You see, at just the right time, when we were still
powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.
But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.
Gal. 4: 4-5
There are certain phrases in Scripture that just beg for exploration. For example:
. . at just the right time. . ."
". . . when the time had fully come. . ."
What made that first Advent just the right time? What does it mean that the time had fully come?
We often talk about our sovereign God being the
Lord of history. Nothing illustrates how true
this is like seeing how that first Christmas came at
just the right time according to God's eternal
plan. I am filled with wonder and amazement at the way
our Father prepared the world for the advent of His Son!
Let's look at the ways the time had fully come.
The conquests of Alexander the Great (356-323 BC)
Alexander conquered the known world from Europe
to India and then sought to impose Greek culture on his
empire. With Greek culture came the Greek language. To
survive in Alexander's kingdom, it was absolutely
essential that one speak Greek. By the time Jesus was
born, the world shared a common language.
God used a pagan king's conquests to establish a common language for the communication of the Gospel throughout the world.
Pax Roma -- The Roman Peace.
The Roman Empire unified the factions which
developed after Alexander's death. The day of closed
frontiers was over. The world was one big
neighborhood. Never before in human history, and very
few times since, has the world enjoyed such an extended
period of peace.
Rome build a network of roads from one end of the empire to the other. Primarily, they were meant to enable the military to move quickly to any trouble spot, but it also facilitated commerce and other kinds of travel.
As at no time before and very few times since, it was possible to write letters to any one in the known world and expect them to be delivered; to travel in relative safety any where in the known world; and to converse with any one any where in a common language.
God used a pagan empire to establish a world community which would facilitate the spread of the Gospel.
The Hebrew Faith and the Dispersion.
Even God's punishment of Israel's sinfulness was
useful in preparing the world for the Savior. The
expectation of the Messiah had been carried in the
hearts of Israel for centuries.
When God allowed the Jews to be conquered and carried into exile, they took into foreign cultures the hope of the Messiah. As the years passed, many Gentiles began to share this hope, and many more were exposed to this expectation.
The reception the Apostles received would have been much different if God had not allowed His chosen people to be removed from the Promised Land centuries before that first Christmas.
God used the dispersion of His people to plant the seeds of messianic hope in the hearts and minds of the pagan world.
The Human Condition.
History teaches us three things about the human
condition at the time of the Advent.
1. People were confused. The Roman Empire was cluttered with pagan deities. One's religion was of little concern to Rome, as long as one was loyal to Caesar. What the "gods" did not divulge about the issues of the day, the philosophical schools sought to. The result was confusion, both spiritually and intellectually.
2. Advent came at a time of extreme moral degradation. Outwardly, Rome gave the appearance of strength; internally, she was dying of moral degeneration. Rome could rule the world, but she could not rule her passions. The blatant idolatry practiced by the people destined Rome's ruination.
3. Advent came at a time when people were starving from lack of decency and justice. It is a fact that the longing for morality is never stronger than when people are consumed by corruption and decadence. Romans tried many remedies to heal themselves, self-discipline, self-denial, "inner enlightenment," external tyranny; but these were all inadequate to cope with the human condition of the time.
God allowed the human condition to sink so low that humanity would finally see that only the one true God could save them.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matt. 5: 3
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End."
Rev. 22: 13
This wonderful, amazing, sovereign God of history carefully planned every detail, and when the time had fully come, at just the right time, He sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved through Him
For He chose us in him before the creation of the world
to be holy and blameless in His sight.
This same wonderful, amazing, sovereign God also has a plan for your life.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of
those who love Him, who have been called according to
He uses events and circumstances, some unpleasant, to prepare us to receive His best.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to
face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as
I also am known.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD , "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
O Thou Who has ordered this wondrous world and Who knows all things in Heaven and earth, so fill our hearts with trust in Thee that by night and by day, as at times and in all seasons, we may without fear commit ourselves and those who are dear to us to Thy loving providence, for this life and the life to come.
In Jesus' name we pray.