Galatians 4:4: But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.
This phrase, “the fulness of the time,” indicates that Jesus came at the most opportune moment in history. What were the conditions that made this the right moment for the Saviour to come into the world?
The last king of David’s line was carried away captive by Nebuchadnezzar. Since that time Judah and Jerusalem had been vassal states in turn of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. Herod the Great became king in 37 BC, the first king of Judah since the Babylonian conquest. However, Judah was now a province of the Roman Empire and Herod was not a descendant of David. In fact he was an Edomite, a descendant of Esau, not Jacob (later named Israel).
The great empire of Alexander the Great was split into three parts after his death and there were many years of war between the three kingdoms. Judea suffered much from these wars, as did the other parts of the empire, but the Greek language was firmly established as the common language over all the conquered territory.
The Hebrew alphabet was the first phonetic alphabet, but consisted only of consonants, the Greeks added vowels. Now there was a common language and a complete, easily learned, writing system that could be used to spread the gospel. The Old Testament was translated into Greek and this was the version of the Scriptures in common use in the time of Jesus.
When the Romans conquered southern Europe and Asia Minor, they built roads to link all the Empire. In addition, they established the rule of law and placed Roman detachments over all the territory. Now the whole Empire was readily accessible by the Roman highways and travel was safer than at any time in the past.
All the conditions were now in place for the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Empire by itinerant preachers and by the written word.
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times” (Daniel 9:24-25).
If we date the beginning of the seventy weeks from the time Artaxerxes commanded Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls of the city, then the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of his messianic ministry was exactly the beginning of the seventieth year of Daniel’s prophecy. God had been at work amid the confusion and strife of the preceding centuries to prepare the world for this moment – the fulness, or fulfilment, of the time.