Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 20, 1960
NUMBER 24, PAGE 2,13b

"The Fulness Of The Time" --- (I)

Jimmy Tuten, Jr., Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

After Jesus had heard that John the Baptist was cast into prison, He departed into Galilee and began to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. (Matt. 4:14; Mk. 1:14) He declared that the time prophesied by the prophets for the establishment of this Kingdom was at hand. (Mk. 1:15) The people of Galilee were told that "the time" was "fulfilled" and that they should "repent" and "believe the gospel."

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the brethren in Galatia proper he referred to this period of time as "the fulness of the time." (Gal. 4:4) The Ephesian brethren were told that this was the "dispensation of the fulness of times." (Eph. 1:10) These expressions have reference to the appearance of Christ and they teach us that God, who has control of destiny, chose this specific epoch in the history of the human race for the advent of His Son. The coming of Christ was no abrupt phenomenon. He came in the appointed time. The interval that God decreed should first elapse before the "appointed time" arrived was a period of preparation; a period in which God prepared the world for the appearance of the long expected Messiah. When that preparation was complete, Jesus appeared on the scene, born of "a woman" and "born under the law." (Gal. 4:4) The God of providence and redemption had made all things necessary to His purpose work toward the completion of that plan. He said He would shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land" and that He would shake the "nations" and "fill this house with glory." (Haggai 2:6-7)

Now we have come unto "mount Sion" and have received a "Kingdom which cannot be moved." (Heb. 12:22, 28) However, before that Kingdom was established "a highly desirable effect to be wrought was the creation of an attitude of expectancy with regard to the maturing of this avowed purpose." (Bryan Vinson, The Preceptor, 1953, Vol. 1, p. 6)

The State of the World: The Jew, Greek and Roman The world, at the appearance of Christ, was composed of a heritage of three great races: the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans. Each race offered some hindrances to the Kingdom of God, but at the same time God used these races to bring about conditions that would be favorable for the receiving of the Kingdom. Each class made distinct contributions to the "time appointed by the Father." The title that Pilate placed over the cross of Jesus was written in the language of these three races that made up the cosmopolitan world at the coming of Christ. (Jno. 19:20) R. Milligan tells us that:

The world had, indeed, been preparing for Christianity in every way, positively and negatively, theoretically and practically, by Grecian culture, Roman dominion, Judaism.... the distractions and misery, the longings and the hopes of the age; but no tendency of antiquity was able to generate the true religion or satisfy the infinite needs of the human heart. The wants of the world could be met only by an act of God, by a new creation. (Scheme of Redemption, p. 208).

The Contributions Of Rome

Since Christianity came in that era when Rome controlled and dominated the world, attention will be given to some of the contributions that came from this dominion. Rome was the fourth of the four empires which Daniel said would dominate the world before the establishment of the Kingdom. (Dan. 2:40-44) The territory controlled by this empire was known as the "Graeco-Roman" world and consisted of Gaul, Spain, Britain, North Europe, Switzerland; a greater part of Austria, Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt. (T. W. Allies, The Formation of Christendom, p. 35) When N. T. Christianity made its appearance, much of this dominion favored the spread of religion.

After a long period of wars in the Mediterranean area, political unity had been achieved. Prior to this, Europe was made up of a group of uneasy and impatient nations, who were half-friendly and who jealously watched each other with mistrustful observations. The Roman Empire was "strong as iron" and she subdued and vanquished all things, bringing an end to the divided conditions. She also put an end to conquest and expansion by making the area a "consolidation of Law and Government" Caesar Augustus, who gave much assistance and encouragement to the arts and sciences, "boasts of the fact that he took over a Rome of bricks, but leaves it a city of marble." (H. C. Hathaway, Pocket Library of The World's Essential Knowledge, p. 157) Historians generally agree that Rome not only brought a higher civilization to her empire, but she also brought a state of culture unsurpassed by any nation up to that time. This contribution was a contribution of an attitude; an attitude of unity and consolidation. This general attitude was vital to the cause of Christ in many ways. At the advent of the Saviour, man, generally speaking, had a concept of the oneness of humanity where all stood equal before justice. The Church was established at a time when the world had its first real concept of universal government and a general respect for law and order. One historian gives a concise summary of this point when he says that Rome "fused the world into a heterogeneous mass of humanity with one emperor, government, military organization, common language, common coinage system, central mail and transportation system, a common alphabet and one culture." (L. P. Qualben, A History of The Christian Church, p. 10).

Rome was prosperous and with this thriving centralization of power came the building of roads and growth of commerce. These roads were of solid construction and traversed the whole empire. This made possible extensive travel and trade, when before, such was hindered as a result of the division of the ancient world into small city states and tribes. Rome also turned her attention to the seas, and piracy, which had imperiled shipping, particularly in the time of Sextus Pompey, was checked. This opening up of roads and sea lanes on land and in the Mediterranean seas helped the people to move about freely and without fear of molestation; the people travelled extensively.

When Christ began His preaching and teaching in Palestine, much of His travels were over the roads and highways that threaded the empire. These modern facilities of travel opened new fields for the evangelistic work of the Apostles as well. By opening the doors to the world, Rome made another great contribution to the "fulness of the time." Her contribution helped indirectly to make the age of Christ's coming, ("the time appointed by the Father") favorable for His reception.

In our next article we will notice some of the contributions attributed by the Greeks and Jews to the time that was ripe for the revelation of the "mystery" of God. (Eph. 1:9-10).