Why did Jesus come when he came – why not much earlier, circumvent Abraham, Moses etc.? Assuming – based on Scripture which helps with assumptions!! – that God’s intention was always that of Incarnation, why the ‘delay’ in coming? In Galatians there is the phrase ‘when the fullness of times had come’:
In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Gal. 4:3-5).
An inadequate interpretation (and a very modernistic one) was that when there was the Pax Romana, effective transportation and communication in place and so the gospel could spread easily as a result that Jesus came at that opportune time. So the fullness of times is reduced to a pragmatic issue! However, writing to the ‘we’ (Jews) the fullness of times was when there was a bondage to the elemental principles (ta stoicheia). He goes on to strongly chastise the Gentile converts in Galatia for being influenced by the Judaisers and through their influence turning to the Jewish law. Before conversion they were enslaved to non-gods and now in turning to the law they were only going to be enslaved again to worthless elementary principles (ptocha stoicheia – same as before with the derisory ‘poverty stricken’ added). Jews and Gentiles alike in bondage to these ‘elemental spirits’.
So the fullness of times seems more related to a level of bondage than to anything practical. It was when there was domination at a level that enslaved the whole world, with even the Jews subject to the law in a non-liberating, enslaving relationship.
Had he come earlier this slavery would not have reached a level of fullness whereby it could be fully brokenJesus came, I suggest, at a time when there was the maximum amount of slavery to binding principles (elemental spirits) that manifested to dominate and crush all, Jew and Gentile alike. In coming at that time, Jesus, came to redeem the slaves at their low point in order to not simply set the slaves free but to destroy the yoke of slavery once and for all. Had he come earlier this slavery would not have reached a level of fullness whereby it could be fully broken. Jesus was born under the law (Jewish), born of a woman (human so not only for Jews but also for Gentiles, for all of humanity) at a time when all things were in place for the total domination of humanity. That domination is maybe best described as ‘bio-power’ – the consuming of human life itself (yes I am listening to, and maybe learning from, Gayle as she writes up her dissertation!!!).
Consuming is where it all began to go wrong, and that initial consumption of the forbidden fruit leads eventually to the inevitable consumption of human lives. Jesus the only true human allows himself to be consumed, rather than consume. He is consumed by the powers – religious, political, economic, demonic – for in eating him they can become like God, or better they can dispossess God and fully set in place a rebel government based on ‘might is right’. The submission of Jesus, to death, even the death on the cross is what breaks this power, it establishes love within the world and throughout all of creation. Love proves to be the currency that opens the door to freedom. Not power, not appeasement but love.
The presentation of the atonement as satisfaction to God (his honour as per Anselm, or the law and justice as per the Reformation) falls far short of the NT presentation. What is missing in the world is the presence of God, and at the cross ‘God was in Christ’ going to the depths so as from the lowest point to the highest point there could be a filling of all things with his presence.
The fullness of times – the hold that the powers had is gone.
Could we again be coming to a fullness of times? Could there be the complete re-imagining of the body of Christ in and through the earth to stand redemptively so as humanity does not totally self-destruct on the forbidden fruit?