As Jesus came preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, He said that “the time is fulfilled” (Mark 1:15). To what time was Jesus referring?
In the initial article of this series (in the January/February Discern), we noted that the Messiah or Christ—the respective Hebrew and Greek words for “anointed”—had four key themes that He spoke of concerning the good news of God’s coming Kingdom. These key concepts were “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The first two of these points are statements; the last two are commands.
In the previous article we also saw that at the time of Jesus’ coming to earth as a flesh-and-blood human, the Jewish people were looking for the appearance of the prophesied Messiah (Matthew 11:3; Luke 3:15). Many during the first century were asking the same question as the Samaritan woman Jesus spoke with at Jacob’s well: “Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:29). Similarly, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus asking, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3; Luke 7:19-20).
Some Jews were anticipating a great spiritual revival among the people. Others were looking for Him to reestablish the Jewish nation and its prominence among the nations. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled,” but how could those listening to Him be sure that the time of waiting for the Messiah had truly elapsed?
Many Jews back then were not convinced. So how can we be sure that the time of waiting for Christ’s appearance did indeed come to an end? What proof did Jesus offer that the interim between Old Testament prophecies and His appearing was complete?
In this article we will carefully consider a key Old Testament prophecy of Christ’s coming in the flesh, the time setting of His ministry, and proof that Jesus gave that He was indeed the promised Messiah.
A key prophecy of Christ’s coming
The Jews were undoubtedly aware of what Moses had written in Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.” Old Testament prophecies had also predicted that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16), and that He would die for the sins of mankind (Isaiah 53:12).
There are approximately 100 Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life and ministry. The one that gives the best indication of the time when Jesus would appear is found in Daniel 9:24-27. This prophecy, sometimes referred to as the 70 weeks of Daniel, predicted that the Messiah would begin His ministry in A.D. 27.
How do Bible scholars reach this conclusion? An important biblical concept for understanding prophecy is the “day for a year” principle, given in Ezekiel 4:4-6 and Numbers 14:33-34.
In this case, in the sixth century B.C. an angel named Gabriel gave Daniel a vision of the future, saying, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” (Daniel 9:25).
In 457 B.C. King Artaxerxes gave a command to rebuild Jerusalem. Seven weeks plus another 62 weeks equals 483 days (69 times 7) that would pass before the Messiah would appear.
Using the “day for a year” principle, from the time Artaxerxes gave his command in 457 B.C, a total of 483 years would pass. That would bring us to the beginning of Christ’s ministry in A.D. 27. (Note: When calculating years transitioning from B.C. to A.D., you must add one year since there is no year 0.)
Since priests began serving at age 30 (Numbers 4:3, 47), those who understood Daniel’s prophecy of the coming Messiah would have expected Jesus to have been born approximately 30 years prior to A.D. 27. As for specifics, Christ was likely born in 4 B.C. and “began His ministry at about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).
Paul seems to have understood that Jesus began His ministry just as the Bible had predicted. As he wrote, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4).
The world is prepared for Christianity
Many during the first century were asking the same question as the Samaritan woman Jesus spoke with at Jacob’s well: “Could this be the Christ?”As the first century began, most Jews were part of the Roman Empire. Although many lived in their native land and had the freedom to worship God, they were under the rule of the Romans. Even though the Jews longed for complete sovereignty, the world at that time was uniquely prepared for Christ’s preaching the gospel of the Kingdom and the establishment of His Church.
Far more than previous governments, the Roman Empire brought relative peace, stability and civilization to much of the world—especially the Middle East, the area from which Christianity would emanate. The Romans built major roads for travel and commerce between regions, established a mail system for communication, laid out towns with streets, running water and sewage disposal, and had a system of justice that protected its citizens.
The geopolitical stability and infrastructure for civilization brought by the Romans provided an opportune time for Christ to begin His ministry (Galatians 4:4).
Four proofs that the time was fulfilled
The apostle John wrote of four proofs that Jesus gave showing that He was indeed the promised Messiah. Even though Jesus told people that He was the Son of God, He acknowledged that personal statements are not generally accepted as sufficient proof on important matters such as this.
“If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true,” declared Jesus (John 5:31, English Standard Version). Christ then proceeded to give four additional proofs that He was the promised Messiah—that the time of waiting for His appearance had been fulfilled.
Proof 1: John the Baptist’s testimony
Jesus said, “There is another [John the Baptist] who bears witness of Me” (verse 32). John the Baptist—the prophesied messenger who was to “prepare the way before” Christ (Malachi 3:1)—taught that Jesus was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Proof 2: The works Jesus did
Jesus said, “But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36).
Note what Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples (who had asked Him if He was the promised Messiah): “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Luke 7:22). This was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 61:1.
Proof 3: The Father’s words
Then Jesus said, “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me” (John 5:37). At Jesus’ baptism “a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17).
Proof 4: The words of Moses
Finally, Jesus stated, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me” (John 5:46). Here, Jesus was referring to Deuteronomy 18:15.
The spiritually blind Jews were not able to “discern the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3). They did not perceive that the time of waiting for the Messiah was fulfilled, and they did not recognize the four proofs that Jesus gave to verify His identity.
Sadly, many of the Jewish leaders still refused to believe Jesus even after He fulfilled the miraculous sign He had given them that He would be resurrected after spending three days and three nights in the tomb following His crucifixion (Matthew 12:38-40; see the LifeHopeandTruth.com article “Resurrection of Jesus: Can We Prove It?”).
In the next article in this series we will consider Jesus’ statement: “The kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15).
Sidebar: Christ Begins His Ministry in Galilee
Jesus began His public ministry of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God in a region north of Jerusalem called Galilee (Mark 1:14). Earlier, Isaiah had prophesied that Jesus would preach to the people in this region (Isaiah 9:1-2). While the area around the Sea of Galilee today is a peaceful resort area, it was not a quiet, backwater location during the time of Christ.
Instead, Galilee during the first century was a busy center of commerce and politics. Sitting on the Via Maris, a major road linking Egypt with northern empires, it was a place where cultures melded and competed. Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic were all likely spoken in the markets. First-century historian Flavius Josephus reported that there was a booming fishing industry in the area.
Interestingly, this was the home of several of Jesus’ disciples who were fishermen. It was a fitting location for the message that would turn “the world upside down” to begin being preached (Acts 17:6).