“But when the appropriate time had come,
God sent his Son.”
–Galatians 4:4, ISV
Let’s see…Jesus arrived on Planet Earth during the height of the Roman Empire, some 2000+ years ago – long before television or radio, even before the telegraph.
Why didn’t God wait, at least until the 1800s, so news of Jesus’ birth could be transmitted quickly?
Then there’s the argument from the other end of the spectrum. Why did God wait so long to send Jesus? Century upon dark and gloomy century had passed since Adam and Eve first sinned and a Savior was promised (Genesis 3).
There must have been something just right about that era when the Romans ruled the world. In fact, Bible scholars have identified a number of factors to explain the appropriateness of this time for God to send his Son. Such information contributes proof of God’s wisdom and his ability to engineer circumstances perfectly:
- The Romans had built roads all across southern Europe and into the Middle East, making travel much easier. During the first century after Jesus’ birth, early Christians were able to spread the good news about Jesus from one end of the empire to the other.
- Pax Romana, a period of relative peace and stability that lasted approximately 200 years, began with the reign of Caesar Augustus. You’ll remember his name. He was in power when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1). Travel during this era was much safer.
- Years before the Romans rose to supremacy, Alexander the Great of Greece had instituted common culture and a common language (Koine Greek). More people were being educated than ever before, and learning Greek or Latin in school. Language was not a barrier in proclaiming the news that the Savior had been born.
- However, in spite of these positive effects of the Roman Empire, few people appreciated their cruel tactics to maintain control and outward peace. The Jews certainly chafed under their domination. But that increased the desire of God’s people for their Messiah to come.
- Other nationalities had to face the fact their false gods had failed to save them from Roman conquest. Many people were ready to abandon the worship of idols and discover the different kind of peace Jesus offered (John 14:27).
- By this time, many of those who had embraced Greek philosophy were realizing the spiritual emptiness of such thinking and were also ready to consider Jesus. The success of Paul’s ministry in such cities as Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch of Pisidia, and Colossae are in part due to this readiness.
- The Roman army recruited men from every province they conquered, then dispersed them as needed throughout the region. Imagine Christian soldiers stationed among those of other beliefs, living Jesus’ way and sharing their faith—all across the empire. Historians credit this kind of interaction among Roman soldiers as the means for the people of Britain learning about Christianity.
Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but it is significant that I found seven reasons why the Roman era, particularly under Caesar Augustus, was the appropriate time for the birth of Jesus. The number seven is mentioned over 700 times in scripture. Often it expresses completeness and perfection, beginning with the seven days of creation—six to complete the universe in absolute perfection and one day of rest.
The bulleted list above provides evidence of complete preparation for the coming of the Messiah: politically, culturally, and spiritually. But none of these factors would have mattered if Jesus’ message hadn’t been perfect truth:
(“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
— John 3:16)
(“I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.” — John 10:10)
(“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”
— John 14:6)
Today, well over two billion people embrace the complete and perfect truth of Christianity.
I am so very thankful to be among them. Aren’t you?