In the Fulness of Time/Part 1

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007
“In the fulness of time” is a phrase we read frequently in the Bible. What does it mean? Dr. Figart explains, with a special emphasis on why the year 2000 is not especially significant in terms of biblical prophecy.

With all the talk about Y2K in recent months, a lot of people may well be wondering, “What’s next in the plan of God?” We will be involved in answering this question in the months ahead; but maybe before this, we ought to ask, “What is not next?” Y2K literally stands for “The year 2000.” Others identify the year 2000 as the beginning of the new millennium. If we add A.D. to 2000 it then becomes, “The year of our Lord 2000” and is associated with how many years have passed since the birth of Jesus Christ.Thus, we are presented with two concepts of a millennium, (or thousand-year period) the first of which may be called the computer millennium, simply because the manufacturers of computers were not farsighted enough to add two digits to their yearly time designation, which would have brought them from 1999 to 2000. As it is, when the computer dates turn over from December 31, 1999 the next day will register January 00 or maybe January 1, 1900. Either way, it is feared that this will throw into confusion all those computers which have not been modified to include the 2000 designation.

The second concept of the millennium carries with it religious overtones, and has spawned a number of expectations (and many fears) of events that are anticipated with the belief that the Second Coming of Christ will occur at the beginning of the new millennium, January 1, 2000. The purpose of this article is not concerned with the computer problems and scare-tactics involved with anticipated calamities which may or may not occur. Rather, we will direct our discussion to the problems connected with the time of the new millennium from the Christian perspective.

The first thing to do is to go back to the simple arithmetic of the whole matter. Let’s suppose that Christ was born 1999 years ago as our current calendars indicate. Would the year 2000 be the beginning of the new millennium? If I should say I am going to run 10 laps around a track, would I completely finish the 10 laps at the end of 9? Extend that to 2000 laps; would I completely finish the 2000 laps at the end of 1999? Of course not! I would still have one full lap to run before I could say that the 2000 laps were completed. Applying this to our calendar, January 1, 2000 is NOT the beginning of a new millennium; it is the beginning of the last year of the old millennium. The new millennium begins January 1, 2001 A.D.

However, this does not begin to solve the problem, because there are facts of history which indicate that Christ could not have been born 1999 years ago. According to Matthew 2:2, Herod the Great was king at the time of the birth of Jesus: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” After conferring with chief priests and scribes, Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem. God subsequently warned the wise men not to return to Herod. He also sent an angel to warn Joseph and Mary to take the young child and flee to Egypt because Herod would “seek the young child to destroy him” (Matthew 2:13). By this time Jesus was a “young child” (paidion) in a house, (Matthew 2:11) not a “babe (brephos) lying in a manger“(Luke 2:16). Jesus may have been two years old at that time, since Herod had given orders to kill all the children in Bethlehem “from two years old and under, according to the time he had diligently inquired of the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

Additional corroboration of the year of Christ’s birth was provided by an event in nature, an eclipse of the moon on the night Herod died. From the Antiquities of Josephus, 17:6:4 comes the statement, “And that very night there was an eclipse of the moon.” An accompanying footnote adds:

This eclipse of the moon (which is the only eclipse of either of the illuminaries mentioned by Josephus in any of his writings) is of the greatest consequence for the determination of the death of Herod and Antipater, and for the birth and entire chronology of Jesus Christ. It happened March 13, in the year of the Julian period 4710, and the fourth year before the Christian era.Obviously, this would put the birth of Christ at 4 B.C.

The great Church historian, Philip Schaff, in The History of the Christian Church, Vol. 1, pp. 124-5, note 4, gives a quote from John Malala the historian of Antioch: “Augustus in the thirty-ninth year and tenth month of his reign (i.e. B.C. 5 or 6) issued a decree for a general registration throughout the empire. Julius Caesar had begun a measurement of the whole empire, and Augustus completed it.”

What does all this mean? These facts show that the birth of Christ occurred from 6 to 4 years sooner than our present calendars indicate, somewhere between 6 and 4 B.C. Now, applying this to the completion of the second millennium after the birth of Christ, it occurred between 1994 and 1996 in our present calendar. We are well past both of these dates and Christ has not returned. A number of writers have made pronouncements about the actual date of the return of Christ. Some of you may remember a booklet circulated in the 1980’s giving 88 reasons why Christ would return in 1988. After 1988 a revised copy was published with a list of possible future dates on the cover. A noted radio preacher who owns a number of stations across America claimed that Christ would return in 1996, probably basing it on the 4 B.C. date for the birth of Christ. This date also came and went; Christ has not returned.

Then what prophetic significance is there for January 1, 2000 A.D. or for January 1, 2001 A.D.? The answer is simply: “No significance whatever!” The Bible never sets a date for the return of Christ.. What is does say, is that when He does return we should be ready to meet Him as our Redeemer and not as our Judge. He has already paid the price of our redemption by shedding His blood on the Cross of Calvary. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25). And to those who have not believed, He said, “He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

In the months to follow we will be dealing with what is next on the agenda of God’s prophetic plan; what will happen in the fulness of time?

Read Part 2

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