call to complete the prophecy for the Jewish nation to repent. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem it was basically because the call to repentance had not been taken up by the Jews but Jesus was rejected. We do not have an exact time for the sermon of Stephen before the Sanhedrin when the Jewish leaders made a final rejection of Jesus’ ministry and call to repentance. However, we certainly see a link between the rejection of the message of Jesus; the time of completion of the prophecy of Daniel; and the time of the Gentiles beginning by the cloaks of the accusers and executioners of Stephen being laid at the feet of Saul. Saul would eventually take the gospel to the Gentiles.
“Seventy `sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. [Or the Most Holy One].” (Daniel 9: 24 NIV)
Third - Personal fulfillment of the calling in the life of an individual believer according to the plan and purpose of God:
In all of this there is a direct connection to the individual believer who is called to become like Jesus; be filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit; and carry on the work of Jesus. The fulfillment of time works personally in the individual believer just as it did in the physical Roman world and in the spiritual world of the fulfillment of prophecy. We are not too young; we are not too old; we are not helpless or without power; and we are promised that God is able to work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 28 – 30 NIV)