The Time Has Come

Matthew   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

Unlike God, we are all forced into a series of events progressing along a linear line. This is what we call time. Time restrains us in a way that is extremely limiting compared to the existence of God, which is outside of time. From God’s perspective, every time he makes a promise he has already fulfilled it in time. There is no development from God, but there is development in how we experience God as we see his promises and revelation come to fruition in time.
Our experience of time means we are forced to wait for things that have not happened yet. We long for things that have yet to come and we wait for the time to come. How fresh in my mind are the days of my engagement and the longing to marry my beloved, or the days of Jessica’s pregnancy and the longing to hold my children in my hands and begin the lifelong joy of being a father. After a period of waiting, and it felt like the day would never arrive, the time came. Although it had felt like such a long time, both seemed to happen so fast. There was a mix of emotions that exploded within me on all three occasions and it almost didn’t feel real.
In our text this is exactly what Matthew wants to communicate to his readers. The Jewish audience he is directing the letter to had waiting for a long time for the salvation that would come from the promised King of God’s people, the Christ. Although the wait had technically begun thousands of years ago after the fall, it had been especially urgent in the last 400 years when the prophets had been silent and the people of God had been oppressed. Now quickly, like a woman going into labour, the time had come and it is important that God’s people take note and prepare themselves for the conclusion of the long wait.

The Three Sets of Generations

It is not clear why this is important to Matthew, although the number 14 does seem to have some significance to the Jews and in Hebrew the name ‘David’ numerically translates to 14.
It’s also not clear why the numbering is off, or how Matthew is counting the 14. Perhaps Matthew means to count the exile twice, since unlike the other two groups of generations, the third is marked by an event, not a person. In that case he’s counting Jechoniah twice.
What is clear?
Whatever Matthew communicates in this verse, it is clearly meant to give credit to the genealogy for Jewish readers.
The three-time repetition of 14, a number divisible by 7, emphasizes completion.
Matthew is not claiming that there are, in actual fact, 14 generations between each group (since we know this isn’t true). Instead, Matthew’s point is to use the Jewish practice of assigning numbers to letters to parallel David, the fourteenth name on the list, with Jesus , the last of the three sets of fourteen. This serves to show:
That the promised Davidic King has come.
That Jesus is greater than David.
That in the coming of Jesus, the conclusion of all God has been doing in the royal line of David had come.
Although this verse may not mean much to us because of a removed cultural context, we can understand that in Matthew’s final statement in the genealogy he leads the reader to see that in birth of Jesus, the time had ripened for the promises of God to have their full effect.
A majour part of Jesus’ message is that the time of the coming of the Kingdom of God has come, and Matthew reinforces this theme. The time has come! The wait is over! God’s plan of salvation has been fully revealed in the coming of his Son, the Anointed One.

1. The Time of Fulfillment

The time has not come randomly or by chance, it is a perfect fulfillment of times past. Waiting for the coming of Christ was not like rolling a dice over and over and waiting for a 6 to inevitably be rolled, it was the perfect next step more like in counting where the number 6 can be expected to come after 5. With the threefold repetition of fourteen generations, Matthew makes the clear point that Jesus the Christ has come at just the right time.
Jesus coming is not only the end of a long wait, but it is the fulfilment of all that was before him. In Genesis was the conception of our faith by God’s promises to Abraham, we could say the time until David made up the first trimester, the time of the Kings and many of the Prophets made up the second trimester, and the exile until the time of Jesus made up the third. So with the coming of Christ, not only was the wait over, but everything that had been growing and developing in God’s work with the people of God has now been born. Without a pregnancy there is no birth, but when the birth comes the pregnancy has carried out its purpose. Without the Old Covenant there would be no Christ, but when Christ has come the old has been fulfilled in the New.
The imperfections of the OT were fulfilled in the new.
The imperfections of the OT figures. Abraham’s faith, though genuine, was greatly lacking. Hebrews 3:3-6 compares Jesus’ ministry to Moses’ ministry like this,
Hebrews 3:3–6 ESV
For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
The ministry of Joshua bringing the people of God back into the land of rest and promise is also described as lacking by the author of Hebrews
Hebrews 4:8 ESV
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on.
He will later argue that the Levites, who benefitted from the tithe of God’s people, gave a tithe to a greater priesthood, the priesthood of Melchizedek, through Abraham. With Jesus being a priest of that line Spiritually, Jesus is a better High Priest.
The time had come for the Christ to fulfill the purpose of the law.
He alone could be said to have kept God’s covenant perfectly.
All the types and shadows of the law pointed to spiritual truths in Christ.
The time had come for pictures in the OT to become a physical reality. True purity never came from abstaining from certain foods. Forgiveness was never achieved through the blood of animals. A strip of land in the Middle East was never the site for a new Garden of Eden. There was no tangible reality in these things, but they spoke of a reality. When an expectant Mother looks at a picture from an ultrasound of her baby, she points to the picture and says, “that’s my baby!” No one, except maybe if her husband has a certain sense of humour, would point out that it’s not her baby, just a picture. So it was that these OT pictures were never the reality, but they existed to show the development of the coming reality.
The reason the OT is so important for Christians today is the way it leads us to see that Christ is the fullness of it. In it we see the conception of our faith, but in Christ we see the birth of its reality.

