“What I am saying is that as long as an heir is underage, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. 2 The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. 3 So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces[a] of the world. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship (Galatians 4:1-5).”
You notice how Paul uses the phrase, “when the set time had fully come?” That’s what I want to emphasize today. God’s perfect timing. God has a way of doing things, orchestrating things, with precision. Just look at God’s creation. From the human body to the stars in the universe, everything is set in a specific and detailed order. And I want you to know, that God has set a time for you, your miracle, your prayer to be answered.
As we look at scripture, we know that the need and promise of a savior arose long before His birth. In fact, from the time of Adam’s fall to the time of Jesus was 4,000 years. And if we look carefully at scripture, the first prophetic hint of the coming Messiah was doled out not to man, but to Satan at the time of the fall.
14 Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike[b] your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
So what does this mean? Bible.org goes into a lengthy discussion about this, but to sum it up, it states these two important things: First, her seed would bruise, crush the serpent’s head. This clearly portrays a mortal wound which means her seed would be victorious. A deliverance is anticipated. Second, the serpent would bruise her seed on the heel. Her seed would suffer, but it would not be a mortal wound or one that would lead to defeat. A deliverer who suffers, but is ultimately victorious is promised. We anticipate, then, a struggle but also a deliverance by one who will suffer.
The Old Testament gives us more than 300 glimpses as to the coming Messiah over the period of those 4,000 years. In fact, many of these prophecies only hint at a Messiah, and like the one I just read, can be easy to read without knowing there was anything specifically prophetic about it, while others are more direct.
But the point is, that God wanted to encourage his people in the coming of the promised one, and that when His son finally arrived on earth, there would be no doubt from that time until the end of the world, that Jesus was certainly the one foretold in scripture.
But what about the timing? Why did God wait 4,000 years?
1. There was a religious preparation for His coming – The fact that the many false idols had failed to give them victory over the Roman conquerors caused many to abandon the worship of those idols. At the same time, in the more “cultured” cities, the Greek philosophy and science of the time left others spiritually empty in the same way that the atheism of communist governments leaves a spiritual void today.
The mystery religions of the time emphasized a savior-god and required worshipers to offer bloody sacrifices, thus making the gospel of Christ which involved one ultimate sacrifice believable to them. The Greeks also believed in the immortality of the soul (but not of the body).
Another religious preparation was that the body of Old Testament literature was pulled together in a single volume; thus paving the way for the preaching of the coming Messiah.
The Babylonian captivity that happened in the interim of the Old Testament and the New Testament created the Jewish synagogue. Until the time that the Jews were displaced from their homeland, they had worshiped exclusively at the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, there was no longer a temple, and so the Jews developed a method of assembly we now know as the synagogue. The synagogue is the pattern on which the Christian church is fashioned. So we can see from all of these things, the religious preparation for the coming of Christ.
2. There was also a cultural preparation for His coming – In 350 B.C., about 100 years before Christ, there arose a man whom you might have heard about – Alexander the Great. He conquered the entire known world in twelve years. And because of Alexander’s influence, the world became Greek in culture. This, of course, is very important because in 280 B.C. the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek. A “common” form of the Greek language (different from classical Greek) was the trade language and was spoken throughout the empire, making it possible for the first time to communicate to many different people groups through one common language.
3. Finally, there was a political preparation for His coming – After the Greek Empire came the Roman Empire. The Roman Empire had unified much of the world under its government, giving a sense of unity to the various lands. Also, because the empire was relatively peaceful, travel was possible, allowing the spread of the gospel to become. Such freedom to travel would have been impossible in other eras. In fact, Rome had a postal system, which allowed for what? The letters which became the New Testament.
William Lane Craig gave this answer as to the timing of the Messiah:
Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming. But what’s really crucial here is not the time involved; rather, it’s the population of the world. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only two percent of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, “God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.”
As we search the prophetic scriptures, we see that in order for everything to have had a maximum impact, they could only have been fulfilled at a certain place at a certain time. This is also how God works with us. He knows. Like the need for a savior 4,000 years before the Messiah came, He had a plan already in place before the foundation of the world, a day and a time set for it all to unfold. When it seems we go through life, day after day, going to work, raising a family, wondering when our moment will come; God has had a plan already set, a time already fixed. He is working behind the scenes and we don’t even see it. And like with Adam and Eve, he’s even probably already told Satan, the enemy, before telling us.