In a debate with the atheist (and now deceased) Christopher Hitchens, William Lane Craig noted how Christ’s first arrival occurred at the perfect time. Craig said:
“Human beings have existed for thousands of years on this planet before Christ’s coming. But what’s really crucial here is not the time involved; rather, it’s the population of the world. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that the number of people who have ever lived on this planet is about 105 billion people. Only two percent of them were born prior to the advent of Christ. Erik Kreps of the Survey Research Center of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research says, ‘God’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Christ showed up just before the exponential explosion in the world’s population.'” (selected)
Mr. Craig is correct: God’s timing is perfect. Besides the world’s population, God’s Son was born at a time that was just right for fulfilling the words of the prophets, too.
Here we find that timing is everything. For, around four thousand years, God’s prophets under his inspiration wrote about the arrival of the Messiah, the Anointed One, for the people of Israel. And on the night of his birth, the time finally came for God’s Son to be born.
In Galatians 4, verses 4 and 5, the Apostle Paul wrote, (4) “But when the completion of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, having been produced from a Woman, born under Law, (5) in order that he might redeem those under Law, that we might receive the sonship,” (The Emphatic Diaglott).
Taking a closer look at this text, notice three important truths about, (1) God’s Timing; (2) God’s Son; and (3) God’s Purpose.
There were two arrivals: First, the arrival of time; Second, the arrival of Jesus Christ. While some translations read, “the fullness of time,” another word for “fullness” is “completion,” which comes from the Greek word, pleroma. It refers to “that portion of time by which a longer antecedent period is completed; hence, completeness, fullness of time,” (Thayer’s Lexicon). A new time arrived when Jesus came on the scene.
The Greek word for “time” is chronou from which we get “chronology,” or “time in sequence or duration,” ( ibid.) The old dispensing of time or dispensation via the Law came to a close when Christ was born. His birth marked a new dispensing of time or dispensation via Grace, “that we might receive the adoption as sons, (New American Standard Bible, NASB). (See Romans 5:20-21.)
There are two characteristics concerning the nature of Jesus Christ: One, that Jesus is the Son of God (divine); Two, that Jesus is the Son of Man (human). The Apostle Paul includes both of these characteristics in one sentence in Galatians 4:4, “God sent forth his Son (divine), having been produced from a Woman, born under Law (human).” The arrival of God’s Son was timed to occur at his miraculous conception.
In Luke 1:31, the angel appeared to Mary and said, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” When Mary asked, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34), the angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason, the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God,” (v. 35).
Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, had a real beginning. He began when Mary conceived him through the overshadowing of God’s Power. In due time, Mary gave birth to God’s Son.
The sending forth of God’s Son began after Jesus was born. The Greek interlineary translation reads, “God sent forth his Son, having been born from a woman, having been born under law…” (The Emphatic Diaglott). Having been born from a Jewish woman, having been born under the Law of Moses, God sent forth his Son into the world.
The Geek word for “sent forth” in Galatians 4:4 is exapostelló, from ek and apostello, meaning “to send away forth, i.e., to dispatch, or to dismiss.” The meaning of “sent” is also applied to John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus: “There came [into being] a man, sent from God, whose name was John,” (John 1:6). John was sent forth by God to be “a witness that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him,” (John 1:7). Years later, when Jesus was in his ministry, he testified, “I am the light of the world,” (John 8:12).
The sending forth of God’s Son commenced when Jesus began his earthly ministry (Mark 1:14-15). In John 17, Jesus offered his intercessory prayer for his disciples as he was about to enter his last days of suffering and death. He prayed, “I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them [out of the power of evil]. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world, Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth. As thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world,” (vss. 15-18). The Greek word for “sent” is the same as before: apostello, “sent forth, sent out,” or, literally, commissioned, as on a mission.
Jesus was fulfilling his mission in his earthly ministry which included appointing those who would carry on his work when he entered his heavenly ministry, to sit at the right hand of God’s throne as our High Priest. Jesus sent forth the twelve disciples (or, followers) who became his apostles (Matthew 10:2).
