“The time is fulfilled” – meaning?

Jesus’ first announcement after John the Baptist was thrown in prison was Mark 1:15, “The time has come” – or in the KJV, “The time is fulfilled.” On God’s time band, the arrival of Jesus marked a new moment. All that had gone before him and led up to him was now fulfilled.

To a Jew in the First Century that was a staggering statement, because for centuries they’d been hoping for just this moment, the time when the Messiah would deliver their nation from its enemies and rule the world. And here was Jesus now saying that time had come, and it was being fulfilled before their very eyes.

You have to think as a Jew to grasp what Jesus was saying, because week after week they’d set aside the seventh day to remember that God had a plan. It began at Creation, and it was complete and ready to go by the seventh day. There was a purpose, therefore, to everything that happened after that, and Israel would know better than anyone what that purpose was.

Because they experienced it every Sabbath. They put aside the things of this world and experienced a little taste of heaven, as a grand picture of what God had made this world for. Every seventh year they rested their land too, and after seven times seven years they celebrated a Jubilee year, in which all slaves were freed and all debts were cancelled. All these sevens pointed to a time when the whole Creation would be free of its enemies and life would be “on Earth as it is in Heaven.”

But up to the time of Jesus’ arrival that had not happened. For all their Sabbath keeping, rebuilding the Temple and being restored as a nation, the Jews were still slaves, this time to the Romans. But then, suddenly, Jesus bursts on the scene announcing the time had come, and all those Sabbaths they’d been keeping to remind them of God’s plan had been fulfilled with his arrival. All that they’d been looking for and keeping Sabbaths for was now happening. Heaven was now filling the Earth with God’s glory, exactly as God had planned from Creation. The Kingdom of God now ruled the Earth. The whole world had now entered the Jubilee, or “the year of the Lord’s favour,” as Jesus called it in Luke 4:19.

And now that the reality was here, there was no more need for the Sabbaths that pointed to it. The time of all those Sabbaths had been fulfilled now that the Kingdom of God, Heaven on Earth, had arrived in the person of Jesus.

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