2. The Time of God’s Fullest Revelation

The second way in which we see the right time had come is that in this event of Jesus’ coming the fullest manifestation of God’s revelation was made. In Christ, God has shown as himself in the purest and most perfect way.
Hebrews 1:1–2 (ESV)
Hebrews 1:1–2 ESV
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
Christ sheds light on all revelation that came before him.
Christ’s coming and the testimony of him given by the Apostles ends the giving of written Scripture, showing us that there is no further need for special revelation.
Therefore, the revelation given by Christ both completes the old revelation and is greater. This is the argument that the author of Hebrews makes in Hebrews 2:1-3
Hebrews 2:1–3 ESV
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,
If the Old revelation (the message declared by angels) was so important that breaking it would break you from the people of God, how much more important is the revelation of Christ? And how much more severe the consequences of rejecting it?
God is a God who graciously reveals himself to us. No where is this revelation greater than in the coming of Christ. If we want to see God’s character and glory on display, we need only look at Jesus.

3. The Time of Repentance and Preparation

Jesus ministry would be ushered in by the ministry of his second cousin John the Baptist. John, we are told, is one who was prophesied as preparing the way of the Lord. How does he go about preparing the way?
Baptism for repentance. John’s entire ministry is focused around the coming of Christ and practically plays itself out in calling people to a baptismal ritual that represents repentance. We will go deeper into what this baptism represents in a future sermon, for now it is enough for us to recognize that John is calling people to prepare themselves for the coming King. The link between cleansing ourselves from sin and preparing for the coming eternal king is clear.
Repentance is half of the Gospel call, it is the negative part which tells us to leave behind sin and see ourselves . The positive is to follow the King. There can be no conversion to Christ without repentance. The Apostles will never replace John’s call to repentance, they will only add the positive side to it.
So what is necessary for this kind of preparation?
Seeing our sin as utterly sinful.
Recognizing the weight of our sin in the sight of God.
Recognizing the evil nature of our own hearts.
Recognizing that, despite our circumstances, we are completely to blame for our sins.
Recognizing all this in light of who God is.
Rejecting sin and a self-centred way of life.
Walking in the gracious covenant established by God in his coming Anointed One. Through a baptism of repentance, John prepares God’s people to leave their covenant breaking behind and embrace submissively the King.
This is the only way to be prepared for Jesus. If you are not willing to repent, you are not ready for him. I’m not saying you have to clean yourself up before you come to Jesus, on the contrary we are called to come as we are to the throne of grace. But in coming, your sin must be left behind. You rebellious lifestyle, your self-centred motivations, your entire identity comes off at the door. Jesus does not expect you to clear yourself up before you come to him, but you must be willing to be cleaned thoroughly, even painfully, when you do come.

4. The Time of the Advance of the Kingdom

Finally, the time has come for the advance of the Kingdom of God. This is what ties the coming of the Christ to the generations before him. With Abraham came the promise of a Kingdom, with David came the form of a Kingdom, with Babylon came the downfall of that form, but with Christ came the fulness of that Kingdom.
The King is the Christ, who is both fully God and fully man. In this way, God’s people end up having a human King while it is still true that only God is their King.
The citizens are those who have repented of their sins and embraced the King in faith.
The Kingdom itself is not of this world, but of another. It is both here and not yet here. It is heavenly, but is coming on earth. It is spread in the hearts of men but one day will physically be established in all the world.

Conclusion: Today the Time has Come

When is this time for us? Has it passed us by?
Hebrews 4:7 ESV
again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
Hebrews 4:11 ESV
Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
The time is now, we did not miss it. The hope of the coming Messiah has not passed us by. There is a time between the first and second coming of Christ that is this glorious day, “today”, that we have to prepare ourselves for his coming.
How should we react to the fulfilment of time?
Prepare ourselves by repenting of sin.
Let this fulfilment consume us. Nothing could distract me from being at the hospital when Reuben was born, even though I was supposed to preach the next day. Nothing should distract or de-prioritize our following Christ.
Read Scripture deeply and often to taste the sweetness of Christ.
Speak often and fondly of the greatness of his coming. Excite yourself and others!
If you haven’t come to Christ, the time has come for you.
2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV
For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
The time is now, the day is today. The hour of salvation will not last long for you. The time has come for you to come. We’ll end with this exhortation and promise from the prophet Jeremiah
Isaiah 55:6–7 ESV
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
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