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Why did God send Jesus when He did? June 21, 2012

Posted by daniel ayad in History & Tradition.
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But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son. The first century was the perfect time for the birth of Christianity for several reasons encompassing a range of cultural, spiritual and administrative issues.

The first reason that seemed to make it ideal for Christ to come was the great anticipation among the Jews of that time that the Messiah would come. The Jews were the earliest church and thus the roots of Christianity reach back deeply into the history and religion of Israel, “salvation, is from the Jews..” as Jesus said.

The Jews were under captivity or rule from various groups of people over a long period.  The Jews were occupied by ‘four great beasts’ as seen in Dan 7:3-4. The first beast was Babylon who was so strong that Babylon was referred to an eagle (Is 14:14). The Babylonians made life difficult for the Jews, increasing their desire for a Messiah to deliver them.

Nebuchadnezzar invaded many places and established the city of Babylon and the temples of Merodach. He also invaded Jerusalem three times (606, 599, 587 B.C) and during the last invasion he destroyed the temple. Among the offering of sacrifices ceasing during the captivity  many Jews were exiled . Surely this increased their anticipation for a Messiah.  

The final great beast that dominated the world and became ‘harsh rulers’  was the Roman Empire. The Romans subdued Asia Minor, Syria, Cecilia, Greece, Macedonia, Spain, Wales, Mediterranean countries and some parts of Germany of which many dispersed Jews inhabited. The Romans  imposed very high taxes, paganism and an almost unimagined brutality. The burden and humiliation Rome placed upon the common man made life virtually unbearable .

In fact the taxes imposed by the Romans were so high that the the tax collectors made the people (including Jews) pay higher taxes than they were obliged to pay, forcing many Jews below the poverty line. In addition the Romans crucified almost 10000 people in Jerusalem .
 
The Roman Empire never deeply cared about the needs of the colonies but crushed them. The emperors used to send ambassadors to the colonies with the excuse of keeping their security, but their main goal was spying and transferring all the valuable things to Rome .

With all these difficult circumstances the Jews were comforted by the anticipation of the Messiah. They couldn’t wait to lead a happier life and their hearts were kept warm by the hope of the Messiah coming (as stated in several instances in the Old Testament) amidst the difficult circumstances.

Probably unknown at the time was that Judaism prepared the way for preaching among the gentiles. For example, the Old Testament was translated into Greek from Hebrew. This Septuagint translation was widely used among Hellenistic Jews because many Jews spread throughout the empire were beginning to lose their Hebrew language . It is interesting to note that there were many more Jews outside of Palestine than there were in it. In fact the largest numbers of Jews were in Syria, and this large displacement of Jews outside their homeland  is called Diaspora.

Further reason that Judaism prepared the way for preaching among the gentiles is seen through the introduction of synagogues. Before the Diaspora the Jews relied on the temple in Jerusalem for worship, but due to the Diaspora the temple was largely inaccessible. This forced the Jews to create synagogues (assemblies of prayer) as the centre of Jewish worship. Synagogues became so prominent that they were found in every local community of Jews throughout the Empire . Synagogues provided a way that Christianity could be heard as any valued or inspired leader could teach in the synagogue. Christ and the apostles (such as Paul) frequently preached their message from a synagogue.

Furthermore the Jews during the time of Christ began to allow proselytes. A proselyte was a Gentile who was newly converted to Judaism but not circumcised. Famous proselytes are mentioned in the bible, such as Cornelius, and this issue of circumcision became an important issue in the Jerusalem council. This council concluded that converts to Christianity did not need to circumcised, thus helping pave the way for Christian not Jewish roots.   

Another reason that it seemed ideal for Christ to come was that Rome had unified much of the world under its government, thus giving a sense of unity to the various lands. The Romans provided stability and unity into a relatively peaceful and prosperous trading system .  The Romans broke down the barriers between ancient nations, and brought the world together. This globilisation of language, laws and customs all helped the world to be ready for Christianity.

At the time of Christianity there was a time of peace. This peace was during the strong presence of the Romans, and the term pax romana are used to refer to Roman peace. As the empire was relatively peaceful, travel was easily possible, allowing the early Christians to spread the gospel. The Romans built a well-organised and efficient transportation system. The main roads were constructed and expanded into various worldwide territories. For example in the province of Arabia petraea (now Jordan) the movement of people and ease of communication of the army and Roman administration allowed the transport to become much easier. These constructions allowed such freedom to travel, and this would have been impossible in other eras .
 
While Rome had conquered militarily, Greece had conquered culturally before Christ. 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 groups through one common language. The common Greek language meant prosperity and unity to assist early missionaries such as St Paul to spread the gospel. In fact the early centers’ of Christianity were the largest cities and the most urbanised provinces on the major trade networks of the Mediterranean .

Another reason that the world was ready for Christianity was that the world fully began to realise the inadequacy of the pagan religions. The fact that the many false idols had failed to give them victory over the Roman conquerors caused many to abandon the worship of those idols. At the same time, in the more “cultured” cities, the Greek philosophy and science of the time left others spiritually empty in the same way that the atheism of communist governments leaves a spiritual void today. Therefore Christianity had a great opening.

The mystery religions of the time actually helped heathens to embrace the gospel .  Notwithstanding this apostasy from truth and holiness, heathenism was a religion, a probing after “the unknown God.” Its polytheism rested on a monotheistic background. For example heathenism subjected all the gods to Jupiter, and Jupiter himself to a mysterious fate. It had at bottom the feeling of dependence on higher powers and reverence for divine things. It preserved the memory of a golden age and of a fall. It had the voice of conscience, and a sense, obscure though it was, of guilt. It felt the need of reconciliation with deity, and sought that reconciliation by prayer, penance, and sacrifice. Many of its religious traditions and usages were faint echoes of the ancient religion; and its mythological dreams of the mingling of the gods with men, of demigods, of Prometheus delivered by Hercules from his helpless sufferings, were unconscious prophecies and fleshly anticipations of Christian truths .

Other parallels of heathen religion to Christianity include that belief in the immortality of the soul. The Greek gods are born but never die, while Christians may die physically but their soul lives on into eternity. Also the mystical religions emphasised 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 aforementioned reasons are a small snapshot of some of the reasons why the world was ready for Christianity. While we understand that His thoughts are different from our thoughts (Isa 55:8), there appears to be several plausible reasons why God chose that particular time to send His Son. Ultimately the great anticipation of the Jews, the unification of the world through Roman rule, the common language of Greek, the inadequacy of the pagan religions, and the mystery religions of the time all proved to be important factors to the success of Christianity. As one writer put it “when the fair flower of science and art had begun to wither, and the world was on the verge of despair, Christ entered a dying world as the author of a new and imperishable life ”. 

 

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Comments»

1. Pastor Bryan Pully - September 8, 2012

This is fantastic. Well thought, well written, convincing. I would say that this is the perfect answer to the question.


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