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Greek Word Study - Decisive Moment

The Decisive Moment

Pittacus was one of the famed Seven Sages of ancient Greece.  One of his bits of wisdom was this: "Know the kairos."  But what is a kairos?  A kairos (pronounced ky ROSS) is the critical point in time, the decisive moment, when a man must recognize and seize the opportunity.  The fateful moment may be dangerous - especially when ignored.  Aristotle described it as the moment when a man recognizes that the only way to save his ship is to throw everything overboard.  Euripides said that when the fateful moment comes, a man must use it boldly.  Believing that such a moment came from the gods, the writers of the time said that a man must "take the moment," "use the moment," "seize the moment."

This "divine moment" or "fateful opportunity" shows up many times in the New Testament, with strong emphasis on the fact that it is ordained by God.  Mark's Gospel opens with Jesus proclaiming, "The kairos has come; the kingdom of God is near" (Mark 1:15).  But the people did not know how to interpret "this present kairos" (Luke 12:57).  The time would come when Jerusalem would be destroyed around them, because they "did not recognize the kairos of God's coming" to them (Luke 19:44).

In Jesus Christ, we have at least three divine moments.  The first is the moment of salvation.  At "just the right time (kairos), Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:6), and at "the appointed time (kairos)" God brought His word to light through the preaching of the gospel (Titus 1:3).  In the words of Paul, "I tell you, now is the kairos of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).  But some will ignore God's invitation, saying with Felix, "Go away for now, and when I find time (kairos) I will summon you" (Acts 24:25).

The second is the moment of opportunity, our chance to work for the kingdom.  Paul said that Christians should "make the most of every kairos, becuse the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).  Our third and final kairos is the moment of judgment.  John foresaw that day, saying, "The kairos has come for judging the dead and rewarding your servants" (Revelation 11:18); "the kairos is near" (Revelation 22:10).

Old Pittacus was more right than he realized when he said, "Know the kairos."