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THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES

THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES

The following subjects concerning the dispensation of the fulness of times will be discussed:

A DEFINITION OF TERMS

WHEN IS THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES?

THE CHARACTER OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES

A DEFINITION OF TERMS

There are two terms that must be understood if we are to correctly understand the dispensation of the fulness of times. They are “dispensation” and “fulness”.

Let us begin with the word “dispensation”. The Greek word translated “dispensation” is “oikonomia”. It is made up of two words, “Oiko” meaning “house” and” nomia” which means “law”. So literally, “oikonomia” means “house law“.

The first occurrences are in Luke 16:2-4, “…..How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me unto their houses”. To use the literal meaning of “oikonomia” we might translate this phrase, “Give an account of your house law”. It is clear that “house law” does not easily fit into an English translation. For that reason I believe that it would be helpful to find a synonym for “house law”. It is clear that the steward of Luke 16 is managing his master’s household. I would suggest therefore, the word “management” might be an adequate translation of the Greek “oikonomia”. “Management” is a synonym that is easier to adapt to the context of each of the occurrences of “oikonomia” and it means more or less, the same as “house law”. So then, we might translate these verses as, “give an account of thy management“, and “when I am put out of the management“.

So the term “the dispensation of the fulness of times” refers to how God will manage His household in the fulness of times.

Going on now to define the Greek word translated “fulness”. That Greek word is, “pleeroma“. It is used 17 times in the New Testament. I believe that as we look at just a few of those occurrences, we will see how the Holy Spirit would have us understand the word.

We read in Mark 8:20, “……..how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?”. This is I believe to be the basic use of the word. It is used here to indicate that the baskets had no more room for any more fragments, i.e. they were full.

The word is used in Rom. 13:10 where we read, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law”. I believe that Paul’s point is that love completes the law concerning one’s neighbors.

Let us also consider Col. 1:18-19, “And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. And He is the Head of the body, the church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence. for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell”. I believe Paul’s point in this passage is that in Christ all God’s plans are completed.

Now let us look at a passage which speaks of the fulness of a time. Gal. 4:4 reads, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law……”. I believe Paul’s point in this verse is that when all things were completely ready for the coming of Christ to earth, God sent His Son. The key point is that all things were ready or completed.

Now let us consider the term in Eph. 1:10, “the fulness of times…..”. I believe that we may conclude that the fulness of times refers to a time when all God’s plans have been completed and there is nothing else that needs to be done.

I think we may conclude from how it is used that the term “dispensation of the fulness of times” tells us that when everything is ready, God will manage His household according to the fact that all His plans have been completed.*

WHEN IS THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES?

We have seen in the section above that the dispensation of the fulness of times will be a time in which God will manage His household in accordance with the fact that all His plans have been accomplished. That leads us to I Cor. 15:28, “And when all things shall be subdued, unto Him then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him That put all things under Him, that God may be all in all”. The context is clearly about a time when all things will have been accomplished so that God will be all in all. And the dispensation of the fulness of times is a dispensation which will see all things having been accomplished. Therefore, I believe that we may conclude the Eph. 1:10 and I Cor. 15:28 speak of the same time.

When is the dispensation of the fulness of times? Again, the context of I Cor. 15:28 is about God’s plans being completed. And we read in I Cor. 15:26 that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death“.  This will be accomplished at the end of the millennium when death and hell will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:19). (I will say that I believe that there will be a period of preparation on the  new earth which is discussed in the paper on unbelievers on the new earth during a time of preparation, but that would take us to far afield of our discussion of the dispensation of the fulness of times).*

THE CHARACTER OF THE DISPENSATION OF THE FULNESS OF TIMES

In the section above we saw that I Cor. 15 speaks of a time when “God will be all in all”. And Eph. 1:10 speaks of a time when God will “gather together in one all things in Christ”. I believe that as we consider the meaning of the Greek word translated “gather together” and compare it with I Cor. 15, we will have a much better idea of what the character of the dispensation of the fulness of times will be.

The Greek word translated “gather together” is “anakephalaioomai” and is used only one other time, i.e. in Rom. 13:9. The Companion Bible tells us that the word means literally “head up”. So Eph. 1:10 tells us that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, Christ will head up all things in heaven and on earth.

As mentioned above, the Greek word is also used in Rom. 13:9. That verse reads, “….. ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, ‘ ‘Thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself'”. It is the Greek word translated here “briefly comprehended” that is the same as is translated “gather together” in Eph. 1:10. Just as the commandment to love your neighbor is the very essence of the other commandments Paul spoke of in Rom. 13:9, so too in the dispensation of the fulness of times the relationship of Christ to all things in heaven and on earth will be that He is their very essence.

I believe that this very profound concept will be better understood if we add to it that which we read in I Cor. 15 that God will be “all in all”. We read in I Cor. 15:28, “And when all things shall be subdued unto Him then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him That put all things under Him, that God may be all in all“. What does the phrase “that God may be all in all” mean? I believe it means that God will be the all-important and the only revered Being in the universe.

The phrase “all in all” may be an example of the figure of speech aenigma which is defined in the Companion Bible as, “a truth expressed in obscure language”. A figure of speech is used to enhance a truth. What truth is being enhanced in this phrase? I believe that when we say to someone we love “you are my everything” we are expressing the same thought as Paul expressed when he wrote that God will be “all in all”.

Now let us add together what we learn from Eph. 1:10 and I Cor. 15:28. We learn that, at long last, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, God will be to all that live their everything.

* The bold type in the quotations were added.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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