The Fullness of Time
From my earliest memories growing up in a Christian home, I was aware that there were two clearly identified, and very important, spiritual themes. Each of these topics was of such significance that they were continually at the center of our understanding of whatever was happening in the world.
These themes both refer to Jesus’ coming to Earth, first as the Messiah born to lowly parents, to pay the penalty for the sinful condition of all humanity and, secondly, as the “‘Savior of the World”’ returning in spectacular glory as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. These two events are known as the “‘first advent” and “second advents”’ of Jesus Christ and they serve as the basis for the Christian’s hope for being with God.
The First Advent
Followers of Jesus know well the significance of the first advent of Christ as it was promised in passages throughout the Old Testament beginning in Genesis 3:15. After the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God told that “old serpent, the devil” that He would “crush his head,” to put a final end to sin on the earth. It was this birth of the Christ-child that marked the fulfillment of the plan of God to restore fallen creation and to save us from the penalty of our sinful condition.
Throughout the centuries, the prophets kept the promises before the people with strong tones of instruction that resonated down through the generations. There would soon be a Messiah and, according to Isaiah 7:14, we read that “the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” In this passage, we are told that Jesus would come to earth, as a weak, infant child rather than a powerful earthly ruler.
Other prophetic statements reveal the location where the Messiah would be born. The prophet Micah writes: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.” Micah 5:2. The stage was set for this cosmic event to occur in the simple village of Bethlehem, the city of David, to be the birthplace of the Messiah.
To give us a better understanding of the purpose of Jesus’ first advent, the prophet Isaiah provides this incredible description of His earthly in these familiar words from Isaiah 53: “Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering … He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”
With our finite level of understanding, it is impossible to truly grasp that the ultimate purpose for the Messiah’s birth was the longing in the heart of a loving God who wanted us to live with Him. This love for all of us was so profound that Jesus would agree to come here to earth and take responsibility for our brokenness. What’s more, He would be punished for our sins, and He would defeat the power of evil which threatened to destroy God’s Creation.
While it is true that the prophecies declare that a “special baby” would be born, that He would be born in Bethlehem, and that His mission would be difficult and painful, there was little focus on the timing of when all this would happen apart from some prophetic comments that were not well understood.
Just before the birth of Jesus, there had been 400 years of difficulty since the voice of a prophet had been heard in Israel, the people of God had fallen under the rule of their Roman conquerors and, it is even likely that they had begun to lose hope that a Messiah would come at all. But just at the right time in God’s plan, Jesus was born.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, uses an interesting phrase to describe when the “‘first advent”’ occurred. Galatians 4:4 (NKJV) says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son,.” (emphasis supplied). God orchestrated the earthly events so that the birth of Christ would occur at just the right time according to His plan.
The Second Advent
There is no doubt that, just as fully as the prophecies of the “‘first advent”’ were fulfilled, the promise of the “‘second advent”’ when Jesus will return to the earth to take us to live with Him “‘in our Father’s house,” will certainly come to pass. Scripture confirms that, as was the case prior to the “first advent,” there will be very challenging, even dark times in the world around us.
Declining cultural attitudes have led us to interpersonal relationships that are so broken that it seems too difficult to consider seeking resolution for differences that arise between us. Instead, the level of hatred and vitriol grows ever more serious all around us. The peacemakers, on whom Jesus pronounced His blessing during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-6), seem nowhere to be found.
Surely the signs that announce that the “‘second advent”’ is drawing very near, are all around us. It surely can’t be much longer until we once again reach ‘the fullness of the time’ when Jesus will come to claim His bride.
As we wait for that day of promise, may we be faithful in our mission to call others to follow Jesus, and may we be inspired by the love that is at the heart of the mission for both the “‘first”’ and “‘second advent”s’ of Jesus. “Even so, Lord Jesus, come soon!”
By Phil Robertson. Robertson is the Secretary/Treasurer of the Texico Conference.