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.(Galatians 4:4-5)
Five centuries before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Daniel had a vision which showed him all of the Gentile rulers who would dominate the Jews until the end of the “Times of the Gentiles”.
Daniel saw that the Babylonians, would be followed by the Persians, then the Greeks and finally, the Roman empire would prevail over Israel until the time of the end.
But as it is written, “Even the wrath of man shall praise Him(God)”.God used each one of these mighty Gentile empires to execute His will and perfectly carry out a complete preparation of the world for the Messiah and for the maximum spread of the gospel.
The Babylonian empire was used to empty Jerusalem and Judea of all but the lowest of its inhabitants, taking the nation into a 70 year captivity in Babylon, 400 miles from the Holy land. Because the nation was in exile, in order to maintain the religion, the synagogue was implemented. Jews set up synagogues everywhere they went in exile, and dedicated themselves to the study of Torah and good works, and to keeping the hope of the Messiah alive in a strange land.
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.(Psalm 137)
It was in Babylon that Daniel and Ezekiel were raised up. Daniel’s testimony brought Nebuchadnezzar to saving faith. He wrote a tact of his conversion to the God of Israel, which survives to this day. Nebuchadnezzar’s tract is Daniel chapter four. That message went throughout the empire, from Egypt to India.
The Persians succeeded the Babylonians. They were used to send the Jews back home, and to finance the rebuilding of the temple and walls of Jerusalem. Cyrus the Persian, one of the truly “great” men in history, was called by name in a prediction of Isaiah 200 years in advance. God called this pagan King his servant and even his messiah,”Anointed One”. Two centuries later, someone showed Cyrus the prophecy and he marveled.
The Persians were succeeded by the Greeks in the days of Alexander the Great. This pagan ruler was a student of Aristotle. He sought to unify the entire world, by imposing the Greek language and culture upon all of his many conquests.Greek became the ‘lingua franca’ of the entire world, and the language of the New Testament. The apostles needed no interpreters wherever they went because Alexander had ‘Hellenized’ the entire Mediterranean world.
Finally the Romans took over the Mediterranean world from the Greeks. These masters of efficiency built an extensive road system around all of the cities of the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East and up into much of Europe. Traditionally a land power, Rome built a fleet of warships for the war against Carthage in North Africa. After the war they used those ships to wipe out the piracy which had longed hindered trade and travel.
By the time of Caesar’s census, which displaced Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the world had been completely prepared for the arrival of the Savior of all men. Every major city had a Jewish presence, a synagogue for teaching Torah, to Jews, prosylites and “God Fearers” alike, preparing the Roman world for the gospel.
The Jews were back in their land and the temple was rebuilt, which were preconditions for the coming of the Messiah.
The Greek language was universal, so that by the time the apostles of Jesus went forth, they needed no interpreter. The Gospels and New Testament episles were written in Greek, so also the Tanak, for the Jews had commissioned a Greek version of their own scriptures, the Septuagint, some years before Jesus came.
The apostles travelled on paved highways, or on sea lanes cleared of Pirates, in a strict but orderly Roman World.
Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.(Isaiah 40:1-4)
The Birth of Jesus came at precisely the right time in history.No Wonder we sing with trembling lips,
“How silently, how silently,
the wondrous gift is given;
so God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive him, still
the dear Christ enters in. “
“…The Hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight…”