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Concerning what the Bible says, and what might be said in commentary from prominent church leaders, is there a particular reason Jesus came 2000 years ago and not at some other time. One would think the earlier, the better.

If the question seems too broad, then just give me biblical support.

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One reason was it was a perfect time for the spread of the gospel. The Pax Romana and great road system allowed for information to be passed quickly. –  SSumner Mar 6 '13 at 5:45
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...after all, Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication –  Peter Turner Mar 6 '13 at 15:01
    
Downvote? Weird. –  fredsbend May 15 '13 at 20:30
    
This is actually a duplicate of "Why didn't Jedus come at the time of the Flood" but I agree, it's not worthy of a Downvote. –  Affable Geek May 15 '13 at 23:29
    
@affableGeek I would call it a near duplicate because that question asks specifically why God chose to destroy the antediluvian people instead of save them with Christ. My question asks more generally why Jesus came when he did and not earlier or later. However, your answer there would fit well here. I am inclined to ask you to post it here because it answers my question better then the current answers. –  fredsbend May 16 '13 at 18:28

6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

My answer on a related question covers much the same ground. I like this question better, because it is more generic, but the specifics of that answer still hold true here.

Key points:

  1. God desires 1 sacrifice, and 1 sacrifice only, for all time (Heb 10)
  2. God chose to come "at the right time to die for the ungodly" (Gal 4)
  3. Too early, and people wouldn't have believed it - hopelessly mythological.
  4. Too late, and faith would have to be, as Heb 11 puts it, looking forward to a city, rather than living in it.
  5. Andrew Lloyd Webber is cool :) N.B. Key words around 0:58
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Was there a reason Jesus came at the time he did?

The short answer is "yes" – there is nothing accidental about how the key events in the Bible timeline unfold. This is evident in Acts 41 for example:

27for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. ESV

I'm going to recast your question as "Explain how the timing of the incarnation fits with God's overall plan revealed as revealed in scripture"


Before answering I'm going to refute, or at least demote, some of the common answers to this question:

  1. "The Pax Romana and great road system allowed the Gospel to spread"

    The gospel spread predominently by sea, and sea travel wasn't new. The Gospel was competing with any number of other religions and ideologies and its successful spread as outlined in Acts is explained only by the miracles2 that accompanied the evangelists. The power of Rome was important however, as I will explain later.

  2. "The common Greek language allowed the Gospel to spread"

    Language was no barrier to the Holy Spirit3. In any event lingua francas have developed around the world throughout human history, Greek being just the current example in the 1st century.


God's overall plan, and how the timing of the incarnation fits in:

  1. What went wrong in the garden?

    Adam and Eve disobey God, yes, but more importantly they distrust God:

    17And to Adam he said,

    “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; ESV

    God's purpose in Bible history is not just to display his glorious forgiveness for this crime of failing to believe Him (which logically, He could have done straight away). It is also to prove that He is, in the final reckoning, right, and the lies are indeed false4. Everything that follows can be seen in this overarching context.

  2. The purpose of the curse

    The curse includes pain, sweat, conflict and especially death5. This is for a reason, and it is not just punishment: God will do all it takes to bring mankind back, never to doubt Him again. It has to be a long and difficult road, because every opportunity to blame God or to try and remake the world in our own image has to be exhausted before we will know forever and beyond doubt that He is 'the God of truth'.

  3. Fix the outside (1), the flood

    Left to their own devices, the wickedness of man increases6. God intervenes again and again – but each time a different lesson is learned. With the flood, God shows that the problem of wickedness cannot be addressed by washing it all away and starting again, because it is not a problem of society, culture or history. The problem is much deeper, in the heart7. As Noah steps onto the land that has been washed clean, he brings sin with him8.

  4. Fix the outside (2), the law

    The law brings another lesson: rules, however good and perfect, don't provoke an unrighteous man to righteousness. You simply cannot reach the human heart from the outside9.

