"The Fullness of the Time"
"When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son,
. . . to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the
adoption of sons." Gal. 4:4, 5.
The Saviour's coming was foretold in Eden. When Adam and Eve first
heard the promise, they looked for its speedy fulfillment. They joyfully
welcomed their first-born son, hoping that he might be the Deliverer.
But the fulfillment of the promise tarried. Those who first received it
died without the sight. From the days of Enoch the promise was repeated
through patriarchs and prophets, keeping alive the hope of His
appearing, and yet He came not. The prophecy of Daniel revealed the time
of His advent, but not all rightly interpreted the message. Century
after century passed away; the voices of the prophets ceased. The hand
of the oppressor was heavy upon Israel, and many were ready to exclaim,
"The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth." Ezek.
But like the stars in the vast circuit of their appointed path, God's
purposes know no haste and no delay. Through the symbols of the great
darkness and the smoking furnace, God had revealed to Abraham the
bondage of Israel in Egypt, and had declared that the time of their
sojourning should be four hundred years. "Afterward," He said,
"shall they come out with great substance." Gen. 15:14.
Against that word, all the power of Pharaoh's proud empire battled in
vain. On "the self-same day" appointed in the divine promise,
"it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the
land of Egypt." Ex. 12:41. So in heaven's council the hour for the
coming of Christ had been determined. When the great clock of time
pointed to that hour, Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
"When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His
Son." Providence had directed the movements of nations, and the
tide of human impulse and influence, until the world was ripe for the
coming of the Deliverer. The nations were united under one government.
One language was widely spoken, and was everywhere recognized as the
language of literature. From all lands the Jews of the dispersion
gathered to Jerusalem to the annual feasts. As these returned to the
places of their sojourn, they could spread throughout the world the
tidings of the Messiah's coming.
At this time the systems of heathenism were losing their hold upon
the people. Men were weary of pageant and fable. They longed for a
religion that could satisfy the heart. While the light of truth seemed
to have departed from among men, there were souls who were looking for
light, and who were filled with perplexity and sorrow. They were
thirsting for a knowledge of the living God, for some assurance of a
life beyond the grave.
As the Jews had departed from God, faith had grown dim, and hope had
well-nigh ceased to illuminate the future. The words of the prophets
were uncomprehended. To the masses of the people, death was a dread
mystery; beyond was uncertainty and gloom. It was not alone the wailing
of the mothers of Bethlehem, but the cry from the great heart of
humanity, that was borne to the prophet across the centuries,--the voice
heard in Ramah, "lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because
they are not." Matt. 2:18. In "the region and shadow of
death," men sat unsolaced. With longing eyes they looked for the
coming of the Deliverer, when the darkness should be dispelled, and the
mystery of the future should be made plain.
Outside of the Jewish nation there were men who foretold the
appearance of a divine instructor. These men were seeking for truth, and
to them the Spirit of Inspiration was imparted. One after another, like
stars in the darkened heavens, such teachers had arisen. Their words of
prophecy had kindled hope in the hearts of thousands of the Gentile
For hundreds of years the Scriptures had been translated into the
Greek language, then widely spoken throughout the Roman Empire. The Jews
were scattered everywhere, and their expectation of the Messiah's coming
was to some extent shared by the Gentiles. Among those whom the Jews
styled heathen were men who had a better understanding of the Scripture
prophecies concerning the Messiah than had the teachers in Israel. There
were some who hoped for His coming as a deliverer from sin. Philosophers
endeavored to study into the mystery of the Hebrew economy. But the
bigotry of the Jews hindered the spread of the light. Intent on
maintaining the separation between themselves and other nations, they
were unwilling to impart the knowledge they still possessed concerning
the symbolic service. The true Interpreter must come. The One whom all
these types prefigured must explain their significance.
Through nature, through types and symbols, through patriarchs and
prophets, God had spoken to the world. Lessons must be given to humanity
in the language of humanity. The Messenger of the covenant must speak.
His voice must be heard in His own temple. Christ must come to utter
words which should be clearly and definitely understood. He, the author
of truth, must separate truth from the chaff of man's utterance, which
had made it of no effect. The principles of God's government and the
plan of redemption must be clearly defined. The lessons of the Old
Testament must be fully set before men.
Among the Jews there were yet steadfast souls, descendants of that
holy line through whom a knowledge of God had been preserved. These
still looked for the hope of the promise made unto the fathers. They
strengthened their faith by dwelling upon the assurance given through
Moses, "A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your
brethren, like unto me; Him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever He
shall say unto you." Acts 3:22. Again, they read how the Lord would
anoint One "to preach good tidings unto the meek," "to
bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,"
and to declare the "acceptable year of the Lord." Isa. 61:1,
2. They read how He would "set judgment in the earth," how the
isles should "wait for His law," how the Gentiles should come
to His light, and kings to the brightness of His rising. Isa. 42:4;
The dying words of Jacob filled them with hope: "The scepter
shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until
Shiloh come." Gen. 49:10. The waning power of Israel testified that
the Messiah's coming was at hand. The prophecy of Daniel pictured the
glory of His reign over an empire which should succeed all earthly
kingdoms; and, said the prophet, "It shall stand forever."
