“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
The Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes contains an enduring truth that has persevered throughout the generations: “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Galatians 4:4 expands upon that idea by telling us that God sent forth his Son “when the fullness of the time had come” so we might be adopted as the sons and daughters of God.
We can associate “the fullness of time” with Jesus’ birth, an event that took place during (or just prior to) the early first century. But what facilitated that decision? Why did the early first century represent the right time for the appearance of the Messiah? Well, there are three elements that provide us with some insight into that question.
First, we can say that the nation of Israel possessed the Old Testament Scriptures in their entirety long before the dawn of the first century. Those books had already been translated and distributed for the benefit of those who did not read or speak Hebrew during that time. That effort resulted in the Septuagint, a translation of the Scriptures into the Greek language. This made the Scriptures available to those who previously did not have access to them.
This was important because the Greek language had risen to prominence and had become an official language of the Roman Empire during that time. Since the New Testament was written in koine (or common) Greek, both the Old and New Testaments were available to anyone who knew the language and wanted access to God’s Word.
We should also consider the military impact of the Roman Empire during that era. The Roman army enforced peace throughout the known world of that period and protected those who might otherwise have fought or been killed in various military actions. In addition, the extensive road system maintained by the Roman Empire made traveling through the distant reaches of the Empire easier than it had ever been before and facilitated the spread of the gospel.
So the peaceful environment enforced by the Roman Empire, the ability to travel long distances with relative ease, and the use of a commonly understood language all help to explain why the first century represented the right time for the Savior’s appearance.