Monday, September 01, 2014

Vos: The Chief Actor came upon the Scene and occupied central place

"When the time came to completion..." - Galatians 4:4 (HCSB)

How often have we heard a sermon on Galatians 4:4, and listened to the preacher wax eloquent on how the timing of Christ's birth was simply perfect? The Greek language was universal, the Roman infrastructure was pervasive, communication via pen had become common, somebody had finally invented crucifixion as a means of execution, etc. Sometimes it sounds a bit like Christianized astrology: "When the stars and planets were finally aligned, God sent His Son." Things were simply peachy-keen for the Father to send the Son to fix the mess.

In his "Pauline Eshcatology", Vos puts this utilitarian notion to rest:

“...the 'fullness of time' has nothing to do in the first place with the idea of 'ripeness of the times'; it designates the arrival of the present dispensation of time at its predetermined goal of fulfillment through the appearance of the Messiah (Gal. 4:4; see also Eph. 1:10.

“This straight horizontal way of looking at the eschatological progress was not with Paul a purely-formal thing. There belongs to it a grandiose sweep and impressive inclusiveness with regard to the whole of history. When filled with the content of the latter it acquires the character of the most intense dramatic realism." (Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, p. 26)

Vos is pointing out that "eschatological progress", or the progress of revelation and redemption toward its end goal in Christ and his resolution of all things in the New Heavens and New Earth, is "filled" up with the content of history. The events of history that have been recorded in the Bible, especially those in the Old Testament, are even better than real. Those events, even those that would seem mundane, are supernatural. They really happened, but they happened by design to bring about God's salvation of His people in Christ. 

Long before Vanhoozer and Horton, Vos posits that this progress of redemption through the stages of history is a divine "drama", the one grand story of Jesus unfolding in the events and words of Scripture:

"It is drama, and, besides that, drama hastening on with accelerated movement to the point of denouement and consummation. Hence it engages the Apostle’s most practical religious interest no less than that it moulds his theoretical view concerning the structure of the Christian faith.

“…to Paul the chief actor in this drama had come upon the scene; the Messiah had been made present, and could not but be looked upon as henceforth the dominating figure in all further developments. And Christ was to Paul so close, so all-comprehensive and all-pervasive, that nothing could remain peripheral wherein He occupied the central place…" (Vos, The Pauline Eschatology, pp. 27-28)

It wasn't that 4 B.C. or 6 B.C. or whenever it is that Christ actually left the heavens and took on the lot of humanity that things were just so perfect Christ finally could get done what he needed to do. Such an idea reduces Jesus to simply another actor on the stage with the Father reacting to the hand he and the Son had been dealt. In fact, Galatians 4:4's language mitigates against this. "Completion" connotes the sense of something being brought to an end or a climax. 

"Fullness" is the word used by the ESV. All of the events and revealed words of the Old Testament had been filled up and brought to their end goal: Jesus. "Fullness" like "completion", carries the sense of being filled up to having nothing more left to reveal regarding redemption. Paul sees salvation history like a cup, being filled to overflowing of all the historical events or acts and God's self-revelation in Scripture that were orchestrated by God to bring about the Person and work of Jesus.

When all of those Messianically-charged historical events, people, shadows, rituals, poetry, prophecy, and revelation reached their "fullness", Christ came as the Final Act of fulfillment on center stage.

Christ occupies the "central place" of this grand drama of redemption. The Incarnation is everything. In the Incarnation, Christ takes center stage of all of history, "filling up" the meaning of all of reality. Vos is right to suggest that this "filling up" includes the "eschatological progress" of Old Testament revelation and redemption.

So what? If Christ fills up the meaning of all of history, whatever happens today, good or bad, has meaning. It finds its meaning in who Christ is, what Christ has done for His people, and who I am in him. It also means that whatever happens today is within the scope of Jesus working to bring history to its ultimate conclusion. It may not look pretty today. It may be filled with sorrow and a temporary sense of senselessness. But it will not always be. The One who took on flesh in the fullness of time is the consummate Alpha and Omega. Time and its history find their meaning in Jesus. That's real hope... in the Fullness of Time.

1 comments :

Jason Strange said...

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
“Vos is pointing out that "eschatological progress", or the progress of revelation and redemption toward its end goal in Christ and his resolution of all things in the New Heavens and New Earth, is "filled" up with the content of history.”
I love this. One word that stands out to me is ‘resolution.’ Resolution means-the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc.: the act of resolving something; or as in a drama-the point in a literary work at which the chief dramatic complication is worked out.
Jesus came as the Grand Resolution not only to ‘work-out’ the chief dramatic complication, but to complete the eschatological blueprints that were drafted in a past event among the Godhead. He is The-Solution to the human condition, to a broken world, to a cursed environment. He comes at center-stage to deal with the effects of a Genesis 3 catastrophe. But not only the ‘effects’, but He himself is the tangible cure that has poisoned the well and riddled every man with sorrow, sin, and death.
He comes at the fullness of time to: redeem, adopt, send His Spirit, and make slaves sons, and thus heirs to a Kingdom. This climaxing in history has Jesus at center-stage coming to accomplish a mass adoption. He is here to create a family out of slaves. This ‘fullness of time’ has familial language built all into its framework. He comes to give us a new cry. Not the cry of a hopeless situation due to sins stinging realities, but the cry of hope to a Dad who can save.
Lastly, if this was not enough…he comes bearing gifts at the ‘Fullness of times.’ He gives us ‘The Holy Spirit.’ He comes to tabernacle ‘among’ men, so that he might tabernacle ‘in’ men.
All other dramas that man has ever devised or come up with are nothing more than a borrowed story from this One Great Act. It permeates the story-line of humanity and its hardwired into our ‘imageness.’ All that fallen man can do is create a cheap knock-off of the One-Grand-Drama that is unfolding before their eyes. One sad conclusion is that a person can come out the other-side of the story and miss the plot-line and discover they were cast on the side of the antagonist reading his script, acting the part.