Why did God seemingly wait so long to send Jesus Christ to be born?
God promised a Savior to Adam and Eve, the first people who lived on the earth, after they fell into sin. The promise is found in Genesis 3:15. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
Your question has great validity, especially in light of Adam and Eve’s seeming response to God’s promise. The first man and woman may have thought that God would fulfill the promise quickly, even in their lifetime. The names of their sons Cain (meaning, “I have gotten a man from the Lord”) and Seth (meaning, “appointed by God”) imply their anticipation. But Adam and Eve did not live to see the fulfillment of God’s promise. The centuries of the Old Testament went by, but still no Messiah.
In considering your question, we should remind ourselves of God’s nature. He is eternal; time to Him is far different from what it is to us mortals. Second Peter 3:8 teaches us “that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” Psalm 90:4 declares, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” Also, God never does anything too soon or too late. He never does anything by chance. He has a perfect order and timing for everything. This truth is seen in the events of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, as well as in the birth of Jesus Christ. For example, only at the particular year and time of Jesus’ death did two Sabbaths come together so the Passover could be celebrated at the proper time. But that subject is another matter.
Concerning the birth of Christ, perhaps the most significant passage to answer your question is Galatians 4:4 and 5: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
“The fulness of the time”—what does it mean? It means that God sent Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, when He had everything ready. Other Scripture passages also show that God has a program for His purposes in various events of time, including future events. Psalm 102:13 states, “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.” Ephesians 1:10 reads, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” These passages remind us of the truth of the millennial reign of Christ in the future.
But in what ways were circumstances ready for Christ’s birth? Why was that particular time ripe for Christ’s entrance as Savior? Without presuming to know every intent and purpose of God, we do have some reasons from Scripture and historical facts.
First, the Jews were ready for the Messiah. Verses 1 and 2 of Galatians 4 speak of heirs who would become of age (would receive an inheritance at the father’s appointed time). These verses refer to Jews under the law. They were in bondage, and Jesus came to set them free. It is true that “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). So they were ready, not in how the nation as a whole received Him, but in God’s program of redemption, which included not only Jews but Gentiles as well.
Furthermore, the Jews had had sufficient time to prove that they could not keep the Mosaic law perfectly. The law and man’s failure to keep it, as well as its inability to save, is the theme of Galatians. Israel had failed miserably. They needed a Savior. God knew how long it would take to give mankind the object lesson He wanted them to have concerning the reality of man’s predicament and His provision.
Second, the time was right because prophecy was being fulfilled to a tee. It fit Daniel’s 483 years after the edict of Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24‒27). It also fit the foretelling of the prophets. Micah, for example, prophesied the town in which Jesus would be born (Mic. 5:2). It also fit genealogy perfectly. Coming together were two select individuals, Mary and Joseph. Trace the genealogies in both Matthew 1 and Luke 3:23‒38 to see the beauty of God’s design. How can anyone today fail to appreciate that it was the right time?
Third, God knew and orchestrated the historical setting so that it was perfect too. At the time of Christ’s birth, the known world was experiencing peace and stability, the Pax Romana. Favorable means of travel were available, and a common language (Greek) existed. Society at the time was amazingly cosmopolitan, making for a quick spread of the gospel. Prosperity was common. But the religious world was bankrupt, unable to meet the spiritual needs of the people. Ritualism, superstition, and corruption on the religious scene favored the debut of our Lord Jesus Christ into the world. What a great God we have. Let’s rejoice during this season as we recognize His control over all things, as well as His goodness and grace supremely demonstrated in the sending of His Son to be our Savior.
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.