|"A GREAT RETURN TO THE BIBLE" |
by Dr Pence Dacus
(Church History Correspondence Course)
HOW GOD PREPARED THE WORLD FOR THE COMING OF CHRIST
The Great Return means going back to the One was given all authority in heaven and on earth -- Jesus Christ. Matt. 28:18.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: No man cometh unto the Father but by me. -- John 14:6
Some have asked the question, "Why did Jesus come when He did?" Why didn't God choose to send him in our age, or another age?" We do not know, but God does say: "But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4). This indicates that God sent his son Jesus Christ to the world at a time which he determined with his infinite wisdom to be the right time. He came "when the fullness of the rime was come." This not only suggests that God sent him at the correct time but that He sent him according to a predetermined plan for which preparation had been made. It is the preparation that God made for the coming of Christ to which we now give our attention. You have already studied much about these preparatory measures.
Review of Planning
John the Baptist was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" sent to "prepare the way for the Lord" (Isaiah 40:3-9; Malachi 3:1; Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). Historically, his work started in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.
The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was all a part of God's plan to make preparation for Christ's arrival. We will study this point in greater detail in Lesson 5.
In the New Testament there are many fulfilled prophecies. It is not the fact that they were fulfilled which is called to your attention now, but rather the fact that they were made. This shows that God had given thought and plan to Christ's coming.
* He planned that He would be born of a virgin. (Isa. 7:14)
* He planned that He would be born in the city of Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2)
* He planned that His arrival would be announced by the angels. (Luke 1:26-35) He planned that He should come from the Jewish race of people or "seed of Abraham". (Gen. 12:3; 18:18)
* He planned that His genealogy could be easily traced back to the "father of the faithful", Abraham, and even back to Adam. (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38)
* He planned that he would arrive in troubled times. (Dan. 9:25)
Furthermore, in Daniel 2:1-44 -- the dream of Nebuchadnezzar -- other evidence of His planning is provided.
In addition to these and many other evidences of the providential preparation for Christ's arrival which are given in the Bible, let us consider some of the conditions of the world in the political, social, economic, and general religious realms which appear to suggest the same thing.
Consider: The Old Testament was closed about 400 B.C., so for about 400 years, God remained silent. However, all the while things were happening as the world waited for Christ to be revealed. Thus, our sources of information originate elsewhere than the Bible. They are, for the most part, reliable.
Providential Preparation for His Coming
Our main underlying point behind this study is: if Christ came in the fullness of time (at the right moment and with adequate preparation) what was the advantage to be obtained? It must have been to set the stage for proclaiming the gospel message to the world. What factors are noted which would be favourable to this goal.
Choice and Preservation of the Hebrew Race The Old Testament gives the details of countless times when the Hebrew race could easily have become completely exterminated, and except for the intervention of God undoubtedly would have been. God made special concessions to and provisions for this race through which the Saviour of the world -- Jesus Christ -- was to come.
Rescued from Egyptian Bondage Had the Israelites not been taken by God and led out of Egypt, they would undoubtedly never have become a great nation and would probably have remained a degraded race of slaves. But God opened the sea and the Israelites marched to safety when they seemed certain to be destroyed.
Assisted in Taking the Land of Canaan Without the help of God the Israelites would have been quickly divided and absorbed by the many tribes of people in Canaan.
Assisted in Keeping the Land of Canaan Even after they had succeeded in capturing the country, their tendency to follow the customs and practices of their neighbours would have destroyed their identity except for God's intervention. Their disobedience brought certain punishment and the Babylonian captivity.
Released from Babylonian Captivity After 70 years in the prisons of their enemies, God again intervened to save them from absolute annihilation. Even then, only a small remnant returned to Jerusalem -- the major portion of them were scattered all over the world.
The times of God's assistance to the Jews are too numerous to ignore as being incidental. But, without God's help there would have been no ancestors for Christ.
Conquests of Alexander the Great With his victories between 334-326 B.C. Alexander, the great Grecian conqueror, ruled the world. He spread the Greek language and culture all over the world. Greek, the most precise language ever known to man was ideal for expressing theological and philosophical ideas. What better vehicle could have been selected for God to make His will clearly known to man?
Translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek in 285 B.C. It was made during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, by 70 scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. The Jews saw that their Hebrew tongue was being replaced by Greek so they made a translation that opened the Scriptures to millions of non-Jewish people. Also, this predisposed many pagans to favor monotheism (worship of one God) to their old polytheism (worship of many gods).
The Wide Dispersion of the Jews with Their Sacred Scriptures When the Jews were released from Babylonian captivity in the 5th century B.C., most of them scattered to all points of the world. They took their Scriptures with them and established places of worship. See Acts 2:9-11 for a list of 15 nations where the Jews lived at the time of Christ.
Disappearance of Idolatry Among the Jews After their release from Babylon, many of the Jews threw away their idols and by the time of Christ idolatry was unknown among them. Thus, the Jews alone, among the great nations of pomp and splendor that worshipped idols, clung to the worship of one God. They were, therefore, better prepared than all others to receive higher spiritual teachings from God. The earliest followers of Christ were Jews. Furthermore, the church started with large numbers of spiritually-mature adults to aid its expansion, and to provide badly needed leadership.
Decay of Faith in the Heathen Gods Gentiles (non-Jews) found no genuine answers to life in the pagan cults. The mingling together of so many races and religions caused further decline in their faith. The vacuum which was left was filled by the religion of Christ as men learned of a greater hope and a more certain solution to the problems of life.
Rise of the Synagogue These Jewish places of worship developed after the Babylonian captivity and could be established where ten adult male Jews would unite together. It was in the synagogues of the world that Paul and other missionaries argued the cause of Christ and preached the gospel to millions. The synagogue provided a natural meeting place for a discussion of the Scriptures.
Widespread Expectation of a Great Ruler to Arise Out of the East See Matt. 2:1-10. The dispersion of the Jews with the prophetic utterances of their Scriptures provided a world of people who were anticipating the arrival of a great leader. It is not strange therefore that many races were informed of Christ's coming.
Rise of the Roman Empire The political unity and the long peace (Pax Romana) fostered commerce, which in turn sent business men all over the Roman world. Roman civilization with its systems of laws, and excellent roads was a favourable factor. Men, protected by Roman law, carried the gospel everywhere. A world in turmoil and chaos would not have been conducive to the spread of a new teaching.
Long Life of the Roman Empire The Roman empire was able to receive Christianity fully "into her veins" and even succeeded in transmitting it to the barbarian hordes who overran her. Thus, pagan Rome which persecuted Christians for centuries became a great instrument for its growth.
Consider: One of the most convincing proofs of the Divine control in Christianity, as contrasted to other religions, is its extensive documentation (the Old Testament) preceding the arrival of its founder. Christ's coming was preceded by centuries of preparation and anticipation. And, when He came he could trace his ancestors, generation by generation, all the way back to Adam. His appearance was not sudden, mysterious, and unexpected but had been worked out to the last minute detail by hand of God.
Dean, B.S., Outline of Bible History, The Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1912.
Hester, H.I., The Heart of Hebrew History, The William Jewell Press, Liberty, Missouri, 1949.
Rice, Ira Y., Jr. Bible Correspondence Course.
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