What is “The Fullness of Time?”

One of the most important passages of Scripture contains these words, “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Other translations call this “the fullness of time.” Jesus Himself used the phrase as He came unto His own (John 1:11) and called for repentance and faith on their part. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

What did Jesus and Paul mean by the time being fulfilled and why was it this time in history?

First, the time was fulfilled because God is the author. It is His time and the right time is in the mind of the Father. Just as we cannot know the time of the return of Christ and the total reasoning and significance of it (or even exactly how it will be accomplished), we know our Father knows all and what we all need.

Second, from a human point of view, the rule of Rome made this a wonderful time in history for God to send forth His Son. Roman roads made travel possible and Roman law made it safer. Rome’s rule over the entire Mediterranean world allowed the gospel to go out to the entire area.The Greek language of the Roman Empire allowed the New Testament to be written in a detailed, specific language.

All of this together and more made this the fullness of time.

Finally, the spiritual condition of the world opened doors at this time. At this point in history, the old mythological gods of Rome and Greece were losing their place in society, especially among the common people. The hearts and minds of people everywhere were hungry for a religion that was real and satisfying. The law of Moses had done its work of preparing people for Christ, holding them under its tutelage, so that they longed for the freedom that is in Christ (John Stott). Into this hunger, God sent forth His Son to make a people for Himself who would be sons and not slaves.

For all of these reasons, we should not be surprised by the gospel’s effect on the world. That power continues to this day as God makes Himself known to people everywhere.

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