As the early church grew, other apostles were divinely called (Eph. 4:11) including the Apostle Paul who was sent to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:1; 11:13). Interestingly, the Greek word for “apostle” is in the same context as “sent.” The Greek word for “apostle” is apostolos, from apostello, “to commission, send forth.” Jesus sent forth his apostles and commissioned them just as both he and John were sent from God. In one of his post resurrection appearances, Jesus met his disciples behind closed doors and said to them, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you,” (John 20:21).
In Galatians 4:5, God’s impeccable timing is revealed in the purpose of Jesus’ birth. It’s all about redemption. The Greek interlineary has, “he might buy off,” in place of “redeem,” (The Emphatic Diaglott).
In fact, to redeem is illustrated as going to the agora or market place for making a purchase. But in God’s redemption, this is no ordinary market place. It’s the slave market where sinners are bought and sold. The sinners are slaves to sin. God is pictured going to the market place. There, he purchases the slave or servant of sin with the precious blood of his Son. And then he sets the sinner free. Thus, the redeemed sinner is so grateful for what was done to set him free from serving sin, that he becomes the Redeemer’s lifetime servant through loyalty and love. (Matt. 20:28; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19)
Keeping in mind this illustration, there are two parts to God’s redemption through his Son: One part concerns his people Israel. The Bible says that the Good News of Jesus was for the Jews first, then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16). God’s redemption plan was for the Jews first. God Son was sent at a time when Israel was in need of a Savior.
Since the time of Moses, Israel has been under God’s Law. But God’s Law was only a shadow of things to come (Heb. 10:1; Colossians 2:17). It was meant to teach God’s people how to live, like a schoolmaster who instructs and disciplines his students (Galatians 3:24-26). But a time would come when Someone, the true Messiah, would appear to fulfill what the Law and the prophets stood for in regard to God’s salvation plan (Matthew 5:17-20). Jesus, therefore, was sent to redeem his people, Israel. He was born to “save his people from their sins,” according to the angel who appeared to Joseph, (Matthew 1:21).
Because of the stubbornness of their hearts and blindness to the truth, Israel rejected Jesus as God’s Son and Savior. But God did not cast away Israel for good (Rom. 11:1). In Romans 11:25, Paul wrote, “Blindness has happened in part until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” At just the right time, God will intervene just as he did when Jesus was born. Israel’s eyes will be opened and their hearts will be changed for in verse 26, Paul goes on to say, “And thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.’” (See Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9; Heb. 8:10-12)
The Bible says that Israel will be converted to Jesus when he returns. They will recognized that he is the One they rejected and had crucified on the cross. And they will repent of their sins and be saved (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:37).
Dr. Alva Huffer wrote,
“When Jesus returns to earth as King of kings, Israel will accept Him as their long-awaited Messiah. When they see Him, they will repent from their sins and wil be converted to God and Christ. God will cleanse repentant Israelites from their sins, give them a new heart, and establish a new covenant with them.” (Systematic Theology.) (See Jeremiah 23:6; 24:7; 31:9, 31-34; 32:37-40; 33:8; Ezekiel 37:23-28)
At that time, Israel will be a blessing to all nations of the earth (Isa. 60:1-22; Zechariah 8:20-23; Revelation 21:12). Jesus will reign on the throne of his father, David, in accordance with the human lineage of Jesus (Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:30-33).
The second part of God’s redemption has to do with his church—those who are converted to Jesus as God’s Son and Savior. All those who are “one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28), are adopted as God’s children, (“…that we might receive the adoption as sons,” Gal. 4:5; also, Rom. 8:15, 23; 9:4; Eph. 1:5; ). Therefore, believers who have entered into Christ through faith, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:38-39; Gal. 3:26-26-29; Rom. 6:1-11), not only have their sins forgiven, but have the hope of inheritance in God’s Kingdom when Jesus returns (Rom. 8:12-17; Col. 1:12).
God’s timing is impeccable in view of his marvelous plan. The birth of his Son is a wonderful example of the way God works according to his timetable. And yet, when the time is exactly right, there are even more great things to come!
Give a listen to, “When the Fullness of Time Was Come,” https://youtu.be/7L7p_CBeDgE
Good News to YOU,