Theology Thursday: Jesus and the Progress of Time

Posted on December 28, 2017  in  [ Theology & Ministry ]

During this season, it seems we cannot help but be more tuned-in to time. The term “Holiday Season” itself forces us to think in terms of time. As we approach Christmas, the pace of time seems to increase as we scurry about in our preparations and celebrations. We may think there is not enough time. As we move past Christmas and come to New Years, we think about the last year, we naturally assess where our lives are and where they are going. Perhaps, we lament another year has escaped us.

Another year passes and it is tempting for us to think that it is merely time marching on. Time, however, is a significant part of the Christian worldview. It is not because we have the habit of dividing the calendar by the life of Jesus between the periods we call BC and AD. It is because, in the Christian worldview, time is meaningful. Contrary to the naturalist worldview, which sees the world starting with an explosion and ending in a burning out; or the pantheist worldview, which sees the world cycling eternally through the processes of death and rebirth; the Christian worldview sees the world beginning purposefully and progressing toward an intended telos (or goal).

Time is meaningful. History is purposeful. The question is: what is its meaning? What is its purpose? Here in between Christmas and the New Year, I wanted to reflect on how Christ provides the clue to the meaning of history.

In Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, there is a Christmas passage that we may not recognize as such. He writes: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship” (Galatians 4:4-5, NIV).

What the NIV translates “the set time,” quite literally reads “the fullness of time” and is found also in Ephesians 1:9-10 describing the revealing of God’s previously mysterious (i.e., hidden) plan to unite all things together in Christ.

To understand the significance of these statements, one has to understand the view of history that was promised in the Old Testament and is assumed in the New Testament. God created the world good, sin and death enter and currently dominate “this present age,” and God intends to restore and renew all things in “the age to come.” History does not merely march on meaninglessly. History is progressing toward a telos. The division of history is described in terms of “this age” and “the age to come.” Paul is saying Christ’s arrival is the dawn of the awaited “age to come.” Those living in this season of God’s purposeful and progressing history are those “upon whom the telos of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Christ has ushered in the dawn of a new age, and we are caught between its inauguration and culmination.

So, as you move into your New Year’s celebrations, do not be tempted to despair that life is meaninglessly marching on. It is purposefully progressing toward God’s telos: the renewal of all things. He is reconciling all things to himself in Christ, and he is calling us not only to be reconciled and renewed but to be people reconciling and renewing. And, may that inform all of our New Year’s resolutions!

In His Grip,

Brett Berger

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Brett A. Berger, ThM

Brett was born and raised in Arizona. He completed an MDiv from Phoenix Seminary and a ThM from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. His academic interests include biblical theology and ethics. He and his wife of 17 years, Audra, have three boys. He enjoys coaching their football and baseball teams.

Learn more about Brett A. Berger, ThM

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