About the time Wang Mang overthrew the Han dynasty, lions were facing extinction in Western Europe. Buddha's religion was reaching China, and monks in Sri Lanka were preparing to write down his teachings. It was a crazy time in world history.
It might seem strange that the apostle Paul referred to this period as "the fullness of the time" (Gal. 4:4, NASB). Yet he was not thinking about events in Europe or China or Sri Lanka. He was focused on a feeding trough in a small corner of an empire ruled by Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus.
Octavianus was given the title "Augustus," which is Latin for "majestic" or "venerable." This Caesar Augustus, as Luke called him (2:2), ended a century of civil wars and ushered in an era of peace, prosperity, and imperial greatness for Rome known as the Pax Romana. The earthly kingdom over which Augustus reigned is the one Paul had in mind when he mentioned "the fullness of the time." The stage was set for God to send "forth his son, born of a woman, born under the Law" (Gal. 4:4).
But what an unlikely stage it was. A virgin conceived. A census had everybody crowded together. A tired young couple found their way to an animal shelter near an inn. A baby was born in that rugged setting which no one knew and where no one cared. Dirty shepherds encountered angels who scared them to death. Such was the pivot point of Christ's story-for the entrance, stage right, of the King of kings and Lord of lords!
I say the "pivot point" and not "the beginning" because Christ's story started long before there was a man, a woman, and a garden-even before there were heavens and earth. Before everything was the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the one whose "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Mic. 5:2, KJV).
Recently it seems that this story, His story, is being questioned. Many are laboring to discredit it, insisting we can't trust the written record, that its point of view is limited, its plot contrived, its main character human but not divine, or divine but not human.
In such a context we must redouble our efforts to tell and retell the great story using new word pictures, analogies, and metaphors. We do so because we love the Author (and Finisher of our faith), and because His generous heart wants everyone to hear and believe … that the calf will some future day lie with the lion (Isa. 11:6); that the Lion of the tribe of Judah will ultimately overcome (Rev. 5:5); that the text to which the Masoretes were adding vowel points will abide forever (1 Pet. 1:25); and that every knee from China and Sri Lanka to Africa and the United States will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of the Father (Phil. 2:10).
Until then, we press on, holding fast to the truth, and proclaiming it boldly in the face of opposition because we've taken a peek at how the story ends. The beheaded are avenged. The groom gets the bride. Tears are wiped away. The one who is faithful, true, and righteous arrives in earth's last chapter on a white horse to conquer (Rev. 19:11) and He brings His reward with Him. "Come, Lord Jesus" (22:20). Amen!
About the Contributors
Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as the founder and senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. His leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and his wife Cynthia, have four grown children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.