    The history of Israel after the giving of the law is a litany of its failure to make the nation righteous, from the cesspool of Judges until the circle is complete and they return to exile. Only after the return from exile is there a spark of hope: the open idolatry of the past is banished and a religion that purports to worship God begins10, but this too is a lie that must be exposed.

  5. Twin Peaks: The Pharisees and Rome

    Rome is like Egypt and Babylon before it: a symbol of the heights of human power and authority. That this empire should be conquered by the Gospel, and more importantly the manner of this conquest, is highly significant. God has demonstrated his power to humble the most powerful human rulers before, by smashing them with raw force11, or driving them to eat grass 'like an ox', but it is Rome's heart that is broken, not her right arm.

    By contrast, the Pharisaic religion represent the pinnicle of human evil, in that it is the biggest lie. From the outside everything looks good, but nothing has changed within: worship is from the mouth not the heart12. Jesus' arrival is coincident with this peak of self-righteousness and he never holds back from denouncing it: he takes every opportunity to attack their hypocrisy13. What is inside the 'whitewashed tombs' must be revealed, and sure enough, the spitting hatred for God that lurks beneath the surface comes boiling out14 as these respectable religious folk conspire with their hated oppressors to kill the one who tells the truth in order to silence him.

So, Jesus came as just the right time: the events past were all that was needed to reveal the futility of every sort of lie and rebellion. The peak of both religious and idolatrous lie-worship had arrived and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus both exposed the lies, and laid open the way back to God for those who now choose truth.


1 See also Isaiah 46 and many other places in scripture.
2 For example, see how the great excitement of the crowds in Lystra in Acts 14 was a response to an extrodinary miricle. Paul elsewhere calls signs and wonders and mighty works evidence of apostleship.
3 See Acts 2:5-13.
4 The new man in the new creation will thus never fall again: he knows that God is to be trusted in a way that Adam could not: from the past. There is no form of rebellion that has not been tried already, and shown to be nothing but false promises and foolish vanity.
5 See Genesis 2:17, 3:3 and 3:19; the repetition imbues emphasis.
6 See Genesis 6:12
7 This is Peter's understanding of the flood: Baptism corresponds to the washing of the flood, but not at the level of removing dirt from the outside (i.e. the body) but acting on the inside where the conscience operates.
8 See Genesis 9:20-27
9 See Galatians 3:21
10 See 'let us make a covenant with our God' in Ezra:10. Ezra is unaware of the bitter irony of Israel re-committing itself to God and promising anew to keep His law. This verse is often read in a positive light but to do so is to completely miss the big picture of the Bible narrative; the seeds of the biggest and worst lie are being sown.
11 See Exodus 9:16
12 Isaiah forsaw this (Isaiah 29) and it was fulfilled in Jesus time (Mark 7:6): not a coincidence!
13 The list of examples is long. Jesus spoke of no other group like this: Gentiles, tax collectors and prostitutes were treated with gentleness. Though their sin was not condoned, they were not beyone the help of the 'physician'.
14 See the show-trial of Matthew 26:67-68.

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I've done a quick read though. +1 so far. After a more in depth look, you may get the selection. Thank you. –  fredsbend Aug 9 at 15:47
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Great answer. Glad you're back. –  Mr. Bultitude Aug 9 at 20:48

Galatians 3 and 4 explains how God sought to lay a foundation for the coming of the Messiah, through the Jewish Law. The Law was to make people understand the depth of their sinfulness (in that they were incapable of keeping the Law) so that they might more readily accept the cure for that sin through Jesus the Messiah (Galatians 3:22-23; Romans 3:19-20).

So God was making His chosen people ready for the arrival of Messiah and we read in Galatians 4:4:

“But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law”.

This verse declares that God the Father sent His Son when “the time had fully come.”

