The Bible tells us that God sent Jesus to die for the ungodly at just the right time (Romans 5:6). What does it mean, at just the right time?
God could have sent Jesus earlier. In fact, why not send Jesus earlier? Why allow all those generations of rebellion, violence, and destruction? Perhaps we could have avoided much of the heartache in human history if God had sent Jesus sooner.
Imagine God sending Jesus to die on a cross for Adam and Eve just after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden for their disobedience. They needed Jesus’ atoning sacrifice to make them right with God. Why wait?
But Adam and Eve had no basis for appreciating Jesus’ sacrifice. If they had walked out of the Garden of Eden and seen Jesus nailed to a cross, bleeding and dying, it would have been a bizarre sight devoid of any meaning for them.
So God waited for the right time. He waited for many generations. During that time, God was preparing humanity for the great act of salvation that only Jesus could accomplish. What preparations did God make?
God began by speaking promises to Abraham about future blessings for all peoples through his descendant. For hundreds of years after that, God sent prophets who gradually added details about Abraham’s descendant who would one day come and bring salvation for all God’s people.
God gave Abraham’s descendants, Israel, the law through Moses at Mt. Sinai. God’s law taught the people about holiness and sin. The law included the sacrificial system, showing his people that sin requires a blood sacrifice to bring forgiveness and restoration to God.
The people of Israel sacrificed the Passover lamb for generations. Then Jesus came, the final and perfect Passover lamb. They had generations of experience to help them think about Jesus’ atoning sacrifice at Calvary. They were prepared by God to understand and accept his substitutionary death.
So, if waiting has important benefits, why not wait longer? In fact, why not wait until the end of this age? Think of the great multitude who could attend and watch Jesus defeat sin, the devil, and death by his atoning sacrifice on the cross. Video of the event would go viral!
But there would be no church age. We would not experience the power of Pentecost. We would miss that thrilling moment when God fulfilled his Old Testament promise by pouring out his Holy Spirit on the church, and subsequently on each believer.
God’s people would miss the chance to experience the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to be victorious against all enemies. We would not have the joy of sharing in God’s great harvest by proclaiming his gospel to the nations.
There would be no New Testament, God’s word which was given to us after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We would never know the joy of reading and studying the Gospels and the letters to the churches.
The generations that lived before Jesus looked forward to God’s salvation. Now we look back on Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. We live in a sweet spot in history. We enjoy the benefit of all the prophecies looking forward to Jesus and all the writing, reflection, and illumination that have accrued since Jesus died and rose again.
God’s way is perfect after all. God’s timing, as always, is right. Jesus died for the ungodly at just the right time!
May God’s Holy Spirit fill our hearts with joy when we consider his great plan for our salvation,