Dan. 2:44. While few understood the nature of Christ's mission, there
was a widespread expectation of a mighty prince who should establish his
kingdom in Israel, and who should come as a deliverer to the nations.
The fullness of the time had come. Humanity, becoming more degraded
through ages of transgression, called for the coming of the Redeemer.
Satan had been working to make the gulf deep and impassable between
earth and heaven. By his falsehoods he had emboldened men in sin. It was
his purpose to wear out the forbearance of God, and to extinguish His
love for man, so that He would abandon the world to satanic
Satan was seeking to shut out from men a knowledge of God, to turn
their attention from the temple of God, and to establish his own
kingdom. His strife for supremacy had seemed to be almost wholly
successful. It is true that in every generation God had His agencies.
Even among the heathen there were men through whom Christ was working to
uplift the people from their sin and degradation. But these men were
despised and hated. Many of them suffered a violent death. The dark
shadow that Satan had cast over the world grew deeper and deeper.
Through heathenism, Satan had for ages turned men away from God; but
he won his great triumph in perverting the faith of Israel. By
contemplating and worshiping their own conceptions, the heathen had lost
a knowledge of God, and had become more and more corrupt. So it was with
Israel. The principle that man can save himself by his own works lay at
the foundation of every heathen religion; it had now become the
principle of the Jewish religion. Satan had implanted this principle.
Wherever it is held, men have no barrier against sin.
The message of salvation is communicated to men through human
agencies. But the Jews had sought to make a monopoly of the truth which
is eternal life. They had hoarded the living manna, and it had turned to
corruption. The religion which they tried to shut up to themselves
became an offense. They robbed God of His glory, and defrauded the world
by a counterfeit of the gospel. They had refused to surrender themselves
to God for the salvation of the world, and they became agents of Satan
for its destruction.
The people whom God had called to be the pillar and ground of the
truth had become representatives of Satan. They were doing the work that
he desired them to do, taking a course to misrepresent the character of
God, and cause the world to look upon Him as a tyrant. The very priests
who ministered in the temple had lost sight of the significance of the
service they performed. They had ceased to look beyond the symbol to the
thing signified. In presenting the sacrificial offerings they were as
actors in a play. The ordinances which God Himself had appointed were
made the means of blinding the mind and hardening the heart. God could
do no more for man through these channels. The whole system must be
The deception of sin had reached its height. All the agencies for
depraving the souls of men had been put in operation. The Son of God,
looking upon the world, beheld suffering and misery. With pity He saw
how men had become victims of satanic cruelty. He looked with compassion
upon those who were being corrupted, murdered, and lost. They had chosen
a ruler who chained them to his car as captives. Bewildered and
deceived, they were moving on in gloomy procession toward eternal
ruin,--to death in which is no hope of life, toward night to which comes
no morning. Satanic agencies were incorporated with men. The bodies of
human beings, made for the dwelling place of God, had become the
habitation of demons. The senses, the nerves, the passions, the organs
of men, were worked by supernatural agencies in the indulgence of the
vilest lust. The very stamp of demons was impressed upon the
countenances of men. Human faces reflected the expression of the legions
of evil with which they were possessed. Such was the prospect upon which
the world's Redeemer looked. What a spectacle for Infinite Purity to
Sin had become a science, and vice was consecrated as a part of
religion. Rebellion had struck its roots deep into the heart, and the
hostility of man was most violent against heaven. It was demonstrated
before the universe that, apart from God, humanity could not be
uplifted. A new element of life and power must be imparted by Him who
made the world.
With intense interest the unfallen worlds had watched to see Jehovah
arise, and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth. And if God should do
this, Satan was ready to carry out his plan for securing to himself the
allegiance of heavenly beings. He had declared that the principles of
God's government make forgiveness impossible. Had the world been
destroyed, he would have claimed that his accusations were proved true.
He was ready to cast blame upon God, and to spread his rebellion to the
worlds above. But instead of destroying the world, God sent His Son to
save it. Though corruption and defiance might be seen in every part of
the alien province, a way for its recovery was provided. At the very
crisis, when Satan seemed about to triumph, the Son of God came with the
embassage of divine grace. Through every age, through every hour, the
love of God had been exercised toward the fallen race. Notwithstanding
the perversity of men, the signals of mercy had been continually
exhibited. And when the fullness of the time had come, the Deity was
glorified by pouring upon the world a flood of healing grace that was
never to be obstructed or withdrawn till the plan of salvation should be
Satan was exulting that he had succeeded in debasing the image of God
in humanity. Then Jesus came to restore in man the image of his Maker.
None but Christ can fashion anew the character that has been ruined by
sin. He came to expel the demons that had controlled the will. He came
to lift us up from the dust, to reshape the marred character after the
pattern of His divine character, and to make it beautiful with His own
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