Part 1: God’s Fullness of Time
One of the reasons why Jesus has not returned yet is because “the fullness of times” hasn’t been fulfilled. “The fullness of times” as applied to Bible prophecy is simply another way of saying, “All the signs of this present age which point to Jesus’ return have not reached their completion yet.”
We know from the scriptures that God has set various times in place to fulfill certain portions of his salvation plan. A portion or division of these times is referred to as “dispensation.” Ephesians 1:9-10 says, “Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” Others translations such as the New American Standard Bible use “administration” in place of “dispensation.”
Here is a little word study for you: The Greek word for “dispensation” or “administration” is oikonomia. The way you pronounce it is, oy kon om eé ah. When you pronounce this word, you might detect an English word that sounds similar to it. If you think it sounds a lot like “economy” you are correct!
According to The Emphatic Diaglott, which contains the original Greek New Testament, “dispensation” is translated from oikonomia which means, “economy, administration of affairs, — from oikos, a house [and] nemos, to administer — economy, the management of a family; hence, arrangement, dispensation, or administration, a more general sense — occurs 19 times [in the New Testament].”
It’s important that we know this meaning because it explains the uniqueness in which the Almighty fulfills his plans. God our Creator is very precise and orderly in the way he does things. God does not do things on a whim or the spur of the moment like we often do. He has a system and plan for carrying out everything to completion in the most precise manner including his administration or dispensation of time.
The definition of “dispensation” runs along the line of “stewardship,” “office,” and “commission,” — all of which have to do with administering something one has been entrusted with. For example, the Bible talks about “the stewardship of God’s grace,” (Eph. 3:2), which is actually the administration of God’s grace. We live in a “grace period” in which God offers salvation to all who will believe through Christ. When this time period has reached its “fullness” then the Age of Grace will be filled to completion. It will be followed by the Kingdom Age.
God’s process of fulfilling his administration or dispensation of time circles around Christ and his advents. In his letter to the Galatian churches, the Apostle Paul says, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that he might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption of sons,” (Galatians 4:4). This is pointing to the time of Jesus’ first advent when he was born of the young virgin, Mary. His first arrival marked the time when God administered redemption and forgiveness of our sins through his only begotten Son. But the act of this redemption has not been completed yet. Through him believers continue to by adopted into the family of God — the church — and given the hope of his second advent which has yet to be fulfilled.
Regarding the fulfillment of Jesus’ second advent, we turn to the prophet Daniel: “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place,” (Dan. 9:24, NASB). Keep in mind, this applies directly to Israel and the holy city, Jerusalem, as the angel Gabriel says to Daniel, “for your people and your holy city.” Apparently, the advents of Christ have something to do with Israel and the times or epochs God has decreed on his people and his holy city. Jesus also refers to this prophecy in conjunction with the signs of his second coming in the context of Matthew 24:15 (see verse).
A study of the Hebrew language reveals that “70 weeks” literally means, “seven units (heptads) of seven.” Each unit of seven (designated, “one week,” v. 27) stands for 7 years. In other words, the “seventy weeks” are seventy times 7 units, or 490 years, which are decreed for Israel until God fulfills all that the prophets wrote about concerning the advents of Christ.
The list in Daniel 9:24 details all the events that will take place with Israel and in Jerusalem in fulfillment of the 70 weeks. Once the “fulness of the Gentiles” are complete, the fulfillment of this prophecy will take place (see Romans 11:25-27).
Also keep in mind, there are different views concerning Daniel 9:24. But many fundamental Bible scholars who take the Bible literally believe that the 70 weeks can be divided using this equation: 7 weeks (7 x 7 or 49 years) + the 62 weeks (62 x 7 or 434 years) + the one week (7 years) = 490 years. These years are decreed for Israel, in particular, but the whole world will be affected, in general.
When Daniel received this revelation from God, he and his fellow Jews were in Persian captivity. The 49 years (first seven “weeks”) are a period that began when King Artexerxes of Persia issued the decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem,” (v. 25) and it ended upon the completion of this rebuilding project in 396 B.C. The next 434 years (62 “weeks”) commenced from the final rebuilding of Jerusalem all the way to the crucifixion of Jesus as verse 26 says, “The Messiah will be cut off and have nothing….” Thus, we see that 69 of the 70 weeks have been historically fulfilled.
From our understanding — when Jesus Messiah was crucified or “cut off” — the last week or last 7 years of prophecy for Israel remain to be fulfilled and possibly sooner rather than later given the signs of the times in which we live. There is much speculation as to who the “he” is in verse 27 who establishes the 7-year covenant with Israel before Christ comes. He is usually called the Anti-Christ (1 John 2:18; 4:3; 2 John 7) or Man of Lawlessness (2 Thess. 2:3-4) or beast (Rev. 13:1-10). If so, then this will lead up to the end of the present evil age we’re in now, giving way to the Age to Come, the return of Christ.
This final 70th week of Daniel has been on hold for almost 2,000 years since Jesus died on the cross. Why so long? Basically, it’s so that there will be sufficient time for all those, who are willing, to be saved while living in this present age of God’s grace.
Earlier, I mentioned that we are living in a “grace period.” Some call this the “Church Age,” for the church is “the called out” (ecclesia) of God’s people during this dispensation period. According to Acts 15:14, Jesus is using this for “…taking from the Gentiles a people for his name.” Our activity as Christians includes preparing for the Kingdom Age to Come at the second advent of Christ.
Stay tuned for more to come. In my next post I will cover Part 2: God’s Calculation of Time.
The following song, “Redemption Draweth Nigh,” sung by Ernie Haase, is from Luke 21:28. Enjoy! http://youtu.be/Tpwxar66tPg
Good News to YOU!