Wednesday, January 2, 2013

In The Fullness of Time

I do not know if this phrase really caught anyone else’s eye, but it did mine. The question came to mind: Why did the apostle, St Paul, write this phrase (Galatians 4:4-5)? All the commentators rightly stated that this means “at the time appointed by God.” This is absolutely true, but why, still, was this the fullness of time? What made it the fullness of time?

One of the early church fathers – I do not recall who – stated that, after the Fall, mankind became progressively worse in their wickedness, that we do not become better because of sin, but worse. Therefore, I believe God was not waiting for mankind to become better, to a point where they were ready to “accept” Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior, but He had something else in mind.

It is reported that at the time of the Incarnation and Nativity that there was “peace” in the world. This would only mean that there was no war, for there was no love between the Jews and the Romans. Roman soldiers were posted throughout the Roman Empire to “keep the peace.” Hence, this “peace” was not a peace of good will toward one’s fellow man. The Jews, we know, hated the Romans. Perhaps, trusting that the church father is correct, this was the fullness of time because the wickedness of mankind had become full, complete, just as when God told Abraham regarding the Amorites, “In the fourth generation, your descendants will return here, for the wickedness of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Ge 15.16).

Mathetes, an ante-Nicene Church Father, in his epistle to Diognetus, wrote:

“As long then as the former time endured, He permitted us to be borne along by unruly impulses, being drawn away by the desire of pleasure and various lusts. This was not that He at all delighted in our sins, but that He simply endured them; nor that He approved the time of working iniquity which then was, but that He sought to form a mind conscious of righteousness, so that being convinced in that time of our unworthiness of attaining life through our own works, it should now, through the kindness of God, be vouchsafed to us; and having made it manifest that in ourselves we were unable to enter into the kingdom of God, we might through the power of God be made able. But when our wickedness had reached its height, and it had been clearly shown that its reward, punishment and death, was impending over us; and when the time had come which God had before appointed for manifesting His own kindness and power, how the one love of God, through exceeding regard for men, did not regard us with hatred, nor thrust us away, nor remember our iniquity against us, but showed great long-suffering, and bore with us, He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors! Having therefore convinced us in the former time that our nature was unable to attain to life, and having now revealed the Saviour who is able to save even those things which it was [formerly] impossible to save, by both these facts He desired to lead us to trust in His kindness, to esteem Him our Nourisher, Father, Teacher, Counselor, Healer, our Wisdom, Light, Honour, Glory, Power, and Life, so that we should not be anxious concerning clothing and food.”

Henceforth, it was then, at that time, the fullness of time. It was also the "fullness of time" at our Baptism. Our sins were full, and we feared the consequences. The "angel" came to us in the time of darkness, saying, "A child is born--the Savior! He is born of the Virgin;; He is persecuted by Pontius Pilate; He is crucified; and He is risen, after having been dead and buried for three days, and He has ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father!"

We are now awaiting the “fullness of time” when Christ returns, a time when the wickedness of mankind will have become full again. This time, however, Christ must return as Judge, for He has already been manifested as the God-Man, the Savior, and He is now here in His Body, the Church.  T.T.