Divine Intervention into Time and Space
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ (NKJV).
The world’s population is locked into the sinful ways of this world (elements of the world). Prior to the advent of Jesus the Jews were like slaves to sin. That is, they were children in spiritual immaturity driven by the urges that entered their minds. This is still the state of the unsaved. The Jews were and still are locked into the basic principles of the Mosaic Law. This has run its course since the Jewish Messiah has come and fulfilled its requirements for all to take advantage of. The Gentiles are in bondage too but under the miserable principles of the various heathen religions of the world. Both Jews and Gentiles are locked into life guidance principles best described as slavery (bondage) to some set of rules for life that are not what God intends for the human race. Since the Fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden God set up the redemption of mankind (Genesis 3:15). He would send His Messiah to this earth to emancipate the earth through His teaching, death and resurrection.
God Himself stepped forth in Divine Intervention to bring hope and freedom to mankind. Just like a father has chosen a time for his child to be designated as an adult (e.g. Roman elevation of a son to an adult; Jewish bar mitzvah of a boy to manhood) so too did our Heavenly Father choose the time to bring Christ His Son to earth. He designated the perfect time in all of world history to send Himself in the body of a human to make provision for the people’s transition from bondage under the Law or pagan cults to spiritual sonship. He prepared the world in several ways that are apparent.
The Fullness of Time
God decided that the preparation of four thousand years since He first announced His coming (Genesis 3:15) to Adam, Eve and Satan was fulfilled. He chose the perfect time and made all the adequate preparations. It should have not been a surprise to those who love Him and know His Word. It was a surprise though and Jesus wept over the Jews lack of understanding regarding the timing of His appearance on this earth. Their lack of recognition of the timing of God’s appearance to them in the greatest ever Shekinah Glory led to the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman soldiers in A.D. 70.
41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation (NKJV).”
Prophecies had been given to the Jewish prophets regarding the Christ’s appearance on earth and the Jewish leaders disregarded them even though they knew of them. They intellectually understood their details but did not take them to heart as a direct message from God. From II Corinthians 3:6 (The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life) we see this principle. God gave His strict Law but it is meant to lead us to God’s Spirit. The Law is a teacher but not a Savior. The Jews had become so deeply adherent to God Law that they did not see its intent. It was a teacher meant to lead us to Him and a relationship with Him. The Law was fulfilled in Jesus and His teaching. The entire Sermon on the Mount was directed at the Pharisees who were so deeply immersed in the specifics of the Law that they did not recognize its central message. Frequently in this Sermon Jesus says, “You have heard it said by them of Old… But I say unto you.” He is describing their pickiness over the details but not seeing the intent of the Law. They did the same thing with the prophecies of His first advent.
When the Magi visited Herod he immediately conferred with the chief priests and scribes to learn where the Messiah would be born. They told him that Micah 5:2 said in Bethlehem in Judea. So they all knew what the Scriptures said but did not take any of it to heart for their personal spiritual belief and benefit. God says that He does nothing except He first reveals it through His prophets (Amos 3:7).
God Gives Daniel the Exact Day of His Appearance
20And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before Jehovah my God for the holy mountain of my God; 21yea, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. 22And he instructed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee wisdom and understanding. 23At the beginning of thy supplications the commandment went forth, and I am come to tell thee; for thou art greatly beloved: therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision. 24Seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy. 25Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one, the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: it shall be built again, with street and moat, even in troublous times. 26And after the threescore and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off, but not for Himself (KJV).
