Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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by John D. Clark, Sr.
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son.”
Paul’s phrase, “the fullness of time” refers to the moment in human history when God had made all the necessary preparations for His Son’s coming to earth. The law and the prophets were given to Israel in order to prepare that nation to receive God’s Son, their Messiah, but God gave blessings to other nations to prepare the world for that event.
God blessed the Babylonians with knowledge of astronomy, time-keeping, and mathematics. They are the ones who devised the 60-minute hour, the 24-hour day, and much more that is still in use around the world. This knowledge was spread throughout the known world after the Babylonians were blessed with power to build an Empire, most notably under the kingship of the famed Nebuchadnezzar, who destroyed Jerusalem and took the Jews captive to Babylon.
Next, God blessed the Medo-Persians with an Empire that supplanted Babylon. The kings of this Empire sent the Israelites back from captivity to their own land with money and protection – and with orders to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem! A most notable achievement of the Medes and Persians was their insistence that even the king was subject to the laws of the Empire. This was a great step forward for mankind, for it brought a stability to society that many other nations did not have. Among the Egyptians, for example, the king was a god, and as such, he was not bound to abide by any agreement or law made by any previous king. But the Medes and Persians spread the concept that the king was only a man who, though king, was subject to the laws already made, even by himself.
Continuing in His preparation of earth for the gospel of His Son, God blessed the Greeks with an Empire, most notably under Alexander the Great. Alexander’s desire for a one-world government that was tolerant of different cultures led to an even more enlightened understanding of the role of government. But Alexander’s vision included more than just a single government on earth; he wanted one currency, one language, and perhaps most ambitious of all, he wanted all the world’s inhabitants to intermarry so as to form a single race of men. Alexander himself married the daughter of his conquered Persian foe, King Darius. Alexander had some success, but did not fulfill his dream. His greatest success was his spreading of the Greek language. Greek became the language of trade, and virtually everyone around the Mediterranean became familiar with it. With this blessing of a common language, God was setting the stage for the gospel to be spread quickly. Most, if not all, of the New Testament was originally written in Greek, and because God had already prepared the world through Alexander, most people could read it.
God’s final preparation for the gospel was the gift of an ability to govern well that He gave to the Romans. Not long before Jesus’ birth, God put the reins of government into the hands of Julius Caesar’s nephew, and his reign initiated the famous Pax Romana, the “Roman peace”, a centuries-long span in which there was relative peace around the Mediterranean. God blessed Rome with the wisdom to organize and to build, and through them, the world was provided with empire-wide roadways, greatly reducing the time and effort required to travel from one location to another. The apostle Paul and others traveled safely over thousands of miles of Roman roads. The Roman genius for government contributed greatly to the progress of civilization, and one key element of Roman law was the legal protection its citizens enjoyed. No local rulers dared to abuse the rights of a Roman citizen, lest the awesome power of Rome come down upon them. Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen to demand a hearing before Caesar himself when local rulers refused to treat him justly. When he invoked his rights as a citizen, the government provided him with a free trip to Rome. He was granted at least two audiences before Caesar himself, winning souls to Christ during that time, even from Caesar’s own household.
God prepared the whole world, not just Israel, for the coming of His Son. And when He had finished making the preparations described above, then “the fullness of time” was come, and He sent His beloved Son to earth to suffer and die for our sins. But the wonderful story does not end there.
In 313 AD, in an effort to gain greater control over the Empire, the Roman emperor Constantine helped devise and adopt a twisted form of the faith of Christ as the Empire’s religion. This Roman version of the gospel became known as Christianity, and it contained a multitude of heathen components, along with some symbolic rites closely resembling Old Testament rites (sprinkling holy water, observing holy days, burning incense, etc.). The true gospel of Christ was suppressed as Rome imposed upon humanity its new religion, and God’s angry response to this perversion of His Son’s gospel was what historians would later call “The Dark Ages”.
Before the Romanized version of the faith of Christ emerged, civilization was continually being improved through God’s blessing, but afterward, everywhere that Christianity reigned, civilization went backward. Barbarism became the common lot of man. Knowledge given to men by God was by that same God taken away. Roman roadways and aqueducts fell into disrepair; swamps cleverly drained by Roman engineers to make farmland became swamps again; astute astronomical calculations, geographic information, masterful construction techniques, mathematical understanding, medical knowledge, philosophy and works of art, the ability to maintain civil order and administration – all the elements that make for a pleasant and productive life – were taken away by God. The resulting period called “The Dark Ages” was without doubt the worse period of human history in which to live. It was a time of incredible cruelty, fear, and superstition, a time of constant uncertainty, suffering, and abysmal ignorance. Civilization’s progress was reversed.
After nearly a thousand years under the oppressive yoke of Christianity, desperate and humble men began to seek the truth about Jesus, and God began restoring blessings to Western culture. Christianity, however, would not willingly let its subjects go, and its leaders persecuted souls who received truth from God. Still, a new day had indeed dawned. Even men of that time recognized that civilization was again being blessed, and they rejoiced in the rebirth, or “Renaissance”, of knowledge which God was granting them.
God’s restoration of knowledge in Western civilization had a purpose; namely, to prepare the way again for the preaching of the true gospel, which had been suppressed by Christianity and was all but forgotten. But it has been a long, tortured process. When Jesus said that “this gospel of the kingdom” would be preached in all the world, he was not referring to any of Christianity’s versions of his gospel, Catholic or Protestant. He was referring to the gospel he purchased with his blood, a gospel which in its purity and power has only rarely been preached since the days of the apostles.
Paul gave us the seven fundamentals of the true gospel when he said, “There is one body [those who are in Christ], and one Spirit [God’s holy Spirit], one hope [the hope of salvation], one Lord [Jesus Christ], one faith [the truth revealed by the Spirit], one baptism [of the Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in other tongues], one God and Father of all.” This is the foundation upon which the true gospel stands. Anything added or left off from these fundamentals is wrong. Equally important is the fact that the true gospel is, as Paul said, “not in word but in power.” The gospel of Christ is not a mere teaching; it is filled with miracle-working power. Without such power, the full gospel of Christ is not being preached, and we have yet to see it. Let us pray for another “fullness of time” to come, when God will pour out His power on those who trust in Jesus and raise up men who will carry the true gospel of Christ to the world. None of us have seen it yet.
It would be a glorious blessing, my friends, to be blessed to live long enough to experience the true gospel of Christ. But even if our “falling asleep” precedes its arrival, we may encourage the next generation to partake of it by standing for the truth we do have now. Look for the true gospel to come, my friend, and pray for another “fullness of time”.