When Jesus was born, there was a convergence of events, technologies, and social and political realities that made it to be a times-fullness. Pax Romana was the law of the land in the 1st century so that Jesus and his followers could travel throughout the empire with relative ease. The mail delivery system was intricate and dependable. Alexander the Great made Greek known throughout the contemporary world. There were more people of the Jewish faith living outside of Israel (Palestine) than in it. The empire was polytheistic and tolerated many diverse forms of worship. Rome made an incredible system of roads and seafaring throughout the Mediterranean was unparalleled as far as ease, frequency and reliability. During the earthly days of Jesus, taxation was squeezing farmers off their land who were then forced to seek employment in the cities. And, polytheism was being questioned in the hearts and minds of many citizens. They were seeking a different divine relationship – not just of goods, services, protection and wealth. They were seeking peace and health which fell on deaf ears no matter what idol they turned to. It was in this fullness of time that Jesus was born of Mary to redeem those who were born under the law of Moses and to receive everyone else through adoption of God’s grace to make them heirs to God’s Kingdom. (Gal 4:4-7)
Shortly afterwards, Rome fell and with it came the destruction of free travel, mail delivery, free trade, common language, metropolitan infrastructure, and polytheistic tolerance. It wasn’t until the 18th century that roads, sea lanes, mail and cities came near their pinnacle in the 1st century. It appears that God arrived right on time.
The second “fullness of time” is when Christ will gather all things to himself, when all things will respond to God’s call through Christ. That time has not yet been fulfilled. But, take heart, it is coming. Once again, we are in a time when people are leaving the farm and cramming into cities throughout the world. English has become the main communication form of international business. There are more Christians living outside of Israel (and Europe and America too). We are in a time of unprecedented electronic communication. And, perhaps most importantly, the wealth of the nations has created an impoverished soul. We have gained luxuries and can enjoy Dragon Fruit from Vietnam, lamb from Australia, wine from France, beer from Germany, chocolate from anywhere, yet we have never been more hungry. We have created the most powerful weapons ever conceived, we can see at night, listen underwater, and fly planes with satellites yet peace has never seemed so far away. Could it be that we are now living in the fullness of time when Christ gathers all things to himself. My God, I sure hope so. One thing I do know is that God will arrive on time.