Daniel was taken captive in 605 BC by Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and taken there. During that time he became the prime minister, chief of the Magi and a devoted prophet of God. While praying on evening he was visited by Gabriel the angel with a message of the Messiah’s appearance on earth. This vision specified some length of time that must pass before the Messiah would appear. Gabriel further said that the Messiah (Anointed One) would be killed (cut off) but would die not for Himself. In other words this Messiah would die for some others. Gabriel used the terms seven weeks and threescore weeks and two weeks to reference several pivotal events on God’s timetable for the Fullness of Time to bring His Messiah. The Hebrew word used is shavuim, which means sevens. It refers to seven of something. The context governs the topic of which the sevens apply. Here Daniel is praying about the seventy years of captivity and assumed it would end according to what the prophet Jeremiah had written (Jeremiah 29:10) after seventy years. So the seventy sevens (seven, threescore or sixty and then two weeks) are actually 490 years.
Gabriel gives Daniel the start of the seventy sevens. The starting event, which would begin the countdown, is the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem. The culminating event, which is the appearance of the Messiah on earth, is cited, as unto the anointed one, the prince is sixty-two weeks or 483 years of the entire 490 years. The Jews had been in Babylon when the Medes and Persians conquered the Babylonians. They did not have any reason to keep them captive so they were told they could go home and rebuild Jerusalem. According to Isaiah’s prophecy Cyrus the Persian, whom the Lord called His shepherd, would give this command and perform all His pleasure “even saying of Jerusalem, She shall be built; and of the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (Isaiah 44:28). I believe that God through Isaiah spoke accurately when He said that Cyrus would issue the edict for the restoration of the temple and the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Artaxerxes issued a reaffirmation of this decree, which more finely prophecied as being applied to the walls of Jerusalem, in 445 B.C. to Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2:8). This command seems to be the most fitting to initiate the math of the seventy weeks prophecy. So if we count out from there we can get to Jesus appearance in Jerusalem. So there is a mathematical prophecy. The Jewish (and Babylonian) calendars used a 360-day year; 69 weeks of 360-day years totals 173,880 days. In effect, Gabriel told Daniel that the interval between the commandment to rebuild Jerusalem until the presentation of the Messiah as King would be 173,880 days.
The date that the Jews were released from captivity in Babylon was March 14, 445 B.C.. Accounting for the different calendars of 360-day years and 365 ¼ day year we come to 173,880 days to get to the date of April 6, 32 AD. This is the date that Jesus presented Himself on Palm Sunday as the Jewish King.
The Jews who should have know this probably knew it in their minds but not in their hearts. They knew their Messiah was coming from this prophecy just as they knew where He would be born but they ignored it.
He Was Expected
Historians record for us that at that general time there was a strange expectation in the world for a coming king. The people in the east had it, which partly explains why the Magi came. People in many places were anticipating the arrival of a king, something even the Roman historians acknowledged:
- Suetonius wrote in The Twelve Caesars, “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world.” Writing during the second century A.D. about such things as Vespasian’s conquering of Israel in A.D. 70, Suetonius looked back and said that the first century was a day when there was an expectation for men coming from Judea to rule the world. Consequently, people’s eyes were focused upon that place.
- Tacitus, the famous Roman historian, tells of the same belief in The Annals that “there was a firm persuasion…that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judaea were to acquire a universal empire.”
- Josephus, in Wars of the Jews, said that the Jews had a belief that “about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth.”
Jewish Facilities Were Prepared For His Teaching
Since the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C. Rabbinic Judaism rose up with Synagogues for teaching. The oldest dated evidence of a synagogue is from the 3rd century B.C., but synagogues doubtless have an older history. Some scholars think that the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in 586 B.C. gave rise to synagogues after private homes were temporarily used for public worship and religious instruction. The Jewish Orthodox use a term shul, provides additional information of the synagogue’s primary function. That is as a house of study (beit midrash). It is the place where Jewish men and male children receive their religious education and instructions. Jesus frequently went into the Synagogues to teach. The teaching facilities were ready to receive Jesus and His apostles after Him. By the time of Christ, there were synagogues all over Israel and in many cities of the Roman world (The Diaspora), which helped the spread of Christianity. Paul is mentioned as going into synagogues in Damascus (Acts 9:2); Salamis (Acts 13:5); Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14); Iconium (Acts 14:1); Thessalonica (Acts 17:1); Berea (Acts 17:10); Athens (Acts 17:17); Corinth (Acts 18:4); and Ephesus (Acts 18:19; 19:8).