Finally, Christ came in fulfillment of specific prophecy. Daniel 9:24-27 speaks:

“Seventy weeks have been determined concerning your people and your holy city to put an end to rebellion, to bring sin to completion, to atone for iniquity, to bring in perpetual righteousness, to seal up the prophetic vision, and to anoint a most holy place. So know and understand: From the issuing of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until an anointed one, a prince arrives, there will be a period of seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. It will again be built, with plaza and moat, but in distressful times. Now after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one will be cut off and have nothing. As for the city and the sanctuary, the people of the coming prince will destroy them. But his end will come speedily like a flood. Until the end of the war that has been decreed there will be destruction. He will confirm a covenant with many for one week. But in the middle of that week he will bring sacrifices and offerings to a halt. On the wing of abominations will come one who destroys, until the decreed end is poured out on the one who destroys.”

Whether anyone is able to decipher this timetable or not, but it is believed that this prophecy recorded by Daniel over five hundred years beforehand is for arrival of Christ.

Looking from men’s perspective, that particular point in history was a good time for Christ to come. There were many things occurring at the time of the first century. At least by human reasoning, the time seem to be ideal for Christ to come then.

  1. There was a great anticipation among the Jews of that time that the Messiah would come as the Roman rule over Israel had made the Jews hungry for the Messiah’s coming.

  2. Rome had unified much of the world under its government, giving a sense of unity to the various lands. The empire was relatively peaceful, travel was possible, allowing the early Christians to spread the gospel. Such freedom to travel would have been impossible in other eras.

  3. While Rome had conquered militarily, Greece had conquered culturally. A “common” form of the Greek language 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.

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I +1 for the first part, but this answer really just pushes the question back a few levels: I might now ask "Why was the law not sent earlier?" Also, I might ask "Why did he not come later?" All the other points can easily have occurred differently. –  fredsbend May 16 '13 at 19:09

We do not know. We only know that He came at the appropriate time. Galatians 4:4-5:

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.

From this we know the well-known facts that at the time of His coming:

  • His mother, Mary, born of Saint Anne, gave birth to Him,
  • there was the law that He was born under, and also
  • His coming should have been recognized, as perhaps due to signs, note Luke 19:44:

44 They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.

None of this requires that He would come at that time. He could have chosen any other time for there to be the signs, and law, and Mary. But He did not, and the time He did choose was appropriate.

It is not useful to speculate further, especially on the "strategic" advantages of Christ coming when He did. God has in mind not only that time, but all the future consequences of coming at that time, and all things that came before that moment. He knows what roads the apostles would walk, and also that this question would be asked. He did not come then for the Roman roads: He came then for our salvation.

Keep in mind that God would not need to "look through history" to choose a time that would be best. He may have made all of history to fit the moment of His Sacrifice, rather than His coming and Sacrifice to fit history. But even this way of thinking is too limited. We simply do not know:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?” Romans 11:33

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I like this: "He did not come then for the Roman roads: He came then for our salvation." Yes. Who cares when He came. Rejoice that He has come and will come again. –  fredsbend May 16 '13 at 19:12

Jesus came during the time of the Romana Pax, which is a time when Rome was at peace. If he came during there was a lot of war, when people beg him to help with defense, what would he say?, because if he kills one man, even if he is evil, he will not be perfect anymore and dieing wouldn't do anything. If he didn't defend, either he wouldn't have died on the cross (someone else would have killed him in battle) or he would have to use his powers to destroy people. During this time was perfect to come, beause it was when he was needed most and the one time during when he's needed most that he can come.

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Welcome to the site! This doesn't really have much to do with your answer, but I find that sharing the following tends to help new visitors avoid mistaking the purpose of this site. I do hope to see more from you! When you get a chance, please see How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Mar 12 '14 at 0:31

Why did He come when He did? Jesus came at the time when God said He would come. He was alive during the year that God said He would be. So, Jesus’ coming at the time was fulfillment of God’s promise.

This prophecy is given in Daniel 9:25-26, in which 69 weeks of years (483 years) of time span from “the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince.” The “command” is noted in Nehemiah 2, which is dated 445 B.C.

There is much written about this prophecy on the web (including other perspectives that disagree with this view). One example with further information on this perspective is found at http://www.khouse.org/articles/2004/552/.

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