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, “Is this not Joseph’s son (NKJV).”
In this prophecy Jesus quoted part of Isaiah 61:1-2. Here as He was teaching in the Synagogue He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. He followed this by saying this Scripture is fulfilled in their hearing. They should have realized that was a quote from Isaiah and they would have known it and its meaning.
The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2to proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn (ASV 1901).
This prophecy that Jesus quoted has another aspect which He left out It is the day of vengeance of our God; He didn’t say that because it relates to His Second Coming when He will take back the earth with the Great Tribulation which is the day of vengeance of God restoring the earth.
Alexander Brings a Common Language
Because of the conquests of Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.) Greek language was delivered as Alexander carried the Koine form of the Greek language, along with Greek culture more generally, across the empire he conquered. It became the standard language of commerce and government, existing along side many local languages. Greek was adopted as a second language by the native people of these regions and was ultimately transformed into what has come to be called the Hellenistic Koine or common Greek.
The New Testament was written in Koine Greek a language the region of the world, which Alexander had conquered, knew well. Greek could be read and communicated quickly by a wide variety of people across many cultures and countries.
Roman Roads Facilitate Christianity
Roman road system, extended from Britain to the Tigris-Euphrates river system and from the Danube River to Spain and northern Africa. The Romans built 50,000 miles (80,000 km) of hard-surfaced highway, primarily for military reasons.
The first of the great Roman roads, the Via Appia (Appian Way), begun by Appius Claudius Caecus in 312 B.C., originally ran southeast from Rome 162 miles (261 km) to Tarentum (now Taranto). By the beginning of the 2nd century B.C., four other great roads radiated from Rome: the Via Aurelia, Via Flaminia, Via Aemilia, the Via Valeria, and the Via Latina, running southeast and joining the Via Appia near Capua. Their numerous feeder roads extending far into the Roman provinces led to the proverb “All roads lead to Rome.”
The Roman roads were very straight, had solid foundations, cambered surfaces facilitating drainage, and use of concrete made from pozzolana (volcanic ash) and lime. The Roman engineers followed basically the same principles in building abroad as they had in Italy. The Roman road system made possible Roman conquest and administration and later provided highways for the great migrations into the empire and a means for the rapid expansion of Christianity. Despite deterioration from neglect, it continued to serve Europe throughout the Middle Ages, and many fragments of the system survive today.
God sent His Messiah in the Fullness of Time. He gave the prophets the exact time that he would appear. He prepared the way for Jesus appearance at the perfect time.
There was a great anticipation among the Jews and the Romans of that time that the Messiah would come.
Rome had unified much of the world under its government, giving a sense of unity and peace to the various lands. Also, because the empire was relatively peaceful and the Romans built roads, travel was possible, allowing the early Christians to spread the gospel. Such freedom to travel would have been impossible in other eras.
While Rome had conquered militarily, Greece had conquered culturally. A “common” form of the Greek language (different from classical Greek) was the trade language and was spoken throughout the empire, making it possible to communicate the gospel to many different people groups through one common language.
The Jewish Synagogue had become prevalent across the Roman Empire and was places of religious learning at the time Jesus came.
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).
The Roman army recruited soldiers from among the provinces, introducing these men to Roman culture and to ideas (such as the gospel) that had not reached those outlying provinces yet. The earliest introduction of the gospel to Britain was the result of the efforts of Christian soldiers stationed there.
God Himself stepped forth in Divine Intervention to bring hope and freedom to mankind. Just like a father has chosen a time for his child to be designated as an adult so too did our Heavenly Father choose the time to bring Christ His Son to earth. He designated the perfect time in all of world history to send Himself in the body of a human to make provision for the people’s transition from bondage under the Law or pagan cults to spiritual sonship.
Daniel E. WoodheadShare on Facebook